Haim Weiss' "Books of Laws" restores faith in the redemptive and redemptive power of words
In other hands, "Books of Laws" might have become too sentimental and cheap, but this is exactly where the skill and confident hand of Haim Weiss is manifested, and what is no less important - his heart, which does not disappear even for a second between the words laid bare and exposed on the page
Udi Ben Saadia
Monday, 08 August 2022, 00:00
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A sensitive and skilled number.
Haim Weiss (Photo: Persimmon Books)
A woman in a coarse pink cloth robe, the frayed and blackened edges of which hang down to the bottom of her bare feet, stands at the intersection of Ezekiel and Samuel the Prophet streets in Jerusalem.
Later it will stop the busy traffic in the place known as 'Shabbat Square'.
With her hands raised in the air and her pale arms glistening in the harsh Jerusalem sunlight, she will close her eyes, lift her head up, open her mouth and in an uncontrolled burst, like a river of her boiling heart, she will begin to blaspheme God in Yiddish with a heavy Hungarian accent, and the bus driver in which the narrator child is traveling will pass away : "Once again this crazy woman from the lager".
Thus, in the second story ("Sabbath Square") from "Legal Books", newly illuminated, moving and very touching, the author, Dr. Haim Weiss, sets the outline for the entire book: a Jerusalem boy who leaves every morning from his house in the French Hill, from one of the housing estates The new ones that were built there after the Six Day War, to his school located in the heart of the Katmon neighborhood in the center of the city.
Weiss - the head of the Department of Hebrew Literature Studies at Ben Gurion University in Be'er Sheva, who has already published quite a few research books, but only at a relatively late age turned to writing something "of his own" - reveals himself here as a sensitive and skilled narrator who knows how to gently and wisely weave the fabric of his story.
Here, just as the grief-stricken woman stretches out her hands in the center of the square and her voice pierces the gates of heaven, the butcher Yankel Reifman comes out from the other end of the square, dragging after him with a long rope on the polluted street asphalt a flat and damp cardboard box filled to the brim with headless birds.
Two well-known literary "laws" are applied here: Selection - which of all the events happening at the same time on the street are eventually chosen to appear on the page.
Combination - where exactly and in what context do you "plant" the event you have chosen from the sea of events happening around.
Of course, a kind of compressed but still floating metonymy is created here: the unhappy woman who shouts her pain to the sky, and the slaughtered birds in the damp cardboard box.
A careless use of the two events described could, God forbid, create something too sentimental and cheap (the associative connection between the two), but this is exactly where the skill and confident hand of the narrator is manifested, and what is no less important - his heart, which does not disappear even for a second between the words and exposed on the page.
This is first and foremost a book that restores faith in the power of words and literature, also as a place where a kind of "compensation" and retribution for the painful and scarring past pains can take place.
Retribution for the past.
The cover of the book "Legal Books", by Haim Weiss (photo: Persimmon Books)
Here in the story "When I Speak", the third in the collection, the abused boy Yoav appears, who calls out to the narrator: "Disabled, disabled, disabled," (almost like "holy, holy, holy...") "Let's help you disabled. Let's help you ...".
It's hard to miss the pain, but also the joy in which the narrator boy ran quickly along the basketball court, waving his cast-covered hand and screaming: "Don't ever call me disabled", and then hit him again and again in the face until a stream of blood splattered from Yoav's nose.
These are the words that can perhaps make up for the terrible sense of helplessness that the child narrator felt.
In this sense and in several other contexts, what Aristotle says at the beginning of the ninth chapter of his "Poetics", in a free quote: the poet, unlike the historian, must not only write about what was but also about what could have been.
That is, in the deepest sense, literature can also have healing and corrective power.
This "truth" is already firmly present in the first story in the file called "Erfal": the author's mother says that her first childhood memory is sitting on the lap of the national poet Haim Nachman Bialik at one of the "Saturday Pleasure" events that took place at the Ohel Shem hall in Tel Aviv.
The story itself does not really fit with the fact that she herself was born only seven years after Bialik's death in 1934, yet something from the warmth of that imagined event sets the tone of the entire book right from the start, and in the words of Haim Weiss himself: "Like her, I also know that the power of events that did not occur equals, and sometimes even surpasses, the power of those that did occur."
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In general, it seems that the longing and the search for a redemptive and comforting female presence is one of the pillars of this book, about the multitude of shows and representations of.
Starting with the soft maternal presence in the first story, through the somewhat "sleazy" presence of the middle girl of Playboy magazine, a wire of a telephone, I would almost say like Ariadne's wire, passing and slipping between his modest and exposed limbs (in the story "The Working Field"), and ending with his daughter of the Rosh Yeshiva who appears in the narrator's dream and "guests" in the last two stories that close the file.
Prof. Haim Weiss's doctoral thesis is dedicated to the dream of the Sages, and when I read his new book, the opening lines of the author Haim Baer (who also edited this book) in his first book "Feathers": "Most of the works of men are folded even The beginning of this story is in a dream...". It is quite understandable, I think, how quickly the boy who tells the story gets tired of studying and memorizing laws upon laws, and even sacred mitzvot such as putting on tefillin, and his soul longs for other spaces. In a
dream, fragments of mirrors are melted and welded together and verses, and this "melting" sometimes creates a grotesque tone but is also very touching. For example, when the narrating boy walks in an almost breathless dream after the yeshiva head's daughter, and they notice the literature teacher, who is standing on one of the tables and waving his hands and reading in front of the desolate and dark classroom with great excitement The opening words of the song "On the Slaughter": "Heavens, ask for mercy on me..."
This world, part of which is made up of fragmentary memories of horror (during the dream visit to the abandoned library of the Beit Midrash, the cantor poet "Well, put your fear, O our God, on all your deeds and your fear on everything you have created") proves again and again - healing, if it comes, will come only through strength The fusion of the words.
"Books from rules" / Haim Weiss.