Page 113 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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on the surface resembled the folktale and its secular thematics
was, on a d eepe r level, an allusion to a sacred statement. A
story, he taught, can be a garm en t for a holy teaching, one
having such brightness that without such a garmen t it would
be too much for the world to bear.
Significantly Rabbi Nahman himself stated that his Tales can
be appreciated simply as stories on the ir surface level even while,
on ano the r level, they allude to infinitely deepe r meaning, a
meaning, incidentally, never really o r fully explicated in the tra ­
ditional comm en taries w ritten by the followers o f Rabbi
As Eliezer Schweid has already suggested,25 in his particular
conception o f the tale Rabbi Nahman offered certain sugges­
tions which may have served as potential building-blocks for
the kind o f bridge which Agnon, as a self-conscious artist, also
sought to develop between the sacred and the secular.
While modern Hebrew writers and poets, in varying degree,
have shared an aspiration to normalize and desacralize Hebrew,
to allow modern Hebrew to develop in its own way by shedding
the sacred associations and overtones from the tradition, Agnon
especially sought in the Hebrew language the reverberations
o f classical and later Jewish sacred sources. As a writer o f fiction,
he maintained the awareness o f writing in what is a holy lan­
guage.26 A highly experimental writer in many ways,27 a sig­
nificant aspect o f his experimental stance is evident in his at­
temp t to form an unusual kind o f relationship with the literature
o f Jewish tradition which preceded the development o f a mod­
e rn literature in Hebrew. An abundance o f allusions to o lder
sources are interwoven in almost every line o f many o f his sto­
ries, and it is not in frequen t that such allusions emerge from
beneath the surface-level o f the story to suggest deeper levels
o f meaning. In addition, Agnon sometimes wrote in modes
which evoke the effect that those very writings belong to the
world o f tradition: a chronicle o r pious tale o r discourse in a
midrashic mode, with only a closer look at the text disclosing
the presence o f the modern literary artist molding his materials.
25. E. Schweid,
“Tehilah le-Agnon ke-Sippur Kodesh,”
(Iyar-Sivan, 1967),
pp. 61-74.
26. Note the passage from “
Ha-Mashal ve ’ha-Nimshal,"
Ir u'Meloah
and Tel-Aviv: 1973). p. 437.
27. See Gershon Shaked,
Omanut ha-Sippur shel Shai Agnon
(Tel-Aviv, 1973).