Page 34 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
T he reasons for this identification should be sought, as we have
said, in the realm o f g roup psychology ra th e r than in the social
reality o f Jewish life. However, this concept o f the Jewish fa the r
not only had a strong influence on the image o f the Jew in gentile
litera tu re (as far back as Shakespeare’s “Merchant o f Venice”) bu t
also on the self-image o f Jews who, in the period o f the
Enlightenment, began to accept this twisted picture as a true
description o f the Jewish family. They began to transfe r to the
shtetl and to themselves those ideas o f en ligh tenm en t and free­
dom which they found in the su rround ing Eu ropean environs, as
well as tha t “En ligh tenmen t” image o f the ugly Father who
becomes in a special sense — a Jewish father!
From this point o f view, the En lightenment w rought havoc
with the structure o f the Jewish family. In 1872, in Vilna, the
police arrested 40 young Jews on suspicion o f belonging to nihilis­
tic movements, blaming the members o f the Jewish community
for the youths’ bad education. In his reply, one o f the leaders o f
the community claimed tha t the damage was the result o f non-
Jewish influence, and tha t in fact, it had absolutely no connection
with internal Jewish conditions (See Jacob Raisin,
The Haskalah
Movement in Russia,
1913, p. 259).
“BINDING OF ISAAC” (AKEDAH) MOTIF
We may note in this connection tha t the biblical narrative o f the
“Binding o f Isaac” was used by many writers to underline the
breakdown o f the family bond, Abraham appearing as the m u r ­
derous father. Again, this first appears in gentile literature , for
example in the works o f Henrik Ibsen and Samuel Butler (men­
tioned above). T he motif is also found in the work o f the English
war-poet Wilfred Owen. In a poem written at the time o f the First
World War, Owen portrays the merciless fa the r Abraham who
sends his son Isaac to be killed at the fron t. Abraham becomes a
symbol o f the wickedness o f the fathers o f both warring sides.
Later on, the “Binding o f Isaac” became a well-worn theme in
modern Hebrew literature afte r the establishment o f the State.
An ou tstand ing example is
The Days of Ziklag
by S. Yizhar
(Smilansky). In Aharon Meged’s novel
The Living On The Dead
(1965), the less-than-adm irable protagonist Davidov sends his
son to the fron t, knowing full well tha t he is likely to be killed, due
to his poor eyesight. And in Amos Oz’ story, “T he Way o f the