Page 193 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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SHALOM GOLDMAN
An Unknown American Hebrew-
Yiddish Polemic: Shaul Gedaliah
Harkavy’s
Vehu Shaul
Having dwelt in this land for a number of years and having seen
the disgraceful behavior of my people — they have torn up and
stomped upon the essentials o f their faith and ‘there is no one
to save them’ — and, having considered the leadership of this
people: its rabbis, ritual slaughterers, cantors, communal officials
and synagogue presidents, I could no longer restrain myself. I
had to make public what has weighed so heavily on my heart.1
T
h i s
f o r c e f u l
p a r a g r a p h
,
the opening salvo of Shaul Gedaliah
Harkavy’s
Vehu Shaul,
which was published in Boston in 1911,
places this one hundred and eleven page Hebrew-Yiddish po­
lemic within the tradition of “learned opposition to modernity.”
For what “weighed so heavily” on the author’s heart, and on
the hearts of other Orthodox observers of the American Jewish
scene at the turn of the last century, was the drift towards as­
similation into the larger American culture.
Harkavy’s
Vehu Shaul,
a previously unrecorded and unrecog­
nized contribution to the literature of anti-assimilationist polem­
ic, was written in the form of a running commentary on the
text of the
Song o f Songs.2
The Yiddish title of the book is
Di
Gelihene Hok
(The Borrowed Ax) and the commentary on each
page is divided into Hebrew and Yiddish sections. Harkavy very
1. S.G. Harkavy,
Vehu Shaul
(Boston, 1911), p. 1.
2.
Vehu Shaul
does not appear in the standard bibliographies of Hebraica/
Judaica — see H. Friedberg’s
Beit Eked Sefarim
(Tel Aviv, 1951-56), or in
bibliographies o f American Hebraica — see E. Deinard’s
Koheleth America
(1926). I would like to thank Y. Goldman o f Brooklyn, New York for bring­
ing
Vehu Shaul
to my attention.
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