Page 22 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
scores what Wiesel and other survivor writers say: those who
did not live through the experience can not understand or talk
about it, yet they themselves are touched by the event and must
become witnesses.
IMPOSSIBILITY OF FAITH
This stage of Nissenson’s fiction depicts the death of God.
Like Rubenstein who first applied the concept to post-Auschwitz
Jewish theological speculation, Nissenson means that Auschwitz
has overwhelmed the covenant. Faith can no longer credibly
assert divine mastery over history. Blind chance, not God’s
“mighty hand and outstretched arm,” performing “with great
terror, with signs and wonders,” rules the universe.
An intimation of this view appears in “Going Up,” a short
story first published in the author’s
In the Reign of Peace.
The
epigraph to this collection, “The Son of David will come when
one generation of man is either totally guilty or totally inno­
cent,” is taken from the Talmud and reveals Nissenson’s increas­
ing uneasiness concerning the possibility of faith in an
Auschwitz universe. “Going Up” portrays events immediately
after the Six-Day War. Uncle Mendel, a religious Jew, visits his
secular nephew who lives on a kibbutz near the Syrian border.
In the telegram announcing his arrival, Uncle Mendel refers
to Psalm hundred and twenty one: “Behold, He who keepeth
Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Accounting for Israel’s
miraculous victory and for the sight of secular paratroopers cry­
ing at the Western Wall, Mendel exclaims, “It all has a hidden
meaning you can’t quite grasp.” Nissenson then skillfully has
the nephew drive Uncle Mendel into captured Syrian territory.
There, the pious Jew observes the horrors of war; corpses, in­
cluding that of a teenager, burnt out military equipment in
which Israeli soldiers died, dead animals, and other devastation.
Nissenson, much in the manner of Buber’s admonition,
means for his readers to understand that God is the single
source of good and evil. Uncle Mendel exclaims: “I believe it
(the hundred and twenty-first Psalm). I’m sixty-six years old,
I’ve been around, but I believe it. He sees everything.” He
stroked his beard. “He never sleeps. One forgets. It wouldn’t
be so bad if I believed He was asleep.” “Going Up” presents
the image of an indicted Deity and His flawed creation.