THE BOARD OF RABBIS OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

PRESENTS

ONE PEOPLE, ONE BOOK 5768

Participating Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist & Reform congregations Adat Ari El • Beth Chayim Chadashim • Beth Shir Sholom • Congregation Kol Ami Congregation Tikvat Jacob • IKAR • Kehillat Israel • Makom Ohr Shalom Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue • Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel • Temple Aliyah • Temple Beth Am Temple Beth Hillel • Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills • Temple Israel of Hollywood Temple Kol Tikvah • Temple Ramat Zion • University Synagogue • Westwood Village Synagogue

Dear One People, One Book Participant: Our tradition teaches that when even two people gather to study holy words, the presence of God dwells with them. We are pleased that so many of us will, over the course of the year, gather together to study words and ideas, learning from and with each other and our shared tradition. As we mark the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of medinat Yisrael (the state of Israel), we are honored to read and study selected works by S. Y. Agnon, the acclaimed genius of modern Hebrew literature. A Book That Was Lost and Other Stories is a collection of stories written by Agnon, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Agnon is a masterful maggid—a classic storyteller who weaves together Biblical and rabbinic sources, colorful images of the “old country,” and vivid insights on daily life in Israel. We hope that this sourcebook for A Book That Was Lost and Other Stories will help you to understand and appreciate the literary mastery of Shai Agnon. To guide your study and gain a fuller appreciation of the richness and complexity of the author, Rabbi Daniel Bouskila and Rabbi Miriyam Glazer have prepared essays on key aspects of Agnon’s work and thought. The booklet also includes a brief biography of Agnon, the writer’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, an article on Agnon and Shabbat, and a bibliography for further reading. The One People One Book series is designed for a variety of educational settings, including formal presentations; discussions in classes, book clubs and havurot; and traditional hevruta (partnered) learning. To assist students and teachers, the Board of Rabbis has developed a companion set of self-contained lesson plans on selected stories from A Book That Was Lost and Other Stories. We encourage you to download this important resource from the Board of Rabbis web site, www.boardofrabbis.com. We would be remiss if we failed to note that reading any text in translation is a worthy endeavor, but cannot capture the full flavor of the original. All of S.Y. Agnon’s stories in this book, and his other novels and short stories, are available in Hebrew. If you are interested in finding out how to obtain Hebrew versions of the works of S.Y. Agnon, please contact your synagogue or the Board of Rabbis (323-7618600, boardofrabbis@jewishla.org). Rabbis Miriyam Glazer and Daniel Bouskila serve as the 2007-08 co-chairs of the One People, One Book program and we are indebted to them for their devoted leadership as well as their fine essays. We thank as well committee members Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer, who also contributed lesson plans, and Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh. We also express our deep appreciation to Jonathan Freund, Board of Rabbis Program Director, and Cookie Olshein, Board of Rabbis Rabbinic Intern, for their invaluable contributions to One People, One Book. We are delighted that you have decided to join us on this journey of learning. Now, in the words of the great sage Rabbi Hillel: The rest is commentary. Go and learn! L’shalom, Rabbi Mark S. Diamond Executive Vice President The Board of Rabbis of Southern California

6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048 BoardOfRabbis@JewishLA.org 323-761-8600 www.BoardOfRabbis.org

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila Daniel Bouskila has been the Senior Rabbi of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel since 1993. He holds a B.A. in history from UCLA and Rabbinic Ordination from Yeshiva University in New York. He studied at the Hesder Yeshiva Kerem B’Yavneh in Israel, served in the IDF’s Givati Infantry Brigade during the first Lebanon War, and studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. A Vice President of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, Rabbi Bouskila also serves on the boards of UCLA Hillel, the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, the Israel Film Festival, and as an advisor/educator for the recently founded Professional Leaders Project (PLP). A devoted activist on behalf of Israel, he was honored by the LA Israeli Community with the 2004 “Yekir Ha-Kehilla Ha-Yisraelit” (cherished friend of the Israeli Community) award. He is a regular contributor to local and national newspapers (in both English and Hebrew), and has published an extensive commentary to the Sephardic Passover Haggadah. He teaches advanced rabbinical courses at the Academy for Jewish Religion, and has taught at Shalhevet High School, where he also coached the Girls Varsity Basketball team, leading them to 2 consecutive national tournament championships in Miami Beach, Florida.

Rabbi Miriyam Glazer Miriyam Glazer is professor of literature at the American Jewish University, where she heads the Communication Arts department and co-chairs the program in Jewish and World Civilization. An eclectic scholar whose books include the landmark collection of Israeli women's writing, Dreaming the Actual as well as Dancing on the Edge of the World: Jewish Stories of Faith, Inspiration, and Love, Rabbi Glazer has published many essays and book chapters on Jewish literature, as well as on nature, gender, and spirituality in Judaism and Jewish culture. Her study guides and Torah commentaries have been translated into Hebrew, Russian, and Spanish; and most recently was included in the Reform movement's new Women's Torah Commentary. Editor of The Bedside Torah, by Bradley Shavit Artson, Miriyam Glazer is currently at work on two major projects: a new translation and spiritually-oriented commentary on the Psalms of the Jewish Liturgy, written in honor of Dr. David L. Lieber, and to be published by Aviv Press next year; and her memoir, Judaism, Wars, and Womanhood, the writing of which has been supported by a Hadassah-Brandeis Institute grant. Rabbi Glazer serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Rabbis, the Publications Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly, and the Board of Directors of the newly reconstituted Jewish Women's Theatre.

Table of Contents
I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. Introduction to the Life of S.Y. Agnon… 5 “Believers and Doubters: Agnon’s Theological Universe,” by Rabbi Daniel Bouskila… 7 “S.Y. Agnon as Jewish Provocateur,” by Rabbi Miriyam Glazer… 11 “Holy Land vs. Homeland: Agnon’s Israel,” by Rabbi Daniel Bouskila… 15 S.Y. Agnon’s Nobel Banquet Speech… 19 “When the Nobel Meets the Sabbath”… 23 A Final Thought, by Rabbi Mark Diamond… 25 Appendix: An Agnon Bibliography… 27

Compiled and Edited by Jonathan Freund Cookie Lea Olshein

AN AGNON SOURCEBOOK

INTRODUCTION TO THE LIFE OF S.Y. AGNON

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hmuel Yosef Agnon (Hebrew: ‫ ,שמואל יוסף עגנון‬July 17, 1888 - February 17, 1970) was a Hebrew Nobel Prize Laureate writer and was one of the central figures of modern Hebrew fiction. His works are published in English under the name S. Y. Agnon (Hebrew: ‫,ש"י עגנון‬ pronounced "Shai Agnon"). Agnon was born in Galicia (now Ukraine), later immigrated as a Zionist to Ottoman Palestine, and died in Jerusalem. His works deal with the conflict between the traditional Jewish life and language and the modern world. They also attempt to recapture the fading traditions of the European shtetl (village). In a wider context, he also contributed to the narrator's character in modern literature. Agnon was awarded the Nobel Prize jointly with poet Nelly Sachs in 1966. Early Years

Agnon was born Shmuel Yosef Halevi Czaczkes in Buczacz, Galicia. Officially, his date of birth on the Hebrew calendar was 18 Av 5648 (July 26, 1888), but he always claimed to have been born on the Jewish fast day of Tisha b'Av, the Ninth of Av. His father, Shalom Mordechai Halevy, was ordained as a rabbi, but worked in the fur trade. He did not attend school and was schooled by his father who taught him aggadah and his mother who taught him German literature. At the age of eight, he began to write in Hebrew and Yiddish and, at the age of fifteen, he published his first poem - a Yiddish poem about the Kabbalist Joseph della Reina. He continued to write poems and stories in Hebrew and Yiddish, which were published in Galicia. Literary Career In 1908, he immigrated to Jaffa. His first published story there was "Agunot" ("Forsaken Wives"), which appeared that same year in the journal Ha`omer. He used the pen name "Agnon," derived from the title of the story, which he adopted as his official surname in 1924. In 1910, "Forsaken Wives" was translated into German. In 1912, at the urging of Yosef Haim Brenner, he published a novella, "Vehaya Ha'akom Lemishor" ("And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight"). In 1913, Agnon moved to Germany, where he met and married Esther Marx, having a son and a daughter together. In Germany, Salman Schocken, a publisher and businessman, became his literary patron and freed him from financial worries. From that time on, his work was published by Schocken Books, and his short stories appeared regularly in the newspaper Ha'aretz, also owned by the Schocken family. In Germany, he continued to write short stories and collaborated with Martin Buber on an anthology of Hasidic stories. In 1924, a fire broke out in his home, destroying his manuscripts and rare book collection. This traumatic event crops up occasionally in his stories. Later that year, Agnon returned to Jerusalem and settled with his family in the neighborhood of Talpiot. In 1929, his library was destroyed again, this time by riots.

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When his novel “Hachnasat Kalla” ("The Bridal Canopy") appeared in 1931 to great critical acclaim, Agnon's place in Hebrew literature was assured. In 1935, he published "Sippur Pashut" ("A Simple Story"), a novella set in Buczacz at the end of the 19th century. Agnon’s greatest novel is generally considered to be "T’mol Shilshom" ("The Day Before Yesterday"), which appeared in 1945. The story, set in the period of the second aliyah, the wave of Jewish emigration to Palestine between 1907 and 1913, anticipated the emergence of Israel out of the Holocaust. Agnon contrasts old and new ways of Jewish life and intertwines two plots - a story of Yitzhak Kummer, would-be pioneer, and the wanderings of the dog Balak. Kummer journeys from Europe to Palestine and dies of rabies after being bitten by Balak. Literary Prizes and Acclaim Agnon won the Bialik Prize twice (1934 and 1950) and the Israel Prize twice (1954 and 1958). In 1966, he became the first winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature for works in the Hebrew language, sharing the prize with German Jewish author Nelly Sachs. In his speech at the award ceremony, Agnon introduced himself in Hebrew: "As a result of the historic catastrophe in which Titus of Rome destroyed Jerusalem and Israel was exiled from its land, I was born in one of the cities of the Exile. But always I regarded myself as one who was born in Jerusalem." In later years, Agnon's fame was such that when he complained to the municipality that traffic noise near his home was disturbing his work, the city closed the street to cars and posted a sign that read: "No entry to all vehicles, writer at work!" Death and Legacy Agnon died in Jerusalem on February 17, 1970. After his death his daughter, Emmuna Yaron, continued to work to publish writings from his legacy. More of his books were published posthumously than while he was alive. Agnon's archive was transferred by his family to the National Library in Jerusalem. His home in Talpiot was turned into a museum, where the study where he wrote many of his works is preserved intact. Agnon is considered the most researched author in Hebrew literature. A substantial number of books and articles dealing with his works have been published. Among his most outstanding scholars are Baruch Kurzweil, Dov Sadan, Nitza Ben-Dov, Dan Laor and Amos Oz. Agnon's image has appeared on the 50 shekel banknote since 1985:

This biographical sketch is a compilation from many articles on S.Y. Agnon from the following sources: the website for the Jewish Agency for Israel, www.wikipedia.org, http://kirjasto.sci.fi/agnon.htm, and A Book that Was Lost and Other Stories, edited with introductions by Alan Mintz and Anne Golomb Hoffman.

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BELIEVERS AND DOUBTERS: AGNON’S THEOLOGICAL UNIVERSE
by Rabbi Daniel Bouskila Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel

her personal memoir, Emunah Yaron, daughter of S.Y. Agnon (who edited fifteen posthumously published volumes of her father’s writings) addresses the question of her father’s religiosity and faith: “There are many who did not believe that my father was an observant Jew, even though a big black yarmulke always covered his head. There are those who said that this kippah was simply a mask, a deceiving appearance intended to fool the public into believing that he was actually a religious Jew who observed the commandments.” What could possibly account for this wide held perception amongst many of Agnon’s readers and critics? Yaron continues: “Perhaps the lack of belief by many in my father’s religiosity stems from the fact that in reading my father’s works, they often detected in his plots and characters subtle or even overt theological speculations into religious matters, which many of his readers interpreted as outright heresy.” What was it about Agnon’s writings that could lead so many of his readers to this seemingly bizarre conclusion about him? A look at a sampling of some of Agnon’s so-called “theological speculations” will throw light on the indeed complex issues his daughter was addressing. In his story Tehilah, Agnon has the narrator standing at Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, reflecting on his feelings towards prayer and worship: “I stood at times among the worshippers, and at times among those who question.” In the story Afar Eretz Yisrael (The Dust of the Land of Israel), the narrator proclaims: The doubters and skeptics, and all who are suspicious of things -- they are the only people of truth, because they see the world as it is. They are unlike those who are happy with their lot in life and with their world, who, as a result of their continuous happiness, close their eyes from the truth. In his signature story Agunot, Agnon boldly plays with a Rabbinic Midrash when describing the divorce proceedings between a couple whose marriage was arranged, and who were mismatched from the very beginning: Our sages of blessed memory said that when a man puts his first wife away from him, the very altars weep – but here the altars had dropped tears even as he took her to be his wife. Yom Kippur plays a central theme in Agnon’s writing, as does the harsh reality of the physical destruction of Eastern European Jewry. In his story At the Outset of the Day these two

