Page 62 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

Basic HTML Version

54
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
upheaval. “In her apartness,” writes Ozick, “Brill caught the
scarlet flare of his own bright dream: serenity, absorption, civ­
ilization, intellect, imagination.” Unlike
T rust
s Enoch Vand,
Hester Lilt does not need to travel the initiatory covenantal path.
The figure of Hester Lilt is shrouded in mystery. Like the
Jewish people, her existence is global; she has lived and studied
in London, Stockholm, New Zealand, and Paris. Moreover, her
name itself invites reflection. Brill associates her last name either
with the Hebrew
leyl
(night) or Lilith the night demon. Later,
Brill terms her a sorcerer.
Hester Panim,
the Hiding of the Face,
implies rabbinic speculation about the relationship between God
and the suffering of the House of Israel.
Hester Panim
is a biblical
concept which can mean either a divine judgement (Deut.
31:17-18) or refer to human evil (Psalm 44). Eliezer Berkovits
observes that “The God of History must be absent and present
concurrently.”35 In other words it is an attribute of God that
He both hides Himself and saves. “And I will wait for the Lord
that hideth His face from the house of Jacob and I will hope
for Him” (Isaiah 8:17). It is not coincidental that Lilt writes
an essay “On Structure in Silence.” Silence, even Divine silence,
“is not random but shaping. It is like the empty air around
the wing, that delineates the wing . . . ” Moreover, in her very
apartness Lilt models a type of holiness
(kedusha).
The root
meaning of this term implies being set apart, in the biblical sense
of God’s promise to the Israelites that they shall be “a kingdom
of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).
Hester Lilt delivers a lecture “An Interpretation of Pedago­
gy,” which reveals Ozick’s understanding of the post-Holocaust
covenantal path. Ostensibly against Brill’s practice of relying
solely on psychological tests to predict a child’s success in the
Edmund Fleg School, Lilt’s lecture is in reality a summons to
post-Auschwitz covenantal steadfastness. The centerpiece of her
lecture is a retelling of “There Ran the Little Fox.” This midrash
focuses on the meaning of Rabbi Akiva’s laughter at the des­
olation of the Jerusalem Temple. Found in tractate
Makkot
24b,
the tale concerns the reaction of Akiva and his three companions
who observe the joy of the despoilers of the Temple. The three
companions weep, but Akiva smiles. At the Temple Mount, the
four saw a fox running from the Holy of Holies. Their reaction
35. Eliezer Berkovits,
Faith After The Holocaust
(New York: Ktav, 1973), 107.