Peretz: The Heart's Secret Places:
A Great Yiddish Writer on the Mystery of Evil
Of man’s first disobedience, of the dark corners of the human heart, of the small beginnings of great transgressions—of these and of similar things Yitzhak Leibush Peretz sang at length in his folk tales. He was endlessly fascinated by the problem of evil, by that human power of self-deception which covers the first departure from the right path, and by the subtle disguises which the Enemy of Mankind assumes. Sometimes he treated the subject somberly; sometimes his tone was light; somber or playful, he was always serious. The moral nature of man was the fundamental substance of his meditations.
It began in his boyhood. At the age of fourteen, a Talmud student in his native Polish village of Zamoshch, he already knew the torment of doubt and self-questioning. He tells us, in his unfinished autobiography: “I went about distracted, a wanderer in the upper worlds, steeped in gloom, my thoughts and dreams occupied with the cosmic tragedy.” The Guide to the Perplexed of Maimonides was his first handbook to the eternal riddles. “What is the purpose of man?” he asked himself. “Whence come sorrow and suffering, and what end do they serve? Is there such a thing as free will in man?”
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