The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 21 January 2006 / 21 Tevet 5766

Postscript on Nobel Nobility

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

In our Parshat Miketz “Human Side” article titled “A Noble Nobel Laureate”, we wrote about the heroic efforts of Nobel Laureate Robert Aumann to strictly adhere to his Jewish faith while receiving the coveted prize.

Although close to 200 Jews have won the Nobel Prize, Aumann is only the second Orthodox Jew to do so. The first was S.Y. Agnon, who received the prize for literature back in 1966.

Agnon told the king of Sweden that he could not attend the awards ceremony until Shabbat ended. He received a room on the lowest floor of the hotel reserved for guests so that he would not have to use an elevator. When the awards ceremony began he was still in his room waiting for Shabbat to end while a fancy limousine waited outside. Only after he had prayed Maariv, made havdalah and lit Chanukah lights did he don his formal attire and enter the car sent for him. Inside, he plugged an electric shaver into the cigarette lighter to rid himself of his Shabbat beard.

Upon finally being called to receive his prize, Agnon made the blessings ordained by our Sages for one who sees a king and wise men of other faiths. He then offered thanks to G-d Who “put it into the hearts of the sages of the illustrious Academy to bestow that great and esteemed prize upon an author who writes in the sacred Hebrew tongue.”

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