Page 111 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

Basic HTML Version

paytan’s bu rn ing his poem on the subject o f the Binding o f
Isaac recalls an episode in the life o f Rabbi Nahman in which
the latter o rde rs tha t a particu lar manuscript o f his be b u rn t .18
In a passage from
Sihot ha-RaN,19
a collection o f utterances
and discussions by Rabbi Nahman written by his scribe and dis­
ciple, Rabbi Natan o f Nemirov, the master explained tha t “The
entire world is full o f conflict.” Rabbi Nahman went to locate
conflict not only in the political and social realms, conflict be­
tween rulers and cities and family-members, bu t also within the
province o f the individual, within the self.
For a human being in himself is a microcosm which includes
the entire universe and all its fulness . . . For this reason, at times
when one is alone in the forest, it is possible that a person loses
his sanity. This happens because when he is alone, all the nations
are included within him and they provoke one another, and so
he must constantly change to the aspect o f another nation as
one nation triumphs over another, for all the nations are then
part o f h imself.. . . But when that same person is situated among
people, then there is space for that war to expand into each
o f the members o f his household or among his neighbors.20
While the reade r might hea r in these words a kind o f myth­
ological garb for a common psychological insight, the reade r
o f modern Hebrew literature can hardly read these words o f
Rabbi Nahman without thinking immediately o f any num ber
o f Agnon’s stories. In
Sippur Pashut
,21 his short novel with the
deceiving title, “A Simple Story,” the central character is torn
by inne r conflict between the norms and expectations o f family
and society and between the hidden passions o f his heart. After
that conflict grows within him for some time, he runs into the
woods where he completely loses his sanity. In
Ido ve’Enam
as in some o f the stories o f
Sefer ha-Ma’asim,
when the character
18. For a study o f this story, see A. Wineman. “Paytan and Paradox,”
Union college Annual,
Vol. 49 (1978), pp. 295-310; included in the author’s
Aggadah ve’Omanut,
pp. 35-49.
19. Included in
Shivhe ha-RaN,
numerous editions.
Sihot ha-RaN,
#77 .
A l Kappot ha-Manul, Kol Sippurav,
1953, III, pp. 55-272.
Ad Henah, Kol Sippurav,
VII, pp. 342-395.