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[Page 601]

Writers and the Scholarly

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The Youth [Early Years] of Ben-Zion
Rapport z”l [of blessed memory]

by M. D. Berl (Dubi)

Translated by Chana Saadia

Edited by Renee Miller

He was born in Tarnow in 1884. His father R' Moshle Riglitzer (named for the town Riglitz, from which he came to Tarnow) the scholar, was a teacher of boys of the age of bar-mitzva [thirteen years old]. He was a devoted student of the Rabbi Yechezkel of Cieniawa (son of the noted [zaddik [righteous person] Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sadz). He was important and honored by the Hasidim of the kloyz [house of study].

His only son Ben-Zion was already in his childhood known as one with a sharp mind who was growing up an iluy [genius]. For this they forgave him his wildness and his chutzpa to adults and the elderly.

At age eleven he was orphaned of his mother. His father moved with him to Sandz (Nowy Sacz), to his only daughter, Sarah, wife of Mordechai Mahler the enlightened maskil [follower of the Haskala (Enlightenment) movement], a Zionist and activist. He educated his son according to the spirit of the time with a general education and also Hebrew.

In 1900 the writer of these lines began to teach Hebrew to Michael, the son of Mr. Mahler. This was not viewed favorably in the eyes of the elderly father of Ben-Zion, so he pressured his daughter to remove the “apikoros” [non-believer, apostate] teacher from her home. When he did not succeed with his daughter, he attempted a different stratagem. He sent his son Ben-Zion to observe the Hebrew lesson, in order to harass the teacher with various questions on grammar, explanations of Rashi [Rashi, an acronym for Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac or Shlomo Yitzchaki, (February 22, 1040 – July 17, 1105)] is one of Judaism's classic Bible and Talmud commentators] and of difficult biblical passages, and to press his back to the wall in order to force him to leave the place and give up his lessons. But the opposite occurred, instead of catching the teacher, the son was caught by the evil inclination, God forbid. The young, sensitive boy came to know the teacher during these conversations, and saw that he was very polite, and was cheerfully willing to explain all of his difficulties. The boy became friendly with the teacher, [several words missing in text; replaced by a repetition of the last line in the next paragraph-translator's note].

Once when the teacher left the house after the lesson, he saw Ben-Zion standing outside behind the wall of the house, and he was afraid that someone would see him speaking to the “apikoros”. He [Ben-Zion] asked him [the teacher] to lend him a book to read. Willingly and wholeheartedly the teacher fulfilled this request, and on the following day he brought him “Religion and Life” by R. A. Broides, and the monthly journal “HaShiloach” [Ahad Haam's Bene-Moshe group founded the Hebrew journal Hashiloach (1896-1926)]. The young man swallowed the book like “the first fig of the early summer“ [Isaiah 28\4]. Obviously he had to hide in the fields among the crops, or to read at night by the burning stove, (while his father slept) in order not to be caught in the great and terrible transgression. Later he received the writings of M. D. Bernsttater, Smolenskin, Mapu etc.

He read the articles and poems in “HaShiloach” several times, until he almost knew them by heart. The young Ben-Zion, who formerly only knew the four cubits of halacha [the narrow bounds of Jewish law], the Talmud and its commentaries, and nothing about the world except for this, now opened his eyes: over the course of several weeks he became “different” [lit. “other”, a Talmudic term for an apostate]. In the town and in the study hall people began to gossip about him that he was cutting short his prayers and his learning in the study hall, and vanishing for half days in order to read the modern Hebrew literature and to study Bible and grammar.

From the coins he sometimes received from his sister he bought a first-grade German schoolbook, in order to learn the alphabet. When he learned to read German he bought philosophy books in the German language.

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When his father woke up one night and found him reading an “improper book” he tore it to pieces and threw it into the burning stove.

When he was sixteen he was orphaned of his father too. His sister wanted to be rid of this idler, who ate but did not produce, and tried to make him settle down [lit. “tie a grindstone to his neck”]. She exerted herself and found him a wife, the daughter of a good family from Zmigrod. He was then about seventeen, and she was about twenty-nine.

After the wedding they lived in Zmigrod. His wife, who was forced to be a “Woman of Valor” and provide for the family, began to deal in fabrics, and traveled to the fairs in the area, every day to a different fair, and took her husband along to guard the goods from thieves. But instead of guarding the goods from thieves, he studied a book of philosophy that he brought with him.

The period of commerce did not last long, the goods ran out; some were stolen and some were sold but the profits were eaten, and there remained no money to buy more stock.

On the advice of his wife, the Eshet Chayil [“Woman of Valor”], Ben-Zion became a teacher in her town of Zemigrod. There were some Jews who were willing to give their sons to be taught gemara and commentaries by the sharp young scholar. But in this also he did not last. It quickly became known that he was not worthy of this position, as he was found reading secular books, and was caught in various minor and major sins.

Once he came to Sandz to complain bitterly to his friend the teacher and to ask his advice if he should leave his town and his wife and travel to Berlin to study in the Rabbinical Seminary.

The teacher knew Ben-Zion as a young scholar, a complete idler, bashful and shy, with a beard and side-curls down to his middle, with the fringes of his small tallis [trad. Jewish garment worn under a man's shirt] reaching his ankles. For this reason he feared that in the big city he would be completely lost, and he certainly would not find work giving lessons as he thought he would, because his German was not fluent. Thus his advice was that he should move to Krakow, a city of scholars and lovers of secular learning, in the hope that there he would find friends to his liking, who would stand by him. He took this advice and settled in Krakow, where he met Dr. Yehoshua Tahon who found him work teaching Talmud and commentaries in the homes of wealthy families, and from this he supported himself respectably for a while. After the founding of the Hebrew Gymnasia in Krakow, he was employed there as a Hebrew teacher.

From the beginning of this career, now that he had a steady income, he was able to devote himself to the reading of books of secular learning and philosophy, as there was no lack of Hebrew and general libraries, and he felt [at home] like a fish in the great sea. He met educated people and Torah scholars who understood his soul, and he gained knowledge and wisdom and began writing philosophical articles for “HaShiloach”, “Haolam”, and “Hatekufa”.

He later published his articles as a book called “Hahakara” [Consciousness or Recognition], and became well known among the intellectuals.

During WWI he served in the Austrian army. During WWII [until?] 1939 he remained in Krakow, and in the terrible days he left there for Sandz to join his family, the daughters of his sister, and there he died together with all the people of the town and with his wife and only son and his grandchildren.

May his memory – the memory of a Jewish philosopher and author – be blessed.

[Page 609]

The Final Letter (Last Testament)
of One of the Martyrs of Israel

by M. A. Kurtz

Translated by Chana Saadia

Edited by Renee Miller

The last letter of the teacher, author, and philosopher, Rabbi[1] Ben-Zion
Hacohen Rappoport, hy”d
[2], to his only son Moshe Hacohen Rappoport, hy”d

I publish the letter of Rabbi Ben-Zion Rappoport, hy”d, which he wrote to his only son at the address: Moshe Rappoport, Zandzin near Tarnow (a large and important city in Galicia, Poland), number 406 Granitzna Street, care of Shtormoynd. These were surely the last words of the writer towards the end of his days, when faith in mankind ceased and all hope to be saved was ended, and the world grew dark for him and for all the people of Israel.

The reader of this letter senses the echo of ethical wills, which some of the great men of the nation would command, before they were gathered to their people, to their sons or their students, to teach them life's wisdom and purpose, and what is the preferred behavior which a man should choose in his lifetime. When you read this letter you remember the wills of the Ro”sh[3], Rabbi Ya'akov Baal Ha'Turim[4], the Rambam's[5] letter to his son, The Holy Shal”a[6], ha'Gra[7], etc, etc. Together with the unending simple faith, together with the hope still beating in the heart of the author, despite his grave danger[8], you sense the beating wings of the angel of death, who neither discriminates nor distinguishes and who runs riot in this time of disaster.

And here are the few details known to us about the author, to which it would be worthwhile for the experts to add further lines, until we receive a full picture of the biography, personality and the creativity of one of the wonderful people who grew in the cultural climate and the social and public conditions of the last century of the existence of Judaism in Galicia; circumstances of life which have passed, have vanished, and will never again exist.

Ben-Zion Rappoport was born in Tarnow which is in Galicia, on the 15th day of the month of Av, 5644 [1884]; was educated as was customary in religious homes in the towns of Galicia (his father R' Moshe taught gp”t[9] to Jewish children), and was renowned, even before he reached his Bar-mitzvah[10], as a genius. When he was thirteen his father moved his residence to Nowy Sacz, which was the capitol of Galician Hassidism of those days. Here he began to read and delve into Hasidic literature, and later into books of the philosophic research of the Middle Ages. In that same period there also came into his hands books of the Haskalah[11] and various scientific books. As did many of his type, he yearned to travel to one of the great cities of Western Europe in order to further his education. However his father, who desired to prevent his son's plan, found him a wife, when he was eighteen years old. After he did not succeed in small business, he was forced to earn his livelihood in the profession he inherited from his father, and he became a “melamed[12]. In those years he began to publish his first articles (Rabbi Yisrael the Baal Shem Tov[13], Rabbi Baruch of Kossov[14], the question of free will and the Kabbalah[15], and others) in the weekly “Ha'mitzpeh”[16] and in its monthly supplement “Ramat Ha'mitzpeh[17] which were then published in Krakow. Because of these articles the householders declared him unfit to be a “melamed”. He was forced to move to Krakow and support himself as a teacher of the Hebrew language and literature. In the years 5673–4 [1913–1914] he published philosophical articles in the weekly “Ha'olam[18] which was edited by A. Droianov in Odessa (on Bergson[19], Spinoza[20], pragmatisn[?][21] and others). At the end of the First World War he was accepted by the Polish-Hebrew Gimnasia[22] in Krakow as a teacher of Bible, literature and Jewish history. During two decades he served as a teacher and earned respect and acclaim from his fellow teachers, his many students and the Jews of Galicia in general.

