The Spinoza of Market Street by Isaac Bashevis Singer

A review of The Spinoza of Market Street by Rob Mason

The setting is ultra- orthodox Jewish society and is about the lives of people in a small Polish town. Market Street is filled with peddlers, prostitutes, merchants and thieves and is placed side by side: juxtaposed against the more orderly world of Spinoza’s logic and reason.  The story is rich and full of twists and turns: inter-woven with philosophical points from Spinoza’s ‘Ethics.’  It provides a means of understanding by using the activities of everyday existence, accurately portrayed, to illustrate certain philosophical meaning and truth. This book is a collection of moral anecdotes set within Jewish tradition.  In one story, a ‘Piece of Advice,’ we learn that if you don’t feel yourself to be in a happy mood try to act as though you are, and then we are told, you will start to feel better.

Isaac Bashevis Singer was born in 1902 and grew up in Radzymin an impoverished town in the Yiddish-speaking quarter of Warsaw. His father was a Hasidic rabbi and his mother, Bathsheba, was the daughter of the rabbi of Biłgoraj.