Page 125 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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BEN -HORIN / ZEVI SCHARFSTEIN
119
dea th decisions, notably about em igration to western Eu rope and
America o r
aliyah
to Palestine. In the second volume Scharfstein
o ffered what amounts to be a personalized history o f American
Jewry from 1914 to the early fifties. Before the au tho r pass in
review such personalities as Justice Brandeis, Henrie tta Szold,
Ju d a h L. Magnes, Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Ahad Ha-Am, Nisson
T ou ro ff , Israel Matz, Mordecai M. Kaplan, and many others.
T he a r t o f the Hebrew
essayist
finds in Scharfstein a rep resen ta­
tive o f wide range, g rea t clarity and simplicity as well as the kind
o f elegance in expression which can only be the result o f an aston­
ishing facility with all levels o f Hebrew, ancient, medieval, and
modern . Needless to say, Scharfstein addresses himself to many
educational questions in his longer essays. But his hund reds o f
sho r ter pieces comment, for instance, on Antokolsky, Yiddish
literature , Maxim Gorky, Max Nordau , Eliezer Ben-Yehudah,
Joseph Klausner, Zalman Shneour, Bialik, Agnon, John Dewey,
Leo L. Honor. They reflect on Berdichev, on the destruction o f
Hebrew cultural activity in the USSR, on Blacks in America, on
Los Angeles, Miami, Mexican Jewry. They consider American
intellectuals, cultural pluralism, Rolf H ochhu t’s play
The Deputy
,
assimilation in Italian Jewry, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Martin Lu ther
King, Elie Wiesel, Norman Podhoretz
'Making It,
Brigitte Bardot,
Sammy Davis, J r ., old age, and laughter.
This enormous ou tpu t needs to be studied in detail. But the re is
no doub t that Scharfstein not only wrote with ease and in rich,
idiomatic Hebrew bu t tha t he wrote with soothing restraint, with
moderation and balance — with Jewish wisdom.
JEWISH ETHICS AND MANNERS
More attention needs to be paid to Scharfstein the Jewish mor­
alist. All his writings are informed with his perception o f Jewish
ethics and ethical conduct. Character formation, not surprising,
was to him one o f education’s supreme purposes. But what kind
o f character? Examples abound in his books and articles. But here
we must content ourselves with a glance at a few selections. For
the en try on “Ethics” and on “Moderation” in the
Lexicon of Ideas
and Epigrams,
nos. 524 and 589, he chose, among others, passages
such as these:
All the world follows fixed eternal laws. But man’s fate
befalls him at God’s decree. This decree, however, is not