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November 04, 1983 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-11-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

2 Friday, November 4, 1983


Purely Commentary

Armageddon Again on Agenda:
Prophets of Doom Galore

In periods of crises — and they predominate in the
current era of multiplying agonies — there is frequent
reference to Armageddon. It has been applied to Lebanon,
and now comes the new challenge — in Grenada.
Therefore, the necessity to know and understand the
The Encyclopedia Judaica provides this explanatory

ARMAGEDDON, name of the site, in Chrigt-
ian eschatology, of the final battle between the
forces of Good and Evil. The name Armageddon is
not mentioned prior to the New Testament but is
believed by some to be a corrupt spelling of
MEGIDDO, a city mentioned many times in Scrip-
According to this explanation the first sylla-
ble, "ar," would stand for "ir" ("city") or "har"
("mountain"). Others suggest that Armageddon is
a corruption of Har Mo'ed ("mount of assembly";
(Isaiah 14:13) or of Har Migdo ("God's fruitful
mountain") which is taken to refer to Mount Zion.
This last suggestion is supported by several
passages in Revelations (9:13; 11:14; 14:14-20;
16:12-16), the.imagery of which resembles that of
Joel, who envisages the power of God proceeding
from Mount Zion to battle against the forces of
Evil (Joel 2:1-3; 3:16-17, 21).

Prophets of doom have found a platform in the numeri-
cal value of the current Hebrew year, the Hebrew initials of
which provide a term for collapse when spelled tashmad.
On the eve of the New Year 5744 — which produces the
tashmad — a soothsayer appeared in Israel and predicted
the horror inherent in this term. It was widely publicized at
the time.
In a Washington Post syndicated article, Walter

Introduction of Fasting to Aid the Needy and the
Background for it in Jewish Memories ... Armageddon
as a Poor Symbol for the Emerging Prophets of Doom

Reich, the Washington psychiatrist who is contributing
editor to the Wilson Quarterly, dealt with the calamitous at
considerable length. His article appeared in the Detroit
News under the heading "Is the Apocalypse at Hand?" It
notes, inter alia:

So what to do about this grave numerological
portent? In Israel, where the Jewish calendar ac-
tually is used, someone had the idea of rearrang-
ing the order of the letters; in Hebrew, you can do
that without changing their numerical value. The
problem was that, when the most logical rear-
rangement was made, the transposition of the last
two letters, the result was "tashdam," which
suggests "blood."
Someone else then suggested transposing the
last letter with the middle two, but that yielded,
unfortunately, "tamshad," which contains the
root for "devil."
The solution that finally found greatest favor
was the reversal of the last three letters. So now,
when you get an invitation to attend a Bar Mitzva,
you're told to come on the sixth day of the Hebrew
month "Elul" in the year of "tadmash."
But those of us who aren't fooled by such
tricks may still be worried. Could it be that the
numbers are telling us something important?
Could this be, finally, the•year of the end? . .
But he who knows Hebrew and has patience
will look ahead and realize that, in four years, it
will be 5748, which spells "tasmah" and means

By Philip

Miseries continue — Grenada, Beirut, Nicaragua,
Syria, et. al. — and life goes on. Any wonder that an Israeli
soothsayer and a Washington psychiatrist are treated at
tentively, without panic?

The Cure of Fasting
With a Jewish Background

Oxfam America, the organization sponsoring "The
10th Fast for a World Harvest," is dedicated to pursuing the
fight against world hunger.
This movement, which has enrolled many prominent
supporters, encourages the publication of the following as
an inspiration for a "Help Fight Hunger Day" set for Nov.

Help Fight World Hunger!
Skip a meal Nov. 17, the Thursday before
Thanksgiving. Organize a community fund-
raising event. Join Oxfam America's 10th Fast for
a World Harvest. Write: Oxfam America, 115
Broadway, Boston, MA 02116 or call (617) 482-1211
for a free fast kit and information about how you
can get involved.

