Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Lost Prayer

While the Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer is known for his sacrilegious literary treatments of Jews and Judaism—a ḥasidic typesetter was so offended by the novel Enemies: A Love Story that he destroyed the manuscripts—some of his nonfiction and unpublished works show a different attitude. One indication of this attitude is a short personal prayer, composed in Hebrew and scrawled on the back of a receipt in or around 1952. David Stromberg, whose translation (with some minor adjustments) is excerpted below, speculates that the prayer reflected a slow “return to religion” Singer undertook in the early 1950s.

In contrast to Singer’s Yiddish prose—which is in every way striking, employs a rich and varied vocabulary, and always seems to wink ironically at the reader—the prayer’s Hebrew is simple and sincere, drawing on the standard liturgical tropes and phrases. But its deviations from theological expectations are, therefore, all the more intriguing:

Master of the Universe, fill my heart with love for the Jewish people, and rest for the soul.

Let me see the Creator in each and every creature, and His mercy for each thing He creates.

There’s not a single drop of water or particle of dust in which Your light is lacking, or that is outside your domain. . . .

Though we may not know the purpose of life, or why You sent us into this world to suffer, we understand that it is our duty to build and not to destroy, to comfort and not to torment, to bring joy rather than sorrow to Your creatures.

There is only one joy: to increase and not to lessen the world’s joy. Seek happiness, but not on account of your neighbors or family, for you are they and they are you; you are brethren, children of God.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Isaac Bashevis Singer, Judaism, Prayer, Yiddish literature


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy