Ben Shahn's 'Ecclesiastes' a Treasured Work for Art Lovers
Ben Shahn had earned the re- to his book that he felt an urge to much was made of the
cognition of greatness as an artist celebrate in the form in which Ec- and so on—met with
for many works on Jewish sub- clesiastes revered the Lord. In the candidates for the post of
jects. Prior to his death two years doing watercolors he stated that he
The acid test (once he had estab-
ago, he produced the classic Shahn often lettered under them "such
lisped his respectability) was whe-
Hagada. He gained fame in France wonderful lines" as:
ther he could translate into Yid-
with his handwritten and illustra-
"Wherefore I perceive that there dish the opening lines of Ecclesi-
ted "Ecclesiastes or, The Preach-
er." First published by Trianon is nothing better, than that a man rites which, as you may know, go
Press in Paris in 1967, Ecclesiastes should rejoice in his own works; like this, lievel hevolim, hakohl
was then a limited, numbered for that is his portion: for who revel . . .', or, in English, `Vanity
edition. Now it is available in shall bring him to see what shall of vanities, all is vanity . . .' Now
the only word in Yiddish that
this country as an Orion Press be after him?"
. Then follows a self-examination: properly translates the word `van-
Book of Grossman Publishers.
and re-reading those ity' is unfortunately the same word
The foreword to this fascuiat-
II am suddenly struck with a as 'nothing'. There came a rabbi,
ing book of 50 unnumbered pages
and ask my- a fit enough candidate for the
adds charm to this splendid book.
self whether that may not actually Post; and he passed acceptably
It is a revelation of the back-
ground as well as the dedication of be the reason why 1 am an artist." until he came to the translation.
Tracing the influence of Eccles_ He translated the lines like this:
the great artist to the themes that
Tastes upon him in his childhood, `Ilevel is nothing, hevolim is noth-
influenced him in his youth.
Shahn wrote in his foreword that ing, everything is nothing; nothing
(There is a $19.95 price on this his grandfather used to tell and is nothing is nothing is nothing ...'
book for this month and then it'll retell a story that went like this:
The elders would not accept the
rabbi. `Do you think it was the
translation?' my grandfather would
say. `No, it wasn't the translation,
it was because he pronounced the
word "nothing" like a Pole instead
of like a Litvak!' "
A lover of parables and folk
OkmiAtt/z1. Thf, Pwas Aii P.euthut, - 74 sat
tales, Ben Shahn told one to des-
cribe how his father "cheated the
kA;sig izniutuhaion.. Vit"%Lt y vit
6 , se:4.4,7;4 MeAchrt, v4.4 /
telegraph companies out of their
w./.0.4 What pufit AAA ailtivn of Wait
tolls by resort to Ecclesiastes. He
explains that any one to whom
ivniut 4.4 pvit?anirmuate;vt passak ‘uter-et Amt41 cocottrau
his father might have been sending
a telegram surely would have
Bible passages on his finger tips.
The Shahn tale about the method
aaisd6, 444 de Saw yoc_d, dowou, and lidStel4 k/ACC Wif IA 4C
used by his father, which is another
delightful part of the foreword, is:
zeosatt 1.4,4 7ostk , tvoite6
5oki4,, afts6reinuA diawt kol4
"Were it a message of condo-
First page of Ben Shahn's "Ecclestiastes," containing the
lence, his telegram carried three
words, 'Ecclesiastes. i.8', or, 'All havalim" in Hebrew and the first lines of the Solomonic work.
things are full of labour; man can-
not utter it.' Or, if the message
were to be one of cheer it might
go, `Ecclesiastes. iii 1-5,' or, "To
(From the files of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency)
everything there is a season, and
40 Years Ago This Week: 1931
a time to pluck up that which
A Warsaw woman charged ritual murder when she couldn't find
heaven: a time to be born,
a Jewish skate-shop. As the police were busy
time to die; a time to plant,
and taking their notes, the boy suddenly returned in search of his mother.
a time to pluck that up that which
German-born Moses Alexander, the first Jewish immigrant to be
is planted; a time to
kill, and a elected Governor (Idaho, 1916, 1918), died in Boise at 78.
time to heal; a time to break down,
Rosenwald, "the greatest Jewish philanthropist since the
and a time to
build up; a time to days of Baron de Hirsch," died near Chicago at 69. His benefactions
weep, and a time
to laugh; a time
of $50,000,000 and were limited neither by geographical
to mourn, and a time to dance;
a boundaries nor by barriers of race, color or creed.
time to cast away stones, and a
10 Years Ago This Week: 1961
time to gather stones together; a
Israeli Communist leader Shmuel Mikunis revealed that two of
time to embrace, a time to refrain
executed by the Stalinist regime in the Soviet
from embracing,' and so on."
