Page 64 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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5 6
to a rather marginal role. In this chronicle of Bucacz, the reader
discovers a world in which talmudic learning intensely colors the
life of the local Jewish community. A considerable portion of the
stories and accounts center around the rabbis o f the town. Fur­
thermore, within the author’s literary reconstruction of Bucacz,
the center of life, the local Holy of Holies, is the Old House of
Study, seat of an aristocracy of learning.In many ways,
A Town
and its Fullness
is a paean precisely to the world of rabbinic learn­
ing and institutions which contributed to provoke a populist
revolt in Hasidism, and the hero-type that boldly stands out from
generation to generation is the
the Jew who masters rab­
binic learning.
This hero-type is presented with all the human and moral ten­
sions inherent in it, including those which Hasidism was prone to
point out. The
is not immune to the enticements of the
ego; he is sometimes only too eager to display his own novel
understandings of talmudic dialectic and law and to take pride in
the achievements of his mind even when his insights might be
quite empty of substance. Such moral temptations, however,
serve as the backdrop for the complete lack of concern with self,
in many of these stories, on the part of the
An example of such negation of ego in the scholar-figure
occurs in the story, “A Lost Book,”6 in which Rabbi Shemariyah,
the judge, worked zealously for twelve years on his commentary
upon a commentary of the
Shulhan Arukh.
Upon its completion he
chanced to find another commentary which met his satisfaction
and he immediately withdrew his own book from printing .
Within a single moment, Rabbi Shemariyah annihilated the work
of a dozen years together with his sense of accomplishment in his
book for he concluded that now there was no need for it, even
though, as the reader is informed, many of his own insights were
to be found neither in that other commentary nor in any other.
A recurrent theme which stands out in this collection is found
in the stories of anonymous Jews who, while working as porters or
tinsmiths, or as villagers in the cowshed, possess a degree of e ru ­
dition which towers above that of the recognized rabbinical
6 “Sefer she’avad,”
Ir umelo’ah,
pp. 207-211. The story appeared initially in
March 26, 1956.