Page 124 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
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.
LEXICOGRAPHY, BIOGRAPHY, AND ESSAY
Scharfstein’s capacity to translate idea into action and p roduc t
reached a climax in his one-volume thesaurus
Otsar ha-Millim
we-ha-Nivim
or
Lexicon of Hebrew Synonyms and Classical Expres­
sions
(3rd, enlarged ed., 1964), and the
Otsar ha-Racyonoth we-ha-
Pitgamin mi-Yeme ha-Miqra
3
we-cad Yamenu
o r
Lexicon of Ideas and
Epigrams
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
Forty
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-