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Always deep in reflections, always meditating on elevated subjects, friendly, modest in his manners, innocent and honest – he was valued by his friends for his excellent character. His forgiving nature to his students and his patience served as an example to many.

His clear handwriting – even the hundreds of pages of his last manuscript, written under conditions of poverty[23] and danger attest to this – the strict observance of the external appearance, exactness in all details, the order – are also characteristics of his excellent character traits in his relations with people.

According to the laws of the Polish State, at the beginning if the 1930's (when Rappoport was almost 50) he was forced to pass an examination in order to officially teach in the high-school and to be called by the title “gymnasia professor”. R. at the time greatly pitied his students who themselves had to study many of the same subjects, which R. completely disdained, and he made fun of his studied and his preparation for this examination, and of the title “professor” - which was granted to him, while others held this official title in great respect.

R”s eyesight was faulty even as a youth. For many years he dictated his articles to his son Moshe, hy”d, or to his students, who knew and loved literature and study. R. always remembered to which of his students he dictated which article, and later – when the article was published – he did not forget to invite the student and show him the published article, so that he could have satisfaction with the work he did.

The details of Rappoport's last days are not known to us. The letter here published is certainly the last thing he wrote, before he was killed with all his people.

When in 1946 I was on a mission to Poland, as a member of the official delegation of the Yishuv[24], I had the privilege to redeem from oblivion an entire manuscript, prepared for publication and written in a clear and beautiful handwriting. (The philosophical content of the composition was written and edited with a clear prophetic vision in the dark oppression of the ghetto and the grief and suffering of the Hurbm. [The Destruction])

The way to the faithful watchman who guarded the manuscript – even when this involved great danger – I found based on information which Dr. Ben-Zion Katz-Ben Shalom of Jerusalem sent to me to the ruins of Warsaw. I remember: after several meetings, enquiries and exploratory conversations, I was sent to a private home in the city of Katowice. A Jew, who hid his identity and went under a Polish name, brought me into his room, in the apartment of a Christian Pole, After he checked and made sure that it would be impossible to surprise him during our conversation, he removed from its hiding place, very well hidden, a package wrapped in papers and in an unused towel. With reverence he untied the package and carefully handed me the orderly handwritten pages, which a concerned hand had guarded as a precious object until there would be found a redeeming hand for these pages, in which the noble and modest author one of the select individuals of the generation, confided his choice thoughts and hopes.

Thus was saved the collection of philosophical articles “Researches and Studies”, by the scholar and philosopher Rabbi Ben-Zion Rappoport hy”d. The writing of the book was completed during the years of suffering and the “shoah” [The Destruction] of destruction of the Jews of Poland. At a time when the sword shall deal death without[25] this lofty intellectual found shelter in the four cubits of the world of study, in which he put his trust. The book is the third composition, and the largest, of the author. It was preceded by two books: “Consciousness and Existence”, published by Binyamin Hertz, Berlin, 1924-1929; and “Philosophers and Philosophies”, published by the organization of Hebrew authors “Miflat[26], Krakow, 1936.

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I brought this manuscript to Eretz Yisrael, it was published in 1953 by Mossad Bialik, under the title “Character and Mind” – Philosophical Studies.

Along with the manuscript I also received an autobiographical article and the letter here published.

As one of the thousands of the students and admirers of the wise Rabbi, I thank God who made me the messenger for a mitzvah[27], that of saving from oblivion the last group of articles and the testament, which were written in the essence of the pure and holy blood of a distinguished man and an esteemed teacher.

The letter

To my dear son, his wife and beloved daughters, shalom and great salvation!

I have longed to converse with you, at least in writing, and to pour out before you my thoughts[28]. My heart is full of sorrow and longing, I am sorrowing that I cannot see you and the dear and beloved daughters. Also I cannot see Mother, she is very miserable. Last winter I was sick and then I almost decided to write down the thoughts of my heart and soul and send [them] to you, but for reasons which you know of the matter was postponed. Thank God I regained my strength, Fayga and her husband took care of me devotedly. Now, when it has been fulfilled unto us for our sins the words of punishment (Deut. 28:66) “The life you face…”[29] I feel the urgent need to write several words to you.

What can I tell you? In essence there is no important “subject”[30]. If the times were normal, without the current “state of emergency”, I would council you, my son, not to get angry and upset, and most important not to worry. Now we see how many of our worries before the war were foolish worries, and our angers were were in vain. Then, when we lacked for nothing, we had a large, spacious apartment, we lived in security, what did we have to worry about and over what did we need to get angry? Nevertheless! How many times were we angry and full of “sorrow”. As for me, I don't know if you are aware, the source of my anger was love and worry for your lot, therefore if I sinned to you, my son, or to your wife and daughters I ask you to forgive me.

