Page 152 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
Millions o f men, a whole people p lunging itself into this
madness and sunk in it fo r two thousand years! Giving up to
it its life, its very existence, its character, subm itting to
affliction, suffering, tortures. Agreed tha t it is a foolish, a
lunatic dream . But a dream , tha t is, a vision, and ideal . . .
What an uncanny folk! What a wonderful, awful people!
Awful, awful to the point o f madness! For look, it scorns the
whole world, the whole world and all its fighters and heroes
and wise men and poets all together! Fearsome and blind! A
bottomless abyss. . . . No, one could go mad!”10
T he scene is intense, suspenseful in both dramatic and intellec­
tual aspects. T he dual intensity makes “ha-Derasha” a highly
effective story o f ideas. T he contrast it depicts is mainly between
Yudke, who grows ever more vocal, even obstreperous, and his
auditors, the council members, who grow ever more quiet, even
docile. At the same time, a visible, emotive contrast is continually
evinced: The speaker seems overly sensitized to aspects o f Jewish
history — a sensitivity which appears to have p rom p ted Yudke to
address the council in the first place — while the audience exhib­
its scorn, amusement, hostility, and , for most o f the story, indif­
ference toward what Yudke has to say.11
Direct monologue serves to create the realistic illusion in
“ha-Derasha.” T he “live speech,” so to speak, also becomes the
framework for Yudke’s ideas, which burst fo rth with grea t vigor.
Raham im’s outward vividness tu rn s into Yudke’s ex traord inary
vitality o f speech and virtuosity o f thought. Raham im ’s optimistic
energy overcomes Menashke’s silence and sadness; Yudke’s ver­
bal and intellectual energy overwhelms — o r at least pene trates —
the mask o f indifference enveloping the council members.
Yudke’s success, however, seems short-lived: It occurs, ju s t as in
“Rahamim ha-sabal,” only as a b r ie f moment o f quiet.
“I ’m finishing. In a word, this is the aim: one people, and
above all, a people creating its history for itself, with its own
streng th and by its own will, not others making it fo r it, and
10
Avanim Rothot
(1946), pp. 234-235. All references are to this version o f the
story. The translation, by Ben Halpern, is found in J. Blocker, e d
Israeli Sto­
ries
(Schocken Books: New York, 1962), pp. 65-86.
11 Though I differ with his interpretation o f “ha-Derasha,” I am indebted to Y.
Bahat for his analysis o f the Yudke-group relationship. See his study,
Shai
Agnon ve-Hayim Hazaz
(Haifa, 1962), pp. 189-203.