Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

Basic HTML Version

randw e in
: A
l ienat ion
down, of pulling down mercy, and the conclusion with the crucial
word “Ufekadetikh,” paints with an irony full of erotic implica־
tions the relation between man and providence. As compared
with this, the description of “saying Psalms” lends a tint of piety
to the portrait of the hero’s world and silences the ironic voice
of the narrator.
The Bridal Canopy—A Great Epic
This motif of exposure to a world of exile and alienation
and the struggle for a return to the world of mercy is the center
and focal point of Agnon’s great epic,
The Bridal Canopy.
Yudel Chosid, the hero of this epic, also leaves his home and
wanders off to distant places with a letter authorizing him to
collect charity, as Menashe Chaim had done in his time and
place. Like him, he experiences many hardships on his way, and
is torn between despair and hope, humiliation and yearning.
Like Menashe Chaim, he accumulates money and squanders it
on the way. Similarly, his name and identity change during the
course of his wanderings, and like him he returns to his town
emptyhanded while the aim for which he had set out is still
far beyond his reach. Up to this point there is a similarity in
plot and story development, but how different are the fates of
the heroes and the denouement of their stories!
Menashe Chaim, the desolate, had set out on his way to collect
money to reestablish his home. Reb Yudel Chosid, the father of
three daughters, sets out to obtain money for a dowry for one
of his daughters. He has no shop, but does have children. Busi-
ness, as such, does not interest him at all. His only occupations
are Torah and piety. In contrast to Menashe Chaim, who had
begun his journey in a mood of embarrassment and grief, Reb
Yudel Chosid sets out on his way singing hymns of praise to God.
Menashe Chaim does not reach his home, but dies in the grave-
yard at the threshold of his home. Yudel Chosid, on the other
hand, merits a blessed return. In the very last minute a miracle
breaks through to his world, which is so like Menashe Chaim’s,
turns grief into joy and, by virtue of God’s mercy and com-
passion, converts the tragic ending to a happy, glorious con-
elusion. The deus ex machina in this instance is a rooster named
Rabbi Zorach, who wakened Reb Yudel to morning prayers and
study. The rooster jumps out of his daughter’s hands while
being taken to the slaughter house, “climbs mountains and
descends valleys,” and leads Reb Yudel’s family to a cave in
which a treasure is hidden. The treasure consists of “golden
coins, precious stones and pearls.” Reb Yudel succeeds in marry-
ing off all three of his daughters, blindfolds his eyes so as not