Even now, happy is the man who can overcome his fear and worries, and hold to faith and belief. Indeed, it is difficult in these times to give “advice”, but you are still young and I hope that you will merit to [see] days of peace and tranquility; therefore I advise to keep distant from anger and worry to the best of your ability. How many times we get angry over things that in our eyes are “important”, and afterwards they are revealed as completely valueless; and on the contrary, we make light of and distain “small” matters which in truth are important and of consequence. And as one of the Hassidic Rabbis has said “All of this world is not worth even one sigh”. There is no other way here except the way of belief and faith. A man must do all he can and the rest, his burden, he must cast on God and He will support him, “Cast your burden on God and He will support you!”[31]

One more matter of importance, that I want to mention, is – guarding one's tongue from all sorts of lies, slander, gossip and judging a person unfavorably. In this matter the tzadik[32] Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaCohen[33] z”l[34] of Radun (author of the “Chafetz Chayim[35] – the editor) can be an example for us. I sinned in this, because by nature I am a social person, and where there is much speech sin does not cease. But you, my dear son, are still young, you can hold to the good character trait – the trait of guarding the tongue, and it will be as if “the son gives merit to the father”.

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These are in my opinion, the most important foundations of a life of purity: truth, belief and faith, and guarding the tongue, “the rest is the explanation”[36].

As for me, I am very busy writing that book which I began during the last few years. I write, correct and copy (I want to have two copies of it). It is very important to me, because it includes many articles which express my “outlook on the world”, on “theism”, “body and soul”, “the purpose of man”, and more. In size it is larger than “Philosophers and Philosophies”. I am trying to fulfill my obligation, and God will do what is good in His eyes. And now, my son, forgive me that I come to you at this time with “advice”, at a time when you need other things, things “of substance”, but what can I do since I am unable to help you.

Your father who blesses you with a life of tranquility, rest and everything good.
Nowy Sacz, 25 Sivan, (1942]Ben-Zion
As you can see from the above date this letter was written about a month ago, what came afterwards is known. What can I say, what can I speak, what can I advise!
20 Tamuzthe above

Because I do not know when I will be able to send this letter, I am adding to it some words of “philosophy”. If you do not have the patience to read you can “skip” them. All sorts of torment and suffering which man suffers, their source is – love of life. If a man could free himself from the strong will for his existence and the existence of his fellow men, he would not feel any of the torments of life anf their sorrow, since both the physical and spiritual pains are caused by incidents which involve danger to our life and existence. The love of life is very strong even in times when it is lacking reason; even an old man who has reached eighty and more wants to live and believes that he will yet live a long time. There is a Jewish joke which tells of a ninety year old man who was still strong and healthy. His oldest son, aged seventy, was widowed and the man wanted to remarry a second wife young enough to bear children. His old father opposed this, and his reason was: my son is already seventy and his days are numbered. Afterwards the bother of raising the small children who he will father will fall on him. The idea hidden in this joke is wonderful: relating to another person, this old man understood that a seventy-year-old man was near the end of his life; but relating to himself, who was twenty years older than his son, he believed that he had “made a treaty with death”, and that he would live until at least one hundred and twenty years. Man knows that his end is to die, yet he believes in eternal life. How can we join these opposites? From where do we have this strong wish for life, which forces us to suffer all sorts of sorrow and pain as long as we can continue to live? There is no answer other than that this is “the finger of God”. And RaSa”G[37] z”l in his book “Beliefs and Opinions”, article 10 chapter 11 (I am quoting from “Sefer Ha'Mezuzah” by Rabbi Shmaryahu Leib Horowitz p. 31), writes: “Love of the world was only put in the heart of man so that he would not kill himself when misfortune comes to him” l”a[38]. From this idea it is possible to draw a bit of comfort.
22 Tamuz

I did not send the letter until now because of the prohibition here of writing in Hebrew. Now I have decided to send it and may God guard us.
3 Elul

