Page 65 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

Basic HTML Version

WINEMAN/AGNON: THE WRITER AND HIS TOWN
5 7
authorities.7The tradition of talmudic study as presented in such
tales has to it a democratic, even a populist, ambience. Agnon bor­
rowed the hasidic and pre-hasidic motif of the anonymous Jews
of great spiritual and mystic power and transferred it to the world
and values of rabbinic learning in the portrayal of Jews so self-
sufficient in themselves and their studies that they sense no need
for the recognition or position which society could offer them.8
At the same time, a sharp note of social criticism is heard in the
story of a poor widow’s only son who is selected for several years
of military service so that others deemed more “worthy” might
remain home and engage in study.9
FOLKLORE THEMES
The author’s stories of Bucacz are replete with motifs drawn
from the world of Jewish folklore. The walls of a church, con­
verted from an older synagogue at a time when the Jews had to
flee the town, shed tears on the Ninth of Av.10A marvelous can­
delabra had ceased giving light when the Jewish artist who had
fashioned it changed his religion, and it gave light again only
when one of his descendents, several generations later, sent it as a
gift to a synagogue in Bucacz.11A rabbi tours Gehenna in search
of a man who had mysteriously disappeared leaving his wife an
agunah,
unable to remarry, and while there the rabbi discovered
the varied and ghastly punishments alloted to those who talk du r­
ing the Torah-reading and during the prayers in the synagogue,
a violation of which Bucacz Jews, we are told, were, by tradition,
quite innocent.12 Some of the collection’s motifs of this nature
recall stories from the Zohar, from the ethical writings and from
hasidic stories; some are undoubtedly rooted in the folk-
memories transm itted from generation to generation in the
7 “Ha-Rav ture zahav ushene sabbalim shehayu be-bitshatch,”
Ir umelo’ah,
pp.
272-275; “Igra rama,”
ibid.,
pp. 197-199; “Ha-Mevakshim lahem rav,”
ibid.,
pp. 309-393.
8 For an analysis o f this rabbinic variation o f the hidden
tsadik
theme in
“Ha-Mevakshim lahem rav,” see A. Wineman,
Aggadah ve’omanut
iyyunim
bitsirat Agnon
(Jerusalem, 1982), pp. 64-67.
9 In “Ha-Ne’elam,”
Ir umelo’ah,
p. 458.
10 “Le-Torah ule-tefllah,”
ibid.,
p. 14.
11 “Ha-Nivreshet ha-meluteshet,”
ibid.,
pp. 25-27.
12 “Ha-Mashal veha-nimshal,”
ibid.,
pp. 394-438.