Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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What is the nature of Ozick’s post-Auschwitz covenant? What
is the role of literature after the disaster? I conclude by reflect­
ing on the communal implications of Ozick’s message concern­
ing Jewish identity. Points of contact are noted between the
American-born Ozick and the work of Elie Wiesel. Throughout
the discussion Ozick’s authentic Jewish characters are shown to
reveal the altered nature of post-Auschwitz covenantal Judaism.
The shofar is intimately associated with the biblical
Abraham’s binding of Isaac on Mount Moriah in accord with
God’s terrifying demand. The consequent staying of Abraham’s
hand and the substitution of a ram for Isaac serve as a reminder
to the Jewish People that when their eternity was radically ques­
tioned, divine intervention secured Jewish destiny. While this
is not the place to delve into the multifaceted meanings of the
one such interpretation, based on Gen. 22:13 which de­
scribes the ram caught in the thicket by its horns, emerges as
appropriate to Ozick’s task. The chronicler observes that the
ram in the thicket “teaches us that (God) showed our father
Abraham the ram tearing himself free from one thicket and
becoming entangled in another. Said the Holy One, blessed be
He, to Abraham: Thus are your children destined to be caught
in iniquities and entangle in misfortunes, but in the end they
will be redeemed by the horns of a ram.”16 Thus, one way of
understanding Ozick’s lesson of the shofar is a warning against
becoming ensnared by the iniquities and entanglements of
American culture; a constant peril for Jews who live outside,
or are ignorant of, Jewish history.
There is as well a second and related way of viewing Ozick’s
shofar lesson. The
is an ineradicable part of post-
Auschwitz Jewish identity. Although, as we have seen, she warns
of the idolatry implicit in making literature, Ozick reflects the
continuing impact of the
in observing, “In theory, I’m
with Theodor Adorno’s famous dictum: After Auschwitz, no
more poetry. And yet, my writing has touched on the Holocaust
again and again. I cannot
write about it. It rises up and
claims my furies.”17 Consequently, the American-born Ozick af­
Rosh ha-Shanah
16a, cited by S.Y. Agnon,
Days of Awe
(New York: (Schocken
Books, 1965), 66.
17. Cynthia Ozick, “Roundtable Discussion,”
Writing and the Holocaust,
ed. Berel
Lang (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1988), 284.