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Used as a title of respect, not necessarily referring to an ordained Rabbi Return
  2. Hashem yinkom damo may God avenge his blood Return
  3. Rabbenu Asher ben Yehiel (1250? 1328) Return
  4. Rabbi Ya'akov ben Asher (1269? 1343), known by the name of his work The Four Turim [columns]. Return
  5. Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (1194 1270) Return
  6. Rabbi Yeshayah Ha'Levi Horowitz (1558 1630) known by the name of his book Shnei Luhot Ha'Brit. Return
  7. Ha'Gaon Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman Kramer (1720 1797) known as the Vilna Gaon [genius]. Return
  8. The writer uses a very biblical idiom literally “at the edge of the pit dug by the hunter". Return
  9. Abbreviation for Gemarah, Peirush Rashi, Tosafot the basic text of the oral law with commentaries. Return
  10. Age thirteen. Return
  11. Enlightenment Return
  12. Traditional teacher of small boys Return
  13. Founder of the Hassidic movement Return
  14. d.1893 leader of Viznitz Hasidim Return
  15. Jewish mystic tradition. Return
  16. The Watchtower. Return
  17. Heights of the Watchtower. Return
  18. The World Return
  19. Henri Bergson (1859-1941) French Jewish philosopher Return
  20. Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) Dutch Jewish rationalist philosopher Return
  21. A guess the word used is “pragtismus". Return
  22. high-school Return
  23. or “distress” Return
  24. The Jewish Community of Palestine, before the establishment of the State of Israel. Return
  25. Deut. 32:25 [without quotation marks] JPS translation Return
  26. “Refuge” Return
  27. good deed Return
  28. lit. “conversations' Return
  29. source in parenthesis in the Hebrew text; JPS translation Return
  30. Most of the words the author placed in quotation marks are common Yiddish words taken from Hebrew, which the reader of the letter would pronounce like Yiddish. Return
  31. Psalms 55:23 [my translation] Return
  32. righteous, God-fearing man Return
  33. Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838-1933) Return
  34. “zichrono li'vracha" - of blessed memory Return
  35. “Seeker[of] Life" Rabbi Kagan's first book (1873), about the Jewish laws forbidding gossip and slander. Return
  36. Hillel the Elder: That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn. (Babylonian Talmud, tractate Shabbat 31a) Return
  37. Rabbi Sa'adia [ben Yosef] Gaon (892-942) early Jewish philosopher Return
  38. lo aleinu [not on us] a phrase used to avert misfortune Return

[Page 613]

Dr. Yermiahu Frenkel, z”l[1]

by M. D. Berl (Dubi)

Translated by Miriam Kreiter

Edited by Renee Miller

In 1902, during the summer vacation, the student Yermiahu Frenkel visited his relatives, the Rozenfeld family, in Sandz. In those days, the first meeting for the foundation of the Zionist club “Ezra” took place. Yermiahu, who was then a student in the fourth grade of high school, came with his cousin, Abraham Rozenfeld, to the meeting. In the course of the discussion, he asked for permission to speak. Although all the participants spoke German, Polish or Yiddish, the young student astonished the audience with an enthusiastic speech in Hebrew about Zionism and Jewish culture.

Since that time, he acquired a reputation, especially among the youth. Every year during his visit to our city during the summer holidays, he would gather the Zionist youth in the city and lecture about Zionism, the Bible and mainly about Jewish history.

Dr.Yermiahu Frenkel
in his last years in Eretz Israel

These summer holidays were not days of leisure, but days of continuous labor. He was an educator of the youth in our city, a guide to Zionism, a teacher of Jewish culture and the one whose spread the Hebrew language. He initiated the study groups of the youth in Sandz, “Bnei Zion” and “Bnot Zion” [Sons and Daughters of Zion] and he lectured every evening at three or four meetings of the study groups.

When he completed his studies at the high school in Lwow and later at the University of Vienna, he settled down in Sandz after he became engaged to the daughter of Abraham Friedman. From then on, he never rested from his labors. The entire Zionist movement in our city was under his influence. The adults as well as the young people were studying with him and his tremendous energy never ceased. He organized youth groups in the neighboring cities and lectured in the cities of Grybow, Stary Sandz, Piwnica, Muszyna , Krynica, Jaslo, Dukla and others.

He was humble and modest his entire life and he never sought glory for himself. He considered himself a simple soldier. Whenever he was needed he went gladly and willingly.

In the elections to the Austrian Parliament in 1911, for which the Zionist movement had submitted its own candidates, Yermiahu traveled from city to city to campaign for the Zionist candidates, who, in their education and intellectual capacity, were far beneath him. Everywhere he went he was received with sympathy and great enthusiasm. He knew how to win over their hearts with words of the Torah, Talmud and Midrash, and mainly with his expertise in Jewish and general history. His quotations and appropriate examples attracted the audience.

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When the war broke out in 1914, he was recruited into the Austrian army. He was already married at that time and the father of a one-year-old child. He returned from the army in 1918 when he was wounded. He then abandoned his career in law and began to teach in the city of Sandz. He told me then: “That is what I was born to do”. In 1919 he moved to Lodz and assumed the task of director of the only Hebrew high school in Poland. In 1935 he emigrated to Palestine. In 1950 he died in Tel Aviv of a heart attack.

May the memory of a dear friend be for a blessing!

