Page 116 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
H ISTOR IC SENSE
Sackler regarded his stories as repositories of historic con­
sciousness, as antidotes to the failure of historic remembrance, as
struggles with pernicious tendencies “to skip the past from the
days of Bar Kokhba” and consign it to oblivion. In covert allusion
to Yonathan Ratosh, the literary spokesman of Canaanism which
strove to erase eighteen hundred years of Jewish history from the
collective consciousness of the people, Sackler resolved to correct
mistaken intent of spiritual impoverishment with imaginative
reconstruction of the people’s spiritual wealth. In his attempt to
conquer the fortress of magic and mysticism — not in emulation
of Buber as mystifier but rather as demystifier of Judaism — he
covered gray simplistic reality with the multicolored coat of
legend.
All Jewish history furnished rich material for Sackler’s plays.
The dramatization of the fortunes and misfortunes of the house
of Atreus created for the Greeks a common memory of imagina­
tive reality. In the dramatization of Jewish personalities, from
Abraham to Mordecai Manuel Noah, Sackler pursued a similar
goal. If he succeeded less than Aeschylus and Sophocles and
Euripides, it was because he addressed a widely scattered people
in a language which most of them no longer mastered and with
less dramatic vigor than his Hellenic predecessors. The secular
reality of the modern play could not rival the ritual reality of the
Greek play. The Sacklerian protagonists — in drama and fiction
— often enjoy the superhuman strength to manipulate history —
past and present — and bend reality to the unreality of the
miracle. In his first Hebrew play,
Yosi ofYokeret,
based on a story in
the talmudic treatise
Taanit 2 4 a ,
the playwright elaborates an
extraordinary incident in the life of a sage who has forgotten to
feed laborers in his field. In his absence they ask the son to
assuage their hunger. Since they are resting under a fig-tree he
addresses it with that magisterial transition from reality to legend:
“Fig-tree, fig-tree, bring forth your fruit that my father’s laborers
may eat.” The fig-tree does the son’s bidding, the laborers eat the
figs. Meanwhile Yosi appears — he has been on an errand of
charity and he has apologized to them — and when he hears the
story of the fig-tree, he says to his son: “My son, you have
bothered your Creator to make the fig-tree bring forth its fruits
before its time. May my son be gathered unto his people before