Page 124 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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Scharfstein’s unaba ted charm , wit, and empathetic und e rs tand ­
ing as well as the dep th o f his love for the Jewish people.
Scharfstein’s capacity to translate idea into action and p roduc t
reached a climax in his one-volume thesaurus
Otsar ha-Millim
Lexicon of Hebrew Synonyms and Classical Expres­
(3rd, enlarged ed., 1964), and the
Otsar ha-Racyonoth we-ha-
Pitgamin mi-Yeme ha-Miqra
we-cad Yamenu
o r
Lexicon of Ideas and
Quotations from Classical and Modern Hebrew Literature
(1966), in three volumes. These are indispensable reference
works for writers, teachers, rabbis and lecturers, for anyone in te r ­
ested in en tering the colorful panorama o f the Hebrew language
and the spirit o f the Jewish people for which its language is the
exclusive repository. H ere Scharfstein’s vast erud ition is evident.
One can only stand in awe before this display o f mastery o f p r i­
mary sources, o f originality in structuring , in the pu rsu it of
attainable goals. It is these qualities which Scharfstein dem anded
o f every Hebrew teacher worth his salt, certainly o f the teacher he
envisaged for “the schools for the en tire Jewish people.”
Two books Scharfstein devoted to
autobiography: Hayah Aviv
ba-Arets — Meqoroth Hayyay
(It Was Spring in the Land — Sources
o f My Life; 1953), which ends with the Scharfsteins’ arrival in
America in 1914. Its sequel is
Arbacim Shanah ba-America
o r
Years in America
Memoirs of a fewish Educator
(1957). This
volume ends with Scharfstein’s decision to leave the home he and
his wife had occupied on Riverside Drive in Manhattan and move
to a suburb where they would once again see “green gardens, sit
on the open porch and enjoy the air and freedom .”
Scharfstein was a master storyteller, and his autobiography
exemplifies this special gift. T h e re is hardly a page without its rev­
elation o f personality growing, reaching out, living the old and
sampling the new, gradually synthesizing the ways o f static o r tho ­
doxy in his native Dunayevtsy in Podolia with the ways o f the
Enlightenment and the rising Jewish nationalism and Zionism.
This is the dramatic story o f an individual’s jou rney , told with
gentle humor, becoming modesty, b read th o f vision. But is is also
the biography o f several generations o f Jews in the ir interaction
with each o the r and the ir response to the large r movements o f
historical change. Depicted here are the dilemmas o f life-and-