Isaac got inoculated against the ideology by proxy, without having to go through the process of disillusionment firsthand, though one suspects that he would never have delivered himself over to such impersonally idealist strivings in the first place.He was, if anything, a conservative by temperament, and inveterately self-protective.
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Literary valuations are not measured in philosophical sophistications.)Progressive politics also made a claim on Israel Joshua, who was by far the more politically engaged of the two brothers.
In 1918 he left for Kiev, to witness for himself what he believed was the dawning of the age of political redemption, the secular Eden in which the proletarian brotherhood would eliminate a major proportion of the world’s injustices, most especially as experienced by European Jewry.
The irony is heightened when the occasion for the introduction is the welcome reissue of I. It was Israel Joshua who first broke with, more irrevocably than his brother, the Orthodox insularity of the familyfrom their father, mystical and impractical, a rabbi from a Hasidic line, and their mother, the daughter of a non-Hasidic rabbi and the so-called “rationalist” of the couple. An alarmed woman brings two slaughtered geese to the father for poskening, the rabbinical decision-making that has the force of Jewish law.
The contrasting flavors of their parents’ religiosity is amusingly caught in a story from I. Though headless, the geese shriek when struck together.
By this time he had published another collection of short stories, On Alien Soil, which chronicled the viciousness of both the Red Army’s predations and the Jew-hatred endemic in Poland, as well as two novels, the second of which, Yoshe Kalb, focuses his unforgiving gaze on the corruptions at the heart of a Hasidic court.
Israel Joshua was the sort of writer whose literary fire was stoked as much by moral fury as by more tranquil aesthetic ideals, a novelist whose passionate stake in the moral progress of the world seethes beneath his sentences.
Israel Joshua’s Jewish essentialism coexisted with an utter distaste for the superstitions of religion, which remained pronounced and life-long.
Unlike Isaac, he would not have desired the shriek of dead geese.
Meanwhile, Isaac had followed in his brother’s foot steps of dropping out of rabbinical seminary and returned to live with his parents in the backwater Galician shtetl of Bilgoray, where his father had found a temporary position as rabbi.
Isaac was giving desultory Hebrew lessons to village children, worrying about being conscripted into the army, and so ready to give up that he almost accepted his parents’ plans to find him a bride with a father wealthy enough to ransom him out of the army.
“Father’s face turned white, calm, a little disappointed.