Page 115 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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SILBERSCHLAG / HARRY SACKLER
109
Sackler, employed a febrile and quick-moving pace in his work.
And he wrote a novel on Rashi where, not unobtrusively, he
displayed erudition, expatiated on Rashi’s milieu at length, de­
scribed Troyes, the great commentator’s French city of birth and
death, his household, his furniture, his meals, his wife, his three
daughters Miriam, Jochebed and Rachel, also known by her
French name Belle-Assez, his pupils and his neighbors. But Sack­
ler, in a brief story, had to concentrate on the inner life of his
protagonist and,
mirabile dictu,
he succeeded — with greater ele­
gance than Twersky — in the evocation of Rashi as a sage and
scholar. For he never let erudition interfere with imagination.
This Sacklerian tendency to illustrate historical truth by legend
elicited literary cameos of an eerie quality. In the story about Honi
the Circle-Drawer, who shares some characteristics with Rip van
Winkle, the legendary enigma of the Catskills, the author re ­
created in a few pages the retreat of the Essenes in En Gedi and
the arid interpretations of the law in the antagonisms of Pharisees
and Sadducees in Jerusalem. In a few sentences he established
similarities between the landscape of Jerusalem and Honi the
Circle-Drawer: “Gethsemane was somewhat of a secret arena
where cliffs and trees fought for primacy. There were among the
trees some that resembled Honi in their appearance — their back
bent, their bark fissured, their general appearance grayed with
age and burned by the sun.” In a dramatic impulse Sackler con­
fronts Simeon ben Shetah with Honi — law and love as rep re­
sented by authoritative protagonists in history and legend. Honi,
who lives in the magic circle of love, convinces with the subtlety of
his emotion; Simeon ben Shetah appeals to law and reason.
Sackler had something of importance to say about magic per­
formers of miracles. In his interpretation miracle signifies inter­
vention in the works of the deity: “The miracle blinds the eyes of
the people to an extent that they can no longer see straight. It
deflects them from the path of righteousness which God had
marked for them.” It had to happen: one of the stories of Sackler
is called “End of Miracles.” He who had manipulated the
miraculous and the realistic with the art of a juggler had to come
to the conclusion: The miracle promises redemption in a super­
natural way. But the natural way is inner preparation: ethical
satisfaction of life, perseverance in the unique continuity of the
people.