It is a reminder of the story about Nahum, who said:
"The world is coming to an end!" Whereupon Sholem said:
"Oh, my God, when?" When Nahum predicted "in about a
thousand years," Sholem was relieved. "Thank God. I
thought it was tomorrow."
Meanwhile, life goes on. Israel ignored the soothsayer
and there was little comment on it elsewhere.

In the shtetls that were destroyed by Hitler, in pre-
Nazi days such an appeal would have evoked smiles. Only
one day of fasting, they would surely ask? In the shtetl they
fasted two days, and "Montig un' Donershtik" — Monday
and Thursday — were the accepted occasions for repetitive
fasting. They are the days on which, in addition to the
Sabbath, the Torah is read during morning services. Jews
fasted out of piety. But undoubtedly the real reason was
that there was a shortage of food, that it was a compelling
necessity. Only on the Sabbath did Jews consider it a duty
to strive for the more luxurious.
So, the "Montig un' Donershtik" habits come to mind
on an occasion when fasting, as means of preserving and
aiding the needy, is a movement of merit in this country.
Let the merit of it be fulfilled!

Bernard Malamud's Confessional and 25 of His Selected Stories

Bernard Malamud is —
remains — a best-selling
novelist. His stories have
fascinated, also created dis-
cord. His interpretively
Jewish themes did not suit
all the readers. On a larger
scale, they were accepted as
mirroring Jewish life. What
does this background teach
in that direction?
"The Stories of Bernard
Malamud" (Farrar, Straus
and Giroux) provide many
answers to queries and puz-
zles about the eminent
storyteller. The 25 narra-
tives in this volume are his
own selections. This speaks
volumes in defining the
author and his themes, as
well as his approaches to
Jewish viewpoints. Of
these, 23 stories appeared in
previous anthologies and

two are new to the selection.
For an appreciation of
Malamud's preferences, the
list of stories in the new
Malamud volume are im-
portant, especially for all
who are already fully ac-
quainted with Malamud.
They are:

"Take Pity," "The First
Seven Years," "The
Mourners," "Idiots
First," "The Last Mohi-
can," "Black Is My Favo-
rite Color," "My Son the
Murderer," "The German
Refugee," "The Maid's
Shoes," "The Magic
Barrel" and "The Jew-

Also, "The Letter," "In
Retirement," "The Loan,"
"The Cost of Living," "Man
in the Drawer," "The Death
of Me," "The Bill," "God's

Wrath," "Rembrandt's
Hat," "Angel Levine," "Life
Is Better Than Death," "The
Model," "The Silver Crown"
and "Talking Horses."
How does Malamud react
Jewishly? He explains it
himself in the introductory
essay to his current collec-
tive work. It is an autobiog-
raphical essay. It tells about
his family life, his non-
Jewish wife, his children,
his teaching career and the
persistent rise to the ac-
ceptance he attained as an
author. It relates how he
was finally accepted by pub-
"The Cost of Living" was
the first story that was ac-
cepted for publication.
Harper's Magazine pub-
lished it in 1949. Then came
the gradual flow of narra-

Extended Families Causing Conflicts


(Copyright 1983, JTA, Inc.)

Completely unique kinds
of Jewish family conflict are
arising from the return of
adult children to the homes
of their -parents and the
shift of grandparents from
unsafe urban areas to the
homes of their adult chil-
dren in suburbia, according
to a report by a Jewish fam-
ily agency.
The report by social
workers in the Smithtown
office of the Jewish Com-
munity Services of Long Is-
land (JCSLI), referred to
such generational conflicts
in a number of homes of Suf-
folk County Jews. Employ-
ment problems stemming
from the recession are the
main reason adult children
return to the homes of their
parents, according to Elain
Sommer, supervisor of the

Smithtown JCSLI office.
Since "the potential for con-
flict" is inherent in such
situations, she said learn-
ing to live together again
under these circumstances
can be difficult

ships is handling of
money matters.

