Page 22 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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14
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
search into the illusion o f insider information, painstaking ac­
curacy into imaginative writing.
“You know, Abba Nissim, in the
Likutei Moharan,
when, Rav
Nahman first speaks of the
Tikkun Hakelali
as the general remedy
for nocturnal emissions, he doesn’t specify that the ten psalms
must be recited by his grave. He says many interesting things
there — that the numerical values of ‘Psalms,’
Tehilim,
four hun­
dred and eighty-five, is the same as that of
Lilit,
four hundred
and eighty, plus five, for the five letters of the accursed name
of that demonic seductresss. Rav Nahman makes many subtle
and enigmatic points in that passage of the
Likutim,
but the clear
implication is that the
Tikkun Hakelali
would be effective wherever
it’s administered.
“What nonsense you talk, Reb Lev, you should excuse me.
Why would Rav Nahman have referred to his grave at that time?
He wasn’t dying yet. Only later on he says that the
Tikkun
will
operate best at his graveside. And it wasn’t that he was trying
to arrange for visitors because he was afraid he might get lonely.”
(Reich, 116).
Modern readers are likely to see the squabble as a tempest
in an u ltra-O rthodox teapot, and to laugh at the comic com­
plications tha t religious fanaticism breeds. Indeed , there is a
sense in which Reich’s Dead Hasidim are inveterate
schlemiels,
the unwitting architects o f their misadventures. What may well
be the funniest scene in all o f contemporary Jewish-American
fiction is described when a g roup from Uman House decides
to travel to Nahm an ’s grave using stolen Mexican passports.
In a very real sense,
Master o f the Return
revolves around Sam­
uel Himmelhoch, whose jou rn a l was found “u n d e r a jerrycan
in the tomb o f H annah and he r seven sons” (Reich, 1), and
whose dea th — and possible resurrec tion — is thematically con­
nected with both the life o f Nahman and the coming o f the
Messiah. Himmelhoch was no small-time beatnik; ra the r, he is
the Real Goods, a man whose “distinguished soul” could not
be disguised by long hair and the gold ring in his nostril, by
his neckchains and shameful tattoo, by his outrageously tight
pants. As Reb Lev puts it in his eulogy, Shmuel was “a hard-core
bohem ian from the major leagues who had sampled everything,
who had taken in and given ou t all the dirt, all the
shmutz
and
dreck,
from the lowest o f the lowest o f the lowest depths. And
now he was tu rn ing to me” (Reich, 64). When he tearfully con­