About the Author
Hometown:New York, New York
Date of Birth:September 30, 1928
Place of Birth:Sighet, Romania
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The old white-bearded Rebbe looked at me disapprovingly. “So, it’s you,” he sighed, “you are Dodye Feig’s grandson.” He had recognized me at once, which both pleased and embarrassed me. I have not been so identified since my childhood; since the war.
Twenty years have elapsed since he last saw me. We were still in Hungary. My mother brought me to him to obtain his blessing. Now we were alone in the room, in a suburb near Tel Aviv. And for some reason I felt more uncomfortable than then.
He sat in his armchair and studied me. He had not changed much. His face remained friendly and pained. His smile contained all the wisdom in the world.
“Hmmm, Dodye Feig’s grandson,” the Rebbe repeated as if to himself. His eyes were resting upon me and I wondered whom he saw. And why he turned sad all of a sudden. Then I realized that unlike him I have changed in more than one way; I was no longer his disciple.
“Rebbe,” I said, “I have been working hard to acquire a name for myself. Yet, to you I am still attached to my grandfather’s.” It was a poor attempt to break the tension; it failed. Now he seemed somewhat angry: “So, that’s what you have been doing all these years,” he remarked, He nodded his head and added: “What a pity.”
My mother’s father was among his favorite followers. Dodye Feig was more famous as a Hasid than his grandson shall ever be as a writer. Was that the reason for the Rebbe’s anger? I dared not ask him. I became again in his presence the child I once was who would only listen.
“Tell me what you are doing,” the Rebbe said in a soft voice. I told him I was writing.” “Is that all?” he asked in disbelief. I said, yes, that’s all. His expression was so reproachful that I had to elaborate and explain that some writings could sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. He did not seem to understand.
I was afraid of that. If I had waited so many years before I came to see him—it was because I did not want to acknowledge the distance between us. I was afraid both of its existence and its absence. All the words that for twenty years I have been trying to put together, were they mine or his? I did not have the answer but, somehow, I was afraid that he did,
“What are you writing?” the Rebbe asked. “Stories,” I said. He wanted to know what kind of stories: true stories. “About people you knew?” Yes, about people I might have known. “About things that happened?” Yes, about things that happened or could have happened. “But they did not?” No, not all of them did. In fact, some were invented from almost the beginning to almost the end. The Rebbe leaned forward as if to measure me up and said with more sorrow than anger: “That means you are writing lies!” I did not answer immediately. The scolded child within me had nothing to say in his defense. Yet, I had to justify myself: “Things are not that simple, Rebbe. Some events do take place but are not true; others are—although they never occurred.”
That was all I could say. Was it enough? I did not know. The Rebbe let it stand. He stared at me for a long moment until his face lit up again. He asked me to come closer; I obeyed. “Come,” he said, “Dodye Feig’s grandson should not go away empty-handed. Come and I shall give you my blessing.”
And I did not dare remind him that for so many years I have tried so hard to acquire for myself a name which needed to be blessed, too. Only after I had left him did I realize that perhaps the time has come for Dodye Feig’s grandson to take my place at the typewriter.
Table of ContentsIntroduction • vii
1. The Death of My Father • 1
2. My Teachers • 8
3. The Orphan • 16
4. An Evening Guest • 23
5. Yom Kippur: The Day Without Forgiveness • 31
6. An Old Acquaintance • 39
7. The Promise • 54
8. Testament of a Jew from Saragossa • 63
9. Moshe the Madman • 73
10. The Wandering Jew
11. The Last Return • 110
12. Appointment with Hate • 131
13. Moscow Revisited • 143
14. The Guilt We Share • 161
15. A Plea for the Dead • 174
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