Kabak, Aaron (Aharon) Abraham

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KABAK, AARON (Aharon ) ABRAHAM (1880–1944), Hebrew author. Born in Smorgon in the province of Vilna, Kabak lived in Turkey, Palestine, Germany, and France before studying in Switzerland at the universities of Geneva and Lausanne. He finally settled in Palestine in 1921. A teacher at the Jerusalem Reḥavyah Gymnasium, he played a central role in the literary, educational, and civic life of the city.

Kabak's first novel Levaddah ("By Herself," 1905) was hailed as the first Zionist novel in Hebrew literature. Sarah, a young girl of the 1890s, is drawn to Zionism although all her friends are socialists. She learns that she has chosen a lonely path, demanding self-sacrifice and unflinching determination. Similarly, the hero of Daniel Shafranov (1912) discovers that the way of redemption is through sacrifice. The action takes place before the Russian Revolution of 1905. Daniel fails in his efforts to unite the disparate segments of Jewish life, even in the face of a pogrom mob, and commits suicide. Ahava ("Love," 1914) depicts the life and loves of the emigrant Russian intelligentsia in Switzerland. Niẓẓaḥon ("Victory," 1923) is set in Germany, before World War i. Zinner, a Jewish sculptor in Berlin, practices "German" art, but is won back to Judaism by a young girl from Palestine. Kabak introduced the realistic historical novel into Hebrew literature with his trilogy Shelomo Molkho (1928–29; 1973), each book of which deals with a crucial phase in the life of the false messiah, Solomon *Molkho.

Bein Yam u-vein Midbar ("Between the Sea and the Desert," 1933) was Kabak's first novel with a Palestinian setting. Ba-Mishol ha-Ẓar (1937; The Narrow Path, 1968) was written after Kabak's return to Orthodox Judaism, in the early 1930s. It depicts Jesus of Nazareth as a Jew whose teaching centers around the idea that man must seek the Kingdom of God in himself. The book contains vivid descriptions of the Galilean landscape. Toledot Mishpaḥah Aḥat ("History of One Family," 1943–45; 1998) is a series of loosely connected novels in which the author intended to trace the development of the national renaissance from its beginnings in Russia "to the heroic days of *Ḥanitah" through events that befall a single family. The three novels which he succeeded in completing before his death are set respectively in mid 19th-century Russia, Poland of the 1863 insurrection, and Odessa in the 1860s. They are Be-Halal ha-Reik ("The Empty Space," 1943), Be-Ẓel Eẓ ha-Teliyyah ("In the Shadow of the Gallows," 1944), and Sippur beli Gibborim ("Story without Heroes," 1945, posthumous).

Of Kabak's many short stories the most noteworthy is "Ha-Ma'pil" ("The Trailblazer"), in which a boy sets out to force the coming of the Messiah and dies in an act of heroism (Ha-Shilo'ah, 14, 1904). Among his more important stories and novelettes are "Ḥalom" (Ha-Shilo'aḥ, 20, 1909), Me-al ha-Migdal (1910), Nano (1911), Ha-Navi (Ha-Shilo'ah, 38, 1921), Kol ba-Afelah (1927), Ẓe'if ha-Mayyah (in: Sefer Klausner, 1937). Kabak wrote two biblical dramas: Be-Himmot Mamlakhah (1929) and Bat Sanballat (in Beitar, 2, 1934). He was also the author of numerous critical essays, and translated works by Loti, Stendhal, Wassermann, and Merezhkovsky. He also edited several anthologies.

While critics condemned Kabak's early work as tendentious, didactic, catering to popular taste, and lacking psychological depth, their comments became more favorable after the publication of Shelomo Molkho. Kabak's major contribution to Hebrew literature was in the genre of the novel, which he freed of stereotyped heroes, settings, and themes, giving it modern characters, plot, dialogue, and a sense of progression. One of the first Hebrew novelists to use the wide canvas approach, Kabak had strong impact on the Hebrew reading public in general, and most particularly on its younger members. By applying European methods and forms to Jewish content, he was a decisive force in bringing the Hebrew novel into line with world literature.


W. Weinberg, "Life and Work of Aaron Abraham Kabak" (Dissertation, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, 1961); Waxman, Literature, 4 (19602), 162–70; R. Wallenrod, The Literature of Modern Israel (1956), index, s.v.Kabak, Abraham Aba; A. Ben-Or, Toledot ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Ḥadasha, 3 (1963), 159–76; Epstein et al., in: Bitzaron, 12 (Kabak issue, 1945), 239–338, 343–4, includes bibl. add. bibliography: W. Weinberg, "Kabak's Connections with America," in: American Jewish Archives, 22 (1970), 166–73; S. Werses, "Ha-Mevaker A.A. Kabak," in: Moznayim, 42 (1976), 26–37; G. Shaked, Ha-Sipporet ha-Ivrit, 1 (1977), 303–14; N. Tarnor, "A.A. Kabak: The Heroic Quest," in: Jewish Book Annual, 40 (1982), 120–26; R. Scheinfeld, "Ha-Roman ha-Odisei shel A.A. Kabak," in: Meḥkarei Yerushalayim be-Sifrut Ivrit (1986), 215–36; M. Shaked, "Bein Teliyah le-Teḥiyah," in: Biẓaron, 37–38 (1988), 58–74; S. Hauptman, Darkhei ha-Iẓuv ha-Figurativi shel ha-Gibbor ha-Moderni bi-Yeẓirato shel A.A. Kabak (1990).

[Werner Weinberg]