A Great Talmud Scholar’s Appreciation of a Great Novelist

April 25 2017

Both the Yiddish poet and novelist Chaim Grade and the Jewish Theological Seminary’s leading talmudist, Saul Lieberman, were products of the great yeshivas of pre-World War II Lithuania. The former depicted this milieu in his literary works, the latter sought to marry its intellectual activities to modern critical scholarship. In 1967, Lieberman wrote an encomium to Grade in Yiddish, translated into English for the first time here:

[Grade’s fiction is] filled with all kinds of personalities and characters, with never a single one even remotely resembling any of the others! Such weird types, such as Vova Barbitoler in Tsemakh Atlas [translated into English as The Yeshiva], or the blind beggar Muraviev in Der Shulhoyf [The Synagogue Courtyard, untranslated]: original characters that never once, even by coincidence, are reproduced. . . . So too, the depictions of women. . . .

By the time I got around to reading Tsemakh Atlas, I had already been stunned by the accuracy of Grade’s depictions. But in this work—aside from the central figure of the title, who is a literary creation forged by melding a variety of personalities, each consisting of numerous dispositions—I personally felt as if I knew almost every one of the major “participants” in Grade’s novel, [including] Khaykl Vilner [a stand-in for the author] and his rebbe, the Makhze-Avrohom, [who is transparently modeled on Lieberman’s cousin Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz]. The same is equally true of each and every one of the rabbis in The Agunah, who were all just like cousins of mine.

Many volumes have already appeared about the musar movement [a 19th-century movement focused on the cultivation of individual piety and ethics] and its proponents. You can choose to believe, or not accept, these works. But once having reads Grade’s depictions of yeshivas [that adopted musar teachings], you will know everything as if you had been there.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Arts & Culture, Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, Chaim Weizmann, Musar, Saul Lieberman, Yeshiva, Yiddish literature


Strengthening the Abraham Accords at Sea

In an age of jet planes, high-speed trains, electric cars, and instant communication, it’s easy to forget that maritime trade is, according to Yuval Eylon, more important than ever. As a result, maritime security is also more important than ever. Eylon examines the threats, and opportunities, these realities present to Israel:

Freedom of navigation in the Middle East is challenged by Iran and its proxies, which operate in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf, and recently in the Mediterranean Sea as well. . . . A bill submitted to the U.S. Congress calls for the formulation of a naval strategy that includes an alliance to combat naval terrorism in the Middle East. This proposal suggests the formation of a regional alliance in the Middle East in which the member states will support the realization of U.S. interests—even while the United States focuses its attention on other regions of the world, mainly the Far East.

Israel could play a significant role in the execution of this strategy. The Abraham Accords, along with the transition of U.S.-Israeli military cooperation from the European Command (EUCOM) to Central Command (CENTCOM), position Israel to be a key player in the establishment of a naval alliance, led by the U.S. Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain.

Collaborative maritime diplomacy and coalition building will convey a message of unity among the members of the alliance, while strengthening state commitments. The advantage of naval operations is that they enable collaboration without actually threatening the territory of any sovereign state, but rather using international waters, enhancing trust among all members.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israeli Security, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy