Rabbi Menachem Schrader is the Founding Director of the Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus of the Orthodox Union. He served as rabbi of Moshav Carmel from 1991 to 1995 and of Congregation Tiferet Avot of Efrat from 1998 to 2011.
Rabbi Dr. Zvi Faier’s A Day Is A Thousand Years: Human Destiny and the Jewish People is the culmination of a lifetime of thought. Dr. Faier studied Torah in depth, science in depth, and lived the life of a twentieth century Jew in depth. Born in Poland, 1934, to a family that barely escaped on time, the events of World War 2, the Holocaust, the birth of the state of Israel, and the Six Day War, all within the first 33 years of his life, left their indelible mark on his sensitive soul. A Day is a Thousand Years is a written expression of what he saw and felt occurring around him during the 76 years God blessed the world with his life.
The Netziv explains in his introduction to Ha’amek Davar that although the Torah appears to be written in prose, it is actually written with the detailed care usually reserved for poetry. In a human way, the same may be said for the book here reviewed. It is written prosaic, but waxes into poetry without warning, and then suddenly back to prose, giving the distinct impression that the sudden poem actually began much earlier and did not quite end. The overall message of the book is that God expresses Himself in this world through the destiny of the Jewish people, and it therefore becomes the privilege of the Jewish people and state to sanctify His name through their lives, society, and nationhood. The universality of the Jewish message, i.e., Torah, is taken for granted on every page. It is the Jewish role to set example for the “Promised Planet”. As the title implies, Faier has great patience regarding the time frame in which this will happen. But he sees in the state of Israel the first greening of this eternal responsibility.
Faier experienced the Holocaust as a virtual survivor, though he was never in any concentration camp nor was he ever captured by the Nazis. He uses traditional Jewish metaphor to describe the human forces of evil in this world, represented by Esau, Amalek, and Midian, and speaks openly of Christianity, Islam, and Iran as well. He has neither difficulty nor surprise in seeing the amoral depth to which Man can fall. An important part of the book is dedicated to describing the Jewish philosophy of Man and Society, as opposed to the perspective represented by these evil forces. He moves from personal story to the international scene, both past and present, as if it were obviously all of one piece. He leaves no room for us to think, as so many writers would prefer us to, that their writing is the source of pure intellectuality, unaffected by personal experience. Au contraire, Faier knows that it is exactly his experience that has brought him to his conclusion.
Faier has not forgotten that God let the Holocaust happen. He introduces us to the notion of forgiving God, for two reasons: one, that we must do so in order to continue leading a meaningful life, and two, that we are incapable of understanding his ways, and therefore have no choice but to reserve judgement before Him.
I had the privilege of Dr. Faier attending my Talmud class one year, 5752. It was rare for a man his age, 57 at the time, to participate with young students in their 20s as an equal, despite the gap between him and them in both knowledge and life experience. But the most indelible memory I have of Zvi is as a chazan for minchah one day. The power of his prayer, the seriousness of the responsibility of representing those praying with him, as well as all the Jewish people, is with me to this day. His book is a written expression of his essence. You can feel him talking through it. I believe this will be true even for those who did not know him. It will be worth getting acquainted.