The other unsettling
problem is the arrival of
grandparents to join the
household. Despite the un-
deniable goodwill of the
The parents view the re- children, "changing long-
turn of an adult child as an standing lifestyles can be
intrusion in a time of their enormously disruptive" and
lives when they feel they some of the grandparents
have done their duty as par- "become depressed after
ents and can enjoy being their move. One of their
alone together. The chil- major problems is that they
dren, on the other hand, are do not drive and a car is es-
used to an independent life sential" in Suffolk County.
style and have trouble being
Adult children involved
held accountable for their
time and in tolerating the in such new arrangements
parental supervision they "actually have very mixed
had long since left behind as feelings," Mrs. Sommers re-
ported. "They are a bit
small children.
angry at their parents for
Mrs. Sommer said a not fully accepting the best
common complaint of in the situation and there is
parent and offspring in a sense of guilt, at the same
these touchy relation- time, for feeling as they do."

as I began The Assistant'
and felt I would often be
writing about Jews, in cele-
bration and expiation,
though perhaps that was
having it both ways. I
wanted it both ways. I con-
ceived of myself as a cos-
mopolitan man enjoying his

There is the definitive
also in the Malamud ap-
proach to the theme of
author as adherent to his
objectives. As Malamud


tives, and they were pre-
pared in earlier stages as he
divided his time between
teaching and writing.

His Jewish image is of-
fered in the following, re-
lated autobiographically:

"But the writing held me
steady as I reacted to a more
surprising world than the
one I had left in Brooklyn
when my wife enticed me
across the bridge into Man-
hattan. I was enjoying our
young family — my son was
four when my Western
daughter was born. We
were making friends, some
of whom became lifelong
friends, and were happy we
had adventured forth.
"At this time I was shar-
ing an office with a col-
league who often wished
aloud that he were a Jew. I
understood the sentiment. I
was glad I was, although my
father had his doubts about
that. He had sat in mourn-
ing when I married my gen-
tile wife, but I had thought
it through and felt I knew
what I was doing.
"After the birth of our son
my father came gently to
greet my wife and touch his
grandchild. I thought of him

"As soon as his characters
sense his confidence they
show him their tricks. Be-
fore he knows it he becomes
a figure in a circus with a
boom-boom band. This puts
him in high spirits and good
form. If he's lucky, serious
things may seem funny.
"Much occurs in the writ-
ing that isn't expected, in-
cluding some types you
meet and become attached \
to. Before you know it
you've collected two or three
strangers swearing eternal
love and friendship before
they begin to make de-
mands that divide and mul-
"Garcia Marquez will
start a fiction with someone
pushing a dream around, or
running from one, and be-
fore you know it he has
peopled a small country.
Working alone to create
stories, despite serious in-
conveniences, is not a bad
way to live our human
"The Stories of Bernard
Malamud" emerge as a por-
trayal of the author himself
and the narratives speak
voluminously as definitions
of an author who captures
the imagination of
readers-hip that evaluates -
him to best-seller status.

"Some writers don't need
the short story to launch
them into fiction, but I
think it is a loss not to at-
tempt to find out whether
one can write them.
"I love the pleasures of
the short story. One of them
is the fast payoff. Whatever
happens happens quickly.
The writer mounts his per-
sonal Pegasus, even if it is
an absent-minded nag who
never made it on the race
track; an ascension occurs
and the ride begins. The
scenery often surprises, and
so do some of the people one
"Somewhere I've said
that a short story packs a
self in a few pages predicat-
ing a lifetime. The drama is
tense, happens fast, and is
more often than not outlan-
* * *
dish. In a few pages a good
story portrays the complex-
ity of a life while producing
the surprise and effect of
knowledge — not a bad
"God's Grace," which origi-
"Then the writer is into nally appeared in hardcover
the story for more than last year, has been pub-
the ride. He stays with it lished as a paperback by
as the terrain opens and Avon Books.
events occur; he takes
The book tells the story of
pleasure in the evolving Paleologist Calvin Cohn,
fiction and tries to the lone survivor of a ther-
foresee its just resolution.
monuclear war.

Malamud Novel
tn Paperback

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