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December 17, 1965 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1965-12-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Purely Commentary

The Miracle of a Return: 60-Year-Old
Monologue by Mendele Moher Seforim

By Philip
Slomovitz

fathers and the teachings of their childhood, they will return to
pervaded everything there—the table and the vessels Jewish
the fold. But what reform is there for sons whose fathers have them-
the
sons
sitting
on it. Your father and mother,
selves strayed? When these do return it is indeed a miracle, and that
round the table, you too, sat there enjoying it all
Hanukah, as much as any of our festivals, if not and filled with pleasure. Remember how happy you does not happen every day. And Fedye's was an even greater miracle,
for he returned himself and also caused me to return .... .
more, reiterates the puzzling condition of our time:
during the festivals, and how many toys you
what are we to do about our children, some of whom were
you
And
now—now
around.
got as each one came
What a moving set of lessons is contained in this 60-year-ok
are indifferent to their heritage? How are we to secularise your holy day, and your son learns from
gern•
retain their loyalties to our faith? What can we do them that it is the Jews Pesach today . . . how liter
The indifference of parents, the quandary of youth, the ability--'
to link them closer to us?
shameful ! What disgrace ! Unhappy is your son, for of the young to find itself and to reaffirm its Jewish loyalties-4
It's not a new problem. It's as old as the People to strangers he is a Jew, and even more unfortunate
these and many more aspects of Jewish needs, of challenges that
Israel. Whenever and wherever there were tempter- is he, for to the Jews he is a stranger !"
are as applicable to our time as they were in the time of the famous
tions, some of our youth were weaned away from
How can I tell you, my friend, how sad and bitter Mendele are incorporated in this powerful monologue. Perhaps it
us. Some were tempted by the physical glories of I felt at that moment ! My son lay before me on the will serve to reawaken devotion to a great heritage, interest in an
Hellenism. In other eras they were tempted, in turn, bed, ashamed through my sin, sighing silently, and
past, dedication to faith!
by offers of emancipation, by the lures of apostasy, I confessed my sin, shamefaced, and my heart ached. historic
May the Hanukah spirit kindle anew these links with our past.
by false rays of freedom.
Now, when I remember this incident, I am amazed
The strong were always with us. Often outside that I did not have more regard for any honor and
forces impelled them to turn again to us.
my son, and that I did not hasten to repair the
Boris Smolar's
One such experience was described as "The Mir- harm I had done in the matter of his education.
acle of Hanukah" by a great author, the man who The idea of his vocation, eating into my mind,
could well be described as the father of modern silenced all thoughts of regret in my heart, and
Yiddish literature. Mendele Moher Seforim (Shalom everything remained as before. But what I failed
Jacob Abramowitsch, 1836,1917) could well be con- to do, time did instead.
sidered among the sufferers from indifference dis-
Once, when my son went for a walk, I went into
played by his own family. But his son was forced to his room, glanced at the table, and noticed three
return to us. He related it in his famous story which, books and an open note-book lying on it. I was
(Copyright, 1965, JTA, Inc.)
more than anything else, should serve as a great astonished ! I found what I would never have
lesson for Hanukah. This is Mendele's "The Miracle guessed ! Two of those were holy books and one was
HANUKAH SENTIMENTS: Very few Jews in this country, inter-
of Hanukah":
a book for learning Hebrew. The notebook was full ested in promoting Jewish culture, know of the Hanukah programs
* * *
I
of
Hebrew letters and nouns translated into Russian which are carried out by Jewish students in various American
Fedye is my eldest son. Right from his birth
—in my son's handwriting! It was obvious that universities . . . Hanukah festivals, big and small, have been taking
prepare him not Fedye was studying the Torah in the holy tongue ! place during the last few years in some universities, under the
tried to educate the mart in him,
merely for the narrow life within the confines of his _ But how did this come about? Who had encouraged auspices of Hillel Foundations, while in others a variety of Hanukah
people and his religion, but for a completely univer him to do this, and who was his teacher? I was services are being performed, including the lighting of Hanukah
candles, concerts of Hanukah music, and readings from Hanukah
pro- puzzled and did not know what was behind it.
sal life, with no distinction between sacred If and
he was
* * *
literature ... In some universities, the Hanukah motif is even brought
lane, or between Israel and other nations.
to burden himself with the yoke of Judaism and
directly into the dormitories and other campus settings . . . At the
A
few
days
later
my
son
asked
me
to
allow
take it on in the
afterwards cast it off—better not
for the University of Michigan for instance, the director of the Hillel Founda-
unburdening.
Thus,
him
to
invite
some
friends
of
his
home
in the
first place. No burdening and no
and following evening. It was Hanukah. I agreed with tion was able to introduce a daily candle-lighting service
university
my Fedye was brought up ignorant of the law
largest
dormitory
lounge,
with
the
approval
of
the
I
also
promised
to
welcome
his
guests
pleasure, and
religion of Israel, speaking and behaving as a son
and drink. I thought, "The boys will play administration . . . Each noon a graduate student of music played
of the peoples of the world.
with
food
carillonneur himself
