Friday, January 8, 2021

The Joy-Drenched Essence of All Things

Milton Steinberg's powerful novel about the rabbinic heretic, Elisha ben Abuyah, contains this remarkable description of the biblical--and rabbinic--worldview:
"Inevitably, contrasts suggested themselves between this [Greek] literature and that Scripture to which so many years of Elisha's life had been dedicated. It was a sternly earnest book, that of the Jews, and yet animated for all its dour austerity by a confident serenity which the Greeks seemed never to experience. For, given its presuppositions, all things were good by virtue of the God who pervaded them. There was for men no burning urgency in the quest for the fugitive experience. Love and laughter were but transient manifestations of the joy-drenched essence of all things." - Milton Steinberg, As a Driven Leaf (Behrman House, 1939), 354.
I first finished reading As a Driven Leaf ten years ago today, and blogged about it here, here, and here. (I see that I was struck by this passage the first time through as well.)