Warsaw (Jul. 5)
The chassidic rebbe of Munkasz and his followers today are celebrating a victory the rebbe has just won over Yehuda Halevi, Hebrew poet, philosopher and physician who has been dead nine hundred years.
Today Yehuda Halevi street, the principal thoroughfare of the Czechoslovakian town, is to be renamed Darke Tchuva Strasse (Roads of Penitence street) in memory of the Munkaszer Rebbe’s dead father and his contribution to chassidic thought.
The Munkaszer won his victory very simply. He merely ordered his devotees not to frequent the “unclean street.” The chassidim left the street, the authorities conceded the victory to the rebbe, and the rebbe issued an order to his chassidim, directing them to join with him in jubilation.
Whereas the name of the Munkaszer’s father is comparatively unknown outside the world of chassidism, the fame of Yehuda Halevi, who has been called the “father of all poets,” has endured throughout the centuries and throughout the world. His principal poetic renown rests in his Song of Zion, which has become the traditional chant in all synagogues on Tisha B’ab, day of the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, and his hundreds of hymns celebrating the glory of Zion.
Halevi’s principal philosophic contribution is the Book of Argumentation and Proof, in Defense of the Suppressed religion. It is a dialectic treatise on the various arguments which up to his time (he died about 1140) had been advanced against Judaism.
But Yehuda Halevi is principally loved among Jews for his ardent, unceasing love for Palestine. Impelled by his yearning for a sight of the Jewish land, Halevi at the age of 50, forsook his medical practice, his one dearly beloved daughter and his birthplace, Toledo, and started on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. No one knows definitely, but legend has it that he was killed by an Arab as he knelt outside the gates of Jerusalem to kiss the soil.