doubt, and I shall observe them and find Hanukah melodies over the carillon, and the music
boy—and
cards,
no
on the Saturday
Fedye was a good-natured and happy
the
house,
gave
a
half-hour
of
Hanukah
and
other
Jewish
of
wife,
the
head
they
are."
My
who
out
he never knew sorrow. He learned a great deal
evening
of
the
Hanukah
week
.
.
.
For
a
number
of
years,
the Hillel
was
prepared.
generous
meal
and
a
and instructors who trained him agreed with me
has conducted a Maccabean
from
his teachers
home,
until he entered a secondary school with And, shall I tell you, my friend, that never did we Foundation at the University of Chicago
at
have as much joy in my house as on that evening. Festival at one of the auditoriums of the university, which has become
high marks. The day of his entry was a holiday for The guests were mostly young boys and girls, stu- one of the highlights on the annual university calendar ... Impressive
me. I forgot all the trouble I had gone through for
together. They were all warm- Hanukah festivals have also been sponsored by the Hillel Foundations
dents, rich and poor
my son, all the underhand means I had used, and
with
eager, bright faces. Like a at Washington University, McGill University, Hunter College in New
happy,
all the flattering I'd done so as to get him into this hearted,
dropped
my dignity, and did not sit York, and in other American institutions of higher learning . . . In
good
host,
I
my
pride
school—and I glossed over everything in
table,
but came and went to some universities, the observance of Hanukah is tied up effectively
at
the
head
of
the
and joy. But my wife, of blessed memory, like all
that
everything
was
in
order.
And so, on enter- with a Jewish Art Festival . . . This is especially the case at the
women, would weep in times of joy, so she shed see
could not under- Temple University, at the University of California and at the City
astonished
and
the house, I was
tears on that day when she remembered what sorrow jug
so excited, and were all College of New York . . . Such festivals include concerts, Jewish folk
why
the
guests
were
stand
and suffering this joy had cost her.
clapping. I stood and watched for a little while, dancing by Hillel groups, Hanukah songs by Hillel choirs, Hanukah
Days passed, and I saw that my son's face was and then was even more amazed! For Fedye was art exhibits featuring young Jewish artists . . In San Francisco,
clouded, that his appearance was not as it used standing, addressing the crowd, and all were loudly members of the San Francisco Symphony, with the cooperation of
to be. My heart ached because of this but I could
"Bravo !" Fedye was inspired and spoke the local chapter of the American Federation of Musicians, presented
find no reason for this strange thing either in his shouting,
magnificent,
strong voice: "So it is also with a Hanukah concert at the Hillel building . . . Program ideas as well
a
in
mind
physical or in his mental state, so I set my
at rest. One day he came home from school sad and the advent of the Messiah and with the people.
A as background materials and resources for the development of imagin-
and waits for the Messiah and does ative and effective Hanukah programs have been compiled by Alfred
very irritable, and rushed into his room. My wife, people that sits
and is destined Jospe and published by the Hillel Foundation's headquarters in Wash-
who is an invalid, was, at the time, lying on the bed nothing, has indeed the spark of life real
life until it ington . . Mr. Jospe took into consideration not only the needs of
not a
heard
nothing.
When
mealtime
to
live,
but
its
life
is
still
in her room, and
goes to meet its Messiah. full-time Foundations but also the smaller Hillel units which rarely
and
acts,
arises
and
arises
came round and my son did not come to the table,
the When the nation strives to regulate its own affairs command the resources for the development of programs .. .
I Went into his room and found him lying on
talents, overcomes
COMMUNAL AFFAIRS: The American Jewish Committee is en-
bed, his face buried in the pillows. I thought some and develops its own inherent
and paves a way through them for its
was
filled
with
obstacles
him
and
in intensive action to counteract Arab attempts in the United
accident must have befallen
gaged
towards
possessions, strives and marches
grief. I called to him, and he did not answer. Fear spiritual
States
to blackmail American firms into boycotting Israel . . Thq --
then
the
Mes-
to its desired goal, it becomes great and
gripped my soul, when I saw him thus. I called
AJCommittee
efforts are in line with the new regulations issued by th(
and he siah, its deliverer, comes. Ample proof of this is
him a second time in a pleading tone —
Department of Commerce, requesting American firms to furnish infoP )
of
mankind.
Every
nation
turned his face towards me. How terrible he looked to be found in the history
mation or not to sign agreements which would aid in the anti-Israe?
then! His face was burning—his eyes bathed in will become great, if it only strives upwards. And boycott ... The regulations, issued following a decision of Congressi.._-- -N
the
and
redemption
tears. even we, Children of Israel, our
Li
require U.S. businessmen to notify the Department of Commerce within
I asked him, greatly redemption of Jewish life can only come to us 15 days of receipt of any Arab boycott request . .. However, these
"What is the matter, son?"
the development of our national strength
that the
moved. Angrily he sighed, and said, "Why do you through
spiritual resources, through the striving of our regulations received no wide publicity in view of the fact
and
enemies
am
amongst
Department of Commerce had given only routine publicity to them ...
ask? Don't you know that I
of
this,
even
In
proof
towards a high idea.
As a result, many American businessmen are still unaware of their
there? They have been mocking me all the time, soul
