Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a Prague-born Jew, one of the outstanding figures of modern world literature. His name has become an adjective: Kafkaesque. His writings feature eerie situations, disconnected characters, labyrinthine story lines.
Rabbi Dr. David de Sola Pool (May 16, 1885-December 1, 1970) was the foremost Sephardic rabbi in the United States during the middle decades of the 20th century. While scholars can list his many accomplishments and publications, the distinctive religious worldview that animated Dr. Pool’s life has remained relatively unexplored. This article will examine basic themes in Dr. Pool’s thinking, so that his unique contributions—and failures—might be better understood.
Rabbi Heschel believed that spirituality was not simply an ethereal experience of the transcendence. Rather, it is a power that makes claims on us. It expects us to work for righteousness.
When I was a young rabbi, I believed that the classic models of Sephardic rabbinic leadership provided a responsible and meaningful example for all of world Jewry. Nearly 50 years later, I still believe this to be true. In spite of all the negative signs that abound, I still believe this to be true.
The Jewish Press newspaper has a bi-weekly feature in which several rabbis are asked to respond to questions. Rabbi Marc Angel is one of the respondents, and here are his answers that appeared in recent columns.
Although Disraeli was a Christian, a member of Parliament, a popular author, a confidant of Queen Victoria…his detractors never stopped seeing him as a Jew, an outsider, an interloper. He had to struggle against unceasing political malice and anti-Jewish malevolence. Instead of denying or de-emphasizing his Jewish roots, Disraeli flaunted his Jewishness.
Elie Wiesel, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, was not only to be a voice and a memorial for the murdered millions. His life’s mission was to serve as a conscience to the world, to remind humanity of the horrors of war and mass murder, to help humanity understand that there should never again be concentration camps, genocide, ruthless and merciless tyranny.
Elias Canetti (1905-1994), a Bulgarian-born Sephardic Jew, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981.I appreciate his keen insights into human motives and behaviors. I admire his close observation of people and places. With prophet-like clarity, he foresaw how humanity could destroy itself…or save itself from the brink.
The folk wisdom and the intellectual wisdom of the Sephardim derive from the same roots. While differing in expression, they articulate many similar ideas. A culture is a living organism. It is to be expected that all who are part of it - whether tending more to the folk or to the intellectuals – will share in the culture's general worldview.
The limelight often focuses on the great and famous, the celebrities and public leaders. Let us remember to appreciate the many humble, pious souls who have been the mainstay of Jewish life from antiquity to the present...and upon whom the future of Judaism depends.