Isaac Leib Peretz

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Isaac Leib Peretz

Isaac Leib Peretz (May 18 1852April 3 1915) was a Polish-born author and poet who is counted among the three great classical writers in the Yiddish language.

Sourced[edit]

  • Youth is fair, a graceful stag,
    Leaping, playing in a park.
    Age is gray, a toothless hag,
    Stumbling in the dark.
    • Sewing the Wedding Gown, 1906. Nine One-Act Plays from Yiddish. Translated by Bessie F. White, Boston, John W. Luce & Co., 1932, p. 127.
  • I want to soar the boundless blue
    Where winds and tempests have their birth,
    And let the clouds conceal for me
    Not heaven, but the earth.
    • "I Am a Rainworm", 1900, translated by Jacob Robbins. J. Leftwich. Golden Peacock. Sci-Art, 1939, p. 83.
  • Ugliness is the greatest of all sins.
    • Quoted by M. Samuel, Prince of the Ghetto, 146.
  • We take a drink only for the sake of the benediction.
    • Quoted by M. Samuel, Prince of the Ghetto, 179.
  • The bigger the merchant the smaller the Jew.
    • "Fir Dores Fir Tzavoes", 1901. Alle Verk, iv. 237.
  • Children... constitute man's eternity.
    • Der Dichter, 1910. S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, p. 321.
  • [Christianity] is a denial of this world, a severance from reality, an abdication, a means of redemption from, not for, life.
    • Vegn vos Firn op fun Yidishkeit, 1911. S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, p. 372.
  • They are all so-called Christian nations, but... this superimposed religion... does not penetrate into the core of their souls. It has no relation to their daily experience... It is a key to open a heaven after death and not a key with which to force open the portals of this life.
    • Vegn vos Firn op fun Yidishkeit, 1911. S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, p. 372.
  • "For the commandment is a lamp" [Prov. 6.23]. And the spark which kindles the commandment is devotion.
    • Torah. Alle Verk, vi. 74.
  • [About the diaspora] Canaan is too small for God's children. The Land of Israel will spread through all lands!
    • Der Dichter, 1910. Alle Verk, x. 24.
  • The worst dog gets the best bone.
    • Mesiras Nefesh, c. 1910. Alle Verk, vii. 155.
  • To be of the eternal, you must be of the earth.
    • Der Dichter, 1910. Alle Verk, x. 19.
  • We become more united in exile than in Palestine.
    • Verk, edited by Kletzkin, xi. 277.
  • A letter depends on how you read it, a melody on how you sing it.
    • A Gilgul fun a Nign, 1901. Alle Verk, vi. 33.
  • The soul is imprisoned in the body, and the Lord... built two windows in the wall of the prison... Unfortunately, the windows have curtains—eyelids; and a man whose soul is impure, feeling himself scrutinized, lets down the curtains and conceals the soul.
    • Mesiras Nefesh, quoted in M. Samuel. Prince of the Ghetto. Alfred A. Knopf, 1948, p. 22.
  • According to the generation is the music thereof.
    • A Gilgul fun a Nign, 1901. Alle Verk, vi. 73.
  • Human lips are now forbidden to utter His name, for being the only God, He needs no name.
    • Der Dichter, 1910. Alle Verk, x. 23.
  • Little houses in a row,
    Down a quiet lane;
    Neither doors nor windows know,
    Peace and darkness reign.
    Though you cannot pay the rent,
    You will dwell there with the best.
    Where the weary, broken, spent,
    Find eternal rest!
    • Sewing the Wedding Gown, 1906. Nine One-Act Plays from Yiddish. Translated by Bessie F. White, Boston, John W. Luce & Co., 1932, p. 126.
  • Not all Hasidim are hasidim.
    • Torah, 1906. Alle Verk, iv. 75.
  • The Hebrew language... is the only glue which holds together our scattered bones. It also holds together the rings in the chain of time.... It binds us to those who built pyramids, to those who shed their blood on the ramparts of Jerusalem, and to those who, at the burning stakes, cried Shema Yisrael!
    • Bildung, 1890. Alle Verk, xii. 14.
  • A people's memory is history; and as a man without a memory, so a people without a history cannot grow wiser, better.
    • Vegn Geshichte, 1890. Alle Verk, xii. 35.
  • We are more than a people.... We are of a pure blood.
    • Verk, edited by Kletzkin, xi. 277.