Translator's Footnote

  1. of blessed memory Return

Yermiyahu Frenkel at Fifty

Translated by Miriam Kreiter

Edited by Renee Miller


I found out, after some delay, that Yermiyahu Frenkel, was fifty years old. That delay was not an accident. It is self-evident regarding a person who has been busy most of his life advertising other people and hiding himself. But my feelings of gratitude compel me to get him out of hiding on the occasion of his jubilee and to relate something of his image, his ways and actions. I am actually referring to a certain generation. This was a generation in Galicia whose childhood was spent in heder [religious school], in study of Torah and tradition. The little treasures he had accumulated mostly faded during his education in a foreign high school, in a foreign language and culture. A little illustration: while we were small children, a religious teacher stood before us and we learned the Bible and Commentaries from him. When we were older and we went to school, a bare-headed teacher stood before us and we learned a very small amount of the bible in German translation. When we grew up and went to high-school, a professor stood before us, and from him, we learned a crumb of the Torah service in Polish translation. To many, this signified deterioration of the knowledge of Hebrew and of Jewish culture. Young people were brought up in a Jewish atmosphere and later exposed to a foreign language and a foreign culture. Therefore, knowledge of Hebrew and Hebrew culture came to them in a roundabout way, namely in translations, or from reviews in articles in Rocznik Zydowski [Jewish Yearbook]. They became acquainted with Feinberg, Berdichevsky, Bialik and Ahad Ha'am from the articles in Moriah.[1]

For many years, Yermiyahu Frenkel stood as a loyal guard on the threshold as Hebrew literature was being disseminated among those who did not need its language. He also knew how to stand guard, to be an ambassador among non-Jews. He brought many back to their heritage.

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While we were stammering and groping through the Hebrew language, he was committed to getting us deeply involved in Hebrew literature. He wanted us to learn about each other and each book. This is engraved in our hearts. We were able to avoid the influence of foreign ways and enter the holy of holies of Hebrew literature. My gratitude to that special generation stems from all this.


He was born in Ukrainka in the area of Khershon. His father was a grandson of a rabbi born in Modzhitz in Galicia and was a scholar, an intellectual and a merchant. His son was brought up traditionally. When he was four years old he went to heder [Jewish religious school]; when he was six he studied gemore [Talmud], when he was eight he knew the Hebrew textbook by Ben Zev by heart and was an expert in the late Prophets. When he was ten, he was a diligent student of the books of the Haskole [Jewish Enlightenment]. He delighted in il”g [{Yalag}Yehuda Leib Gordon – Hebrew poet] and Smolenskin [Hebrew writer]. He was also attracted to Russian literature - especially Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. When he turned twelve he was considered a “modern” genius.

A change in his education and his way of life took place in his native city in Galicia. In addition to his knowledge of three languages, German, Polish and Ukrainian, he was also an outstanding student in the Gymnasium. Because of the financial situation at home, the young student tutored other students. At seventeen, he had his first contact with a circle of Zionist students in Lwow (“HaShahar”). Shloyme Shiller took care of him and guided him.

He studied Rambam [Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, Maimonides; Mishneh Torah is his magnum opus], rn”k [Rabbi Nahman Krochmal, 19th century writer and philospher] and read articles by Ahad Ha'am. He began to publish in newspapers. The first was a translation of Sokolov's article, “Zahor” [“Memorial”] [Nahum Sokolov, Hebrew writer and Zionist] into Polish. The translation was published in Wschod in Lwow. An article of his was published in three languages (in Polish in Wschod, Yiddish in “Tageblat”, edited by Gershon Bader and in the Hebrew journal “HaMitspeh”edited by M. Lazar). He also wrote for the Polish monthly “Moriah” in Lwow which influenced a generation toward Zionism, and toward the Hebrew Youth Movement, mainly toward “Hashomer Hazair”. All this exploded into a storm of dedication to Aliyah [Ascent- refers to Jewish immigration to Eretz Israel. It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology-Wikipedia] and working on the land in Israel. He was active in public life and the party. (In the archives of the Labor Party in Tel Aviv one can see the copy of a printed invitation on behalf of “Poalei Zion” in Modzhitz in the Keren Kayemet lecture hall – the heading: “With the help of God who resides in Zion - he was one of the lecturers). He was also busy writing articles.

After completing his studies in the gymnasium, he studied at the Department of Law at the University of Lwow. There he was employed in the editorial department of two Hebrew newspapers that did not last too long (“Hayom” edited by Moshe Kleinman and “Haet” edited by Gershon Bader). Later he became the principal of the Hebrew school in Sambor, a private high school in his town. There he also edited two issues of a monthly “Hashahar” (many from that association are living in the Land of Israel, among them: Yitzhak Lufben, Daniel Leibl, Dov Kimhi, etc. ['Leibl' is the only name in the “List of Nowy Sacz Surnames -ed.]. He completed his studies at the University of Vienna; he worked in the court in Sandz; he got married; he was employed as an assistant to a lawyer; he lectures on Jewish philosophy to the youth of the city and then he founded a Polish-Jewish weekly “Nasz Glos” (“Our Voice”)

[Page 616]

After the war, he abandoned law and dedicated himself to education and the teaching of the Hebrew language and literature. He taught at the Hebrew high school “Yavne” in Lodz. At the beginning of the third aliyah he moved to the Land of Israel. However the Board of Trustees of the Hebrew high school compelled him to return. (They invited him to appear before a religious court of Rabbi Zvi Peretz Haynt. He decided that it was his duty to return to his teaching job). He spent fifteen years teaching, in addition to his library and pedagogical activities: hundreds of lectures, teaching agricultural courses in Helenówek near Lodz. He lectured on the history of modern Hebrew literature in the Institute of Jewish Philosophy in Warsaw. Currently, he is teaching at the Balfour High School in Tel Aviv. He has educated thousands of students.


