Page 131 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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upon the honor of God. This role in
kiddush ha-Shem
could be
consummated in three different ways: martyrdom, exemplary
ethical conduct, prayer. In martyrdom, one willingly suffered
death as a martyr rather than violate one of three specific com­
mandments, thereby achieving the state of
kiddush ha-Shem.
are a number of stories about martyrs. Among the better known
ones are those about the mother and her seven sons in connection
with Hanukkah, Rabbi Akiva and the Ten Martyrs, the latter
found today in the synagogue service for the Day of Atonement.
Molho’s spiritual quest and journey are underpinned by this
central idea of
kiddush ha-Shem,
nowhere fully expressed in the
first volume of the trilogy. In commenting upon its centrality in
Kabak’s work, Simon Halkin wrote that “only he who manages to
live the idea of
kiddush ha-Shem
in its fullest purity . . . may merit to
bear within him the vision of redemption in its historical-religious
manifestation as well as its ‘secular’ Zionist one . . .”8 The quota­
tion marks around the word “secular” are Halkin’s. Professor
Halkin probably meant the quotation marks to be taken ironi­
cally: “Secular,”
as though it were or could be secular.
For Zionism, although secularized in the modern period, still
bears within it much of the religious connotations possessed
throughout Jewish history. There still remains, for example,
something of a religious fervor in it. It had an added importance
for Kabak, as critic Avraham Kariv pointed out. It was “for Kabak
not only the way for the Jew to man [i.e., jointure with humanity],
but the way
[i.e., the
way] from ourselves to our source [i.e., to
our roots, to our basic, unique origin].”9
What has all this about
kiddush ha-Shem
to do with the transla­
tion of the first volume of the
Shelomo Molho
trilogy? To put it
bluntly, nothing. The English reader of this volume will find
nothing of it in the exotic milieu of two years in the life of a
crypto-Jew in sixteenth-century Portugal. The Institute for the
Translation of Hebrew Literature, however admirable its inten­
tion to present Kabak’s work to the English reading public, has
done him a disservice. Readers will be unable to appreciate the
significance of Kabak’s contribution. To get at the richness and
variety of Molho’s spiritual search into and discovery of his per­
son as he struggles to find God’s nearness, a reading of the
9 Avraham Kariv,
(Tel Aviv: Hebrew Writers Assoc, and Dvir, 1950), p.