"The Spinoza of Market Street" is yet another masterful short story from literary great Isaac Bashevis Singer. The story is set in Warsaw in the days leading up to World War I. There, Dr. Nahum Fischelson lives alone in an attic room overlooking Market Street. From on high he observes the crowd below, showing equal disdain for merchants and thieves alike. Rather than mingle with the people, he devotes his time and energy to explicating the philosophical works of Benedict de Spinoza. But before long he will have to break free of his isolation…and perhaps see what else life has to offer.
This is the first I have read or heard this story, though I been a long time fan of both Theodore Bikel and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Only Bikel could render this story as wonderfully as he did. It has only been within the last few years that I have become somewhat familiar with the philosophy of Barach Spinoza. In this short story, Singer demonstrates that he has long studied and pondered over the works of this great Jewish philosopher, though Jews of Spinoza's time and since have disowned him. Only in the modern era has this turned around, and Singer shows us both his appreciation and comeuppance with the man, as impossible as that may seem. This story is about a man who has become a scholar of the well reasoned Spinoza, so much so that he has lost his position in the synagogue for this heresy. He is an old man who meets an older woman, and it is here where our protagonist is presented with a cosmic contradiction, which resolves in a greater understanding of the sublime.
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