In

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themes come together, as the narrator and his daughter (whose home has just been destroyed) come to the synagogue on the eve of Yom Kippur. As the father tells his little daughter that they will soon bring her a “little prayer book full of letters,” he asks his daughter “And now, dearest daughter, tell me, an alef and a bet that come together with a kametz beneath the alef – how do you say them?” “Av,” my daughter answered. The word “Av” means “father,” but it is also the name of the darkest month on the Hebrew calendar, with the most difficult of fast days, Tisha B’Av (The Ninth of Av), which mourns the tragic loss of both Temples in Jerusalem, and commemorates many other tragedies to have befallen the Jewish people. By asking the daughter to spell “Av,” Agnon is alluding to the fact that this fast day, although in name is Yom Kippur, more closely resembles the gloom and darkness of Tisha B’Av. The theological irony is that the narrator goes on to tell his daughter “And now my daughter, what father (Av) is greater than all other fathers? Our Father in heaven.” In his typically ironic fashion, Agnon employs a linguistic double entendre linking the Av in heaven (God) to the mood of Av (the destruction of the father and daughter’s home) on this Yom Kippur. In one of his most controversial short stories, K’neged Otam Shekov’im Yeshivot Shel Ts’chok V’Kalut Rosh (Against Those Who Establish Gatherings of Laughter and Frivolity), Agnon tells of a woman who sits at home alone knitting on the Sabbath instead of gossiping with her neighbors. Moses happens to pass by her house and notices that God’s spirit hovers over the house (something only Moses can recognize). Moses is shocked to find that the woman is actually “working” on the Sabbath, violating one of the 39 prohibited Sabbath labors. He instructs her to sit with her neighbors so that she would not violate the Sabbath, yet the following week, when he once again passed by her house, he notices that God’s spirit no longer hovered above the house. Moses understood that her original practice was better, and he instructs her to return to it. Agnon boldly challenges the notion of “violating the Sabbath,” and through the character of Moses – God’s Lawgiver – Agnon suggests that gossip is more of a legal violation of the Sabbath than are any of the 39 prohibited labors (knitting included!). This is a direct challenge to the conventional notions of religious tradition and authority, using the very figure of religious authority (Moses) to challenge the tradition from within. Is God actively involved in the affairs of the world? Particularly, is God actively monitoring the lives of His “Chosen People”? Agnon handled this question throughout his literature, often with subtle ironic hints that smack of sarcasm and cynicism. In the story Ha-hadlakah (The Kindling), Agnon tells the story of the great pilgrimage and kindling of bonfires on the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai on Lag Ba’Omer (the 33rd Day of the Omer Period). The Omer period is traditionally associated with collective rites of mourning (no shaving, no weddings or celebrations) due to the tragedies to have befallen the Jewish people during this time period (plagues, pogroms, massacres). Agnon frames the turning point of the story – when the situation starts to improve -- in sarcastic theological terms: “With the passage of time, the Holy One Blessed Be He returned His head into the place from where it was removed, and He saw what had happened in His world.” In one of his most daring pieces of modernism, Agnon wrote a meditation on the Kaddish, the prayer recited by Jews when in mourning. The Kaddish has always been a peculiar theological concept, having the mourner praise and exalt God while weeping in grief for a departed loved one. In this Peticha L’Kadish (Introduction to the Kaddish), Agnon states: Therefore all brothers in the House of Israel, who are gathered here in mourning, let us turn our hearts towards our Father and Redeemer in Heaven, and let us pray for ourselves – and for Him, as it were, Yitkadal V’Yitkadash Shemei Rabba…etc., etc. 8

AN AGNON SOURCEBOOK
Agnon places the narrator as one who is eulogizing the dead of Israel after yet another war. Following his introduction to the Kaddish, the eulogizer begins to recite the Kaddish, a praise of God, and then continues by saying “etc., etc.,” as if to say – “you know the rest, you’ve heard it so many times, I am tired of reciting it.” There are many commentators and literary critics on Agnon’s works, but Israeli author Amos Oz is one of the rare few that dared explore Agnon’s theological ruminations. In his semiautobiographical A Tale of Love and Darkness, Oz devotes an entire chapter to Agnon, where he writes, “Agnon himself was an observant Jew, who kept the Sabbath and wore a skullcap. He was, literally a God-fearing man: in Hebrew, ‘fear’ and ‘faith’ are synonyms. There are corners in Agnon’s stories where, in an indirect, cleverly camouflaged way, the fear of God is portrayed as a terrible dread of God: Agnon believes in God and fears him, but he does not love him.” In The Silence of Heaven: Agnon’s Fear of God, a work which Oz devoted in its entirety to investigating Agnon’s theological soul searching, Oz writes in his introduction that Agnon’s heart was “tormented by theological doubts,” and that Agnon’s characters often treat their challenges in life as “religious issues – providing that the term ‘religious’ is broad enough to encompass doubt, heresy and bitter irony about Heaven.” Oz aptly captures Agnon’s tormented religious soul, and is one of the few commentators on Agnon who refrained from looking at Agnon’s “yarmulke and observance of mitzvoth” as a “mask.” Instead, Oz recognizes that it is possible for one to observe “God’s commandments” while simultaneously struggling with that same God. So what type of writer was S.Y. Agnon? Was he a “secular writer masked in religious garb?” Was he a “traditional Jewish writer with modernist tendencies and styles”? Emunah Yaron writes that in response to these sorts of questions, her father would respond that he is “An author of truth, who writes things as he sees them, without any ‘make-up or rouge’ camouflaging the face of things, without any décor trying to deter the eye from the core issues.” “For these very reasons” writes Yaron, “my father – who was a religiously observant Jew – refused to join the ‘Union of Religious Writers’ in Israel.” In the words of Amos Oz, “it is in this paradox, the tormented tension between one tenet and its opposite,” that we truly come to understand Agnon’s theological universe, that is, a world where faith and doubt were eternal roommates.

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David Levine

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AN AGNON SOURCEBOOK

S.Y. AGNON AS JEWISH PROVOCATEUR
by Rabbi Miriyam Glazer American Jewish University And if my town has been wiped out of the world, it remains alive in the poem that the poet wrote as a sign for my city. S.Y. Agnon, “The Sign” .Y. (“Shai”) Agnon is not an easy author to read. Most of his works have an “old fashioned” feel – his stories unfold in a leisurely fashion, as if the writer had all the time in the world and he demands that his reader does too. Some of his stories are so interwoven with allusions, they sound as if they really must be ancient rabbinic tales – ones, though, that seem a little “off,” that seem for some reason to have gone strangely awry. Most of all, however, Agnon’s stories are provocative. They ask us to think deeply about the Jewish past. They challenge us to consider, with sober, critical, seriousness, what “spirituality” really means. They raise difficult questions about the reality of the state of Israel – particularly in the light of the ancient ideal of Eretz Yisrael. In short, reading Agnon raises hard questions about what it means to be a Jew today and what it means to be a Jewish writer. Agnon & the Jewish Past Living during the most appalling upheavals of the 20th century – the First World War I and the Second, among them – Agnon had little sentiment for the realities of history. Indeed, his stories depict relentless waves of destruction, outbreaks of the cruelest violence, experiences of poverty and suffering – culminating in the ultimate destruction wrought by the Shoah. Along with countless other villages, his own native town Buczacz was erased. Reading Agnon’s stories thus often forces us to confront the anguish of these lost worlds, to confront a version of Jewish history painful to contemplate. Living lives or more or less comfort and relative security in contemporary California, how many of us really want to hear about the burdens of the past? Who wants to remember the terrible poverty and the endless massacres? As the most affluent and educated religious-ethnic minority in American life, is it even seemly of us to harp on our history as victims? Yet Agnon refuses to let us forget. “The Tale of the Menorah” describes the political vicissitudes of Buczacz, as the town is variously ruled by Poland, Austria, and Poland again and the Jews struggle to adapt: “For no one disobeys the orders of an army general; whoever does, disobeys at the risk of his life” (232), he explains. “At the Outset of the Day” begins, “After the enemy destroyed my home…” (370).

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“The Sign” opens with the phrase, “In the year when the news reached us that all the Jews in my town had been killed…” speaking of Europe; that phrase is followed by, “On the night when the Arabs destroyed my home,” speaking of Jerusalem, 1929. Whereas for American Jews, the 20th century witnessed the drama of the mass immigration of the “tired…poor…tempest-tossed” who moved within a few decades from peddling to prosperity, from discrimination to assimilation, for the Jews of most of the rest of the world the 20th century was one of displacement, horror, war and suffering, interrupted only by the miraculous establishment of the state of Israel. To this day, the many unmarked mass graves of Jews slaughtered in the Second World War are still being discovered throughout the Ukraine. One of the few ways we have to recuperate, to honor, to re-create, to memorialize the painful past, is through literature. As Agnon writes, “if my town has been wiped out of the world, it remains alive in the poem that the poet wrote as a sign for my city” (“The Sign”). Stories keep lost worlds alive. Reading Agnon is thus a way of understanding our people’s past, acknowledging the complexities of these lost worlds, allowing the spiritual, emotional, psychic, and political toll of this history to touch us, even if we ourselves have been otherwise spared. Agnon & Jewish Spirituality Agnon provokes us into having to think about Jewish history – but his work does a lot more than that. Many of the stories in the collection A Book that Was Lost also challenge us to think about what we mean when we talk about “spirituality.” I think it’s fair to say that we bandy about the word “spirituality” or at least “spiritual” pretty easily these days – walking along the beach at sunset, getting a great massage, experiencing a “revelation” -- all may be our idea of a “spiritual experience.” But Agnon’s stories ask complex, nuanced, and sometimes just plain hard questions about what being “spiritual” really is about – and what the relationship of spirituality is or ought to be to the rest of life. Stories like “Tale of the Scribe” and “That Tzaddik’s Etrog” encourage us to question spiritual or ritual devotion at the expense of family life. Other stories are so suffused with the glorious power and rhythms of the Jewish sacred year, as readers we can’t help but to ask ourselves whether we, too, feel them. “On Passover we can’t eat whatever we want,” writes Agnon, “on Sukkot we can’t eat wherever we want. But on Shavuot we can eat anything we want, wherever we want to eat it. The world is also glad and rejoices with us. The lids of the skies are as bright as the sun, and glory and beauty cover the earth” (“The Sign,” 385). When is the last time any of us felt that way on Shavuot? Agnon & Israel & Us Arriving in pre-state Israel during that mass immigration known as the “Second Aliyah,” Agnon befriended brilliant, intense, driven Jewish writers and idealists – but he also found himself deeply troubled by the relationship between the Diaspora he left and the new state he was dedicated to building. The story “The Book that was Lost” portrays the gulf Agnon felt between the eastern European past and the challenges of the new-state-to-be through the image of the old religious text that got lost in the mail between Buczacz and Jerusalem. What of the “old-time religion” of the past would survive the transition to a modern State? What should survive? Agnon’s portrayal of the cultural distance between the Diaspora and Israel should provoke us into questioning our own relationship to both. What is the distance between the ideal of a homeland-of-our-own and the modern state of Israel? What is the relationship between the dream and the reality, and what can we do – can we do anything – to help dream and reality

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grow closer? Do we still believe in the dream? As American Jews, do we honestly feel Israel to be our homeland? If so, why are we still here - don’t we want to “go home”? Richly interwoven with the religious and textual tradition, troubling the Jewish past, challenging notions of spirituality, wrestling with questions about the relationship of the Diaspora and Israel, Agnon’s fiction is profoundly Jewish. Indeed, it is so profoundly so, in the end reading Agnon may force us to ponder what we usually mean when we talk about “Jewish writing.” Usually, that term refers to “anything written by anybody (even nominally) Jewish.” But perhaps reading Agnon will encourage us to hold our Jewish writers to a “higher standard” – a standard that defines as Jewish writing only that which truly engages core questions of Jewish life. Those questions may be religious, cultural, spiritual, historical, political, or philosophical, but whatever they may be they must come out of, reflect, and seek to contribute to, the richness of Jewish life. To borrow a line from Agnon’s “Tzaddik’s Etrog,” contemporary Jewish literature that does that would truly continue to be “a story worth hearing twice”!

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HOLY LAND VS. HOMELAND: AGNON’S ISRAEL
by Rabbi Daniel Bouskila Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel

As a result of the historic catastrophe in which Titus of Rome destroyed Jerusalem and Israel was exiled from its land, I was born in one of the cities of the Exile. But always I regarded myself as one who was born in Jerusalem. S.Y. Agnon Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, December 10, 1966 rom the year 70 C.E., when Titus of Rome indeed destroyed Jerusalem and exiled Israel from its land, Jews have always longed and dreamt of returning to their Holy Land. Jewish liturgy is rich with prayers expressing the dream and hope to "Return to Zion". The Amidah, a lengthy silent meditation composed of 19 prayers (considered in Judaism the Prayer par excellence), recited thrice daily while standing in the direction of Jerusalem, contains these religious yearnings regarding Israel: • Sound the great Shofar of our freedom, set up the banner to gather our exiles, and bring us together from the four corners of the earth soon unto our own land. Blessed are You, Lord, who will gather in the dispersed of Your people Israel. Set Your dwelling again in the midst of Jerusalem Your city, and establish soon the throne of David. Build up Zion speedily in our days for all time. Blessed are You, Lord, who rebuilds Jerusalem. May our eyes witness Your loving return to Zion. Blessed are You, Lord, who will cause Your Holy Presence to return to Zion.

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These and many other prayers and poems, such as Judah Halevi’s "My heart is in the East and I am at the edge of the West" (written in Medieval Spain), helped create within every Jew a deeply spiritual connection to a land they had never visited. It also helped shape a fantasy about Israel within each Jew, a fantasy that depicted the land as paradise, a "Heavenly Garden of Eden on Earth." The Land of Israel was imagined as a perfect place, a spiritual remedy to the "woes of exile." Born in the small town of Buczacz, Poland, in 1888, S.Y. Agnon grew up in a traditional Orthodox community, deeply steeped in the prayers, poems and spiritual images of the Israel depicted in the prayer book. He was also born into a Jewish world that was in the throes of a national upheaval, namely the transition from a traditional Eastern European existence to Jewish

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secular Zionism with its intention to build a national Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel. It is this very polarity, the "imagined Israel" from the prayer book (Holy Land) versus the potential reality of a Jewish society living under Jewish political sovereignty in Israel (Homeland) that continuously shaped the depiction and experience of Israel in Agnon’s literature. For Agnon, the primary issue to be resolved in the Land of Israel was whether Israel would be the "abode of the spirit." Would it be possible to achieve in Israel spiritual as well as material liberation? Will this "New Israel" strike the balance between Holy Land and Homeland? To be sure, Agnon’s stories are filled with dreams, depictions and fantasies of the Holy Land version of Israel. His famous "Fable of the Goat" depicts Israel as a land with "lofty mountains, hills full of the choicest fruit, and a fountain of living waters that flowed down from the mountains" -- a virtual paradise on earth. Israel is also described as the natural spiritual abode of all Jews, so that the narrator concludes the story "On the Road" by proclaiming "I traveled by rail to the port, and from there I traveled by ship to the haven of my desire, the Land of Israel. Blessed be the Almighty who has restored me to my place." But beyond the fantasy of Israel as imagined by the exiled Jew sitting in the Diaspora, Agnon added a new take on the "imagined vs. real" Israel. Writing from within Israel, as a new "Israeli writer" transplanted from the Diaspora, Agnon now confronted the imagined vs. real Israel dilemma from within. A good example of this is the narrator’s reflection towards the end of the story "A Book That Was Lost": I spent a year in Jaffa before I settled in Jerusalem. In my own way I was persuaded that I was to be tested to see whether I was satisfied with Jaffa, so I was delayed there for a year until I went up to Jerusalem. Don’t be surprised to hear me say so, as I consider myself worthy of being tested. But as every man who does not live in the Land of Israel is put to the test to see whether he is worthy of settling in the Land of Israel, so every man in the Land of Israel is put to the test to see whether he is worthy of settling in Jerusalem. Within Israel, Jerusalem is symbolic of the "imagined Israel" from the prayer book, while Jaffa represents the New Israel being built by the secular Zionists. Anybody can live in Jaffa, but one must be "worthy of settling in Jerusalem." Jerusalem is the sacred, and Jaffa is the profane. This "Holy Land versus Homeland" tension from within Israel is explored in depth in one of Agnon’s masterpiece novels, Tmol Shilshom (Only Yesterday, recently translated into English by Barbara Harshav). “Like all of our brethren of the Second Aliyah, the bearers of our Salvation, Isaac Kumer left his country and his homeland and his city and ascended to the Land of Israel to build it from its destruction and to be rebuilt by it," opens the narrative voice in Tmol Shilshom, depicting in dramatic fashion Isaac Kumer’s departure from the Diaspora and aliyah to Israel as an act of Biblical proportions reminiscent of Abram’s first migration to Canaan. The narrator conveys Isaac’s Diaspora fantasy of Israel: A blessed dwelling place was his image of the whole Land of Israel and its inhabitants blessed by God. Its villages hidden in the shade of vineyards and olive groves, the fields

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enveloped in grains and the orchard trees crowned with fruit; the whole firmament is sky blue and all the houses are filled with rejoicing. Too fantastic even for the narrator, he is quick to point out that "A man of imagination was Isaac, what his heart desired, his imagination would conjure up for him." What happens to Isaac Kumer in Israel? Tmol Shilshom proceeds to tell a series of opposite encounters and polarized experiences. Isaac dreams of working the "land" of Israel in an agrarian settlement, but ends up as a house painter living in the city. A religious Jew who abandons his observance, he settles in Jaffa, the symbol of the "new and real Israel," yet when his Zionist dreams and fantasies are not realized or fulfilled there, he interprets this failure to mean that he has come to the wrong place in Israel. Only if he returns to living a religious lifestyle, and makes "true aliyah" to the holy city of Jerusalem, will he find the Israel of his dreams. In both Jaffa and Jerusalem, Isaac is met with disappointments. He goes to the Land of Israel to "build the land and be built by it," only to discover that Jewish landowners prefer cheap Arab labor to Jewish workers. He goes believing that that all who immigrate to Israel are brothers bound by a common purpose (Said Isaac: "What do I need relatives for, all the Children of Israel are comrades, especially in the Land of Israel"), only to discover how easy it is to be cheated and snubbed, and how lonely life in the new land can really be. He goes dreaming of the land "flowing with milk and honey," only to discover an inhospitable land that bakes him in the blazing sun and threatens disease at every turn. Both the idealized "New Jaffa" and the fantasized "Old Jerusalem" present Isaac with a series of letdowns and disappointments, shattering the myths of his dreams and fantasies. Agnon’s own personal identity crisis during the Second Aliyah is reflected in Isaac Kumer’s experiences. Agnon was an intellectual in a society that worshipped farmers, a writer in a culture founded on a dream of physical labor. Agnon’s son Hemdat tells the story that in 1943, his father needed his help in typing the manuscript of a large novel. Agnon was very particular about who could type his manuscripts, limiting this activity to his immediate family. With his wife ill and his daughter having just recently moved out of Jerusalem, this left Hemdat, who at the time was doing his military service in the Palmach, Israel’s elite pre-state infantry division. Agnon asked his son to request a leave from the Palmach to help his father type this large manuscript. Agnon felt that if the Palmach can grant leaves of absence to the sons of farmers in Kibbutzim and Moshavim during the harvest season, then it was entirely logical that the son of a writer can be granted a leave during the "harvest of a new piece of literature"! Agnon made his request through an official in Jerusalem, who in turn spoke to Yigal Allon, the Commanding Officer of the Palmach, who in turn spoke to Hemdat’s direct commander, a young Palmach officer named Yitzchak Rabin. Hemdat was granted thirty days leave, and spent sixteen hours a day at the typewriter. By the end of his leave, he presented to his father a fully typewritten edition of the manuscript. The name of the novel? Tmol Shilshom! (Only Yesterday) In typical Agnonic irony, the very story about how that novel came to be typewritten is itself a reflection of the novel’s plot and storyline. It is also a reflection of Agnon’s own life experiences in trying to find his place and identity in the fledgling Zionist society that came to be the modern State of Israel. For Israelis, S.Y. Agnon the person has become an icon. Israel’s first and only writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Israelis have canonized Agnon as a cultural hero of Zionism. His literature is studied in High School, his house in Jerusalem is a frequently visited museum, there are many schools that bear his name, and every city in Israel has a "Rechov Shai Agnon" (Shai Agnon 17

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Street). But perhaps the currency that bears his name and image tells the story of Agnon’s ambivalence towards Zionism. Agnon appears on the 50 Shekel bill in Israel. If one may ask why the 50 Shekel bill and not the 100 Shekel bill, the "Agnonic" answer may be that only fifty percent of his heart was in Israel, while the other half was in Eastern Europe, the place of his birth and upbringing. Agnon helped the state’s first chief Rabbis author the now famous "Prayer for the State of Israel." The words "Bless the State of Israel, the beginning of the flowering of our redemption," are his most famous contribution to this prayer. They tell the story of Agnon’s Israel – redemption has not yet come, but it is certainly now a work in progress.

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NOBEL BANQUET SPEECH
Stockholm, December 10, 1966

S.Y. Agnon

(Translated from Hebrew)

O

ur sages of blessed memory have said that we must not enjoy any pleasure in this world without reciting a blessing. If we eat any food, or drink any beverage, we must recite a blessing over them before and after. If we breathe the scent of goodly grass, the fragrance of spices, the aroma of good fruits, we pronounce a blessing over the pleasure. The same applies to the pleasures of sight: when we see the sun in the Great Cycle of the Zodiac in the month of Nissan, or the trees first bursting into blossom in the spring, or any fine, sturdy, and beautiful trees, we pronounce a blessing. And the same applies to the pleasures of the ear. Through you, dear sirs, one of the blessings concerned with hearing has come my way. It happened when the Swedish Chargé d'Affaires came and brought me the news that the Swedish Academy had bestowed the Nobel Prize upon me. Then I recited in full the blessing that is enjoined upon one that hears good tidings for himself or others: "Blessed be He, that is good and doeth good. "Good," in that the good God put it into the hearts of the sages of the illustrious Academy to bestow that great and esteemed Prize upon an author who writes in the sacred tongue; "that doeth good ", in that He favored me by causing them to choose me. And now that I have come so far, I will recite one blessing more, as enjoined upon him who beholds a monarch: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, Who hast given of Thy glory to a king of flesh and blood. Over you, too, distinguished sages of the Academy, I say the prescribed blessing: "Blessed be He, that has given of His wisdom to flesh and blood." It is said in the Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 23a): "In Jerusalem, the men of discrimination did not sit down to dine in company until they knew who their companions were to be;" so I will now tell you who am I, whom you have agreed to have at your table. As a result of the historic catastrophe in which Titus of Rome destroyed Jerusalem and Israel was exiled from its land, I was born in one of the cities of the Exile. But always I regarded myself as one who was born in Jerusalem. In a dream, in a vision of the night, I saw myself standing with my 19

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brother-Levites in the Holy Temple, singing with them the songs of David, King of Israel, melodies such as no ear has heard since the day our city was destroyed and its people went into exile. I suspect that the angels in charge of the Shrine of Music, fearful lest I sing in wakefulness what I had sung in dream, made me forget by day what I had sung at night; for if my brethren, the sons of my people, were to hear, they would be unable to bear their grief over the happiness they have lost. To console me for having prevented me from singing with my mouth, they enable me to compose songs in writing. I belong to the Tribe of Levi; my forebears and I are of the minstrels that were in the Temple, and there is a tradition in my father's family that we are of the lineage of the Prophet Samuel, whose name I bear. I was five years old when I wrote my first song. It was out of longing for my father that I wrote it. It happened that my father, of blessed memory, went away on business. I was overcome with longing for him and I made a song. After that I made many songs, but nothing has remained of them all. My father's house, where I left a roomful of writings, was burned down in the First World War and all I had left there was burned with it. The young artisans, tailors, and shoemakers, who used to sing my songs at their work, were killed in the First World War and of those who were not killed in the war, some were buried alive with their sisters in the pits they dug for themselves by order of the enemy, and most were burned in the crematories of Auschwitz with their sisters, who had adorned our town with their beauty and sung my songs with their sweet voices. The fate of the singers who, like my songs, went up in flame was also the fate of the books which I later wrote. All of them went up in flame to Heaven in a fire which broke out one night at my home in Bad Homburg as I lay ill in a hospital. Among the books that were burned was a large novel of some seven hundred pages, the first part of which the publisher had announced he was about to bring out. Together with this novel, called Eternal Life, was burned everything I had written since the day I had gone into exile from the Land of Israel, including a book I had written with Martin Buber as well as four thousand Hebrew books, most of which had come down to me from my forebears and some of which I had bought with money set aside for my daily bread. I said, "Since the day I had gone from the Land of Israel," but I have not yet related that I had dwelt in the Land of Israel. Of this I will now speak. At the age of nineteen and a half, I went to the Land of Israel to till its soil and live by the labor of my hands. As I did not find work, I sought my livelihood elsewhere. I was appointed Secretary of the Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) Society and Secretary of the Palestine Council - which was a kind of parliament-in-the-making and I was also the first Secretary of the voluntary Jewish Magistrate's Court. Through these offices it was my privilege to get to know almost every Jewish person, and those whom I did not come to know through these offices I came to know through love and a desire to know my brethren, the members of my people. It is almost certain that in those years there was not a man, woman, or infant in the Land of Israel whom I did not know. After all my possessions had been burned, God gave me the wisdom to return to Jerusalem. I returned to Jerusalem, and it is by virtue of Jerusalem that I have written all that God has put into my heart and into my pen. I have also written a book about the Giving of the Torah, and a book on the Days of Awe, and a book on the books of Israel that have been written since the day the Torah was given to Israel.

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Since my return to the Land of Israel, I have left it twice: once in connection with the printing of my books by the late Zalman Schocken, and once I travelled to Sweden and Norway. Their great poets had implanted love and admiration for their countries in my heart, and I decided to go and see them. Now I have come a third time, to receive your blessing, sages of the Academy. During the time I have dwelt in Jerusalem, I have written long stories and short ones. Some have been printed; most I still have in manuscript. I have already told how my first songs came out of longing for my father. The beginnings of my studies also came to me from my father, as well as from the Rabbinical Judge of our town. But they were preceded by three tutors under whom I studied, one after the other, from the time I was three and a half till I turned eight and a half. Who were my mentors in poetry and literature? That is a matter of opinion. Some see in my books the influences of authors whose names, in my ignorance, I have not even heard, while others see the influences of poets whose names I have heard but whose writings I have not read. And what is my opinion? From whom did I receive nurture? Not every man remembers the name of the cow which supplied him with each drop of milk he has drunk. But in order not to leave you totally in the dark, I will try to clarify from whom I received whatever I have received. First and foremost, there are the Sacred Scriptures, from which I learned how to combine letters. Then there are the Mishna and the Talmud and the Midrashim and Rashi's commentary on the Torah. After these come the Poskim - the later explicators of Talmudic Law - and our sacred poets and the medieval sages, led by our Master Rabbi Moses, son of Maimon, known as Maimonides, of blessed memory. When I first began to combine letters other than Hebrew, I read every book in German that came my way, and from these I certainly received according to the nature of my soul. As time is short, I shall rot compile a bibliography or mention any names. Why, then, did I list the Jewish books? Because it is they that gave me my foundations. And my heart tells me that they are responsible for my being honored with the Nobel Prize. There is another kind of influence, which I have received from every man, every woman, every child I have encountered along my way, both Jews and non-Jews. People's talk and the stories they tell have been engraved on my heart, and some of them have flown into my pen. It has been the same way with the spectacles of nature. The Dead Sea, which I used to see every morning at sunrise from the roof of my house, the Arnon Brook in which I used to bathe, the nights I used to spend with devout and pious men beside the Western Wall - nights which gave me eyes to see the land of the Holy One, Blessed be He-the Wall which He gave us, and the city in which He established His name. Lest I slight any creature, I must also mention the domestic animals, the beasts and birds from whom I have learned. Job said long ago (135:11): "Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, And maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven?" Some of what I have learned from them I have written in my books, but I fear that I have not learned as much as I should have, for when I hear a dog bark, or a bird twitter, or a cock crow, I do not know whether they are thanking me for all I have told of them, or calling me to account. Before I conclude my remarks, I will say one more thing. If I have praised myself too much, it is for

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your sake that I have done so, in order to reassure you for having cast your eyes on me. For myself, I am very small indeed in my own eyes. Never in all my life have I forgotten the Psalm (131:1) in which David said: "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me." If I am proud of anything, it is that I have been granted the privilege of living in the land which God promised our forefathers to give us, as it is written (Ezekiel 37:25): "And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children forever." Before concluding, I would say a brief prayer: He who giveth wisdom unto the wise and salvation unto kings, may He increase your wisdom beyond measure and exalt your sovereign. In his days and in ours may Judah be redeemed and Israel dwell in safety. May a redeemer come to Zion, may the earth be filled with knowledge and eternal joy for all who dwell therein, and may they enjoy much peace. May all this be God's will. Amen.

Prior to the two speeches, Ingvar Andersson of the Swedish Academy made the following comments: "Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Nelly Sachs - This year's literary Prize goes to you both with equal honor for a literary production which records Israel's vicissitudes in our time and passes on its message to the peoples of the world. Mr. Agnon - In your writing we meet once again the ancient unity between literature and science, as antiquity knew it. In one of your stories you say that some will no doubt read it as they read fairy tales, others will read it for edification. Your great chronicle of the Jewish people's spirit and life has therefore a manifold message. For the historian it is a precious source, for the philosopher an inspiration, for those who cannot live without literature it is a mine of never-failing riches. We honor in you a combination of tradition and prophecy, of saga and wisdom. Miss Sachs - About twenty years ago, through the Swedish poet Hjalmar Gullberg, I first learned of your fate and your work. Since then you have lived with us in Sweden and I could talk to you in our own language. But it is through your mother tongue that your work reflects a historical drama in which you have participated. Your lyrical and dramatic writing now belongs to the great laments of literature, but the feeling of mourning which inspired you is free from hate and lends sublimity to the suffering of man. We honor you today as the bearer of a message of solace to all those who despair of the fate of man. We honor you both this evening as the laurel-crowned heroes of intellectual creation and express our conviction that, in the words of Alfred Nobel, you have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind, and that you have given it clear-sightedness, wisdom, uplift, and beauty. A famous speech at a Nobel banquet - that of William Faulkner, held in this same hall sixteen years ago contained an idea which he developed with great intensity. It is suitable as a concluding quotation which points to the future: "I do not believe in the end of man." From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969 Available online, along with original Hebrew, at: nobelprize.org
Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1966

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The First Word: When the Nobel Meets the Sabbath
by Shira Leibowitz Schmidt, Dec. 8, 2005
Excerpted from an article about Israeli Prof. Robert Aumann accepting the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics.

[The annual ceremony for presenting the Nobel Prizes is held on December 10th, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death.] In 1966, December 10 fell on Saturday—Shabbat—presenting a conundrum for Orthodox Jew S.Y. Agnon, who informed His Majesty the King of Sweden that he would not be able to attend the ceremony to receive his prize for literature until the Sabbath ended. What are some of the challenges that arise when religiously observant Jews win the Nobel Prize? Agnon requested a room on the lowest floor of the hotel because he could not use the elevator on Shabbat. Agnon refused to attend the Saturday morning dress rehearsal for the ceremony; he walked to synagogue instead. He said that since the literature prize is awarded toward the end, he would watch how those who preceded him behaved, and do likewise. Back in 1966, a stretch limousine, motor running, awaited Agnon as soon as three stars appeared in the sky, signaling the Sabbath's end. Although the ceremony had started, Agnon took his time and prayed the evening ma'ariv service, made havdala marking the Sabbath's end, and lit four candles, since that year December 10th fell in mid-Hanukkah. The holiness of the Sabbath suspends time - that voracious monster incinerating every moment of our lives - and we abstain from making preparations for post-Sabbath activities. Thus Agnon would not even get dressed in his "tails" before havdala. Finally, his limousine rushed him across Stockholm with a siren-wailing motorcycle escor. Protocol was waived and he was allowed to sit next to the chauffeur so he could plug his electric shaver into the cigarette lighter and eliminate the Sabbath growth of beard. In his acceptance speech Agnon pronounced a blessing that few, if any, of the previous 130 Jewish Nobel prize winners uttered. Upon seeing a king of a non-Jewish nation, a Jew blesses God, saying, "Blessed is He Who has given of His glory to flesh and blood." (There are different opinions about the exact wording, depending on what type of monarch you meet.) Agnon pronounced another blessing, incumbent upon Jews when they see secular scholars: "Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has given of His knowledge to flesh and blood." Agnon was probably the only laureate to begin his acceptance speech with a lesson in Jewish law. "I recited in full the blessing that is enjoined upon one who hears good tidings for himself and others," Agnon said, recalling the moment when he was told he won the prize. "Blessed be He, Who is good and does good. 'Good' in that the good God put it into the hearts of the sages of the illustrious Academy to bestow that great and esteemed Prize upon an author who writes in the sacred Hebrew tongue." Copyright 1995- 2007 The Jerusalem Post 23

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A FINAL WORD

W

hat is your favorite holy site to visit in Jerusalem? Perhaps it’s the Kotel (Western Wall)? Or a beloved synagogue or minyan? Perhaps your favorite spot is a different kind of “holy place”—a museum or memorial, a hill with a majestic view of the Old City, a favorite park or café. For those who live in Yerushalayim, and those who visit her over and over again, the answers are probably as numerous as the stars in the heavens. Here’s my vote: The most memorable sacred place in Jerusalem is Bet Agnon, a charming house in Jerusalem’s Talpiyot neighborhood. There, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, the brilliant Israeli novelist, lived and wrote his novels and short stories. There we catch a glimpse of the milieu in which one extraordinary writer put pen to paper and produced such literary masterpieces. There is a poignant story told of the moment when Agnon learned that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His friends rushed to his home to offer their congratulations. Reporters and photographers crowded into his living room to interview the writer and to take his picture. The Prime Minister and the President of the State of Israel called to wish Agnon mazal tov. Heads of state, artists and writers from all over the world called or sent telegrams. At one point, a photographer asked if Agnon would sit at his desk and pretend to write something so that he could take a picture of him this way. The novelist complied and wrote a few words on a tablet. After the crowd left, someone looked at the piece of paper to see what he had written. Agnon had written five Hebrew words from U’n’taneh Tokef, the prayer we recite on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: Adam yesodo may-afar vesofo leh-afar. "Man's origin is dust and his end is dust." At the moment when he was surrounded by so much adulation, this was the simple truth that Shai Agnon felt he needed to keep in mind. Rabbi Mark S. Diamond

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APPENDIX: AN AGNON BIBLIOGRAPHY
S.Y. Agnon (1888-1970) published 24 volumes of novels, novellas and short stories. His first published story was And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight, in 1912. The Collected Works of S.Y. Agnon was published by Schocken in eight volumes between 1953 and 1962, and was updated with the 11 works that appeared posthumously. Some 85 of Agnon's works have been published in translation into 18 languages, including German, Yiddish, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Finnish, Persian, Turkish and Estonian. A complete bibliography is available from The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature (www.ithl.org.il). Translations into English The Bridal Canopy / rendered into English by I. M. Lask. – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1937. In the Heart of the Seas / translated from the Hebrew by I.M. Lask. – New York : Schocken Books, 1948. Betrothed; & Edo and Enam: Two Tales / translated by Walter Lever. – New York : Schocken, 1966. A Guest for the Night / translated from the Hebrew by Misha Louvish, edited by Naftali C. Brandwein and Allen Mandelbaum. – London : Gollancz, 1968. Twenty-One Stories / edited by Nahum N. Glatzer. – New York : Schocken, 1970. Selected Stories of S. Y. Agnon / edited with introd., interpretations, and vocabulary, by Samuel Leiter. – New York : Tarbuth Foundation, 1970. A Dwelling Place of My People: Sixteen Stories of the Chassidim / translated from the Hebrew by J. Weinberg and H. Russell. – Edinburgh : Scottish Academic Press, 1983. A Simple Story / translated and with an afterword by Hillel Halkin. – New York : Schocken, 1985. Shira / translated from the Hebrew by Zeva Shapiro; with an afterword by Robert Alter. – New York : Schocken, 1989. A Book That Was Lost and Other Stories / edited with introductions by Alan Mintz and Anne Golomb Hoffman. – New York : Schoken, 1995. Agnon's Alef bet : Poems / translated by Robert Friend ; illustrated by Arieh Zeldich. – Philadelphia : Jewish Publication Society, 1998. Only Yesterday / translated by Barbara Harshav. – Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 2000. 27

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Critical Studies (a selection) Martin, Werner, Samuel Josef Agnon: eine Bibliographie seiner Werke. – Hildesheim : Georg Olms Verlag, 1980. Shaked, Gershon, Shmuel Yosef Agnon: a Revolutionary Traditionalist / translated by Jeffrey M. Green. – New York : New York University Press, 1989. Ben-Dov, Nitza, Agnon's Art of Indirection: Uncovering Latent Content in the Fiction of S. Y. Agnon. – Leiden : Brill, 1993. Oz, Amos, The Silence of Heaven: Agnon's Fear of God / translated from the Hebrew by Barbara Harshaw. – Princeton, N.J. : Princeton Univ. Press, 2000. Hoshen, Dalia, "Midrash and the Writing of Agnon," The Review of Rabbinic Judaism, Volume 5, Number 3 (2002). Laor, Dan, "Agnon in Germany, 1912-1924: A Chapter of a Biography" AJS Review, Vol. 18, No. 1 (1993), pp. 75-93.

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for

A BOOK THAT WAS LOST AND OTHER STORIES by S.Y. AGNON

Dear One People, One Book Participant: Our tradition teaches that when even two people gather to study holy words, the presence of God dwells with them. We are pleased that so many of us will, over the course of the year, gather together to study words and ideas, learning from and with each other and our shared tradition. As we mark the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of medinat Yisrael (the state of Israel), we are honored to read A Book That Was Lost and Other Stories, a collection of stories by S. Y. Agnon, the acclaimed genius of modern Hebrew literature and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Agnon is a masterful maggid—a classic storyteller who weaves together Biblical and rabbinic sources, colorful images of the "old country," and vivid insights on daily life in Israel. The One People One Book series is designed for a variety of educational settings, including formal presentations; discussions in classes, book clubs and havurot; and traditional hevruta (partnered) learning. To assist students and teachers, the Board of Rabbis has developed this set of selfcontained lesson plans on selected stories from A Book That Was Lost and Other Stories. We hope that this collection will guide teachers and their students in understanding and appreciating the literary mastery of Shai Agnon. Rabbis Daniel Bouskila, Miriyam Glazer and Shawn Fields-Meyer, and rabbinical student Neil Blumofe, have prepared lesson plans on nine stories covering key aspects of Agnon's work and thought. To assist students and teachers, the Board of Rabbis has developed a companion booklet, "An Agnon Sourcebook," with essays, a brief biography, Agnon's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, articles and a bibliography. We encourage you to download this important resource from the Board of Rabbis web site, www.boardofrabbis.org/one-people-one-book. We would be remiss if we failed to note that reading any text in translation is a worthy endeavor, but cannot capture the full flavor of the original. If you are interested in finding out how to obtain Hebrew versions of the works of S.Y. Agnon, please contact your synagogue or the Board of Rabbis (323-761-8600, boardofrabbis@jewishla.org). Rabbis Miriyam Glazer and Daniel Bouskila serve as the 2007-08 co-chairs of the One People, One Book program and we are indebted to them for their devoted leadership. We thank as well committee members Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer and Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh. We also express our deep appreciation to Jonathan Freund, Board of Rabbis Program Director, and Cookie Olshein, Board of Rabbis rabbinic intern, for their invaluable contributions to One People, One Book. We are delighted that you have decided to join us on this journey of learning. Now, in the words of the great sage Rabbi Hillel: The rest is commentary. Go and learn! L'shalom, Rabbi Mark S. Diamond Executive Vice President

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The Board of Rabbis of Southern California gratefully acknowledges these Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist & Reform congregations participating in the interdenominational Jewish learning of ONE PEOPLE ONE BOOK 5768

Adat Ari El Beth Chayim Chadashim Beth Shir Sholom B'nai David-Judea Congregation Kol Ami Congregation Tikvat Jacob IKAR Kehillat Israel Makom Ohr Shalom Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel Temple Aliyah Temple Beth Am Temple Beth Hillel Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Temple Israel of Hollywood Temple Kol Tikvah Temple Ramat Zion University Synagogue Westwood Village Synagogue

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How to Use these Lesson Plans These lesson plans cover the following nine stories from A Book That Was Lost and Other Stories by S.Y. Agnon. Agunot The Kerchief A Book That Was Lost The Sense of Smell From Lodging to Lodging The Tale of the Scribe The Fable of the Goat The Tale of the Menorah At the Outset of the Day Note that all page numbers and translations used within these plans come from the 1995 Shocken Edition, edited by Alan Mintz and Anne Golomb Hoffman. These lessons are designed to be used by a teacher or group facilitator in preparing a class or group study session. They may also be used by small groups without a leader, such as hevrutot, or others. While most of the lesson plans contain a summary of the story they focus on, these plans are not intended to substitute for a close reading of the story itself. They are designed to help a teacher stimulate discussion that fosters understanding and appreciation for Agnon's timeless and intricate themes relating to Judaism, the Jewish people, and Israel. For essays and additional material on Agnon and his work, please see the Board of Rabbis of Southern California's "An Agnon Sourcebook," also available for download from our website at boardofrabbis/one-people-onebook

with Cookie Lea Olshein

Edited by Jonathan Freund

AGUNOT by S.Y. Agnon
A Guide for Discussion by Rabbi Daniel Bouskila Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel

SUMMARY & BACKGROUND The opening section of the story "Agunot" is written in classic Midrashic style, and serves as a symbolic and metaphorical introduction to the plot that ensues. We are told that "A thread of grace is spun and drawn out of the deeds of Israel, and the Holy One, blessed be He, in His glory, sits and weaves – strand on strand – a tallit all grace and all mercy, for the Congregation Israel to deck herself in." God weaves a prayer shawl whose threads and materials are composed of the "deeds of Israel," and this prayer shawl is used to wrap the "Congregation Israel" (The Jewish People) within it. If the "deeds of Israel" are "neither sullied nor stained," then the tallit will indeed be one of "all grace and all mercy." But if something goes wrong with the "deeds of Israel," that is, if something disturbs the "grace" and "snaps a thread in the loom," then the prayer shawl is damaged, and can even be torn into shreds. As the midrashic opening comes to a close, the "deeds of Israel" are framed in terms of love. From deeds of wholesome and fulfilled love, God weaves a tallit that is "all grace and all mercy." But should something in love go wrong, creating a situation where one is "afflicted with love," then, indeed, "this affliction of love leads to the darkest melancholy," snapping a thread and hence damaging the tallit. This metaphor is creatively positioned as the introduction to Agnon's "signature story," the story from which, in 1908 in Palestine, the young Shmuel Yosef Czazkes took his pen name "Agnon." For as its title indicates, this is indeed a story about "Agunot," except Agnon has transformed a legal term (Agunah) from Jewish Law into an emotional state of being. In Jewish Law, an "Agunah" is a married woman whose husband is missing (either in war or other situations of distance where he may be presumed to be dead). With his whereabouts not known, the woman becomes legally "anchored" (the term "Agunah" comes from the Hebrew word "Ogen," which means "anchor"). She cannot be re-married until she is granted a divorce by her husband, yet he is not here to grant her that divorce. This means that the Agunah is in a state of limbo; she is an indeterminate figure, stuck between two worlds. In this story, Agnon transforms the legal Agunah into an emotional Agunah, depicting multiple examples of disembodied souls doomed to be tragically anchored to that which they desire but apparently cannot obtain. The actual plot, set in the "Holy Land," tells the story of a wealthy man, Sire Ahiezer, who comes to Jerusalem to help rebuild the city. Ahiezer had only one daughter, Dina, and when it came time to marry her off, Ahiezer slights the reputation of Jerusalem by arranging a match with Ezekiel, a brilliant young Talmudic scholar from Poland. To honor his future son-in-law, Ahiezer set out to build an academy where Ezekiel could teach, and next to it a synagogue where he could pray. For the special task of building a splendid Torah ark for the synagogue, Ahiezer hires the gifted craftsman Ben-Uri. Ben-Uri is a devoted artist, and he devotes all of his energies towards his sacred/artistic task of building the Torah ark. While working on the ark, Ben-Uri begins to sing, and Dina, Ezekiel's intended, is attracted to him. But Ben-Uri ignores Dina, instead devoting all of his attention and passion to his work of art. Agunot - 1

