Page 51 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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LERNER / THE MAKING OF A PERSON
45
midwife, wife and mo ther in Russia are presented in bits and
snatches th roughou t the book. She controls the fate o f the mem­
bers o f he r family, expecting them to visit he r on Sundays, bles­
sing their marriages, offering advice based on a lifetime o f expe­
rience. She is also an essentially Jewish person whose Jewishness
pervades her character, although the re is no indication o f he r
observance or theology.
Baba even has superna tu ra l powers, for she is in he r generation
the bearer o f the power o f Mechirch, the ability to have three
properly formulated and delivered wishes granted. These pow­
ers are given to someone in every o the r generation up to and
including that o f Baba’s grandchildren . She is urged by each o f
her daughters to use h e r own last wish differently, to the advan­
tage o f herself or he r children. Yet, she decides not to bequeath
her powers to the next generation, for “in the ir lives is no th ing
tragic. / They’re born , they grow rich, they die old. — [. . .] I want
them to reg re t / the three wishes they d idn ’t get.”7
This degree o f control over o ther people’s lives is exercised in
caring fashion. Because o f her view o f the roles o f men and
women, she views marriage as essential. As she says to Milly, the
first o f he r g randch ildren to be engaged, and to he r fiance,
Harold:
Kinder,
remember, no matter where you are,
a desert, a mountain, another star,
love will search you out. For each of us
is waiting a partner and a wedding.
The Lord makes all marriages in heaven
And nowhere is there man who can change His plan.8
This view o f marriage, based on the rabbinic legend that, since
creating the world, God has kept busy with matchmaking,9 sees
the family in traditional terms. As a realist, not a revolutionary,
Baba says:
We women got to push at life like dough
to shape the future and pinch the present.
7 E.M. Broner,
Summer Is a Foreign Land
(Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1966),
p. 137.
8
Ibid
. , p. 103.
9
Bereshit Rabbah,
65