Page 88 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
means also family, and the word
Korot
denotes both chronicles
and beams. Agnon took his title from the Song o f Songs 1:17,
“T he beams o f ou r houses are cedars, and ou r panels are cypres­
ses.” And the beams, i.e. the ancestors, are indeed po r trayed as
grea t men, as cedars.
T he titles o f both books re fe r also to the Jewish people as a
whole.
Ir u-Meloah
recalls the national disaster o f the annihilation
o f the Kingdom o f Samaria. Thus, Buczacz becomes a symbol o f
the par t o f the Jewish people tha t was destroyed by the Holocaust.
As to
Korot Bateynu,
it also represents the whole assembly o f Israel.
In a midrash perta in ing to the biblical verse from the Songs o f
Songs, “ou r houses” (which actually is often read as “ou r house”)
is taken to mean the Holy Temple and this relates the family to the
entire Jewish people. T he special usage o f biblical names in both
books contributes to the myth. In
Korot Bateynu,
fo r example, the
symbolism is quite obvious when an ancestor is men tioned who
had “. . . twelve ch ildren
like the twelve tribes of Israel
.” Also, both
books have a lot in common where style is concerned, fo r they are
not governed by the aesthetic guidelines o f the European story.
In
Ir u-Meloah
many stories are quite lengthy, and can be term ed
“onion stories” because they contain a story within a story, all
peels and no core. Oddly enough, the stories which are aesthe ti­
cally better here seem to be those in which Agnon the historian
takes over. His concept o f the Almighty as an eternal axis a round
which the ages revolve in never end ing cycles o f destruc tion and
upbuilding, is linked with his concept o f the eternity o f the T o rah
and that o f the Assembly o f Israel.
Agnon’s beautiful story o f the chande lier dem onstra tes it
clearly. T h e re was a chandelier in the synagogue o f Buczacz to
which one eagle was attached when the town was u n d e r Polish
rule. T hen the town came und e r Austrian rule, and ano th e r eagle
was added to the chandelier. T h en the Poles reconquered the
town and one eagle had to be detached and removed. T h e story
goes on and on, telling how the Jews o f the town tried always to
accommodate the ir continually changing rulers. Finally they saw
the light and , discarding all the foreign additions, they let the
chandelier shine in the service o f the only kingdom tha t is ever­
lasting — the Kingdom o f God.
Korot Bateynu
is a family saga, in which the individual is o f
interest only insofar as he is a link in the family chain. T h e
tendency to idealize the past generations and the reco rd ing o f