Page 61 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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formed into
Enoch as
is symbolically mean­
ingful. The term refers to an officer who goes in advance of
an army, and is also identified with the Shechinah. Tellingly,
Enoch is also known as the
Sar ha-Panim
(Prince of the Divine
Presence). Enoch’s belated acquisition of Jewish identity enables
him to hear the voice of the shofar, and to reconnect to the
Jewish People.
contains the embryo of Ozick’s continuous
insistence on the centrality of the Holocaust for Jewish Identity,
underscoring the position of Sheindel in “The Pagan Rabbi,”
that only those authentically touched by the
are able to
be covenanted.
One of Ozick’s most stunningly drawn covenanted characters
appears in her 1983 novel
The Cannibal Galaxy
.34 Different in
style, size and tone from her first novel, the story treats the
life of Paris-born Joseph Brill. Ozick follows his life before, du r­
ing, and after the Holocaust. Hidden during the war, first by
nuns and then by a French peasant couple, Brill comes to Amer­
ica where he becomes headmaster of the Edmund Fleg Day
School. Brill attempts an impossible fusion of “scholarly Europe
and burnished Jerusalem.” In reality, his school caters to me­
diocrity and Brill himself slips further and further from the
p r
teachings of Rabbi Pult, his martyred mentor. Brill,
who had studied astronomy prior to the Holocaust, no longer
strives to achieve his motto
ad astra
(to the stars). His is a life
of Jewish and intellectual stagnation. He stopped too soon. This
richly textured novel is about education, specifically the type
of pedagogy required to hear the shofar’s call after Auschwitz.
My observations focus on the novel’s two covenanted figures,
Hester Lilt and Rabbi Sheskin. Hester Lilt, a mysterious refugee,
enrolls her unremarkable daughter Beulah in Brill’s school.
Hester is an “imagistic linguistic logician,” intellectually superior
to other mothers. Brill believes that he and Hester share a bond
based on their European experience, she had been saved by
a children’s transport, and by the fact that both are intellectuals.
Unlike Brill, however, Hester Lilt continues to hear the shofar’s
call and to embrace a midrashic stance in the face of historical
34. Cynthia Ozick,
The Cannibal Galaxy,
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983).