this festival of ours today, is in memory of the existence . . To remedy this situation, the American Jewish Com-
and today they teased me more than ever about
deeds of the Hasmoneans."
eating blood during the Festival of Matsot, for they great
had hardly finished speaking when the mittee decided to undertake a campaign of suggesting to chambers
Fedye
today."
of commerce, business associations and trade publications that they
say it is the Jews' Passover
house shook, and the walls trembled with the sound
* * *
give widespread publicity to the new anti-boycott legislation, and
whirl.
of
the
shouting
and
applause.
My
wife
saw
her
I listened speechless—my mind in a
encourage American firms to support it. . . Contact with national
of compassion and son's glory and was glad; all were praising him and
Strange sensations, feelings
she
organizations and publications has already been established by the
be
proud!"
And
"Your mother should
American Jewish Committee in New York, Boston and other cities
shame, of comfort and regret, surged within me like saying, and
him.
And
even
I
gloried
in
proud
of
was
. . . And AJCommittee chapters in other parts of the country are
the waves of the sea. and my soul was thrown from heard
my
hand,
me,
shook
wave to wave, deeply shaken. I beheld my beloved his honor. Many came up to
communities and to
and said, "Be glad, that you have produced such a urged to stimulate similar action in their
son's spiritual anguish, and my heart smote me, and
coordinate their activities with those of the community relations
such
in
Israel!"
many
be
may
there
I said to myself, "This sorrow of your son's is son; I stood dumfounded, and pondered, "How many council and other groups interested in combating Arab boycott efforts_
caused by you. You estranged this soul from its own
in the United States . .. Leaders of the American Jewish Committee
whole of are thy deeds, Lord of the Universe, and how great
people in order to introduce
it to the independent
are of the opinion that U.S. governmental support on the diplomatic_
something
are
thy
miracles,
which
thou
performest
in
thy
Humanity. Humanity is not
that Fedye, my son, and administrative levels would also be required if American
told
me
have
could
Who
world!
and self-sufficient; it is simply a name comprising
--,t-
-
`assimilationist' from birth, who knew neither were finally to be freed from Arab intrusion in their affairs . . .
all the nations of the earth. It is like saying, 'What an
his
will
now
be
watching
closely
the
quarterly
reports
which
the
Depart-
in
never
and
had
his
religion,
people nor
are the trees to me? I have only the forest !' And his
seen the shape of a Hebrew letter, would become ment of Commerce is to issue on the implementation of the new anti-
even if we assume that it is as you think, the way life ardent
patriot of Israel! That he would be a fine boycott legislation . . .
you have seen to attain human perfection lies an
speaker,
a
champion of Judaism in his speech, and
ISRAELI ECHOES: Believe it or not, somebody in Israel, after
through a different people, which you have chosen
people in his utterances!"
his
of
saviour
a
own
people,
as
reading
American contemporary history, addressed a letter to President
your
not
through
for your son, and
From this you will notice that that evening was Johnson suggesting that Israel be made the 51st state of the United
way
filled
with
dark-
a
though that was, God forbid,
not spent by the youngsters in card-playing and
will
ness and the shadow of death. See then, what has wild talk, but they criticised and discussed the entire States ... His friends told him his letter will be ignored and he stick
happened to this son of yours, for whom you sought reconstruction of Israel. Then I knew what Fedye never get a reply . ..But leave it to Washington, where officials
to administrative correctness ... He has now received a reply from
happiness and good from outside your own nation!
They wanted to reform their the U.S. Office of Territories, telling him that "States can be admitted
Where is his happiness? Where is his joy? He has and his friends were.
breathe a new spirit into it — a
into the Union only by the U.S. Congress." . . "In so doing," the
been 'uprooted from his people, and the other nation own nation, to
itself
and its glory and hope for its communication from Washington explained, "three tests have been
of
knowledge
in
mid-air,
does not take him in. He is left dangling
of its traditionally applied: Do the people of the area desire statehood%
his world gloomy even in his youth. Boys, of his age, future; to revive its language, the language
its prophets. They came, not to destroy,
law
and
of
their
people,
of
like
plants
in
the
midst
can they support statehood?; and do they have an American form
who grow up
soil of Israel. of
drawing nourishment from Israel's source, retain a but to build and plant Israel in the of
government?" ... Pointing out that "Israel is of course an indepen-
my
son
who
wonderful was the strength
dent
nation," the reply concluded: "To our knowledge, its people have
host of pleasant, happy memories of customs and had How
returned wholeheartedly to his people. Sons who
events in family-life and in the life of the com-
never
expressed a desire to join the United States nor to become a
up in the faith and
munity in which their childhood is spent, which from childhood were brought
state
of
the Union." Who says American officials lack politeness?
and its law, who grew up to
soften the bitterness of life until old age. Remember spirit of the people
there
is
still
hope
of
them
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
the clays of your youth, remember the Pesach Seder become renegades—for
through the influence of their 2—Fr May, December 17, 1965
in your parents' house. A spirit of grace and beauty reform. Perhaps

An Old Tale Valid for An Times:
Mendele's Famed Hanukah Story

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