Page 63 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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was the same. Akiva explains to his friends that just as the
idolators are rewarded for violating God’s will, the Jews are
sure to be rewarded in greater measure for adhering to God’s
commandments. The companions, for their part, weep assum­
ing the fulfillment of Lamentations 5:18 “for Mount Zion which
lies desolate; jackals prowl over it.”
Akiva’s stance reflects a more mature covenantal understand­
ing. Basing himself on Isaiah 8:2 “And I will take unto me faith­
ful witnesses to record, Uriah, the priest, and Zechariah,” Akiva
finds hope in the linking of the two prophets. Uriah is associated
with the first Temple while Zechariah ministered at the second.
Consequently, Zechariah’s prophecy is interdependent with that
of Uriah. Interpreting Micah 3:12, Uriah foretold Jerusalem’s
destruction. Zechariah, on the other hand, predicted the re­
building of the holy city. Akiva believed that in order for Zech­
ariah’s vision to occur, Uriah’s prediction would first have to
come to pass. Thus, Akiva understood that the destruction of
Jerusalem was only prelude to its rebuilding. His companions
are consoled by Akiva’s reasoning. Hester Lilt utilizes this mid­
rash to teach a pedagogical lesson. Do not stop too soon. Stop­
ping at Uriah without taking into account Zechariah is prema­
ture and unjewish. It is not accidental that, despite the gloomy
prediction of the school’s psychologist, the shy and unremark­
able Beulah Lilt blossoms by novel’s end, winning international
acclaim as an abstract artist.
Lilt and Brill have fundamentally different views concerning
midrash. For the principal, midrashim were not from heaven
(min ha-Shamayim
). Rather, they were merely “little stories” with
which to teach a moral lesson. Hester Lilt, on the other hand,
is not religious in the traditional sense of the word but views
the cosmos as “a long finger tapping.” Lilt’s perception is a sub­
tle statement of the interconnectedness of the cosmos. It em­
bodies precisely what Lyons asserts is absent in Ozick’s fiction,
e.g., “an invisible yet powerful cord linking human and God.”
Moreover, Brill tells Hester Lilt of the long ago advice he heard
Rabbi Pult give. “Always negate. Negate, negate.” Brill wrongly
interprets this to mean avoid the ordinary or the vulgar. In
reality, the fictional rabbi’s advice recalls Sheindel’s position in
“The Pagan Rabbi.” Her linking of piety and skepticism is a
theologically mature type of negating.
Rabbi Sheskin is a “sweet-voiced yeshiva student” despised