Sharon H. Nelson

Sayings of My Fathers

The Menard Press, 1972, 72 pp.

Cover Art and Drawings by Brenda Rudolf

(out of print)

the exile

The title of Sayings Of My Fathers echoes that of Pirke Aboth, translated sometimes as "Sayings," sometimes as "Wisdom," sometimes as "Ethics" of the Fathers, which I read in the immediately post-war publication by Behrman of the remarkable translation and commentaries by Dr. Joseph H. Hertz, then Chief Rabbi of the British Empire. In a Forward, Moses Schonfeld suggests that "the wisdom of these ethical sayings" can provide "a source for evolving the basic philosophy of a decent civilization" and that a "sound code for personal behaviour is a sure foundation for international understanding." Despite that the Hertz translation is the least misogynist of any I have ever encountered, and despite that I was emotionally and intellectually stimulated by this work, these ethics, sayings, and wisdom of Judaism obviously were intended to be passed down patrileneally; in other words, they were not intended for me. But as the Very Rev. Dr. Hertz knew well, the world had changed. Sayings Of My Fathers is an attempt to gather some of the folk tales and experiences of immigrants, to explore the cultures of the diaspora, to insert into "history" some of the feelings, experiences, wisdom, ethics, and sayings of those whose lives are not normally represented in such collections because of the circumstances of history, class, education, or sex.

Sharon H. Nelson. 15 March 1999.