Page 60 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

Basic HTML Version

sential obligation of all Jews to confront the Holocaust. The
priestly vestment contained Urim and Thummim which were
used as oracles and for divination. In times of national crisis
and doubt, the Israelites consulted the Urim and the Thummim
(Num. 27:21 and 1 Sam. 28:6). The Shechinah refers both to
God’s Presence which the rabbis claimed went with Israel into
exile, and, according to the kabbalists, the feminine aspect of
Following his return from Europe, Vand is appointed am­
bassador to a small country whose government is immediately
overthrown by a coup. Critics begin derisively referring to him
as the “two-hour Ambassador.” But Enoch’s encounter with the
provides him with something far more precious than a
political post. It grants him the strength to seek his own Jewish
identity. By novel’s end, Enoch has given up all his Wasp pre­
tensions. Instead, he studies Hebrew with a Holocaust survivor
whose phylacteries cover the blue numbers on his arm. Then
Vand reads the Bible first in English, next in Hebrew. Following
this, he studies
Pirke Avoth.
Then he asks for the entire Tal­
dramatically contends that a Jew can become covenanted
through three sources, each of which leads logically to the next
step: exposure to the Holocaust, study of Hebrew, reading and
contemplating the Bible and Talmud. In all of this, Vand works
against the grain of American culture. There is no clearer state­
ment in Ozick’s subsequent fiction of her basic belief that “to
remain Jewish is a
— something which is an ongoing
and muscular thing, a progress or sometimes a regression, a
constant self-reminding, a caravan of watchfulness always on
the move; and above all an unsparing
.”33 Ozick’s
first novel argues that to be covenanted means to struggle to
consciousness of Jewish history both ancient and contemporary.
Although Ozick refrains from systematically defining the spe­
cific content of the covenantal bond in
her use of the
name Enoch bears more than a hint of what she has in mind.
Enoch in apocalyptic literature is the only righteous one among
the race of the flood. During a heavenly ascent he is trans­
32. There is some ground for thinking that Vand’s immersion in Judaism par­
allels Ozick’s own experience. For example, she describes herself as an au-
{Art & Ardor,
33. “Holiness and its Discontents,” 6.