Page 112 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
in the story is alone, the bonds o f rationality no longer apply
and the figure m ight find himself in a surrealistic universe not
governed by rational orde r. T h e norms o f time and space and
casuality are no longer real, and they re tu rn only if and when
the individual is restored to his family setting. Given the ex ten t
o f Agnon’s familiarity with the Bratzlav writings, one wonders
whether Agnon drew from such a statement o f Rabbi Nahm an ’s
this key-pattern for many o f his stories.
O f no less significance than the attraction to paradox and
the enigmatic, to labyrinth situations and surrealistic qualities
and the irrational — all o f which link Agnon to Rabbi Nahman
— is a shared conception o f a type o f narrative which serves
as a bridge linking very d iffe ren t and disparite kinds o f liter­
ature.
In his Tales,23 Rabbi Nahman depa rted from a more con­
ventional mode o f communication within the hasidic world, and
even from the kinds o f stories related about the
tsaddik
; the
mystic leader and center o f a hasidic community, stories which
flourished in the hasidic milieu. Rabbi Nahman, in his Tales,
told o f situations and casts o f characters vastly removed from
a Jewish milieu; he displayed an interest in hearing stories told
by o the r peoples and he himself told stories which, at least at
first sight, strongly resembled them. Those stories themselves,
according to Rabbi Nahman ,24 are not foreign to what is at
the root o f Jewish tradition; at core they are essentially holy
in na tu re bu t exist in a state o f exile. They have acquired a
confused state and so their real meaning — necessarily reflect­
ing the ultimate story o f being, the story which can be equated
with the worldview o f Lurianic Kabbalah — is not evident.
LEVELS OF MEANING
Rabbi Nahman wove o f the fabric o f folktales o f the nations
the kind o f story which he believed could redeem the sparks
o f holiness presen t in those same tales. To his mind, tha t which
23.
Sippure ha-Ma’asiyot
has appeared in numerous editions in Hebrew and Yid­
dish since 1815. For an English translation and commentary, see Band,
Nahman o f Bratslav, the Tales.
24. First Introduction to
Sippure ha-Ma’asiyot,
Bratzlav editions. See also A.
Band, “The Bratslav Theory o f the Sacred Tale,” in his
Nahman o f Bratslav,
the Tales pp. 27-39 .