Ben-Uri completes the ark, setting it by a window. While Ben-Uri sleeps in a garden at night, Dina is curious as to why she no longer hears Ben-Uri's singing. Dressed in her nightgown, she enters his workroom, only to discover the completed ark situated by the window. While studying the intricate beauty and detail in the ark in which Ben-Uri had invested his soul, Dina is overtaken by a sudden devilish compulsion, and in a fit of jealous rage, she pushes the ark through the window. Upon discovering the ark in the morning, the enraged men of the community accuse Ben-Uri, and the rabbi orders the desecrated ark be placed in the woodshed, replacing it with a much simpler ark. Ben-Uri disappears from Jerusalem. In the meanwhile, Ezekiel arrives to Jerusalem, and he exceeds all expectations. He was a handsome, brilliant and accomplished Talmudist. Feeling overwhelmed with guilt before her arranged marriage to Ezekiel, Dina confesses to the rabbi that it was she who destroyed Ben-Uri's ark. The rabbi's response is that her sin was an accident, and that Ben-Uri's ark should now be placed in Ezekiel's synagogue. Yet Ben-Uri's ark mysteriously disappeared, never to be found again. Though the marriage between Ezekiel and Dina was performed as planned, it was never consummated; the two sat in opposite corners of their bedroom, dreaming of different worlds. Dina dreamed of Ben-Uri and his ark, both now mysteriously gone from Jerusalem. Ezekiel thinks of Freidele, the servant girl who managed his father's household after his mother's death. Ezekiel also thinks of the great Talmudic academies of Poland, for he was never quite able to spiritually adjust to Jerusalem. Having failed in both his marriage and in his teaching of Torah, Ezekiel divorces Dina and leaves Jerusalem to return to Poland. After closing both the academy and the synagogue, Ahiezer leaves with his daughter Dina. On the same night that Ezekiel and Dina are divorced, the rabbi of Jerusalem, the same rabbi to whom Dina confessed before her wedding, and the same rabbi who performed both the wedding ceremony and the divorce proceedings between Ezekiel and Dina, has a terrifying dream. The holy spirit of God stood before him dressed like a woman in mourning, "nodding mournfully at him." In contemplating the meaning of his dream, the rabbi receives Divine Providence, and "he beheld with eyes of spirit the souls of those bereaved of their beloved in their lifetime groping dismally in the world for their mates." Amongst these souls, the rabbi suddenly sees Ben-Uri, who berates the rabbi for exiling him from Jerusalem. The rabbi packs a bag and tells his wife "My daughter, seek not after me in my going forth, for the doom of exile has been levied upon me, to redeem the forsaken in love (L'taken Agunot)." The rabbi leaves Jerusalem and never returns. The story concludes on a mystical note, speculating as to the whereabouts of the rabbi, and "of his sojourning in the world of confusion." There are "sightings" of the rabbi all over the world, and little children claim to see him in the Holy Land, "peering into their eyes." But nobody really knows where the rabbi is; this mysterious secret is kept by God. SUGGESTED THEMES Disharmonious relationships. This is the main theme of the story, borne out of mismatched people or circumstances. In this story we find: Disharmony between couples resulting from arranged marriages (Ezekiel and Dina). Longing for a loved one while in a forced relationship (Ezekiel longs for Freidele, and also longs for the Talmudic academies of Poland; Dina longs for Ben-Uri). Agunot - 2

The tension between art and life (Dina obsesses over Ben-Uri, while BenUri obsesses over his art). The Symbolism of Names. The very names used in the story are symbolic of the plight of the characters: Ben-Uri: from the Biblical Bezalzel Ben-Uri, the artist/architect of God's Tabernacle. Ezekiel: from the Biblical Ezekiel, the prophet of the exile. Dina: from the Biblical Dina, a woman whose sole identity is that of a raped woman. Freidele: the archetype of the exile, hence her Yiddish name. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Discuss the symbolism of Shmuel Yosef Czaskes changing his name to "Agnon." Is this story a commentary on his own life, and an expression of his identity? Was he an "Agnonic Agunah" throughout his life, both in terms of his relationship with his wife, as well as with his relationship to life in Israel? Was he "trapped between different worlds, belonging to neither"? 2. From all of the characters who are "Agunot" of one type or another in the story, only one – the rabbi's wife at the end of the story – is an "agunah" as originally defined by Jewish law. Discuss the symbolism of this ironic ending. 3. Why is the rabbi "doomed to exile"? What has he done to deserve this? 4. Discuss Ezekiel's longing for the Talmudic academies of Poland in the context of the new Zionist pioneers coming to Palestine from Europe. Did all of the "pioneers" leave Europe of their own free will? Or did circumstances (as opposed to ideology) bring them to the "Promised Land"? 5. In the "art vs. life" motif expressed in Ben-Uri's relationship to the ark, one can find a hint to the obsessive artist. Discuss the balance, or lack thereof, that often exists between "personal life" vs. "professional life." 6. "Our sages of blessed memory said that when a man puts his first wife away from him, the very altars weep, but here [with Ezekiel and Dina] the altars had dropped tears even as he took her to wife" (p. 46) Discuss Agnon's commentary to Jewish laws, customs and social norms as expressed through this modernist re-reading of a traditional Midrash. 7. The rabbi left in order to "redeem the forsaken in love" – L'taken Agunot. Discuss how you would "repair" each of the Agunot in this story. Agunot - 3

THE KERCHIEF by S.Y. Agnon
A Guide for Discussion by Neil Blumofe Rabbinical Student INTRODUCTION In The Kerchief, we see the boy as he steps through a gateway – when he begins to learn to merge his childish thinking with the responsibilities of existing in the world. As he lies in his father's bed and dreams of the Messiah, he incorporates the "magical realism" of his youth and applies it to the performance of mitzvot. He is growing up – his voice is amplified as the voices of his parents are decreased – his parents are in relief, moving to the background as his actual identity, his wants and ideas move to the foreground.

I.

SUMMARY OF THE STORY

LEADER: Ask if someone can tell the story. Let others chime in with as many details as they can. Try, as a group, to recap the story as much as possible. A white board or large Post-Its might be useful. This should be fun (though challenging) to deconstruct. Summary of the Story. The narrator writes of his father, who travels for a week each year, to the Lashkowitz fair. The narrator's mother, made anxious by her husband's absence, is consequently overcome with sadness. While the father was gone, the boy would sleep in his father's bed and meditate on the possibility of the coming of the Messiah, who, having sat with beggars, was instantly ready to be recognized as King and Redeemer. According to the boy, in the days that the Messiah would be revealed, the narrator's family would not know distance from each other – rather than traveling and the business of schoolwork, the family would be together, walking in the Courts of God. The boy would keep track of the days of his father's absence by tying a new knot in his fringes (tsitsit), upon awaking each morning. The scene described when the father would return from the fair is arrestingly beautiful. A boy's dream for his family, a halo of light that embraces the children of the family – a togetherness precious and esteemed, from generation to generation. The gifts that the father would bring for his family were appreciated but transitory, disappearing and lost after a while. Beyond his satisfaction of his treasures, the narrator is quite taken by a kerchief, given by his father to his mother. The mother wears the kerchief on Shabbat and Festivals, and on the day of the boy's Bar Mitzvah, ties it in pristine condition around the boy's neck, as an emblem of honor. On the same day as the celebration of the Bar Mitzvah, a beggar comes to the town, shunned by all who meet him. The boy, on his return home from the House of Study, and moved by his encounter with the beggar, unknots the special kerchief from around his neck and gives it to the vagabond, who uses it to wind around his sores. The boy returns home and is instantly reassured by his mother, that far from The Kerchief - 1

meriting a scolding for giving away her kerchief, he is warmed and cheered by her pleasing love. In that moment and beyond the lives of his parents, the dreams that he dreamt about the depths and majesty of the loving and enduring embrace of his family have been powerfully realized.

II.

ISSUES AND THEMES

1. The Significance of The Bar Mitzvah at Age 13. The number 13 is significant in Jewish tradition – it is a figure that marks a certain maturity, a signpost of a child's development -- it is representative of the attributes of God, as traditionally understood (cf. Exodus 34:6-7) and further, it is the number according to R. Ishmael, as delineating the steps and levels of hermeneutics of Talmud and Rabbinic study. There are thirteen principles of faith, as well, according to the Jewish philosopher Maimonides, (cf. the hymn, Yigdal). In this story, the boy seems to complete his parents with his actions, drawing in the lines that are outlined for him, as one would finish a written Torah. The scarf takes a central and transforming place in the boy's consciousness. This is an object that links his father and his mother, and on his Bar Mitzvah day, as he gives it to the beggar, the boy himself becomes a figure of Elijah – executing a compassionate act that can bring a redemptive future. This boy embodies both the highest aspirations of human teachings and all of the Godly aspects (middot) – a paragon of what it means to meet one's Bar or Bat Mitzvah with conscious development and growth. He represents the best of Jewish tradition – Midrash and lore, grounded by secure traditions and supportive family. The Torah meets the Talmud (R. Ishmael) which in turn, meets scientific inquiry (Maimonides) and in the end, an individual's character is made stronger by all of it. This is a day of creation. What is the power of celebrating a Bar or Bat Mitzvah? What is the importance of marking time – of delighting in lifecycle events? How can this be done in a Jewish way? What is the difference, if any, between sacred and ordinary time? How is this reflected in the story? Agnon's story, The Kerchief, was written in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of Gershom Schocken the son of Agnon's patron, Salman Schocken. Is this story an appropriate gift? 2. The Value of Objects in Our Lives

We are the products of our upbringing and our environment – we are imperfect. As the boy lies in his own bed (not his father's), he thinks about his father coming home and subverts the tsitsit that he is wearing. Rather than the knots representing mitzvot, he ties them to count the days that his father has been absent. In his night visions, he affixes his ritual garment to a bird, which flies him to Rome where he lands on a treacherous mountain – only to be rescued by his father home again, wrapping him in his tallit. The The Kerchief - 2

well-used siddur also, was affected by the ravages of time, as it became torn and dogeared scraps. What value is there in acquiring ritual objects and utilizing family heirlooms? What do you make of the boy tying knots in his tsitsit to keep track of the days that his father is gone – what does this tell us about sacred objects? Why does the narrator give his mother's kerchief to the beggar? Are the beggar and the Messiah the same? 3. Applying the Story to Our Modern Lives

One may read The Kerchief as the boy telling his story later, when both of his parents are deceased. Now, as a man who has experienced loss, his memory expands as he sings his love song to his childhood and the preciousness of tradition. His lessons are sweet and in a world, where all inevitably succumbs, existing in its temporariness, his tale is a forthright legacy to his children, who may follow. Consider the absent father – how do our own business trips and extended absences impact our families? Why does the mother get so upset when the father is at the fair? What do you make of the premonition – when she accurately sees her husband in danger? How is this story a meditation on identity and belonging – to a family, a culture or a tradition? Is the boy, in his action, a figure for redemption?

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A BOOK THAT WAS LOST by S.Y. Agnon
A Guide for Discussion by Rabbi Miriyam Glazer American Jewish University
I. SUMMARY OF THE STORY

LEADER (Optional): Ask if someone can tell the story. Let others chime in with as many details as they can. Try, as a group, to recap the story as much as possible. A white board or large Post-Its might be useful. This should be fun (though challenging) to deconstruct. Summary of the Story. In the attic of his synagogue in Buczacz, where worn-out sacred books were stored, a poor young man discovers a long-abandoned manuscript by Shmaria, the rabbi who had served as a rabbinical judge (dayan) in this small eastern European town four or five generations before. And what is the manuscript? It's an unnamed commentary on the Magen Avraham, itself a dense, difficult commentary on one of the sections of the 16th century code of Jewish law called the Shulhan Arukh ("The Set Table") by Joseph Karo (1488-1575). In case that doesn't sound obscure enough, the story goes on to tell us that Rabbi Shmaria had given up his plan to have his manuscript bound into book form because he had come upon someone else's commentary on that commentary on that code. Despite the 12 years he had poured into explicating every nuance of the Magen Avraham, he had decided that, in light of the other commentary-on-the-commentary, there was now "no need" for his work. When the young man discovers Shmaria's manuscript, though, he learns that in fact Rabbi Shmaria had been too quick to silence his own voice. Scholars who read the manuscript now reassure him that Shmaria really had had meaningful points to make. Depriving himself of lunch for months in order to save money for postage, he mails the manuscript to the new library being established in Jerusalem, the Ginzei Yosef, precursor to the Jewish National and University Library. But years later, when he himself makes aliyah and visits the library, he discovers that the book he sent from Buczacz is no where to be found. Somewhere on the journey between Buczacz and Palestine, the old rabbinic commentary seems to have forever disappeared. "What a pity," says the last line of the story with devastating understatement, "the book was lost." [NB: It is understanding just what is so devastating about that last line that can inform a whole session about the story.] II. ISSUES AND THEMES FOR DISCUSSION The story raises both profoundly human and specifically Jewish issues and themes. Following the summary exercise above, a discussion of "A Book That Was Lost" might focus on any one or more of the following: 1. What does it mean to have a code that explains "The Path of Life"? What is a "code for living"? What does it mean to want to pass on that code from generation to generation?

A Book That Was Lost - 1

What are the sources for the codes we truly live by? See the end of this lesson for a commentary on this theme evoked by a reading of "A Book That Was Lost." * 2. What does it mean to have an "original" voice? To trust your voice? Rabbi Shmaria silences himself when he discovers the Mahazit Hashekel, with the result that his commentary is lost forever. Anthropologist Ruth Behar says the story "is about the horror of self-erasure," about not believing that the stories one has to tell are worth telling. What is your response? Has anyone here silenced their own creative voices because they believed they have nothing "clever" or "new" to say? Is there one story about your own "Path of Life" (an experience, personal belief, or idea) that you want to pass on, that you would like others to hear? 3. How do we bridge the Diaspora and Israel? What has been "lost" en route to Israel? What do you make of the young man who, in addressing his manuscript, remarks, "I added the name of the country, Palestine, and not the Land of Israel, in memory of the destruction of the Temple" (p131)? Does the story suggest that the holy efforts of the past could never reach a Jerusalem still in exile from being the capital of the redeemed Land of Israel? What has been transported between the Diaspora and Israel, good and not-so-good? What we might wish to see transported? What of the past have we American Jews incorporated into our present? What precious "books" – what learning, knowledge, wisdom -- of the past have we lost? 4. The Strange History of Jewish Codes (An Advanced Discussion) "A Book that was Lost" can also serve as a launching pad for a discussion of the strange history of Jewish law codes since the Mishnah, about 220 CE (see A Living Tree: The Roots and Growth of Jewish Law by Elliot Dorff and Arthur Rosett). There was, for example, the brilliantly comprehensive 12th century Mishneh Torah of Maimonides – rejected by one rabbi as a "product of overweening conceit" because, unlike those who came before him, Maimonides provided no "footnotes" – no evidence for his decisions -- and thus essentially turned the complexities of the Jewish legal tradition into a book of rules. Centuries later, the Shulhan Arukh, which as Karo wrote it included the practices of Sephardic Jewry only, became the definitive code only because of historical coincidence: the additional material added to it by Ashkenazi Rabbi Moses Isserles, who had been working on his own book when Karo's appeared. The Magen Avraham, a commentary on Karo's work, was written by Abraham Gombiner, in the 17th century, and the commentary on that, the Mahazit Hashekel, in the 18th. • How are we to understand this Jewish tradition of code-commenting?

A Book That Was Lost - 2

• • • •

Could we take just one behavior described in the Shulhan Arukh and follow its evolution through these commentaries? Should we depend on these codes, rather than study the original sources ourselves? What are the dangers of following a code, and what are the dangers of not following a code? Is it better for a judge to "act only according to what he sees with his own eyes" (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Batra 131a) or to rely on legal precedent only?

From the meaning of "codes" in our own lives and a searching out of the real codes we live by or wish we could only find; to a focus on the "books" we ourselves may have set aside out of a sense that, like Shmaria, we do not trust in our own voices; to a probing of the bridges both in our own lives and in the life of the Jewish people between the past and the present, discussing "A Book That Was Lost" brims with possibilities. May the insights expressed and heard in that discussion be the first step toward reconstituting the too-long lost book.

*

Professor Alan Block, University of Wisconsin-Stout, on reading "A Book That Was Lost": We all, I think, choose to live according to a variety of explicit and implicit codes [which] regulate our behavior and thought even as they influence our thought and behavior…Several codes are elaborately, even eloquently, written…the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Ten Commandments, Brown vs. the Board of Education, Emily Post's etiquette…They mean to define order…The larger issues that the codes address and upon which they are based – like what kind of society do we mean to produce, and white kind of people do we mean to be – are often relatively obvious….But where is the code that determines the bedtime routines that ought to function in my household? Where are the rules to establish on which needs to require baths, or how large a "No, thank you" portion must be to be counted as such?...I want to find some commentary to help me on my muddled way…Somewhere out there is the book that was lost which, if I could find, would elaborate some of the more obscure commentary on the significant codes in my life and provide me, perhaps, with answers for some of the more difficult questions my living has raised. Somewhere out there in the vast library of the world rests the book that was lost awaiting my reading…The book that changed my life is the book that was lost – the book for which I continue to search. (from The Book that Changed My Life, or What I Didn't Read on My Summer Vacation)

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THE SENSE OF SMELL by S.Y. Agnon
A Guide for Discussion by Rabbi Miriyam Glazer American Jewish University INTRODUCTION "The Sense of Smell" is, at one and the same time, a sort of sweet, evocative, fantasy of literary one-upsmanship; a serious claim about what Jewish literature should be, and, finally, a lovely Sukkoth story about the beauty and power of the tradition of ushpizin, holy guests who visit the sukkah. It asks us today, as readers, to really ponder the place of language and literature in our lives – and the gift of the Hebrew language in particular. How would our own lives be enriched by delving into the treasures of our tradition – the Torah, the psalms, the prayers? Indirectly, Agnon's story can also lead us into a lively discussion of the sensory richness of Jewish ritual, an aspect of our tradition we all too often overlook.
I. SUMMARY OF THE STORY

LEADER (Optional): Ask if someone can tell the story. Let others chime in with as many details as they can. Try, as a group, to recap the story as much as possible. A white board or large Post-Its might be useful. This should be fun (though challenging) to deconstruct. Summary of the Story. The story begins with a paean to the holiness of the Hebrew language. It goes on to critique Agnon's contemporaries for the "mess" they make when they try to write in Hebrew, claiming that their poor Hebrew is a result of putting "worldly matters first and words of Torah second. If they would make Torah their basis, the Torah would come to their aid," says the narrator (p140). And the story goes on to illustrate just that. To begin with, the narrator explains the source of his own writing, insisting upon his own profound devotion to the sacred literature of the past and his commitment as a writer to serving the call of the spirit and the call of tradition "like one exiled from his father's palace who makes himself a little hut and sits there telling of the glory of his father's house" (p141) That metaphoric "little hut" cleverly begins to play a more vital role in our story, though. For, switching gears, the narrator relates a conflict he had with a Hebrew grammarian – presumably, one of those who put "worldly matters first." The grammarian accuses him of misusing the verb "smell" – he argues that you can't say, "the sukkah smells" because only a person can "smell." (When you consider it, "Smell" – in Hebrew just as in English – really is a strange sort of word: after all, we use it to mean both "has an odor" as well as "detecting an odor," as in "I smell a rat".) Worried that he has misused his beloved Hebrew language, the narrator consults scholars – but no one can give him an answer based on anything more than their own opinion. He is about to give up when the actual aroma of the sukkah –an actual "little hut," and undoubtedly the source of the initial image – rises up before him "until I really saw that it was smelling. I left the words as they were" (p142). And then the "magic" happens. A serious of coincidences lead him to dream of Rabbi Jacob of Lissa (1760-1832), author of the prayer book A Way of Life, and a great opponent of the maskilim, those who had called for Jews to "put worldly matters first" – to master secular learning. Our narrator gets out of bed, walks over to his bookcase, and in his copy of A Way of Life discovers a marker pointing him to a line in Rabbi Jacob's prayer book: "One uses lots of flowers that smell sweet to make the holiday joyous" (p144). No longer wanting to sleep, the The Sense of Smell - 1

narrator opens the book of Psalms, and comes upon psalm 45, which academics may regard as a magnificent royal wedding song, but in the narrator's view is "a Song of Love…a song in praise of the sages' disciples" (p144). The lines he quotes from the psalm echoes what earlier he had described as his own mission as a writer: "My heart overflows with a goodly matter…my tongue is the pen of a ready scribe." Bewildered by the psalm's line "Myrrh and aloes and cassia are all thy garments," he turns for an explanation to the medieval sage Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhak) – and lo and behold, not only does Rashi's explanation support the narrator's own earlier use of the verb "smell," but it does double duty – it serves as a "got'cha" retort to the grammarian who provoked this story to begin with. For Rashi has written, "All thy garments smell like fragrant spices. And its meaning is that all your betrayals and foul deeds will be forgiven and will smell sweet before Me." And the narrator adds, "My mind was eased, like a person smelling flowers that smell." III. ISSUES AND THEMES 1. What is it to be a Jewish writer? "The Sense of Smell," written before the establishment of the state of Israel, challenges readers with its claim about the spiritual obligations of a true Jewish writer, based on the image of the Jewish people still suffering the conditions of exile. a. Does the fact that we now have a state make a difference? Can we still claim to be in exile? b. Are Jewish writers – Hebrew or English – under any spiritual, moral, or cultural obligation today? What do the Jewish writers we know of reveal about the Jewish sensibility and condition today? c. Imagine being a writer: what stories would each of us tell if we saw ourselves as "one exiled from his father's palace who makes himself a little hut and sits there telling of the glory of his father's house"? 2. The Power of the Hebrew language: what's lost in translation? To be a translator from one language to another is to know full well that translation is a true impossibility: the best we can do is to convey a sense of an original, like the sweet aroma that arises from a flower-laden sukkah or from a fresh etrog. Indeed, Agnon's image of making oneself a little hut in which to tell of the glory of the palace also vividly describes the relationship of a translation to the original. a. We can have a rich discussion about the very power of the Hebrew language by choosing a single psalm – perhaps even psalm 45, cited with such love in the story – and really probing some of the rich associations, confusions, and questions the original Hebrew raises, and how various translations seek to resolve them (compare, for example, the JPS, King James, New Oxford Annotated Bible, and new Robert Alter translations). 3. "The sukkah smells…." a. What Jewish rituals involve smells, or fragrance? b. What other parts of Judaism and Jewish tradition involve the senses? The Sense of Smell - 2

i. Possible responses: fresh challah on Friday night; the spices of Havdallah; the etrog we carry on Sukkoth; latkes or sufganiot on Hanukkah; the fragrant roses and greenery on Shavuot; the shofar; Shabbat candles; the lights of the Hanukkiyah; the wine we bless for so many ritual occasions. c. OPTIONAL: i. Invite your group to "walk through the Jewish year," from beginning to end, noting how the various senses are stimulated or celebrated. ii. Start five separate lists, one for each sense, and list examples of how Judaism involves each sense. 4. The People of the Body? We often focus on our Jewish tradition as either an intellectual or spiritual one. Based on the preceding discussion of Agnon's "The Sense of Smell"… a. What are the ways in which Judaism celebrates the human body as a divine gift? b. In what ways can we unify mind, body and spirit? Are they ever really disconnected?

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FROM LODGING TO LODGING by S.Y. Agnon A Guide for Discussion
by Rabbi Miriyam Glazer American Jewish University

INTRODUCTION The significance of the story "From Lodging to Lodging" deepens when we recall that Shmuel Yosef Czaczes – the man who became Shmuel (Shai) Agnon - first emigrated to Palestine in 1908, during the "Second Aliyah," the second wave of mass immigration to Palestine which lasted from 1904 to the outbreak of the First World War. This second wave also included thousands of eastern European Jews who came not because they were idealists or even necessarily Zionists, but because riots, pogroms, and desperate poverty drove them there (and going to Palestine was cheaper than going to America). A newspaper commented, "People are arriving without money, without job qualifications, without knowledge…poor refugees wander through Jaffa like shadows…" 1 One Zionist leader, described the immigrants as "poor, ragged, miserable people with tattered bundles" 2 Thus, the poor, neglected, diseased young child depicted in "From Lodging to Lodging," whatever symbolic role he may play, may also have been a common sight for our author. STORY SUMMARY The story opens with a description of how ill the narrator has been all winter, and how, when the spring comes, though feeling better, he decides to move to Tel Aviv in the hope that the sea air will restore him to good health. These motifs of illness vs. good health resonate throughout the story. The lodgings he rents in Tel Aviv are so near the central bus station, the noise keeps him awake at night and, in turn, the lack of sleep makes him weary all day, so much so that he can't really take advantage of being close to the sea. Intensifying the images of illness, we learn that the landlord has a child -- a "meeting ground for all kinds of ailments" -- who becomes very attached to the narrator. Neglected by his mother (a "do-gooder" concerned with others rather than with her own son), the child left to "lie around on the doorstep of the house and lick at dirt or scrape plaster from the wall and eat it" (p149). Indeed, Agnon makes the child seem increasingly pitiful: he cries and groans all night, he sticks his fingernails into the narrator's eyes, and though "flies and mosquitoes crawled over his sores he was too lethargic to chase them away" (p150). Yet the child asserts an irresistible claim upon the narrator: "When I went out, the child would climb on me with a double measure of love, and would not leave me alone until I took him in my arms and rocked him" (150). His friends, talking to the narrator "as people talk to someone who is sick" (151), insist that he change his lodgings – particularly since he has come to Tel Aviv not to be kept awake at night, not to rock a pitiful ragamuffin, but rather "to be healed" (151). The narrator argues that the Talmud teaches us that "A man should never change his quarters" but his friends pay no attention, and, at last, one friend, indeed, finds him new lodgings. Not only are the lodgings new, they are ideal: they embody the dreams of a renewed, healthy, Eretz Yisrael and a reborn, healthy people. The small house is set on a grassy hill far
1 2

Hayom ("Today"), 1907. Menahem Sheinkin, quoted in Imigrantim by Gur Alroey.

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from the madding crowd of the city, amidst vineyards and orchards the landlord himself has planted. The description of the house, and the cultivation of the land surrounding it with fruits and vegetables and flowers, makes it the very embodiment of the "redemption of the land" cherished by the young Zionist pioneers. For the owners, the years of exile, the Diaspora, are truly over: "…we do not need to wear ourselves out on the road," says the wife. "We live here in our house, enjoying everything with which the Lord has blessed us." (p155) The motifs of illness and health continue, as the narrator looks forward to the "sweet repose" he will feel if he moves into the house. In the meantime, before he does so, he develops a problem with his eyes and is warned against touching his eyes with his fingers "lest they become worse." But when he returns to his Tel Aviv lodgings, the child, whose own eyes are diseased and whose fingers are dirty, continues to poke the narrator in the eyes (and there's no indication at all that the narrator tries to stop him). How profoundly that image of disease contrasts with what the narrator discovers when he himself goes on the road: I passed through the land and I saw that we had several more villages. Places that had produced only thistles and thorns had become like a garden of God. And like the land, so too the people were happy in their labors and rejoicing in building their land, their sons and daughters healthy and wholesome. Their hands were not soiled, and their eyes were not diseased…. (p156). IDEAS AND THEMES FOR DISCUSSION In the end, the narrator chooses not to live "in a pleasant room, in a pleasant climate, with pleasant furniture and pleasant people." 1. Why does the narrator come back from his trip, go to the new lodgings, and then abruptly decide not to stay? 2. Why does he choose the noisy, dirty, lodgings in Tel Aviv and the increasingly pitiful, child who has become even more diseased in his short absence, with his eyelashes now "stuck together, covered with some sort of green pus"? 3. Even though the narrator embraces the child, why does he never take any action, that we know of, to make the child healthier? "We will never be granted peace like the peace we had here at first, until the Messiah comes" (p157). 1. Is Agnon suggesting that ultimately all of our efforts for true spiritual health and peace for the Jewish people can never resolve the "illnesses" we are subject to "until the Messiah comes"? 2. Or is it precisely that idea (waiting for the Messiah) that accounts for the "troubled vision" from which the narrator, and the child, suffer? 3. What would the Jewish people see with a wholly clear, healthy, vision? On the Road or At Home 1. In what ways are all of us always – as Jews, as Americans, as individuals – still "on the road"? 2. In what ways are we at home?

