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Yefeh Einayim Time To Be Me

Rabbi Arieh Yellin, the nineteenth-century Polish scholar whose Yefeh Einayim commentary is an indispensable tool for anyone who wants to compare the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, speaks bitterly of the difference between his own situation as a rabbi, and the idealized past when rabbis were permitted to devote all their time to scholarly pursuits. Like Maimonides, he describes the need to steal rare moments to jot down his original insights or interpretations.


With reference to his own celebrated publications, Rabbi Yellin compares his achievement with that of a one-armed artisan who fashioned a clock to give to the king.

His clock was not particularly superior when compared to equivalent products produced by able-bodied craftsmen. What made the gift appear so remarkable was the fact that it had been manufactured in spite of its creator’s handicap.

So too, concluded Rabbi Yellin, what is remarkable about my work is not its inherent superiority, but merely the fact that I was able to produce it at all in the face of my time-consuming communal responsibilities.

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