13 Feb Chaim Potok
We are like other people, Reuven. We do not survive disaster merely by appealing to invisible powers. We are as easily degraded as any other people. That is what happened to Polish Jewry. By the eighteenth century, it had become a degraded people. Jewish scholarship was dead.In its place came empty discussions about matters that had no practical connection with the desperate needs of the masses of Jews. Pilpul, these discussions are called – empty, nonsensical arguments over minute points of the Talmud that have no relation at all to the world. Jewish scholars became interested in showing other Jewish scholars how much they knew, how many teck they could manipulate. They were not in the least bit interested in teaching the masses of Jews, in communicating their knowledge and uplifting the people. And so there grew up a great wall between the scholars and the people. It was also a time of terrible superstition. Our people believed that there were demons and ghosts everywhere that tortured the Jew, wracked his body and terrorized his soul. These fears affected all jews. But they affected the unlearned masses worst of all. At least the scholar had his pilpul to keep him alive.