(Continued from Page 54)
if he -wants to how can I with my foolish mind argue with God and tell him how to nm his world? Maybe if he wants it that way, it's supposed to be that way. Why complain?"
So he ends, half serious and half sarcastic, and one feels in him not so much the pious Jew as the clever Jew—not so muc^i the man of naive trust as the man of humor, the cheerful pessimisit who knows that if you want to, you can find an answer to everything, and if you want it the other way, then there is no answer to anything; so that the easiest way out is not to ask any questions and not to engage in debates with God or man. What good is complaining? You should observe your disappointments but not be foolishly overwhelmed by them. To do this it is necessary to put your personal sufferings and pleasures on a higher plane.
We need not wonder that a simple and uneducated Jew like Tevyeh should be dapable of such refined and complex thinking. With his humor he overcomes the limitations of his experience, and his registration to external circimi-stances does not enslave him: it frees him inwardly.
His daxi^ter Eve, the one who ran away with Ohvedke the Gentile village clerk, stops Tevyeh on the road. A struggle takes place inside him:-the pious Jew wrestles with the father. Fii«t the sharpened pride of the God-fearing Jew triumphs, and Tevyeh drives his horse forward: he is indeed no "yiddene" but a man strong as iron when necessary. But the next moment a thought comes to him: "Tevyeh! You're taking too much on yourself. What does it matter if you stop for a moment and listen to what she has to say? Maybe ^e has something to say that you ought to know. Mayfcei— , who can tell?—she is repentant and wants to turn back. MJaybe and maybe and still more maybe's run through my head, and I see her as a child, and I remind myself as a father who takes pity on his child—not a bad child to her father—and I tormait myself and I teU myself that I am not good enough to have the earth carry me. What? What are you excited about, you stubborn fool? What are you making sudh a fuss about? You cruel man—turn your wagon back—make up with her. She's your child and no one else's."
Thus Tevyeh struggles with himself and moves between varied emotions, deeply moved but not completely dominated by themr-not altogether a victor over himself, but also not a loser. EBs smile tvdsts'into a grimace of sadness, and in another moment he is illuminated again by a soft and peaceful gleam of God-given humor. On the one hand he is Job who curses the day he was bom, and on the other he says to himself:
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"Tevyeh, you are a fool—you cfan-not remake the world."
And that is exactly the significant difference between Sholom Aleidhem and the whole generation of Haskalah authors to which he originally belonged. They thoxi^t they could reform the world didactically by reason and satire. In the beginning, Sholom Aleichem thought so too, but as he matured he became too much a hiunorist to see the world so simply.
As he grew older, Sholom Aleichem. more and more looked at the world as throu^ the sharp eyes of a mischievous child. It is not surprising, therefore, that the greatest Jewish humorist should have also become the best writer of children's books. Motel, the hero of Motel, Pesi the Cantor's Son, has in liim something of the grown-up Tevyeh, just as Tevyeh • and the great humorist himself have in them something of Motel's childishness.
There is an intrinsic affinity between the diild and the htmiorist, which explains their love for each other. A child does not know the cares of life—and the himiorist is not taken in by them.
Before Sholom Aleichem, real children were completely lacking in Jewish literature.. Mendele could find no real children in Goupsk (Sholom Alichem's Ydi-petz) or Kabatzansk (Sholom Alei-chem's Kasrielevka;) he foimd only little Jews—Ohildren without a childhood. Mendele writes of the hero of his Wishing Ring: "Hersch-ele was a warshiet child, lively and attractive, but his youth disappeared quickly, and in his very child^ hood he was but a small Jew, iheaten, thou^tful, with careworn features and all the gestures of the grown-up: all he needed was a beard." Peretz, too, saw only ^tba pale, green, yellow, dWy faces" of the children he depicted in his stories. Sholom Aleichem was the first to imderstand the healthiness, joy, and mischievous. ness of ohildren. To him, they were the only true KasrielevMtes who did not wise-crack or laugh through bitterness: they laughed heartily, just as he himself laughed. Perhaps he was one of theirs rather than one of ours.
This dhildisih laughter -waa a valxiable gift to Jewish literature. If it was a great accomplishment on Sholom Aleichem's part to make the child his reader, it was an even greater accomplishment to bring out in the adtdt reader the carefree humor of childhood. In Warsaw, once, a young Hasid ran to Sholom Aleichem and kissed his hands, crying: "You are our comfort, you sweeten the bitterness of our exile."
And he is morC' than a comforer of the Diaspora. The Jews iwho live and act in Sholom Aleichem's books become, in all their humanity and Jewishness, a monument to the life of a people. SEholom
Aleichem preserves the treasures of the Jewish language, the folklore of the Jews of Eastern Europe, the special flavor of their way of life.
He took the lanfluage in its rawest form and returned it purified and refined, and everything else that he took from the people he gave back perfected and illtmi-inated. He himself came from the people and returned to the i>eople, as the highest expression of its
creativity, its wisdom and its humor.
His lively volumes are the antithesis of the apondieirous sefer (book), but they resemble the old sefer in that the Jews regatd them, like the sefer, as something other than art. With this difference: in the sefer the Jewr speaks humbly with God; in Sholom Alei-ichem, he chats merrily with himself.
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