Page 114 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

Basic HTML Version

1 0 6
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
o f futility a n d o f b e ing cu t o f f from o th e rs , u n d e r l ie s his n eed
fo r who leness in trad i t io n . T h e th e ra p e u t ic fun c t io n o f tra d i t io n
is e lu c id a ted in
A Simple Story
w hen H irsh l is t re a te d by th e
psych ia trist Dr. Langsam . L ang sam does n o t c o n f ro n t th e c ru x
o f his illness, n o t once ask ing ab o u t his m o th e r , his wife, o r
th e wom an who obsesses him . In s tead , he sp end s h o u rs sp in ­
n ing tales o f th e
shtetl
o f his you th , p u t t in g H irsh l once aga in
in tou ch with a w orld o f o r d e r an d stability in which comm un a l
un ity can enab le on e to survive p e rson a l m a lad ju s tm en t . T h is
act o f h ea ling is th e essence o f A g n o n ’s a r t. I t is an illusion ,
b u t it has th e pow e r o f reality , a n d it salves H irsh l w ounds .
Magic pow er , th e pow e r to m ake th e bogus real, is possessed
by th e g r a n d f a th e r , o r g r a n d f a th e r su r ro g a te s such as Mr. Klein
in the story “H a -M ikh tav” (T h e L e tte r) , th e last in th e co llection
Sefer ha-Maasim
(T h e Book o f Deeds). A t th e conc lusion o f this
story, Klein rec rea te s th e H ou se o f S tudy sim ilar to th a t which
the n a r r a to r has known in his boyhood , an d lets h im r e - e n te r
it:
He took hold o f the cane and began to draw with it, making
six marks. A house appeared, rising up like the House o f Study.
I tried to enter but could not find the door. The old man raised
his cane and knocked twice on the wall. The wall opened and
I entered.28
HOPE OF RE TU R N
T h e g r a n d f a th e r , o r g r a n d f a th e r subs titu te , de sp ite his b e ing
h a rsh , u n re liab le a n d insensitive — he ap p e a rs several times
in
The Book o f Deeds
— has this saving g race: he is th e n a r r a to r ’s
link with th e lost wholeness o f his ch ildhood , with th e un ity
o f comm un a l consciousness th a t has e ro d e d , an d he can m i­
racu lously t r a n s p o r t th e n a r r a to r to this world . T h r o u g h this
f igu re , d isbe lie f is su sp en d ed , ap p e a ra n c e becomes reality , the
lost is fo u n d , th e d iseased becomes hea lthy , th e un lov ing b e ­
comes th e loving, an d even the d e ad can com e to life. T h e
g r a n d f a th e r o ffe rs th e n a r r a to r th e h o p e o f salvation , o f r e ­
covery an d o f r e tu r n to T o r a h an d to Israel.
Yet, the n a r r a to r is in touch with th e m iracu lou s only i f he
rem a in s a child , p lay ing a passive, false, f ra gm e n te d ro le . I n ­
28.
Kol Kitve,
vol. 6, p. 249.