Page 121 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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SILBERSCHLAG / HARRY SACKLER
115
Land, a “New Jerusalem” in a new land, Noah chose Grand Island
in the Niagara River as an asylum for world Jewry or rather as a
first attempt at Jewish independence since Bar Kokhba’s revolt
against Rome. He called it Ararat — partly in memory of his
ancestral namesake, partly in revival of an apocryphal tradition
which has been preserved in
2 Esdras 13 :45
and which identified
Ararat as the abode of the ten tribes of Israel. The project failed
but the idea of political independence for Jews succeeded with the
establishment of the State of Israel. In a sort of an epilog to his
play Sackler composed an imaginary dialog between him and his
protagonist after the establishment of the State of Israel — a
moving document in the conflict of salvationism as a romantic
vision and salvationism as a realistic enterprise. Sackler had a
special predilection for the play which was written and produced
in Yiddish, and which was translated by him into Hebrew and
English. But the English version, entitled
Major Noah ,
remained
in typescript and was deposited after his death in the Jewish
National and University Library of Jerusalem.
POL ISH CONVERT
M a jor Noah
is a play of failed national Messianism;
The Way to
God
is a complicated play of individual salvation. The protagonist,
the Polish nobleman Count Valentin Potocki, converts to Juda ­
ism, abandons a life of wealth and profligacy for a life of learning
and ascetism and, in his last phase, a life of thorough loneliness.
An informer notifies the Catholic authorities, a martyred death
by burning ends the unsuccessful search for God.
The non-Jew who seeks in Judaism new meanings of personal
import and impact parallels — in a Sacklerian story — the
medieval mystic Abraham Abulafia who seeks salvation in a com­
bination of Christianity and Judaism through quixotic conversion
of the Pope. The bizarre adventures of two individuals, separated
by many centuries, have been linked by Messianism and its prom­
ise of ethical perfection in a play and story by Sackler.
No one has written greater hasidic plays than Sackler. In a play
like the
Journey o f the Zaddik
Sackler presented a vigorous contrast
between reality and spirituality. In the choice of a younger heir,
still in the grip of untamed instincts, the older Zaddik effects —
through cajolery and subtle interpretation of basic Jewish con­
cepts — a victory of holiness over defilement. In the brief playlet