Page 151 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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this analysis is to demonstrate its application as a key to a p roper
unders tand ing o f “ha-Derasha,” a story whose meaning is far
more ambiguous and the subject o f a great variety o f attempted
in terpre tations. At the center o f “ha-Derasha” the re is also a d ra ­
matic confron tation o f characters — Yudke, the speaker, and the
council members, his auditors — who appear in physical and,
especially, in emotional contrast. A p roper in terp re ta tion of
“ha-Derasha,” as is the case with “Rahamim ha-sabal,” depends
upon an analysis o f the emotional contrast o f clashing personali­
ties. T he reader , viewing the transition from the one story to the
o ther, must perceive the parallel structuring o f both stories and
apply the analytic lessons learned to possible in terpre tations o f
the more ambiguous “ha-Derasha.”
Like “Rahamim ha-sabal,” “ha-Derasha” tries to cap tu re a sig­
nificant moment o f traum a in the life o f its protagonist. Here, too,
one finds underlying tensions between the main character and his
antagonists; bu t more p rom inen t in “ha-Derasha” is the
evergrowing, emotive contrast between speaker and auditors.
More than a story, “ha-Derasha” may be defined as a dramatic
“scene o f ideas” into which is injected — th rough the technique of
“making strange” — a whole panoply o f historical notions and
theories.9 These ideas are expressed to the council by Yudke, a
hesitant, fumbling, incoherent speaker — a “primitive” in speech,
like Rahamim — who seems entirely unsuited (according to some
critics, at least) to the task. T he contents o f Yudke’s monologues
presen t the auditors and the reader with a virtual mythology of
Jewish history:
“T he Exile, that is ou r pyramid, and it has martyrdom for a
base and Messiah for its peak. And . . . and . . . the Talmud,
tha t is ou r Book o f the Dead. . . . In the very beginning, as
far back as the Second Temple, we began to build it. Even
tha t far back we p lanned it, we laid the foundations. . . .
Exile, Martyrdom, M essiah .. . . Do you grasp the deep cun­
ning h idden in this wild fantasy, the cold moonlight with
which it flames . . .? Do you grasp it? Ju s t think, ju s t think!
9 See my complete analysis o f “ha-Derasha”in
Ideas in Fiction,
pp. 82-88. See also
the introductory remarks on Hazaz’s “stories of ideas,”
pp. 65-68.