  • [About Jews] Sheer egotism compels us to the purest love of mankind as a whole.... Our hearts are like a sponge, receptive to all the newest humanitarian ideas; and our sympathy goes out to all the unfortunate, all the oppressed.
    • Quoted in Jewish Affairs (Johannesburg), June 1952, p. 28. See Alle Verk, xii. 318.
  • [About Jews] Among other nations, the vital problems are: a good crop, extension of the boundaries, strong armies, colonies; among us, if we wish to be true to ourselves, the vital questions are: conscience, freedom, culture, ethics.
    • Verk, edited by Kletzkin, xi. 277f.
  • [About Jews] By nature we are like all other human beings, yet our people is unlike others, because our life is different, our history is different, our teacher is the Exile.
    • Idishe Bibliotek, i. Pref., 1890. Alle Verk, xii. 7.
  • In the hands of the Jew, the reddest of all flags has been placed forcibly, and he has been told: "Go, go on and on, with all the liberators, with all fighters for a better tomorrow, with all destroyers of Sodoms. But never may you rest with them.... Pay everywhere the bloodiest costs of liberation, but be unnamed in all emancipation proclamations, or be rarely and scarcely mentioned."… The people cursed and blessed to be the last of the redeemed, to be eternally bleeding, the highest soaring expression of the divine in life.
    • The Day, 1906. Alle Verk, xii. 319. S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, p. 18.
  • One God, one Law, one people, and one land.
    • Der Dichter, 1910. Alle Verk, x. 21.
  • He who provides life provides also a living.
    • Yohanan Melamed's Maaselech. Alle Verk, vi. 181.
  • [About loyalty to Judaism] Don't assume, Jewish intellectuals, that you are doing your duty by working... for so-called Humanity.... You are lighting a fire beneath the open sky, while your own family in your own house is freezing.
    • Bildung, 1890. Alle Verk, xii. 20ff. S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, pp. 334–8.
  • With the same bricks one may erect... a palace or a prison.... The same letters are used in Holy Writ and heretical works.
    • A Gilgul fun a Nign, 1901. Alle Verk, vi. 33.
  • A heap of bricks is not yet a house.
    • A Gilgul fun a Nign, 1901. Alle Verk, 35; S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, p. 239.
  • The ancient Greeks and Romans tell of a golden age in the past.... Our Messiah alone belongs to the future. He still has to make his appearance, and not solely for the benefit of his own people. The whole world must be judged and redeemed.
    • Der Dichter, 1910. Alle Verk, x. 11; S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, p. 310.
  • A Jew waits for Messiah to come and redeem the world from fear and pain, from the cataclysmic conflicts between rich and poor. All shall enjoy the earth. This means, in popular imagination, that bread and clothes shall grow, ready-made, on trees. Do you have more winged ideals?
    • Advice to the Estranged. S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, p. 348.
  • There are melodies that must have words... and melodies that sing themselves without words. The latter are of a higher grade. But these, too, depend on a voice and lips,... hence are not yet altogether pure, not yet genuine spirit. Genuine melody sings itself without a voice. It sings inside, within the heart, in man's very entrails!
    • Mekubolim, 1906. Alle Verk, vi. 53.
  • At the Throne of Glory it is not the nobly-born that are beloved, but the nobly-risen.
    • Drei Matones, c. 1910. Alle Verk, vii. 18.
  • We should get out of the ghetto, but we should get out as Jews, with our own spiritual treasures. We should interchange, give and take, but not beg. Ghetto is impotence. Cultural cross-fertilization is the only possibility for human development.
    • Vegn vos Firn op fun Yidishkeit, 1911. S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, p. 378.
  • Prayer sometimes dulls the hunger of the pauper, like a mother's finger thrust into the mouth of her starving baby.
    • Quoted in M. Samuel. Prince of the Ghetto. Alfred A. Knopf, 1948, p. 162.
  • "May all unite to do Thy will with a perfect heart!"… Thus prays the Jew. Have you more beautiful prayers to offer?
    • Advice to the Estranged, S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, p. 348.
