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Cedars of Lebanon: “Sanctify The Ordinary”

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An Excerpt from the Writing of Abraham Yehudah Chein RABBI ABRAHAM YBHUDAH CHEIN was born in Russia in 1878, and lived in Jerusalem during the latter part of his life, up to the day of his death, which happened on Yom Kippur day, 1957. He was known to many in Israel for his essays on Jewish themes published in a variety of periodicals. Those who heard him speak at public functions or in more intimate gatherings at his home knew him as a man of distinguished appearance and an unusual style of expression. His ‘Torah” was marked by an originality of thought that set it apart from other Orthodox rabbinic writing of his day, and even from the Habad Hasidic school, to which he belonged by family descent and spiritual training. This very originality, however, made him something of a tragic and lonely figure in his later years. He was eloquently committed to pacifism and non-violence during the days when the Jewish community in Palestine was battling the Arabs and the British. He tried to relate his readings of Tolstoy and Kropotkin to his own mystical Jewish background, and at times it seemed as if he was caught “between the suns,” as the Hebrew expression goes: that is, between the rising sun of a new age and the setting sun of the European Jewish life which he profoundly appreciated. Rabbi Chein was proud of his genealogy, which could be traced back to a distinguished 16th-century North African rabbi, the “Rif.” There is now in preparation in Israel a Hebrew book on Rabbi Chein and his writings. Below I offer-in my own translation from the Hebrew-an excerpt from one of his essays, illustrating the kind of fresh, provocative view he habitually took in examining matters of Jewish life and thought.-HERBERT WEINER

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