Tuesday, May 26, 2020

73. The Tale of a Niggun

The Tale of a Niggun. Elie Wiesel. Illustrated by Mark Podwal. 2020. [November] 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] [World War II; Holocaust; Poetry]

First sentence: A ghetto, somewhere in the East, during the reign of night, under skies of copper and fire. The leaders of the community, good people all, courageous all, fearing God and loving His Law, came to see the rabbi who has cried and cried, and has searched darkness for an answer with such passion that he no longer can see. It’s urgent, they tell him, it’s more than urgent; it’s a matter of life or death for some Jews and perhaps all Jews.

Premise/plot: The Tale of a Niggun is a narrative poem by Elie Wiesel originally published circa 1978 within a larger collection of works honoring Rabbi Wolfe Kelman. It has newly been republished on its own--or soon will be published in November 2020.

The setting is a GHETTO in the midst of the second World War. The leaders are seeking an answer to an impossible question: should they supply the Nazis with a list of TEN names of people to be deported/taken? If they fail to give a list, then ANY could be taken or ALL could be taken. Perhaps every person will die as a result of not cooperating. Yet wouldn't it be murder to cooperate and help choose WHO dies? A rabbi reluctantly wrestles with this question seeking out the wisdom of his ancestors.

My thoughts: It's a quick read but super-super-super intense and masterful. It is written as a narrative poem. It may at first seem intimidating to the non-Jewish reader, BUT, a helpful glossary is provided in the back of the book that will prove super helpful.

if the enemy wishes to kill, let him kill—and do not tell him whom to kill. Your role, my young brother and colleague, the role of rabbi is to be with his Jews, not facing them. Should they be summoned by God or the enemy, should they choose to respond, do as they do, walk with them, pray with them or for them, howl with them, weep as they weep; share their anguish and their anger as you have shared their joy; see to it that the sacrifice imposed by the enemy unites his victims instead of separating them; as rabbi, there is only one call you must issue: Jews stay together, Jews stay together as Jews. 

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

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