SHOLEM ASCH AND THE VIRGIN MARY
The coming attack upon Our Blessed Mother: Sholem Asch is expected to afflict the religious world in the very near future with another "best seller." We learned that it is to be MARY THE MOTHER. Our Knowledge of the writings of this author leads us to expect the thousand-times refuted misunderstandings, misinterpretations and misrepresentations of Our Blessed Mother to be repeated, though more graphically and imaginatively than
This will not surprise those who know the Red background of this novelist, who resigned lately from the writing force of The Freheit, the Yiddish New York Communist daily, for reasons we have yet to learn. Sholem Asch quit the Jewish Socialist Daily Forward six years ago to join the writing force of its competitor, The Freheit, with which Forward had waged a bitter fight for many years. This spiteful shift of Asch was due in great part to Abraham Cahan, the veteran Socialist editor of the Forward, who refused to publish the original Yiddish manuscript of The Nazarene serially in his daily, and his bitter attack upon it. Cahan considered the book to have "almost missionary implications;" that, as Rabbi Moses Z. Frank said, it would make Jews "Jesus conscious."
Sholem Asch threatened at one time to sue the publishers of Forward for saying: "I have accepted the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity, which means I left Israel and the one living God and have accepted the Christian faith." This suit was intended, said Asch, "to expose before the world the frame-up against a Jew who devoted all his life to the Jewish cause." To make this claim of loyalty to Judaism, which devotion to "the Jewish cause" implies, while denying things basically Jewish, for instance belief in special creation, is like claiming to be a believer in democracy and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat at one and the same time. In "What I Believe," Sholem Asch cocksuredly declares that "primitive man" was apelike in form, who "with his long muscular arms swung himself to the summit of a tree ..." Further: "If all the matter in the universe were destroyed, with the exception of a single cell (out of which primitive man evolved) then out of this single cell would unfold the whole of the material world," including "the forms as dominate matter today."
This concept of the origin of the universe, man included, is in line with the Red-Redism of this misinterpreter of Christian belief as it relates to holy personages. Despite the fact that Russian and Polish Jewish Reds were imprisoned, exiled, and liquidated for deviating from the Lenin-Stalin line; and for advocating Zionism; despite the fact that Hebrew had been virtually outlawed, and only one Yiddish paper permitted to be published in the Soviet Union (that has recently been suspended); despite the fact that Stalin started World War II by uniting with Hitler in the rape of Poland, Sholem Asch said to a 2,000 Los Angeles Jewish audience: "I am brave enough to say that which happened in Russia was the beginning of the realization of the messianic ideas of our prophets. I liken Lenin and Stalin and Roosevelt with the prophets of old ... I look upon my Jewish faith and my faith in Russia as being consistent. The rich Jews and their satellites have poisoned us against Russia, fearing for their worldly goods."
This is the background of the man from whose pen the many readers of his writings are to be furnished with a picturesque extension of the disparaging statements made about our Blessed Mother Mary in THE NAZARENE. Therein the brave Mother of our Lord, who "STOOD by the Cross" upon which her bleeding Son hung; who is estimated to have been only about 56 years old at the time of her death, is called a "broken old woman," who was ignorant of the status of her Son. Also that she was the mother of several children, whose names Asch invented. The phrase "brethren of the Lord" is quoted from the New Testament to sustain this contention, that had been refuted by St. Jerome fifteen centuries ago, and by hundreds of other authorities since then.
Sholem Asch has given us a preview in The Nazarene of the offense he is penning against the Blessed Mother of our Lord. His endeavor to refute belief in the virginity of the Mother of Christ, by misinterpretation of Holy Writ is sufficient ground for declaring him to be incompetent to deal with the birth and life of the Mother of Christ. For instance, the declaration he echoes, that the "brethren of the Lord" in the New Testament refers to blood-brothers of Christ, is as unsound as the declaration would be that blood-brothers are referred to in the Old Testament, when Abraham said to Lot "we are brethren" (Gen. 13:8); or when Laban called Jacob "my brother" (Gen. 29:15).
Belief in the virgin birth, followed by belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary as taught by the Catholic Church, ceased to be a stumbling-block to an understanding of such belief by this columnist, when it was realized that God, the All-Mighty, never abrogated His power to create directly, instead of through man, as God did when He created Adam and Eve. This was followed by an appreciation of the prediction of Isaiah, that God would give "a sign" that something unusual would take place that had never occurred before, "a virgin would conceive and bear a Son" (7:14), Who was evidenced, in the days of Mary, to be Jesus, the predicted Messiah.
A proper appreciation of the honor bestowed upon Jews by the selection and honoring of Mary as the Mother of Christ, would have stayed the pen of those Jews who try to belittle her status in the religious economy of God. Rich have been the women Israel gave to the world, such as Miriam the prophetess, the savior of the life of Moses, her brother; Deborah, the heroic judge of Israel; Esther, the defender of her people; as well as the valiant Mother of the Maccabees, whom the Catholic Church honors every first day of August. Yet none of these women were of the spiritual stature and import of the Jewish Maiden Mary, the Lily of Israel, the Virgin of Virgins, the Mother of the Messiah. To properly know Mary is to love her, as she is loveliness personified. She alone among the women of Israel has been the inspiration of great poets, musicians, artists, sculptors, and architects. She is the personification of humility, purity, modest womanliness, of obedience to the will of God, the supreme Mediatrix of humankind. Her purity is of such a high order that it has taken root in millions of souls who, beholding Mary with eyes of faith, have prayerfully endeavored to imitate her personal virtues. This is the sublime personage Sholem Asch will pencrucify in "Mary The Mother," if he adheres to his former opinions of her as is most likely.
Upon the appearance of Sholem Asch's book we found as expected, his resort to mere fiction, to a distortion of facts. The creation of incidents in the life of Mary that are opposed to the Gospel story of this Blessed Virgin.