A Sholem Aleichem Story for the First Night of Passover

March 24 2021

In 1903, the great master of Yiddish fiction Shlomo Rabinovich—better known by his pen name, Sholem Aleichem—published the novel Moshkeleh Ganev (“Moshe the Thief”) in serial form in a Yiddish newspaper. Curt Leviant describes the book, which he recently translated into English:

Prior to Moshkeleh Ganev, Sholem Aleichem had never devoted a full-length work to the Jewish underclass. In fact, it was a first for Yiddish literature, with its riveting plot about a rowdy, uneducated horse thief who falls in love with the flirtatious daughter of a tavern keeper. Sholem Aleichem’s commitment to capturing their world and their language was plain from the outset.

Although Sholem Aleichem could not have known it, his great contemporary Anton Chekhov praised precisely this kind of realism when, a few years earlier, he wrote to a friend, “To depict horse thieves in 700 lines, I must all the time speak and think in their tone and feel in their spirit.” But, of course, he is just as convincing (and comical) in depicting Jews shopping for their Passover wine or the seder of a drunken tavern keeper.

That is the theme of the excerpted passage at the link below, which begins thus:

Throughout the year, Chaim Chosid’s wine cellar is open to the town worthies. But on the eve of Passover, Chaim and his entire family, including the wine cellar and all its wine, are held in bondage to the Children of Israel in [the shtetl of] Mazepevke.

To get a sense of what happened at the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, please come down to Chaim Chosid’s cellar when the Mazepevke Jews buy wine for the four cups of the seder.

All year long, Jews manage to survive, thank God, without wine. They make kiddush over challah and drink water from the stream. But with the approach of Passover, they get spoiled and pampered. They prepare themselves to become kings at the seder, as tradition prescribes. Now they think they’re sophisticated connoisseurs and experts in wines.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Passover, Sholem Aleichem, Yiddish literature

 

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy