Midrash Agnon: The Old World and the New
In S.Y. Agnon’s Nobel-winning stories we encounter the Jewish world in transition between the past and the present, tradition and modernity, and the Diaspora and Eretz Yisrael. What do his stories mean for today’s readers and contemporary Jewish history? Each session explores a different short story (texts will be provided in English and Hebrew). 4 Sundays in a row February 14 – March 6, 2016 Live at Beit Agnon and online everywhere from WebYeshiva.org/Agnon Cost: $36 Pay Now (https://www.paypal.com/webapps/hermes?token=96H08806TU0979739&useraction=commit&rm=1&mfid=1554005092577_4e6a849fce274)
Midrash Agnon: The Old World and the New: Lesson 1
First Kiss-Each week in this series we will do a careful read of some of the lesser-known short stories by S.Y. Agnon, in order to enjoy his Nobel Prize winning literature, as well as use each story as a lens into our larger theme of the connection between past and present. In the first week we will read the 1962 story “HaNeshikah HaRishonah” (https://webyeshiva.org/course/midrash-agnon-the-old-world-and-the-new/?material=7011)(“First Kiss”), (https://webyeshiva.org/course/midrash-agnon-the-old-world-and-the-new/?material=7011)which was anthologized posthumously in Agnon’s Pithei Devarim;(http://www.schocken.co.il/?CategoryID=162&ArticleID=199) translation appears in A Book That Was Lost.(https://korenpub.com/toby/intusd/toby1/hebrew-literature/agnon/a-book-that-was-lost-35-stories) The story is available in the accompanying links. As always, reading in advance will both enhance your own experience and our collective study. Those who can read in Hebrew are encouraged to do so; those who can only handle the English text need not fear they will miss out. I remind you of Agnon’s well known aphorism: Any story not worth reading twice probably wasn’t worth reading the first time – so sometimes having read it once in English makes a subsequent read in the original a bit easier. For those of you new to Agnon study, this archived lecture may provide some useful background.(https://youtu.be/xCgWLkjFK6U)
Midrash Agnon: The Old World and the New: Lesson 2
Yekele- AGNON’S TWICE-TOLD TALE Agnon left behind 2 versions of a story entitled “Yekele” about a local scoundrel in Buczacz, the Jewish community’s attempt to police itself, and the complications of doing that while being under the control of the non-Jewish authorities. The story was published posthumously in Agnon’s “Ir uMelo’ah” (http://www.schocken.co.il/?CategoryID=162&ArticleID=197)- the collection of his hometown tales. As you read the two versions of “Yekele” consider what artistic and story-telling impulses caused him to write and re-write it this way. Despite one version being labeled #1 and the other #2, it is not certain which story was written first and which was the re-write. Which do you think is “better”?
Midrash Agnon: The Old World and the New: Lesson 3
The Miracle of Faith: More than any other author, Agnon explored the great transformations in Jewish life and culture as Judaism confronted modernity. What does his writing – and his first epic novel The Bridal Canopy(https://korenpub.com/toby/intusd/the-bridal-canopy) in particular – say about the condition of belief in the contemporary world, and the prospects for old fashioned “simple faith.” Attached (in English and Hebrew) is the opening chapter of Book I of The Bridal Canopy. For those unable to read the whole novel in advance, attached is a detailed summary from Arnold Band’s Nostalgia and Nightmare. (http://amzn.com/B0006BR6CS) [Link to video clip from “Fiddler on the Roof”: https://youtu.be/ckJEYoKEUoE]
Midrash Agnon: The Old World and the New: Lesson 4
Rav Kook and Agnon: For our final session: Rav Kook, the mystic and rabbi, and S.Y. Agnon, the Nobel laureate author, shared a special relationship, each plumbing the depths of Jewish modernity, and the religious meaning of expression. What drew them together, how did they differ, and how did they view a new, authentic Hebrew literature as part of the national revival? The attached experimental translation is a story called HaTaba’at (“The Ring”), was said to have been Agnon’s parable about Rav Kook. Mark you calendars: The next series will run for 3 weeks, starting Sunday, May 15th and will deal with the major themes Agnon struck in his Nobel Prize speech, as we move into the 50th anniversary celebrations of that event.
Rabbi Jeffrey Saks is the founding director of ATID – The Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions in Jewish Education, in Jerusalem, and its WebYeshiva.org program. He is the Editor of the journal Tradition, Series Editor of The S.Y. Agnon Library at The Toby Press, and Director of Research at the Agnon House in Jerusalem. A three-time graduate of Yeshiva University (BA, MA, Semicha), Rabbi Saks has published widely on Jewish thought, education, and literature (see webyeshiva.org/rabbisaks).