  • In the second and third exiles we have served as a living protest against greed and hate, against physical force, against "might makes right"!
    • Preface to Idishé Bibliotek, i. 1890.
  • Purim is the birthday of the first Schutz-Jude, the first Jewish toady to foreign royalty.
    • Purim, 1896. Alle Verk, xii. 137. quoted in M. Samuel. Prince of the Ghetto. Alfred A. Knopf, 1948, p. 123.
  • You are the weakest and the least, and the last to be redeemed.... You will be freed, when man will rise above the earthly, when human worms will turn into human eagles.
    • The Day, 1906. Alle Verk, xii. 319.
  • Many refined people will not kill a fly, but eat an ox.
    • Taanis Gedanken, 1896. Alle Verk, xii. 77.
  • I fear you. As victors, you may become the bureaucracy: doling out to each his bit as in a poorhouse, assigning to each his task as in a prison. And you will exterminate the creator of new worlds,—the free human will, and stop up the purest well of human happiness—the power of the one to face thousands, to stand up to peoples and generations.
    • Hofnung un Shrek, 1906. S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, p. 279.
  • The song that from the heart would spring
    Is dead for want of echoing.
    • In Alien Lands, translated by Leah W. Leonard.
  • Jews are likened to sand: tiny grains, dry and scattered, each separate from the other.
    • Reb Nohemkes Myses, 1904, p. 200.
  • We are like fish
    In this vast sea.
    And Satan fishes
    For you and me.
    • "Monish" (translated in J. Leftwich. Golden Peacock. Sci-Art, 1939, p. 56.), 1888.
  • It is not only individuals—peoples too cannot live merely for themselves. The whole world must be redeemed.
    • Der Dichter, 1910. S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, p. 325.
  • Prosperity may be found in small as in big business.
    • Fir Dores Fir Tzavoes, 1901. Alle Verk, iv. 237.
  • Rather a stone, but to be alone!
    • Oich a Feleton, 1894. Alle Verk, xii. 64.
  • Don't look up to heaven, for what will you see in the sky, except stars, luminous but cold, wholly insensitive to pity?
    • Drei Matones, 1904–15. S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, p. 187.
  • A stranger's rose is but a thorn.
    • In Alien Lands, translated by Leah W. Leonard.
  • Who tells the truth needs no fancy phrases.
    • Yohanan Melameds Maaselach, 1904. Alle Verk, vi. 181.
  • Time is change, transformation, evolution. Time is eternal sprouting, blossoming, the eternal tomorrow.
    • Hofnung un Shrek, 1906. Alle Verk, xiii. 9.
  • Nobody ever stubs his toe against a mountain. It's the little temptations that bring a man down.
    • All for a Pinch of Snuff, c. 1910. Quoted in M. Samuel. Prince of the Ghetto. Alfred A. Knopf, 1948, p. 64.
  • The voice is on the borderline between the physical and the spiritual.
    • Mekubolim, 1906. Alle Verk, vi. 53.
  • Man has been likened to an earthen pot.... You have but to tap the pot with your finger. If it rings back full and true, all is well; there is your perfect pot. And if not—man, alas, has been likened to a broken potsherd.
    • Mesiras Nefesh, c. 1910. Alle Verk, vii. 142. M. Samuel. Prince of the Ghetto. Alfred A. Knopf, 1948, p. 22.
  • In this world it is very dangerous to be weak.
    • Shreib a Feleton, 1895. Alle Verk, xii. 77.
  • If the husband sits on a chair in the Garden of Eden, his wife is his footstool.
    • Sholom Bayis, 1889. S. Liptzin. Peretz. Yivo, 1947, p. 153.
  • I am a rainworm, buried deep
    Among the oozing, slimy things,
    Yet of an eagle's nest I dream,
    And eagle's wings.
    • "I Am a Rainworm", 1900, translated by J. Robbins, (J. Leftwich. Golden Peacock. Sci-Art, 1939, p. 83).
  • Yiddish, the language which will ever bear witness to the violence and murder inflicted on us, bear the marks of our expulsions from land to land, the language which absorbed the wails of the fathers, the laments of the generations, the poison and bitterness of history, the language whose precious jewels are the undried, uncongealed Jewish tears.
    • "Manginot HaZman". HaAsif, 1886, p. 729f.

References[edit]

  • Baron, Joseph L., ed (1956). A Treasury of Jewish Quotations. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.. 

External links[edit]

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