Page 58 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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50
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
of the Jews. It is the history of the Jews that seizes me ultimately,
and with the obligation of
kavanah.
History is my master and
I its servant.”27 Yet, she also writes that history implies a tran ­
scendent judgement. History, she argues, “is not simply what
has happened, it is a judgement on what has happened. History
is to the continuum of events what the Sabbath is to the pro­
gression of days.”28 This ambiguity does not make Ozick less
of a religious writer. Quite the contrary, seeking meaning in
history is a normative component of the covenant.
Ozick’s covenantal Judaism is embedded within a midrashic
framework. Midrash, which comes from the Hebrew root
drsh,
means “to search,” “to seek,” “to examine.” A profoundly im­
portant interpretive skill in rabbinic Judaism, the midrashic
method led to significant theological insights. Frequently con­
tradictory and veiled in nature, midrashim seek to reveal hidden
connections. Ozick relies on midrash as paradigmatic of liter­
ature displaying the “corona of moral purpose.” She observes
of midrash that while there “is no visible principle or moral
imperative,” the “principle
is
the tale; it realizes the tale.”29 Con­
sequently, the absence of overt reference to the numinous can
be quite misleading. Rather, Ozick’s fictions underscore the in­
creased hiddenness of God and the subtleness of interpretation
necessary to speak of religion today. This is very far from either
denying or abandoning the existence of the divine.
EMBRACING COVENANTAL IDENTITY
Trust
is a work which Ozick describes as having begun for
the Christians and finished for the Jews.30 It is a stunningly
written novel portraying issues which will continue to focus the
author’s subsequent concerns: the nature of Jewish identity, the
antipathy between covenantal Judaism and nature, gentile in­
difference to Jewish history, the centrality of Holocaust survi­
vors, and the possibility of attaining
teshuva
thereby returning
to the covenantal path.
The story concerns the reconversion to Judaism of Enoch
27. Cynthia Ozick, “Four Generations o f the Rabbis,” Reconstructionist
XXXVIII, 1, (February, 1972), 23.
28. “Holiness and Its Discontents,” 10.
29.
Art
fc?
Ardor,
246.
30.
Ibid.,
158.