A Tale of Lost Faith, the Shoah, and a Deepening Love of the Jewish People

In his 1953 story My Quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner, the great Yiddish author Chaim Grade imagines a dialogue between Chaim Vilner, a former yeshiva student who has forsaken Orthodoxy, and his still-zealous friend Hersh Rasseyner, about the moral and theological implications of the Holocaust—which both men have survived. Sarah Rindner reviews the newly published complete translation of this work by Ruth R. Wisse, which first appeared in Mosaic.

Grade himself, in his biography and chosen profession, strongly resembles the maskil (enlightened) Vilner. He too . . . abandoned the yeshiva, along with much of his religious observance—at least for a period of time. Yet the story itself is remarkably evenhanded, and one most feels that, through Rasseyner, Grade allows himself to articulate certain truths that would have been unacceptable for him to express in his urbane literary milieu. This, in fact, is what makes the story so powerful and spiritual.

“My Quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner” ends at a kind of impasse, with neither side a clear victor. Chaim Grade’s own life, however, ended with his instructions to be buried in the beautiful woolen tallit with which he prayed each day—a final hint as to which side his heart and soul ultimately belonged.

In the end, Vilner concludes that despite all the theological doubt and confusion wrought by the Holocaust and Communism, his love for his fellow Jews has become “more anxious and deeper.” While his quarrel with Rasseyner allows Vilner to clarify and outline everything that he objects to about religious Judaism, in the process of arguing he discovers that his affection for his fellow Jews has only strengthened despite, or perhaps as a result, of this extended debate. Vilner turns toward Rasseyner much in the way that Rasseyner turns toward him, and says, “I love you with all my soul.” Before they part, the supposedly secular Vilner tells Rasseyner, “I say to you as the Almighty said to the Jews assembled in Jerusalem on the Holy Days: ‘I want to be with you one day more, it is hard for me to part from you.’”

Read more at Lubavitch.com

More about: Chaim Grade, Holocaust, Judaism, My Quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner, Ruth Wisse, Yiddish literature

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict