Discordant Tombs

31_16-li-3_JosephRoth.jpg.6027788He said to his friend Stefan Zweig in 1933, just as Hitler took power, “now the word has died, and men bark like dogs.”

In the darkest of times “there are a handful who know, and they know everything”

Josef Roth knew everything. Everything except that he was a tzaddik nistarim and a lamed vavnik.

The most melancholic of men.he said. “I have no home…wherever I am unhappy that is my home.”

hofmann_1-122211_jpg_250x488_q85His alcohol consumption killed him. A constant cadger of debts he owed his closest friend for his constant support yet had no qualms about criticising him with a distinctive eloquence that would be crueler had he known of his friends suicide just four years after his own death in 1939.

Yet his most eloquent pleas for financial aid were for others than himself; a Polish seamstress whose work he admired; a German doctor facing the trip from Hamburg to Shanghai.

joseph_roth_photoAll very human in its sentiment, all with a comprehension of the catastrophic disaster tearing down the shredded edifices of western culture. He saw this clearly and wrote about it with pithy grace made more urgent by his disillusioned ardor for the remnants.





Jerzy duda gracz father


Some things that occur truly exhaust comprehension. Their addenda simply confuse and confound beyond any means leaving us blank at the barrier of our existence and that which proceeds beyond.

At the end of the Second World War, the father of the gifted Polish artist Jerzy Duda Gracz, arrested as a collaborator with the German assassins, was sentenced and executed. Eventually recognized by the Israeli nation as a Righteous Among Nations who had harbored seven Jews for several years under the pretext of collaboration, his life resurrected as a saint. Although the trade might provide but little consolation.


Franz Rosenzweig 2

A hundred years ago in October of 1913 Franz Rosenzweig prepared for his conversion to Christianity. Insistent that he convert as a Jew he attended Yom Kippur service. Adamant that ·he go through his Judaism into Christianity, not that he would break off from his Judaism.he said to his already converted cousins that he needed a little time longer to meditate on his decision. “I am a Jew”he said “and I want to understand the things from which I will be separated from by my conversion.” So for the first time he fully participated in the ten high holy days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur. For him these became his ten days of return to Judaism

His journey to Damascus ended on the day of Yom Kippur. The call came like the sound of the shofar; suddenly and with a finality representative of authentic conversion. He remained a Jew, becoming the great philosopher of Judaism in the twentieth century.

On the Day of Atonement shrouded in his tallit, the ritual shawl, as he would be on the day of his death, the Jew stands alone before God, although he may be surrounded by others in prayer.The Jew stands resolutely as a man, nothing more, before a judgment that leads him to experience eternity within the confines of time. Rosenzweig said “To have found God is not an end but in itself a beginning”. To come to an understanding that consciousness establishes limits on our reason need not discredit the knowledge that the experience is a tremendum that can never be comprehended.   Rather it is a path to an intuitive grasp of the limitation of thought and an insight of the endless connection of all things.


In 1922 Frans Rosenzweig developed a degenerative paralyzing disease, ALS. In time he developed a tedious device for writing in which he would listen to his wife recite the alphabet and then blink at the correct letter for her to transcribe.

“And now it comes to me, the point of all points, which the Lord has truly revealed to me in my sleep, the point of all points, for which there-“ this was interrupted by a question from his doctor and shortly thereafter  Franz Rosezweig was dead, December 10 1929, and the sentence left unfinished.


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