Page 69 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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Ozick is concerned with how it is possible to remain covenan-
tally Jewish amidst widespread indifference from within Juda ­
ism and a radically secular “host” culture. However, her “tribal”
or liturgical literature possesses a universal message which stems
precisely from its particularism. Like the covenant itself, litur­
gical literature is “recognition of the particular.” This literature
shuns idolatry by keeping its readers rooted in reality and wary
of historically unanchored fantasy. Such fantasy represents
nothing more than the “lower form” of the imagination and
is deaf to the shofar’s call. Moreover, hers is a concern for the
continuity of Jewish testimony after Auschwitz. Ozick’s novels
point the way toward Jewish identity and illuminate the path
of Jewish history even while suggesting the altered nature of
the post-Auschwitz covenant. Although the actions of her cov­
enanted characters attest that God’s concealment requires great­
er human effort, Ozick’s lesson of the shofar is traditionally
rooted. For example, her covenanted Jewish characters embrace
the third reason for blowing the shofar articulated by Saadia
Gaon. Saadia wrote that the Jewish People blow the shofar
“ . . . to remind us of our stand at the foot of Mt. Sinai, as it
is said (Exodus 19:19) ‘The voice of the horn waxed louder
and louder,’ in order that we may take upon ourselves that
which our forefathers took upon themselves when they said (Ex­
odus 24:7): ‘We will do and obey’.”42
Ozick’s post-Auschwitz covenant is, like its predecessor of an­
tiquity, tripartite. However, the focus is changed. Instead of
the traditional emphasis on God, Torah, and community,
Ozick’s authentic Jewish characters embrace Jewish history (es­
pecially the Holocaust), community, and study. Seeking the par­
ticular, they articulate the outlines of how the Chosen People
can live in the Diaspora. Those who do so, in spite of the tre­
mendous obstacles to redemption in Diaspora life, continue to
learn and embrace the lesson of the shofar.
42. Saadia Gaon, cited by S.Y. Agnon,
op cit.,
p. 71.