His pen was productive. He performed a tremendous service to Hebrew literature, constantly, in devotion, tastefully and conscientiously. Wherever you looked, you would find notes about Hebrew literature and Hebrew writers. He utilized all the languages at his disposal: Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish and German. One could look for articles on the first stage of the Zionist movement in Galicia in “Wschod” orMoriah”, or in the newspapers “Chwila” [Polish Zionist daily] in Lwow, “Nowy Dziennik “ in Krakow, and “Nasi Przeglad” in Warsaw, “Wiadomosci Codzienne” in Lodz. Also, in monthly publications such as “Tel Aviv” (edited by Bromberg-Bitkowski), “Nasze Zycie”, or in “Hickels Folks-Calendar” in Brin (?), or in Yiddish newspapers such as “Tageblat” in Lwow, “Weiner Morgn Zeitung” or “Lodze Tageblat” or “ Neue Folkstseitung” in Lodz, etc., etc. One can find his articles in all these publications. His intention in most of his writing was to publicize the theme of Hebrew literature and the Hebrew writer. His readers can only marvel at his extensive knowledge, his love and joy about everything mentioned in our literature and the enjoyment of publishing among non-Jews, his articles about Hebrew books and Hebrew writers. He never tired of analyzing a Hebrew writer and continually debating his merits as if he were trying to convert his readers and demonstrate the treasure at hand. His many articles about Bialik should have been collected into one volume. Among his articles, one finds rn”k [Rabbi Nahman Krochmal], Smolenskin, Yalag, Sokolow, Frishman, Ahad-Ha'am, Berdichevsky, Yaacov Cohen, Yaacov Fishman [Halutz pioneer and educator], Shia Agnon, [acronym of S(hmuel) Y(osef) Agnon], and many other writers. Even though the articles were intended for an audience that did not have much knowledge of Hebrew and its literature, they were essential and extremely explanatory. Almost every new writer merited this treatment. He wrote in Polish and Yiddish (for example, he wrote about each volume of “Hatekufah” by Yehudah Levi in great detail). Occasionally, he wrote biographies of certain personalities (Dr. Yehoshua Thon [Zionist leader in Western Galicia], Dr. M. Broide). He dealt with pedagogical subjects (the educational system of Franz Oppenheimer [German sociologist]). He gave general opinions (on the Israeli Encyclopedia, parody in Hebrew literature. He wrote reviews on theatrical performances, especially “Habima”; he even wrote publicity articles for Keren Kahayenet L'Israel. It was not enough for him to get information. In this respect, it is worthwhile to learn from his articles how he went about it. It was not sufficient for him to analyze and criticize. He began with a brief composition on rn”k that was published in “Moriah”. He wanted to interest non-Jews in Hebrew literature. He did many translations from Hebrew into Polish. Among them, “Each Nation and Its God” by rn”k, “Imitation and Assimilation” and “Between the Holy and the Secular” by Ahad Ha'am. One can find articles by Sokolow, stories by I. L. Peretz, “Abandoned Wives” by Agnon, “His Hated Wife” by Yehuda Burla and “Jews” by Klausner. One can find poems, Bialik's “The Book of Fire”. There were also translations from Hebrew into Yiddish, such as Brenner's “Way Out”.

The bulk of his work has only been described here in the form of an outline - - he was very productive. One has to take into account those who came to the Holy Land and were constantly told about modern Hebrew literature. We know what treasure was given to them by those who harnessed themselves to the service of promoting the fruits of the of Hebrew literature and language. Although his Hebrew articles were published in “Hamitzpeh”, “Haet”, “Hayom”, “Hatzefira” and “Hetekufah”, his output is small by comparison with his writings in foreign languages

Translator's Footnote

  1. [Avshalom?] Feinberg,
    Berdichevsky [born in Ukraine, major cultural figure whose works were translated into Hebrew]
    Bialik [Hayim Nahman Bialik; was an important Jewish poet who wrote in Hebrew]
    Ahad Ha'am [(Asher Ginsburg), important writer on Zionism]
    [Bialik with Ravnitzky, Simcha Ben Zion and Elhanan Levinsky, founded a Hebrew publishing house, Moriah, which issued Hebrew classics – wikipedia] Return

[Page 617]

Dr. Yermiyahu Frankel in Our Land

by Sh. Shpan

Translated by Miriam Kreiter

Edited by Renee Miller

As soon as he settled in Tel-Aviv, Dr. Frankel found his niche in the Hebrew high school, and he continued his blessed work without any struggle, the instruction and teaching in “Balfour” High School in Tel-Aviv,. He found friends who were acquainted with his work abroad, and they recognized his value as a personality, teacher and writer. Thanks to his gentle temperament, his delicate soul and his humor, he became a favorite of his students and colleagues. Even if he had limited his literary activities, his influence would not have been less. His students and his listeners enjoyed the treasure of his knowledge of Hebrew literature which he loved with his entire soul.

