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December 19, 1986 - Image 26

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-12-19

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

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Friday, December 19, 1986 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Chaim Grade Bequeaths

Continued from preceding page

Mercy to open. Reb Ber,
pound the desk: Enough of
sacrifices! Reb Ber, turn
your fiery black eyes upon
me and consume me for
my taunts and blas-
phemies, Reb Ber ..."
The beth midrash is
empty, silent. I descend the
steps.
Where shall I go? Where
can I find a place for my-
self? All the Jews have
been exterminated; only
their Yom Kippur still
dwells within me, cries
within me; yet I cannot
pray — not for them and
not for myself. ... Another
synagogue!
The visit to mother's Vilna
home, after the war, prior to
the agony at the despoiled
synagogue, also marking the
Atonement Day, is a dirge in
the Grade classic. There are
no visible tears but there is
an echoing heartbreak, a
sadness so deeprooted that
the calamitous effect does not
describe it.
For the reader there are
tears and the pains that
share the miseries of the suf-
ferer's memories and the
agonies of the entire People
Israel.
There was the abandoned
cat to share the pains of
Chaim Grade in his mother's
former home. There is the
horror of a Holocaust in this
panegyric:
The entrance to my
mother's house is open;
darkness stares out from
within as from a deep and
dried-out well. Someone
has torn away the spider-
webs; or perhaps the wind
has carried them off. I do
not enter the house, but
stand motionless in the
courtyard until the
mounds of rubble are
covered with the shadows
of night and the young
crescent moon rises in the
sky, waiting for me to re-
cite the Blessing for the
New Moon, as Reb Shaul-
ka's pious congregants had
always done following the
Evening Service after Yom
Kippur.
From the dark open
house the cat creeps out
and stretches itself across
the threshold. I recall how
on Yom Kippur, just before
the Afternoon Service, my
mother would always
break off her devotions
and return home to feed
our cat. Now I approach
this stray cat on the
threshold, no longer with
fear, as on the day before,
but with friendly familiar-
ity, as an old acquain-
tance. The cat, for its part,
neither runs away nor his-
ses; it raises its head and,
sorrowfully and sadly,
looks straight into my
eyes. I sense that my face
is wet with tears and that I
am whispering
meaninglessly to this
strange, forlorn cat, de-
fen rlinn my Milfb er fnr

having allowed it, one of
God's creatures, to go
hungry this entire Yom
Kippur day:
"Mother has gone to the
synagogue and cannot re-
turn; she cannot return
from Ne'ilah ... she will
not return ... will not re-
turn ..."
My Mother's Sabbath Days
is monumental. It is au-
tobiographical — Chaim
Grade's. It is great drama,
immense tragedy, and the
cast of characters is the
Jewish people, with a villainy
in Russia, in Poland, in
Nazism.

CIT"e'Y

Chaim Grade visited the
devastated Vilna synagogue
after World War II.

Such immensity could
never be fully characterized
in a review. One of the trans-
lators, the author's widow,
approached it. The pub-
lishers, Knopf, make author
and text their favorites.
provide
Grades
The
enrichment. They provide a
great treasure for readers of
all faiths, while crediting the
original Yiddish with glory.
The entire achievement is a
very glorious one.

Inna Takes Pride
In Adler Award
For Her Husband

A recognition of Chaim
Grade and the translators'
approaches to his Yiddish
works would be incomplete
without an accounting of his
wife's devotion to the aim of
perpetuating his writings.
In an article in the October
1986 issue of Midstream
magazine "Chaim Grade:
Reminiscences," Inna Grade
recalled how Ashbel Green,
senior editor and vice
president of Knopf, became
interested in and befriended
her husband and expressed a
desire to publish his works.
He assisted Mrs. Grade and
labored with her husband in
the translation and publica-
tion of Rabbis and Wives.
Mrs. Grade twice em-
phasized in her article the
judgement that the King

.

James version of the Bible is
the most acceptable.
Inna Grade refers to
Ashbel Green as "a descen-
dent of illustrious scholars
who not only knew Hebrew
and had the highest respect
for Judaism, but also wanted
Hebrew to become the lan-
guage of the New World."
She also states in her
Midstream essay about Green
that his ancestor, the Rev.
Jacob Green, had known He-
brew much better than the
author of the popular Biblical
o Concordance, which gives an
incorrect interpretation of
Ashbel, the name of the sec-
ond son of Benjamin. The
Rev. Jacob Green called one
of his sons Ashbel, and the
name has been passed down
through seven generations of
the family until the present
day. As Grade explained it,
Ashbel — Aleph, Shin; Bet,
Lamed — means Man of the
Lord. What could be more
logical for a Presbyterian
minister who lived with the
Bible and by the Bible than
to call his son after the son of
Benjamin, so that his descen-
dants. might call themselves
"of the seed of Abraham, of
the Tribe of Benjamin ... by
election."
Mrs. Grade's Midstream ar-
ticle recalls the great honor
that was, accorded to her hus-
band in March 1967, by the
Fellows of the American
Academy for Jewish Research
and presented him "with the
most prestigious award, the
Rabbi Morris Adler Prize, for
his novel Tzemah Atlas."
Here is how the citation sums
up Chaim Grade's importance
as a scholar, as an artist and
master of world literature:
We are presenting the
Rabbi Morris Adler Prize
to you in recognition of the
contribution you have
made to the understanding
of the life of the Jews in
Eastern Europe, notably
the students and teachers
of the talmudical
academies, and of its in-
stitutions. The light you
have shed on the musar-
movement adds to the clar-
ity of the portrait you have
drawn.
Although from a literary
point of view your work
"Tzemah Atlas" is a novel,
the Fellows of the
Academy deem it a reliable
source for the study and
interpretation of that very
significant period of the
history of Jewish learning.
With the passing of time
fewer and fewer scholars
remain who are themselves
products of that environ-
ment. It is indeed a stroke
of good fortune that your
work has captured the
spirit of that circle to such
a degree that these few
experience their memories
of the years , of study. They
testify to the authenticity
and factual truth of the
account.

c'z

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