Page 19 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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PINSKER / THE CONTEMPORARY JEWISH-AMERICAN NOVEL
11
a week and a ha lf looking fo r a word in Yiddish tha t rhymed
with Dunlop. He never found it” (Lerman, 93), although he
did manage to rhyme Dallas with tallis.
In c o n g ru i t ie s also a b o u n d in th e m a jo r bu s in ess o f
circumsizing Yussel’s icy heart. As one o f Rabbi Fe tner’s tales
puts it:
Once a Jew was sentenced to twenty-five years hard labor. For
twenty-five years he stood grinding something. The grinder and
the wheel were on one side of the wall. He had no idea what
he was grinding. He just turned that wheel, day and night. At
the end of the twenty-five years, his jailors released him. He
walked around the wall. He thought, now he would find out
what he was grinding for all these years. He wouldn’t mind if
it had been grain, stones, as long as he was helping someone,
accomplishing something. He got around the wall — there was
nothing on the other side (Lerman, 276).
Tha t, as the other-worldly Fetner explains, is all he can give:
“You’ll get around to the O the r Side, you’ll see (Lerman, 276).
Meanwhile, trus t in God’s intentions, and realize that while
choices determ ine destiny, only God alone knows the conse­
quences.
In Yussel’s case, the challenge to his soul — and the cause
o f his deepest suffering — is the alluring Lilywhite, who not
only tu rns ou t to be Jewish, but also a daugh te r equally guilt-
ridden about he r dead father. I f Yussel’s fa the r requires a hea r t­
felt kaddish, so too does Lilywhite’s. And that, indeed, is how
the novel ends — as Lilywhite’s “song” tu rns into the Kaddish
that Yussel taugh t he r and Yussel himself at last becomes “at­
tached.”
All o f which leaves the irascible Rabbi Fetner with no more
earthly business requ iring his intervention. He is presumably
headed for a h igher level, bu t decides, instead, to stay in hell.
After all, as he puts, it who needs one more saint in Heaven:
“In Hell, I ’m needed” (Lerman, 308). Meanwhile, Yussel has
become a Fetner, with a full arsenal o f his fa the r’s best stories
und e r his belt and a lifetime o f Fetner suffering, Fetner piety,
and Fetner belief as his destiny.