Written and Oral Text as Resistance


Jewish resistance via writing in history allows for the transmission, documentation, and testimony of ideas acrosss generations despite discrimination, persecution, pogroms, expulsions, plagues, and pandemics. Examples include (1) the halakhic Responsa of Rabbi Efraim Oshry imprisoned in the Kovno Ghetto in Sheolot ve teshuvot mi mamakim; (2) the texts of Hasiduth authored by Rabbi Kolonymous Kalman Shapira imprisoned i the Warsaw Ghetto; (3) The Oneg Shabbos Ringelbaum Group of Yiddish archivists in the Vilna Ghetto. All these Jews burried their writings (genres of Halakhah, Hasiduth, and historical documents) as a form of Resistance that serve as "messages in the bottle" that can speak to future generaitons from "beyond the veil". The historian Simon Dubnow, author of Welte Gechichte des Juedisches Volkes, who was shot and was lying dying in the ghetto in Riga in 1941 said his famous last words, "Yidn shreibt un farschreib" (write and record) as if writing were our most sacred act as a witness of words to serve as a legacy to the future. Even at the end of the 2nd Temple the Dead Sea Scroll Essene sect act of resistance against the conquering and destroying Roman armies was to bury their writings in jars in caves in the Judean dessert before the impending Roman Hurban. The DSS scroll act of writing and burying their works in jars in caves proves that indeed the "pen is mightier than the sword" as the spirit can triump over the gashmius. That is to say the message of Hanukkah is that the voice of Yakov in the yeshivot of Shem ve-ever and Beit Midrashot throughout time pioneering intellectual and spiriual pathways trumps the Roman "might makes right" in building physical roads, and indeed is a form of resistance.

Publication Date

Winter 3-2021