Such are the treasured words of
Prof. Henry A. Kissinger of Harvard, adviser to President Ken-
a distinguished artist appended to nedy, said in Tel Aviv that in his "private view" the flow of
a text of a great book which he has arms to the Arabs was 'a provocation to stability" that "endangers
penned in longhand in his artistic peace."
style. The captions to each chapter
Industrialist Abraham and Jacob Goodman, brothers of Brooklyn,
add artistic glory to this work, and gave $1,000,000 for a Tarbuth Foundation for Hebrew Culture in
the additional watercolors enhance Lieu- York.
it further, making Shahn's "Ec-
Isaac Wolfson, 64, Orthodox London Jew who rose from a dollar-
clesiastes" a work that will be a-week clerkship to a disburser of millions in charity, was named a
sought by all art lovers.
baronet by Queen Elizabeth II.
da4A , 6tIV t.
This photo shows Ben Shahn supervising the production of "Eccles-
iastes" when the original edition was being prepared by Trianon
Press in Paris, in 1967.
go up to $25.)
Explaining the influence his
father's teachings had upon him,
and the manner in which the wis-
da-n of Ecclesiastes was impressed
upon him, Shahn wrote that the
language of Ecclesiastes enchanted
him when he grew up and began
painting. He stated in the foreword
"Our rabbi had died; it was ne-
cessary that a new one be named.
Since not much went on in the
'village, and since the synagogue
was the bright light in our lives,
choosing. The elders, the eminent
men of the village—the druggist,
the locksmith, the butcher, the
miller, the horse-trader, the grocer,
in Jewish History
Noted Scholars Join in Tributes to Prof. Zeldin
World Jewry's most notable
scholars have joined in paying hon-
or to the man they consider their
most distinguished confrere.
they were written. They begin
with a French essay written in
1914 and continue with a splen-
did annotation of works in Eng-
lish, Hebrew and Russian.
"Solomon Zeitlin: Scholar Lau-
reate," a volume replete with en-
Valuable research into Bible and
comia expressing appreciation for Talmud sources, studies of events
the eminent professor's great ac- that transpired during the Second
complishments in a period of 45 Commonwealth—Dr. Zeitlin is the
years of creative labors, expres- leading authority in the world on
ses the love and affection they have the era of the Second Common-
a• for Solomon Zeitlin, Distinguished wealth—and the debates on the
Professor of Post-Biblical Litera- question of the antiquity of the
ture and Institutions at Dropsie Dead Sea Scrolls—a claim chal-
lenged by Dr. Zeitlin—are among
Published jointly by Bitzaron, the the essays-in this listing.
Hebrew magazine, and Dropsie
Appropriately, there is a post-
University Alumni Association, script—Dr. Zeitlin's own evaluation
this volume contains, in addition of 80 years of the functions of
to appreciations of Dr. Zeitlin's Jewish Quarterly Review, half that
writings by eminent scholars, an period having been under his
annotated bibliography of his writ- direction.
ings from 1915 to 1970.
Then there are reproductions of
The importance of the anno- citations presented to him by Drop-
tated bibliography is evidenced
sie University, Hebrew Union Col-
not only in the number of writ-
lege-Jewish Institute of Religion
ings—there are 406 in the list and Yeshiva University.
contained in 172 of the 296
The honors extended to Dr.
pages in this book—but espe-
Zeitlin are really of major im-
cially in the languages in which
portance in this volume. They
DR. SOLOMON ZETTLIN
commence with a preface by
the editor of the book, Prof.
Sidney B. Hoenig of Yeshiva
University, a student of Dr. Zeit-
lin, and a foreword by President
of Israel Zalman Shazar. The
latter is of special interest. It
contains reminiscences. Dr. Zeit-
lin and President Shazar had
been classmates and roommates
while students at the Academy
of Jewish Learning, St. Peters-
burg, Russia, and the dedication
of this greeting with reminis•
ceases as a foreword in the origi-
nal Hebrew text and its transla-
tion, is an impressive portion of
a notable work.
His students and co-workers and
fellow members of faculties of
universities where he taught have
joined in the honors to the emi-
nent scholar. Dr. Abraham I.
Katsh, president of Dropsie Uni-
versity, where Dr. Zeitlin still is
teaching, honors him as "A Schol-
ars' Scholar." The tribute on be-
half of Dropsie Alumni Association
is by Dr. Elazar Goelman.
In addition to his evaluative pre-
face, Dr. Hoenig's lengthier arti-
cle on Prof. Zeitlin adds immeasur-
ably to an understanding of the
high qualities of the man honored.
There also are two of Dr. Hoenig's
40 Friday, December 31, 1971
essays on "Rabbinic Research and
Such eminent students of Dr.
Zeitlin as Prof. Harry M. Orlin-
sky, Dr. Robert Gordis and oth-
ers add their appreciation of the
man in special essays.
There are essays in the volume
by Dr. Solomon Grayzel, Dr.
Emanuel Rackman Prof. Fills Riv-
kin, Rabbi Birnbaum, Dr. Morton
E. Enslin and Dr. Judah M. Rosen-
There are addenda to the book
worth noting—a selected list of
Hebrew expressions, as well as
Greek and Latin terms, and lists
of texts and authors discussed.
Not only admirers of Dr. Zeitlin,
but students of the historic peri-
ods' which Dr. Zeitlin has enriched
with his research and those who
seek knowledge about the Dead
Sea Scrolls, will find much of
merit in this splendid work. It is
a deserving tribute to a great stu-
dent of Jewish history and its
teacher to many of our leading
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS -