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October 25, 2002 - Image 89

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-10-25

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

"In our
love is a deed,
a commitment

to something.




isger s

— Elie Wiesel

Austrian government official, known
for his pro Jewish and pro-Israel views,
with a massacre of Jews in the Kovno
ghetto; and an Israeli commando who
watched his best friend die at his side
in war and now suffers from a terminal
illness. The latter knows the most
about diplomacy and getting along in
tight quarters and a tense situation.
The fifth survivor is the narrator
Razziel, the principal of a Brooklyn
yeshiva for outstanding students, who
understands "that man's special capaci-
ty is for waiting, his ability to recon-
cile his own time with that of God."

Razziel's Story

Razziel is in search of his own past. In
effect, he was born at the age of 18 —
all of his previous memories were
taken away in a Communist prison in
a mountainous region of RoMania.
'There, he met a mystic whom he
calls Paritus, who gave him the name
Razziel and continues to have a pow-
erful presence in his life.
In Jewish tradition, Razziel is an
important angel connected with "the
mysteries of God," as his name con-
notes. The Book of Raziel is a collec-
tion of mystical and magical works,
first printed in Amsterdam in 1701
and reprinted many times because it
was thought to protect its owner's
home from fire and other dangers.
Sounding very much like Wiesel,
Razziel quotes the words of Paritus,
"What people who are alternately
attracted by language and by silence
don't understand is that there can be
silence in talk and talk in silence. They
don't understand that what is revealed
keeps its own mystery."
Also present in the cabin is a hunch-

backed man, who seems to be the
judge's servant or slave. He is kind
toward their guests, encouraging them
to heed the words of the judge and
address his many probing questions.

Love Is A Deed

What they initially think is a game, a
distraction proposed by a host with a
flair for the dramatic, is no perform-
ance: He asks them to decide which
one of them must die that night.
The guests-turned-prisoners don't leave
their single room with its clean bare
walls. They each answer questions and
face their own truths, and, in effect, they
defend their lives and their worthiness. -
As they engage publicly and private-
ly, the reader comes to know each
character, the stories that have guided
the person and the memories and long-
ings that propel him or her forward.
Ultimately, they each look toward
love as a great part of what defines
their worth.
When Wiesel is asked why it is love
and not deeds that seems to save
them, he says that "in our tradition,
love is a deed, a commitment to some-
thing." Even the hunchback is moved
by a moment of love, elevating and
fulfilling himself.
As the story's narrator, Razziel
weaves in the testimony of his com-
panions. To tell more of the twists in
this tale would give away the pleasures
of reading The Judges.
Like all of his Wiesel's work, this
novel is seeped in Jewish learning,
with spiritual sensitivity. The author
further explores themes he is drawn to,
including faith, good and evil, inno-
cence and guilt, memory, the Messiah,
silence and compassion. ❑

NOV. 7


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