(from an exchange of personal letters, Ukraine, turn of the century)

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My brother, my dearest, how much goodness was hidden away in the second half of your letter.  How its light shone!  How pleasant were its phrases and how sweet to the palate were its words.  More dear than their price in the finest gold and weightier than the gold of Ophir are its words, words of reproach - but also words of comfort.  They descended deep into the heart of their reader.  And there, as in the crevices of a cliff or in a precipice of flint rock, may they make their nest.

If only we stood face to face with my words against these words of yours in my ears, and you would reproach me for my ways.  For this is no good.  I would make a denial and, being dumbstruck, not say a thing because I would not find the words on my tongue which could justify and acquit me from my sentence.  But, these words I had never heard coming out from your mouth, but in writing have they come to me.  And, how could I dare not answer them with some word of instruction to you; for, what could I say and tell and with what can I justify myself!!? [1]  For how can my heart rouse me to open my mouth and speak words which are not true against the Rule of the Creator?  Have I, a slithering worm cursed among people, complained against Divine Providence?  And, who is this and what is this that I should express opinion on such matters?  It is very true that I have learned how to commit sin against G-d:  I have sinned and transgressed before Him.  Only in this am I able to justify my actions and to rectify my deeds, only in this: that I am in truth guiltless before the Lord, my G-d and of my fathers.  And, I have not done evil against my G-d.  Also, if I have spoken out of the bitterness of my soul words which are not true, my feet have not yet stumbled and my steps not slipped [2] for the reason of having read at that time horrible and awful things which all ears would resound upon the hearing of them [3], and people would not believe it if it were told [4].  Then, my soul being cast down [5] and my spirit poured out, bereft of words, I am unable to write down everything that was in my heart, because it was not consoling that I had requested; neither words of succor did my soul desire.  For does not my letter demonstrate what lay then upon my spirit?  But, now I am not true to myself now that my soul has returned to its tranquility.  I shall understand my foolishness and I shall never return to folly [6].  And of you shall I ask that you write me also in the future (more) letters such as these, letters of preaching and knowledge, letters of wisdom and understanding.  For your last letter, with its flowery language, captures the heart as do the beautiful words of our holy prophets.  Its content is deep and requires exactness, and its utterances are sayings of beauty [7].  Please make known to me knowledge so that I may know.  Pray, give me understanding so that I shall understand, and you should know that you will not sow good seeds among thorns and thistles, and that your sagacious words will not become lost into nothingness.  I shall tie them around my neck [8] and bind them around my throat [9].  I shall inscribe them upon the tablet of my heart, and together with your memory they shall never depart from me.

Behold your brother, wishing you peace.


No. 6   The Reply

My beloved brother:
We are one in blood and spirit, my brother, because we have been hewn from the same stone.  Therefore, I shall not be surprised about our emotional disposition because we are the same in everything.  But, this is the reason for the disagreement between us:  it is that you can no longer keep your emotions within you.  You see evil and you feel anxiety, and when I see it, I suffer with indifference.  The educational system gave you eyes to see the truth and to love it, and on occasions when you see truth lacking, you cry out bitterly.  I also used to be like you.  But, now, since I have come .......

1)    paraphrased from Gen. 44:16
2)    from Psalm 73, verse 2
3)    phrasing from Samuel I, 3:11; Kings II, 21:12 and Jer. 19:3.
4)    from Habbakuk 1:5
5)    from Psalm 42, verse 6
6)    from Psalm 85, verse 9
7)    from Gen. 49: 21
8)    from Proverbs 6:21
9)    Proverbs 3:3

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