Page 67 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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H a lp e r i n — W e i s e l ’s
The Gates of the Forest
61
effect, subjects himself to imprisonment in the town beyond the
wall.
Seen in this perspective of place as symbol, the synagogue scene
ending
The Gates of the Forest
is telling. For the movement from
the synagogue of Eliezer’s boyhood in
Night
to the hasidic syna­
gogue in the last novel suggests that the hero has come full circle
in his journey, one marked by the following high points: as a
boy, witnessing the mass burning of children, he lost faith in God;
as a young man in Palestine he sought to exorcise the Holocaust
past by becoming an executioner; as a survivor in New York he
attempted suicide to escape from a burden of guilt and suffering;
as a prisoner in the town beyond the wall, he discovered the
importance of responding to others; and in postwar Brooklyn he
was attracted to the possibilities of faith and fervor. In coming
to the hasidic synagogue to recite
Kaddish,
to pray for the souls
of his father and Leib, and for “ the soul of his childhood,” the
Wieselean survivor, if only provisionally, returns to his boyhood
faith. The recitation of this prayer suggests that the cry of Job has
become his own. God had remained silent while millions were
destroyed during the Holocaust, and yet Gregor-Gavriel, the Jobian
survivor, chooses to speak to Him —and to wait for a response.
At the appropriate moments Gregor recited the
Kaddish,
that solemn affirmation, filled with grandeur and serenity, by
which man returns God his crown and his scepter. He recited
it slowly, concentrating on every sentence, every word, every
syllable of praise. His voice trembled, timid, like that of the
orphan suddenly made aware of the relationship between
death and eternity, between eternity and the word.