Page 50 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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4 4
e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
acters are sometimes “types” rather than rounded characters and
that they often speak identically and resemble each other. How­
ever, it is in the nature o f modern men that their mammoth
problems tend to b lu r differences and differentiations—more and
more our souls seem to be clothed in the identical grey flannel
suits. Kurzweil is certainly right in criticizing the repetitiousness
and the loquacity of Yizhar’s novel. Yizhar must have intended
to stun us with the sledgehammer of his prose and thus transmit
the terrible immediacy of that complex of boredom and terror
which constitutes modern war (modern existence).
This is what Yizhar is trying to say in his b ri llian t employment
of the akedah theme (was he aware that the akedah is the Torah
reading for Rosh Hashanah?). A t the opening of the novel Motah,
the company commander, ha lf in jest says to Gidi, a platoon
sergeant: “Take now, Gidi, your sons, your only sons and shove
off—do something which shall justify your existence.” As Kurz­
weil points out, the modern akedah is not commanded by God;
it is a secular akedah, and the secular akedah by which one is
expected to justify one’s existence is always at the price of
existence itself.
“There is no other way to life except the pathway to death.
Who created such a lousy world? One cannot live w ithout giving
life or taking life. I hate Abraham who goes to sacrifice Isaac.
W ha t right does he have over Isaac—let him sacrifice himself.
I hate the God that sent him to the akedah and blocked a ll exits
except the path to the akedah. I hate the fact that Isaac is only
a guinea pig testing Abraham and God. I hate this proof of love
—this demand for proof of love, this sanctification of God through
Isaac’s akedah. The bastards—why must the sons die?”
Yizhar agrees with Kurzweil that the tradition was profounder
than the half-baked concoction of socialism, Zionism and human­
ism which were hastily substituted for the old values, but he is
not prepared to return to an uncritical acceptance o f the past.
His magnificent paragraph about Daddy’s trunk underlines the
difficulties modern man faces before he can attempt the return :
“W e ’ll have to find some time for it—and some place for it . . .
says Daddy. When you l if t up the heavy lid, a thick smell of
age and dust strikes out at you and you see a pile of large and
heavy books—a family heirloom . . . pages laden with a forgotten,
dumb wisdom . . . no new shelf can hold them—no one w ill ever
leaf through them. One simply does not have the heart to throw
them out. A spark still glimmers in daddy’s heart; perhaps a day
w ill come when one of my heirs w ill be moved to blow on a
dying coal—to drink from the sealed well. Only they, the heirs,
are separated from these books by a 50 h.p. tractor which turns
a 100 dunam field in one fell swoop . . . the heavy trunk w ill stay
on the porch un til Elijah comes.”