Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Mendele Mokher Sforim or Sfarim, pseudonymn of Shalom Jacob Abramowitsch

Russian Jewish Author, Father of Modern Yiddish Narrative Literature

"Wretched are you, O man, because of your speech! This fine endowment of your has been your curse. All dogs bark alike... All frogs in the swamp and marshes croak alike. But men are divided in languages according to their nationalities and one does not understand the other, thus destroying their bond of brotherhood, and having them regard one another like strangers."

"Respect the children of the poor! From them come most poets."

"A man can see a speck on someone’s hair, but cannot see the flies on his own nose."

"Children without a childhood are tragic."

"If only truth and justice were the rule, there would be no need for mercy."

"I tried to compose a story in simple Hebrew, ground in the spirit and life of our people at the time. At that time, then, my thinking went along these lines: Observing how my people live, I want to write stories for them in our sacred tongue, yet most do not understand the language. They speak Yiddish. What good does the writer's work and thought serve him, if they are of no use to his people? For whom was I working? The question gave me no peace but placed me in a dilemma."

"I observed the life of my people and wished to provide them with stories in the Holy Tongue [Hebrew] based on Jewish sources. Most of them, however, did not understand this language, because they spoke only Yiddish. . . . The question — for whom am I working? — brought me no peace and caused me great perplexity. . . . I fell in love with Yiddish and bound myself to that language forever. I found for her the perfumes and fragrances that she needed, and she became a charming lady who bore me many sons."