3: An antecedent from a previous generation: Excerpt from Yekhezkel Kotik’s, “Journey to a Nineteenth-Century Shtetl,” (1913), trans. David Assaf.
Yekhezkel Kotik (1847-1921) was born and raised in a well-off family in present-day Belarus. He received a traditional education, but eventually rebelled against his father’s legacy, especially his father’s commitment to Hasidism. His memoirs were hailed by the Yiddish literary establishment as valuable for their historical and literary merit. In them, he describes nineteenth century Jewish life in Eastern Europe with an eye to historical detail and without a critical or nostalgic tone. In this excerpt, Kotik describes his critical attitude toward his teacher’s understanding of the idea of God.
Suggested Activity: Have your students compare and contrast the rabbi’s notions of God with Kotik's notions of God and attitude about God. Invite your students to also compare and contrast Kotik's notions of God and attitude towards God with Auslander’s. Ask your students to evaluate Kotik's and Auslander's approaches to religion. Do they see them as confused? Confrontational? Rebellious? Curious?
Source: Yekhezkel Kotik, Journey to a Nineteenth-Century Shtetl. Translated and edited by David Assaf. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press: 2002), p. 223.