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3. What do you consider your home? Your home-away-from-home? Your homeland? Troubled Vision 1. Where in our culture, both Jewish and American, do we find the equivalent of an "eye" disease, or a troubled vision? 2. Is there a symbolic equivalent today, for Jews, Israelis or Americans, of the "child neglected by its parents"? What would clear-sightedness look like? "Unique Among Houses, the Pleasantest of Houses" 1. In what ways has the modern state of Israel succeeded in becoming "unique among houses, the pleasantest of houses," and in what ways does it need to change in order to become so? 2. What about the United States makes it "unique among houses, the pleasantest of houses, or how does it need to change to become so"? What about California? What about Los Angeles? What about your own neighborhood?

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THE TALE OF THE SCRIBE by S.Y. Agnon
A Guide for Discussion by Neil Blumofe Rabbinical Student

SUMMARY OPTIONAL- Ask if someone can tell the story. Let others chime in with as many details as they can. Try, as a group, to recap the story as much as possible. A white board or large Post-Its might be useful. This should be fun, though challenging. This is the story of Raphael the Scribe, who copies Torah scrolls, tefillin and mezuzzot – many times he would write a Torah scrolls as a memorial for one who has died. His wife, Miriam, is introduced, as one who cleans and purifies the home and makes the writing easier for her husband. Raphael's method of working is described – he was very punctilious about purity and study and he regularly spent the day secluded and isolated. Miriam and Raphael's house was divided in the middle by a partition made of boards, with the wife on one side and the husband on the other – Miriam is presented as barren, who "pulls threads" into garments for orphans, imagining the clothes are for her son, all the while. In the house there is a feeling of constant Shabbat quiet and peace and a cycle of procreative potential that is never actualized. Miriam requests that her husband make a Torah scroll for them as she begins to make a mantle for the Torah instead of garments for children. She dies childless, soon thereafter and Raphael prepares to write a Torah scroll in her memory. The scribe finds that he is unable to write even a single letter, properly. After the ritual bathhouse (mikveh) was shut down he immerses himself in the icy river instead and consequently completes the Torah scroll. But at a price – at this point, Raphael is described as emaciated, shrunken, hollowed and turning gray. As he completes the Torah scroll, Raphael sings a melody that reminds him of a Simchat Torah, long ago, when he first encountered Miriam. They were brought together on accident and betrothed by the wise remark of the rabbi. In a discombobulated and unreal state, Raphael goes looking for the wedding dress and the story ends, with Raphael the Scribe holding his Torah scroll, with his wife's dress spread over him and the scroll, itself, illuminated briefly in the silent darkness.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION 1. Why would Agnon, an author (Sofer, in modern Hebrew), choose to write about Raphael, a scribe (also called Sofer)? a. Discuss the differences between a Sofer of Torah scrolls versus a modern-day Sofer/Author. b. What is the role of a writer in shaping tradition? c. What does it mean to be a writer with the Jewish tradition? 2. What is significant about Raphael specializing in the writing of Torah scrolls for childless couples? Can a Torah scroll replace a life? 3. How are piety and religiosity presented in this story? The Tale of the Scribe - 1

a. How do these issues affect the relationship between Raphael and Miriam? 4. Why is it important to the story that Raphael lived close to the synagogue, house of study and ritual bath? 5. Discuss the symbolism of the following: a. The embroidered wall hanging with its picture and letters b. The willows not yet boiled in water c. The amulet (not written in Hebrew) with the spider web woven over it d. The dark beam that stretches from one end of the house to the other, holding many sacred books e. The mirror f. The Torah Scroll g. The Ritual Bath i. See if you can create links between the above items, and then discuss what they tell us about the relationship between Miriam and Raphael. 6. How does clothing act symbolically in the story? a. Miriam's wedding dress? b. Raphael's burned robe? c. The tallit? 7. Why do you think Miriam was barren? a. Is her predicament a matter for God, herself, Raphael, or everyone? b. Consider the following in your discussion: "Why were our forefathers and mothers barren? Because God desires the tefillot (prayers) of the righteous." (Yevamot 64a) 8. According to traditional halakha (Jewish law), a man is obliged to have children, at least one boy and one girl, but a woman is not. The Talmud (also in Yevamot 64a) says that "an artist is caught between the fires of his work and the obligations of his family life." a. How do the above affect your understanding of the story of Raphael and Miriam? (Bear in mind that "mitzvah" can be translated as "obligation.") 9. "She [Miriam] had not been inscribed on high for a long life, and was plucked while still in her youth." (p.176) a. Why does Miriam die? b. What is notable about Agnon's language in describing Miriam's death? c. Compare Miriam's occupation and approach to life to Raphael's. 10. Reflecting on all the above, what is your reading of the final scene of Raphael and Miriam's wedding?

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THE FABLE OF THE GOAT by S.Y. Agnon A Guide for Discussion
by Rabbi Daniel Bouskila Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel

[NOTE: We include two versions of Rabbi Bouskila's study guide for "The Fable of the Goat." The original longer version, here, suitable for teachers or facilitators; followed by an edited version that was used by participants at the One People One Book 2007-08 Opening Program.] INTRODUCTION Traditionally read by many as an innocent children's folktale, The Fable of the Goat is actually a deep exploration of many of the themes that occupy a central place in the writing of S.Y. Agnon.

I.

SUMMARY OF THE STORY

LEADER: Ask if someone can tell the story. Let others chime in with as many details as they can. Try, as a group, to recap the story as much as possible. A white board or large Post-Its might be useful. [This should be fun (though challenging) to deconstruct.] Summary of the Story. The story is told of an old man who falls ill, and whose illness causes a deep and heavy cough. As a remedy, the doctor prescribes goat's milk. The man acquires a goat that displays a strange pattern of behavior: everyday, the goat disappears for a few hours, only to return with her udders full of the sweetest milk that soothed the old man's cough. Mystified by this strange pattern, the man's son sets out to solve this mystery by tying a cord to the goat and following her on her walk. As he follows the goat, holding on to the cord, she leads him to a long cave, the journey through which ends in the Land of Israel. Looking around him, he sees a beautiful landscape that resembles the Garden of Eden. Realizing that he has arrived to the "Promised Land," he writes a note to his father, instructing him on how to follow the goat to Israel. Putting the note in the goat's ear, he sends the goat through the cave back to his father. When the father sees the goat return alone, he assumes that his son was killed, reacting with grief and despair. In his anger, the father has the goat slaughtered, only to then find the note from his son. The story concludes on a tragic note of separation between father and son, and with the cave mysteriously disappearing, the father is eternally banished to exile.

II.

ISSUES AND THEMES

1. The status of Exile as an "illness" "The tale is told of an old man who groaned from his heart" (p.188). A classic theme in Biblical and Rabbinic literature is exile from the Land of Israel as representative of curse and punishment. The old man groaning "from his heart," as opposed to "coughing from his lungs," symbolically tells the reader that the old man's illness is not really physical, but emotional. He is pained by the loneliness and frustration of exile. The Fable of the Goat - 1

2. The fantasy of Israel as perfection, as a "Garden of Eden" The goat's milk is described as "milk that was sweeter than honey, and whose taste was the taste of Eden" (p.188). Israel is described as a landscape with "lofty mountains, and hills full of the choicest fruit, and a fountain of living waters that flowed down from the mountains" (p.189). The fact that the goat's milk comes from Israel, and soothes the man's groaning ("…this milk which is sweet to my palate and a balm to all my bones" – p.188) is symbolic of Israel as a cure to the spiritual ailment of exile. To taste the sweet milk of Israel can temporarily cure the old mans "groaning from his heart." This vision of the Land of Israel is typical of the fantasy that Diaspora Jewry constructs in its mind when yearning to ascend to the Holy Land. 3. The fantasy of the magical "Messianic Journey" to Israel The magical cave represents a sort of messianic "magic carpet," and the goat, who delivers the "taste of Eden" to the Diaspora, is the same goat who can deliver the father to the Promised Land, if only he "holds on to this cord which is tied to the goat's tail and follows the footsteps of the goat" (p. 190). In the original Hebrew, the term used by Agnon for the "cord" is ‫ – משיחה‬pronounced Meshicha, which intentionally sounds like ‫/משיח‬Mashiach, the Hebrew term for Messiah. To grasp onto the cord and simply hold on, and "then your journey will be secure, and you will enter the Land of Israel" (p.190) is a creative expression of a typical messianic fantasy. We might ask here, how does knowing about this wordplay effect our understanding of the story? 4. The breakdown of communication between father and son, between generations, and between Israel and Diaspora. And, an ironic twist on the Biblical Story of Jacob and Joseph. In the Book of Genesis, when Joseph is sold into slavery, his brothers come back to their father Jacob with Joseph's multi-colored coat dipped in blood: "They slaughtered a goat and dipped the coat in blood"(Genesis 37:31). Upon seeing the coat dipped in blood, Jacob reacts with grief: "A wild beast must have eaten him! My Joseph has been torn to pieces! He tore his robes in grief and put on sackcloth. He kept himself in mourning for many days…I will go down to the grave mourning for my son" (Genesis 37:33-35). That Agnon drew from Genesis in describing the father's grief and mourning is clear from the striking linguistic similarities between the two: "So he went, weeping and mourning over his son, for he said, 'An evil beast has devoured him, my son is assuredly rent in pieces.' And he refused to be comforted, saying, 'I will go down to my grave in mourning for my son'." (p.190). Beyond the linguistic similarities, what is the thematic symbolism and message behind the use of this Biblical language? The Biblical verses used here evoke the aura of separation between father and son. Jacob and Joseph are separated for seventeen years, and Jacob suffers bitterly as a result of this separation. Ultimately, Jacob and Joseph are reunited before Jacob's death, thus Jacob not going "down to the grave mourning" his son. In Agnon's story, father and son are never re-united, a tragic twist on the Jacob/Joseph story. Furthermore, as opposed to Joseph who never once contacted his father, the son in Agnon's story does write his father a letter, but the father discovers the letter only after he has the goat slaughtered. One may ask why the father did not initially search for a letter from the son, tragically discovering it when it is now too late? Agnon is once again The Fable of the Goat - 2

alluding to the communication gap between the generations, in this case telling us that it never dawned on the father to look for a letter from his son, because there was, in fact, no communication between the two. Much like the letter surprised the father, the father is also aware that he is alienated from his son: "Woe to the father who banished his son" (p.190). This breakdown in communication between generations is a direct allusion to the tensions that developed during Agnon's own lifetime between the older generation who could not bring themselves to leave the Diaspora, and thus banished themselves to the woes of exile ("Woe to me, for I could have gone up to the Land of Israel in one bound, and now I must suffer out my days in this exile" – p.191), versus the younger generation that broke with the traditions of their parents and moved to Israel to fulfill the burgeoning Zionist promise ("From the ends of the earth I lift up my voice in song to tell you that I have come in peace to the Land of Israel" – p.190). To the older generation, "the mouth of the cave has been closed, and there is no longer a short way" (p.191), whereas to the younger generation, "That youth, if he has not died, shall bear fruit in his old age, full of sap and richness, calm and peaceful in the Land of the Living." The stark contrast between the fate of the father and the destiny of the son evokes an aura of deep alienation between the two. In yet another tragic irony, the father does "go down to his grave mourning," except he does not mourn his son, rather he mourns his own missed opportunity for redemption and his continued miserable existence in exile.

III.

FOR FURTHER REFLECTION

1. What is the symbolism of the son being delayed by the Sabbath? (p.189) 2. Why would Agnon describe the son's letter as being written with "the ink for the writing of Torah scrolls"? (p.190) 3. Explore any further comparisons and contrasts between the Biblical story of Jacob and Joseph and Agnon's father and son in this story. 4. Discuss this story in light of current generation gaps, and in light of the contemporary relationship between Diaspora Jewry and the State of Israel

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Discussion Guide for Small Group Study at ONE PEOPLE ONE BOOK Opening 5768 by Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel and Jonathan Freund, Board of Rabbis of Southern California Traditionally read by many as an innocent children's folktale, The Fable of the Goat is actually a deep exploration of many of the themes that occupy a central place in the writing of S.Y. Agnon.

THE FABLE OF THE GOAT by S.Y. Agnon

I. a. b.

Read the Story Out Loud Share the reading by going around the table, taking one or two paragraphs at a time. No one should be required to read who does not wish to; anyone who wants to read should be able to. Share First Impressions What is the story "about"? Consider the year it was written (1925). What themes, images or conflicts stood out for you? Does this story work only as an allegory? Or in other ways too? Does it resonate for you personally?

II. a. b. c.

THEMES Choose one or more of the followings themes or ideas to discuss among the people at your table. You may spend as much on a theme as your group wishes. You do not need to finish all the sections, and you are welcome to skip around if you wish. The Illness of the Old Man What is the old man suffering from, that causes him to "groan in his heart"? (p. 188) What might his symptoms be? Why does the story begin with this sentence? The Milk of the Goat What is it about the milk of the goat that makes it "a balm to all my bones"? (p. 188) What is the symbolism here? What, if anything, do you see as Agnon's commentary?

