Page 68 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 16

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J
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with the principles set forth by the Torah, and all souls emanate
from the letters of the Torah”; also the notion, “You should
know that the 248 organs of the body and its 365 sinews are
controlled by the 248 positive and the 365 negative command-
ments”;—both of these ideas are accepted and interpreted by the
Hebrew reader according to his spiritual grasp and his scholarly
lights. But to partake of the spiritual joy of Agnon’s mystical
world outlook and to plumb its unfathomable depths—for this
the contemporary reader is woefully unprepared.
It is an undeniable fact that this situation is due, in large meas-
ure, to the current pattern of Jewish self-hatred which blinds our
age to any artistic work grounded in Jewish tradition. But the
modern rationalistic interpretation of Agnon has its root and
origin in the desperate soberness of the age as it is reflected in the
individual who, finding himself separated from his group, sees
himself stripped naked down to the last shred of human dignity.
It seems that, while our age greatly appreciates the minutiae of
Agnon's artistic method, his wonderful total vision, characterized
by a profound religious ecstasy and a devout insistence on the
purity of life, puts the age to shame. Held up like a polished
mirror to the face of our age, it reflects an image both distorted
and corrupt. The sheer radiance of this great art will have to be
treasured for some future age.