December 28, 2018


Why Amos Oz matters (Jeffrey Salkin, 12/28/18, Religion News Service)

Let me share with you three things that I learned from Amos Oz -- things that have formed my outlook on what it means to be human, on Judaism, and on Israel itself.

First, what it means to be human.

Amos Oz was born Amos Klausner, and his father's name was Yehuda Klausner.

In the 1940s, the Klausner family lived in Jerusalem. Mr. Klausner dreamed of becoming a best-selling author of scholarly books. He wanted to be like his friend, Israel Zarchi, whose books always sold out within a few days of their printing.

Yehuda Klausner would privately print his books, and he would take them to Achiasaph's book store on King George Street in Jerusalem.

No one bought Mr. Klausner's books. They just sat there in a pile, as their author became more depressed and more discouraged.

Finally, one day he got a call from the bookstore. All of his books had been sold! There had been an absolute run on his books! So much so, that a bookstore in Tel Aviv had put in an order as well!

Yehuda Klausner was elated, and this launched his modest career in scholarly writing.

A few years later, young Amos Oz was visiting Israel Zarchi in his cluttered apartment. Mr. Zarchi left the living room to get Amos a cup of hot cocoa. While Mr. Zarchi was in the kitchen, Amos was looking around, and he noticed something under the coffee table in the corner of the room.

It was a pile of his father's books.

Israel Zarchi returned to the living room with the cup of cocoa. He saw Amos looking at the pile of his father's books - and he held his index finger to his lips, as if to say: Please don't say anything to your father.

You know what had happened. Israel Zarchi had secretly bought all of Klausner's books.

And because of that, Yehuda Klausner had thought himself to be a minor commercial success, and because of that, he continued writing.

This is what Amos Oz has said about that incident:

"I have many close and dear friends. And yet, I am not sure that I could do for any of them what Israel Zarchi did for my father. Israel Zarchi was poor. He lived hand to mouth. At a certain moment, he must have said to himself, I can either buy some clothes that I need, or I can buy the three copies of Klausner's book.'

"And he chose to buy my father's book."

I share this story because it is one of the most important illustrations that I know -- of the cardinal Jewish value of chesed, selfless love.

Posted by at December 28, 2018 1:51 PM