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Transfigured by the Word

Toward the end of his short life, Anton Chekhov penned one of his shortest stories, “The Student.” Debates over Chekhov’s own faith continue; however, no one doubts that at the root of his soul sprang a human compassion that was without peer. He knew how to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. . . . . Continue Reading »

Tolstoy's Wisdom and Folly

In his speech “The Strenuous Life,” Theodore Roosevelt identified “the American character” with “the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife.” “The man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil,” Roosevelt asserted, “wins the ultimate . . . . Continue Reading »

On Demons

According to the Talmud, the demons are more numerous than we are. “They stand over us like mounds of earth surrounding a pit.” Rav Huna teaches that “each and every one of us has a thousand demons to his left and ten thousand to his right.” Abba Binyamin tells us that “if the eye had the . . . . Continue Reading »

The Greatest Christian Novel

When Dostoevsky wrote his last and greatest novel, The Brothers Karamazov, the ­revolutionary movement that would lead to Bolshevism was well ­underway. The terrorist organization People’s Will—one of the first such organizations in the world—performed daring assassinations and . . . . Continue Reading »

The Virtue of Jealousy

Jealousy is often confused with envy. Envy is coveting something someone else possesses. It is one of the deadliest corrosives on the human soul, as it suggests that we should not be content with what we have. Jealousy, in contrast, bespeaks a desire to hold on to what one has. Though often . . . . Continue Reading »

Poet of Loneliness

No writer understood loneliness better than Chekhov. People long for understanding, and try to confide their feelings, but more often than not, others are too self-absorbed to care. In Chekhov’s plays, unlike those of his predecessors, characters speak past each other. Often enough, they talk in . . . . Continue Reading »

Russian Purgatory

The Russian soul. The phrase serves as shorthand for Russia’s national character, after the manner of American innocence, French arrogance, Italian dolce far niente, and what used to be the English stiff upper lip. Russians are reputed to feel more than the rest of us do, think deep thoughts . . . . Continue Reading »

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