Page 32 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
course, the background to all this is essentially Christian. T he
fa the r represents the unbearable s truc tu re o f religious moral
au thority from which mode rn man has sought to free himself.
This bid for freedom had been part o f the message o f the French
Revolution; from then on, there would be a con tinuing a ttem p t at
liberation from the bonds o f the dark and narrow past. T h e son
would no longer accept such bondage bu t would seek his own
independen t way in the world. However, we must not be misled
into believing tha t this freedom was attained without tensions or
complications. It was accompanied by loneliness and alienation
(See Erich Fromm,
Escape From Freedom,
1941).
FROM CHRISTIANITY TO JUDAISM
At first glance, the situation described above would not seem to
have a direct bearing upon Judaism or the Jewish People. Ju d a ­
ism does place the primary position o f responsibility upon the
father; he makes decisions, initiates action, is charged with tasks,
bu t this is not power and control in the Pauline sense. It was King
Ahasuerus who said, “Let each man bear rule in his own house”
(Esther 1:22). This is not essentially a Jewish formulation. More
app rop ria te to the Jewish way o f thinking is the rabbinic exp res­
sion: “one’s house is one’s wife,” o r the biblical verse: “In all tha t
Sarah sayeth un to thee, hearken unto h e r voice” (Genesis 21:12).
It is doubtful whether the subservience o f the son to his father,
which weighed so heavily upon the Eu ropean family, was also
characteristic o f Jewish family life as we know it in history. T he
Jewish home was always orien ted towards the welfare o f the chil­
d ren — “everything for the children .” Parents gave to the ir chil­
d ren more than they dem anded from them. T he dedication and
self-sacrifice o f fa the r and mo ther on beha lf o f the ch ildren is
what determ ined the character o f the relations between the gen­
erations among the Jews o f the Diaspora (See Mark Zborowski
and Elizabeth Herzog,
Life is With People,
1952, pp. 284, 294, 297).
It is therefo re surprising that the rebellion against the fa the r
should have nonetheless affected 19th-century European Jewry
so strongly — witness the writings o f the Enlightenment, from
Abraham Mapu to Y.H. B renner. A typical example is the ugly
father-image o f Sender, in S. An-Ski’s folk-play “T he Dybbuk” o f
1916. Sender destroys his d augh te r ’s happiness (as in
R ichardson’s
Clarissa),
thus hastening h e r dea th . A similiar see-