The root of his soul was teaching, instructor to many and dissemination to all. This was his main quality, with is students in class, as well as in his public lectures. He lectured at the various learning institutions abroad and at home. In this, he found spiritual satisfaction, and the source of his being.

[Page 618]

Teaching was not just a job, and his relationship to it was not that of a duty. He found enjoyment and happiness. It was a part of his very being.

Indeed, Dr. Frankel was endowed with all the qualities of a good teacher. First of all, his basic knowledge of Hebrew literature, the subject he taught, was extensive. He had more than external knowledge. It was an intimate soulful link to, and his profound love of Hebrew literature from his early childhood. At an early age, because of his editing activities, he became aware of the growth and the flourishing of modern Hebrew literature. (It seems to me that he edited the first fruits of Barash's work [Asher Barash, who described the early struggles of Palestinian Jewry. ...www.britannica.com] which was printed in the monthly Ha-Shahar in Galicia). He edited his review articles, translations into foreign languages and public lectures. His knowledge of Hebrew literature was different from that of religious school graduates which was one-sided, devoid of flare or analysis; his was based on an extensive knowledge of classic and modern European literature, on an analytical education, an understanding of social issues and a developed esthetic sense.

Aside from all this, there was the quality of his soul, his soft character and his offerings. In his case, the saying “the pedantic teacher cannot teach” was perfectly clear. He was always patient, tolerant and forgiving with his students. His attitude toward them was one of respect and simplicity. At the same time, he expressed a desire to help. His trust was expressed by granting unlimited use of his library. The library expanded continuously thanks to his love of the book that was engraved in his soul.

At the same time, his sense of responsibility, of gratitude, his devotion and confidence in his function were all integral parts of his character.

In all his work, Dr. Frankel revealed complete and exact devotion, continuous study, and clear, organized instruction. He always came thoroughly prepared, not only for his adult students but also for his young pupils. He always came equipped with all necessary information and all the details concerning the subject at hand.

But, above all, his interpretive talent must be mentioned. He had the spark, “plain meaning” in his interpretations. He knew how to convey the meaning while adapting the text to the listener and reader, in order to make it easy and understandable.

The few literary works he composed in Israel were of this kind: commentary on “My Horse” by Mendele Mocher Sforim” and on an edition of articles by Ahad Ha'am with commentary and notes.

It seems to me that the group of adult readers, especially the educated of the previous generation, found his commentary to “My Horse” astounding. It seemed strange that a book of modern Hebrew literature, a creation of the lost generations required detailed explanation, commentary and classification. For the educated Jew who came from Russia and was educated in the “takhum hamoyshev” ['Pale of Settlement' in eastern Russia where Jews were required to live; created by Tsar Nicholas I in April 1835, and lasted until 1917], these things seemed to be quite clear and self-evident. But it indicated to Dr. Frankel's healthy sense, that as generations were further and further removed from that time, things became muddy and sometimes totally unclear.

[Page 619]

The new reader, especially the young Israeli reader had absolutely no comprehension of that world or its concepts, ideas and ideals, of the entire “reality” of that “remote” era and its subjects and plans.

A classic creation that is the fruit of its time and an expression of it, has an existence and hope for its future as far as it is privileged to receive appropriate explanation. Then, it will make inroads into the hearts of its readers who are far removed from it in distance, time and spirit. “My Horse” by Mendele belongs to that kind of book. Through it, Dr. Frankel proved his fine ability and his talent for interpretation and explanation. There is no doubt that over generations, his explanation of “My horse” will serve as a gift to this creative work and will attract the eye of the researcher again and again. Also, through it, every reader of Hebrew literature will come to an appropriate appreciation of Dr. Frankel's work, that was lacking during his lifetime.

Also, in his notes and explanations of the articles of Ahad Ha'am one discovers his pedagogical insights, a sense of his recognition of the needs of the young reader. Indeed, the benefit of this work to the Hebrew school is above and beyond any doubt whatsoever. It is regrettable that Dr. Frankel did not devote himself more to that intellectual field in which his strengths lay. This would have been a blessing not only for the narrow circle of his students but also for the generations of students and readers of the future.

Aside from these two works, he published only a few articles on a small number of subjects. His main activity and devotion in Israel, was as mentioned above, in the field of education and public lectures – lectures that were always erudite, both from the point of view of the rich content as well as his sense of humor.

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