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The Cord as Messiah According to the son's note -- written from Safed, the center of Jewish mysticism -- the goat will deliver the father to Israel if he "holds on to this cord which is tied to the goat's tail and follows the footsteps of the goat" (p.190). In the Hebrew original, the term used by Agnon for "cord" is ‫ – משיחה‬pronounced Meshicha, which deliberately sounds like ‫/משיח‬Mashiach, the Hebrew term for Messiah. How does this word play effect your own interpretation of the story? Do you think Agnon is using this metaphor ironically or genuinely? Is it still possible for Jews to simply "grasp onto the cord" and be lead to Israel/Eden? Was it ever truly possible? The Relationship Between Generations, and Between Israel and Diaspora So he went, weeping and mourning over his son, for he said, "An evil beast has devoured him, my son is assuredly rent in pieces." And he refused to be comforted, saying, "I will go down to my grave in mourning for my son." Fable of the Goat, p.190 [Joseph's brothers] slaughtered a goat and dipped the coat in blood. [And Jacob saw it] and said: "A wild beast must have eaten him! My Joseph has been torn to pieces!" He tore his robes in grief and put on sackcloth. He kept himself in mourning for many days… He refused to be comforted, saying: "I will go down to the grave mourning for my son." Genesis 37:31-35. What do you think is the thematic symbolism or message behind Agnon's use of Biblical language and story elements? What or who do you think the father mourning for at the end of Agnon's story? The Fable Today Consider all the historical events and circumstances that have affected the Jewish people between 1925, when this story was written, and today. Does the story still "work" today as an allegory? Have the themes and symbolism changed? Or are they the same?

FOR FURTHER REFLECTION 1. What is the symbolism of the son being delayed by the Sabbath? (p.189) 2. Why would Agnon describe the son's letter as being written with "the ink for the writing of Torah scrolls"? (p.190) 3. Explore any further comparisons and contrasts between the Biblical story of Jacob and Joseph and Agnon's father and son in this story. 4. Discuss this story in light of current generation gaps, and in light of the contemporary relationship between Diaspora Jewry and the State of Israel.

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THE TALE OF THE MENORAH by S.Y. Agnon
A Guide for Discussion by Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer Milken Community High School

INTRODUCTION "The Tale of the Menorah" is contained within a collection of Agnon's stories that take us back to his hometown, Buczacz. This collection – which was originally published posthumously in a book called The City and the Fullness Thereof (Ir U'me'lo'ah) – included multiple tales that, taken together, paint a picture of life in an Eastern European town. Included in this collection is the fable "The Tale of the Menorah," which is also in our volume. Agnon's stories frequently read like folk literature and legend but also utilize modern literary techniques and devices such as wordplay, symbolism, historical allusions, shifting points of view, and nonlinear narratives. Agnon often intersperses fantasy and reality. Jewish culture, language, and history feature often in both his content and allusions. For this session, we will discuss the story "The Tale of the Menorah" on three levels: 1) The basic storyline 2) The symbolic meaning of the parts of the story; and 3) The larger message and its implications

I.

SUMMARY OF THE STORY

LEADER: Ask if someone can tell the story. Let others chime in with as many details as they can. Try, as a group, to recap the story as much as possible. A white board or large Post-Its might be useful. [This should be fun (though challenging) to deconstruct.] 1 – The wise Rabbi Nahman is a very important advisor to the king. The king rewards Rabbi Nahman by offering to grant him whatever he desires. Rabbi Nahman asks for nothing, and the king therefore makes "a holy donation to God". 2 – The king commands his metalworkers to make a great brass 7-branched menorah to place in the Great Synagogue of Buczacz. But such a replica of the Holy Temple's menorah is forbidden in the Jewish tradition, and after debate, the Jews remove the middle branch of the menorah. Later, when the Jews are persecuted by Chmielnicki 1 "and the town's Gentiles made the house of God into a church," the menorah is dropped into the river.

Bohdan Chmielnicki (or, Bogdan Khmelnitsky), 1595-1657. As Hetman, or Leader, of the Ukrainian Cossacks, he led devastating pogroms against the Jews, resulting in 15-30,000 deaths in the years 1648-1656. 50% of Jews in the Ukraine were killed under Chmielnicki. At the time, these pogroms were considered the most traumatic event in Jewish history since the Bar Kokhba revolt.

1

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3 – Many years later, Jews return to their town, and on the Saturday night of the Selichot prayers, children shine their candles into the river and notice the menorah. It is retrieved from the water and returned to the synagogue, and used for light throughout the years. 4 – In the following generation, the Jews add a leaded brass eagle to the middle of the Menorah, as a sign of allegiance to Poland. 5 – After Poland is conquered by Austria, the Jews welcome the Austrians; to avoid a political disaster; they smash the Polish-white eagle and replace it with a 2-headed eagle symbolic of Austria (the excess metal is used to make dreidles). 6 -- During the Polish uprising against Austria, a Galician Jew smashes the 2-headed Austrian eagle with a hammer (and the excess brass is used to make dice). 7 -- Another 2-headed eagle is made to replace the first one. 8 – During the Great War, when Austria and Russia become enemies, soldiers nearly seize the menorah, but it is finally taken and hidden by a metalworker. 9 – After the war, Jews return to Buczacz, and they have no lamps. 10 – One man, who had met the metalworker, tries to find the menorah in the mountains around Buczacz but cannot find it. 11 – The searcher meets the metalworker and together they unearth the hidden menorah.

II. A.

SYMBOLISM The menorah begins as a gift from the non-Jewish king, as a reward to a sage for his involvement with that king. - What might the menorah symbolize? - Is it something as general as Jewish history, or something as specific as the Torah? What do these details suggest about the experiences of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe? - the menorah is made, religiously unacceptably, by well-meaning gentiles; - almost all of the violence actually done to the menorah is done by the hands of Jews themselves; - the menorah is drowned, then pulled up from the water; - the holidays of Selichot and Yom Kippur are both mentioned. Power & Mystery - In the story, who or what holds power? - What is the Menorah's actual power? - What is the role of mystery – or, secrets – in the story? The Tale of the Menorah - 2

B.

C.

D.

Do we, as the readers (along with the omniscient narrator) have more power than the characters in the story, because we know the tale from beginning to end? Why would Agnon give us information that is out of the reach of his characters?

Throughout the story, the Jews of Buczacz struggle to relate to their land of residence. - How does the use of the symbol of the menorah highlight these themes? - Why, of all things, is it a menorah that goes from hand to hand? - How does the journey of the menorah help us to understand these issues of vulnerability, alienation and adaptability? Read the last paragraph in the story. - How does this paragraph frame the story?

E.

III.

MESSAGE & CONTEXT

"The Tale of the Menorah" explores the relationship of Judaism to political turmoil and exile. Does this story ultimately have a positive or negative message? Does it offer a sense of hope? Is Agnon being descriptive or prescriptive? That is, is he describing the situation as he understands it to have been; or, is he suggesting that this will be the case in the future as well? Is the story of the menorah applicable only to Eastern European Jews? As American Jews, does the message of the menorah ring true for us as well? If we were to read our own American Jewish experience into the tale, which parts of the journey of the menorah would fit the American experience? Alternatively, can we think of an object that would better express the American Jewish story?

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AT THE OUTSET OF THE DAY by S.Y. Agnon A Guide for Discussion
by Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer Milken Community High School

INTRODUCTION S. Y. Agnon (1888 – 1970) is considered perhaps the greatest Hebrew writer of the 20th century. His prolific writing career spanned six decades and his work is unlike any others'. In the early years of Zionism and statehood, when other writers were addressing the Jewish collective and political issues of Palestine, Agnon focused on the social and spiritual life in the lost shtetls of the past. When other writers depicted realistically the emerging secular society, Agnon immersed himself in the world of classical Jewish culture and the inner life of the Jews. His stories expressed the psychic struggles of the alienated, enlightened Jew against a distant background of peaceful shtetl piety. The events of Agnon's own life figured prominently in his stories; he also drew extensively from Biblical, Talmudic, and midrashic literature as well as the Chasidic literary tradition. Some of Agnon's stories read like rabbinic midrashim, some like contemporary literature, and others like the writers who influenced Agnon, such as Franz Kafka. He often interprets, paraphrases, and recasts traditional references to extend the meaning of his own words and the traditional text. This technique brings a unique voice to the stories and pushes us to explore the layers of meaning implied by these references. However, the stories at even their most literal level give the reader insight into the complex mind of the writer and his struggle to define and explore the human and the Jewish struggle. As a narrator, Agnon is playful and ironic, often causing the reader to struggle with the fine line between fact and fiction. With that introduction in mind, in this class we will discuss the story "At the Outset of the Day" (1951) on three levels: 1. the basic storyline; 2. the symbolic meaning of the parts of the story; and 3. the larger message and its implications. I. SUMMARY OF THE STORY

LEADER: ask if someone can tell the story. Let others chime in with as many details as they can. Try, as a group, to recap the story as much as possible. A whiteboard or large Post-Its might be helpful. [This should be fun (though challenging) to deconstruct.] The narrator flees from enemies with his daughter to the city. It is the eve of Yom Kippur. In the courtyard of the synagogue, a fire burns his daughter's dress and she trembles, naked, from cold.

At the Outset of the Day - 1

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The father has nothing to cover her and after looking in the Beit Midrash (House of Study) he asks for clothing from the family of his friend Reb Alter. The family, busy listening to the reading of a letter, turns him away empty-handed. The story ends in the open courtyard of the Great Synagogue. The father sees the House of Study full of Jews, the doors of the Ark are open. "My soul fainted with me, and I stood and prayed as those wrapped in prayer and ritual gowns. And even my little girl, who had dozed off, repeated in her sleep each and every prayer in sweet melodies no ear has ever heard." SYMBOLISM AND MEANING

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II.

Characters - Whom does the narrator represent? (Secular Jews? Israeli Jews? European Jews? God?) - Whom does the daughter represent? (European Jewry after the Holocaust? Israeli Jews fighting the war/s alone? Others? The soul?) - Whom does Reb Alter represent (in Yiddish, "Alter" means "old")? What about his remaining relatives (perhaps the remnants of a community now long gone)? - Who is the "Tall man with the red beard"? Is this a reference to Communism? - Who might be the man with the spectacles? He knows what is going on but seems unable to see through his glasses. The narrator declares: "I was no longer angry with my enemy, being so gripped in fury with this man." Who is this new enemy? Is this perhaps an academic? Or a symbol of American Jewry? Ritual symbols - The entire story takes place on the eve of Yom Kippur. This is the holiest day of the year – a day of communal prayer and atonement for sins. How does this add irony and tension? - A "whitish mist spiraled up the steps" of the Beit Midrash. What might this mean? (Is it smoke? A symbol of God's presence?) - Why is the memorial candle the cause of violence, loss and alienation? (Does the fire of memory destroy the future generation's hope? That fire causes her to be naked and vulnerable.) - Notice that the family of Reb Alter has not lit the memorial candle. Why might this be? What letter do you think they are reading? What might that letter be a symbol of? - Why does the narrator continue to search the Geniza for books as protection? Context & Place - Who is the "enemy"? - What does the Great Synagogue symbolize?

At the Outset of the Day - 2

- What does the Beit ha-Midrash symbolize? - What is the meaning of the Geniza – the room where worn-out fragments of holy books are saved? None of these are places that the narrator finds refuge or covering for his daughter. III. MESSAGE AND CONTEXT

In this dreamy, Kafkaesque tale, Agnon describes the destruction of the Jewish world. "Wherever I directed my eyes, I met emptiness." This emptiness could be both physical and spiritual. Which one do you think Agnon is emphasizing? What is his message about books? Agnon describes a world in which one can't find even fragments of books, and the naked human soul has no garment (made of torn book leaves) to cover itself with. And what might the letter be? Is this story perhaps a flashback? In other words, is the helplessness and failure of the narrator a remembrance of a time before the present reality? How might it function as an explanation for a present reality? According to this tale, what are the forces of Jewish degeneration? (Some are external: the "enemy" of secular learning as represented by Gad; and others are internal: the inability of the Jewish community to support itself.) How do you judge the final mood of the story? Is it positive or negative? Does the daughter's sleep-prayer represent an indestructible spirituality, or a pitiable sentimentality?

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At the Outset of the Day - 3

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila Daniel Bouskila has been the Senior Rabbi of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel since 1993. He holds a B.A. in history from UCLA and Rabbinic Ordination from Yeshiva University in New York. He studied at the Hesder Yeshiva Kerem B’Yavneh in Israel, served in the IDF’s Givati Infantry Brigade during the first Lebanon War, and studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. A Vice President of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, Rabbi Bouskila also serves on the boards of UCLA Hillel, the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, the Israel Film Festival, and as an advisor/educator for the recently founded Professional Leaders Project (PLP). A devoted activist on behalf of Israel, he was honored by the LA Israeli Community with the 2004 “Yekir Ha-Kehilla Ha-Yisraelit” (cherished friend of the Israeli Community) award . He is a regular contributor to local and national newspapers (in both English and Hebrew), and has published an extensive commentary to the Sephardic Passover Haggadah. He teaches advanced rabbinical courses at the Academy for Jewish Religion, and has taught at Shalhevet High School, where he also coached the Girls Varsity Basketball team, leading them to 2 consecutive national tournament championships in Miami Beach, Florida. Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer is founder and Executive Director of Ozreinu, a network of Torahstudy/spiritual support groups for Jewish parents of special-needs children. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. She serves as Rabbi in Residence at the Milken Community High School. She is co-author, along with Jerusalem's Noam Zion, of the book A Day Apart: Shabbat at Home, and serves as Instructor in Bible at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. Rabbi Fields-Meyer and her husband, Tom, a journalist, have three sons. Rabbi Miriyam Glazer Miriyam Glazer is professor of literature at the American Jewish University, where she heads the Communication Arts department and co-chairs the program in Jewish and World Civilization. An eclectic scholar whose books include the landmark collection of Israeli women's writing, Dreaming the Actual as well as Dancing on the Edge of the World: Jewish Stories of Faith, Inspiration, and Love, Rabbi Glazer has published many essays and book chapters on Jewish literature, as well as on nature, gender, and spirituality in Judaism and Jewish culture. Her study guides and Torah commentaries have been translated into Hebrew, Russian, and Spanish; and most recently was included in the Reform movement's new Women's Torah Commentary. Editor of The Bedside Torah, by Bradley Shavit Artson, Miriyam Glazer is currently at work on two major projects: a new translation and spiritually-oriented commentary on the Psalms of the Jewish Liturgy, written in honor of Dr. David L. Lieber, and to be published by Aviv Press next year; and her memoir, Judaism, Wars, and Womanhood, the writing of which has been supported by a Hadassah-Brandeis Institute grant. Rabbi Glazer serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Rabbis, the Publications Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly, and the Board of Directors of the newly-reconstituted Jewish Women's Theatre.

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