Page 129 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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TARNOR / AHARON A. KABAK
123
Rabbis Joseph Karo, Shelomo Alkabetz, Israel Najara and the
small circle of saintly men devoted to exploring the spiritual
depths of the
Zohar,
the initial illumination of his soul with mes­
sianic fire. This is the second, untranslated book, the subtitle of
which is:
Faith.
It takes place in 1527.
Nor can the English reader know of Molho’s return to Europe,
of his experiences happy and unhappy in the community of
Rosheim, his fantastic spiritual struggles, searing relationships
with young crippled Deborah, with Joseph (the
shtadlan)
of
Rosheim’s daughter Friedlein. What form, what expression, did
his brand of messianic Zionism take? Did he succumb to the
agonizing cries of the Jewish masses? What led him on the
dangerous highroad of diplomacy to the court of Emperor
Charles V, for which he had been well prepared by virtue of his
Portuguese experience? Kabak leads Hebrew readers through
Molho’s soul, enables them to eavesdrop on the minds of second­
ary characters and witness the growing epic proportions of the
tragedy from different angles. Consummate artist that he is,
Kabak draws the threads together masterfully into soaring pas­
sages of poetry and art which culminate in the inevitable immola­
tion in the final chapter. This third, untranslated volume, is
subtitled:
The Sacrifice
; it is dated 1532, the year of Molho’s ulti­
mate sacrifice, the year of his death at the hands of the Inquisi­
tion.
This is the bare outline of what
Shelomo Molho
is about. It does as
little justice to the value of Kabak’s literary contribution as the
present translation of the first third of the trilogy in English.
Incidentally, the English translation of the first volume injudi­
ciously omitted the subtitle
Love.
In one word, it could have
successfully summed up the particular quality and theme of this
volume. Kabak’s
Molho
is of more significance than a mere histor­
ical novel in the Waverly tradition, just as it is possessed of more
than the merely traditional hero.
A.A. Kabak and his work were inadequately understood and
appreciated in his time. The year after he died, Simon Halkin
wrote a sensitive essay on the value of Kabak’s contribution to
modern Hebrew literature from the perspective of the man’s
entire body of work. Some of the points Halkin made enable us to
appreciate the particular quality of Kabak’s historical novel.
Critics had hitherto myopically divided him into early and late
Kabak, arguing that the two were totally different. Halkin not