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9781400078035

Stardust Lost The Triumph, Tragedy, and Meshugas of the Yiddish Theater in America
Stardust Lost The Triumph, Tragedy, and Meshugas of the Yiddish Theater in America
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  • ISBN-13: 9781400078035
  • ISBN: 1400078032
  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

AUTHOR

Kanfer, Stefan

SUMMARY

CHAPTER ONE THE FOUR INGREDIENTS For almost five thousand years the Jews needed no theater to relate their story. They saw themselves as participants in an epic teeming with conquests and enslavements, revelations and miracles. A burning bush that speaks, the parting of the Red Sea, a rod turned into a snake, a woman turned into a pillar of saltwhere was the playwright that could match God's imagination? Even the setbacks were of a grand scale: expulsions from Eden and Egypt, lost wars, subjugation. What stage could reproduce these incidents? The scholar Max I. Dimont was so impressed by the theatrical quality of Jewish history that he divided it into three acts. "When the curtain rises on the first 2,000 years," he wrote inThe Indestructible Jews,"we will note that it proceeds like a Greek predestination drama, with God seemingly the author and divine director." But there was a difference. In the classic Greek plays, the characters remain unaware of their destinies. In the Jewish predestination drama, Jehovah gives them their parts and tells them of His expectationsexpectations that will require martyrdom and perseverance. The Old Testament's pivotal scene is the essence of dramatic tension. Abraham, the man Kierkegaard dubbed the Father of Faith, makes ready to offer up his son Isaacuntil Jehovah reprieves him. A covenant is struck between man and Jehovah: if this true believer remains obedient to the divine will, he and his descendants will be the Chosen People: "I will make of thee a great nation," promises the Voice, "and I will bless thee and make thy name great." From then on, human sacrifice is no longer necessary in this tribe; worship and a moral life are sufficient unto the day. Unlike the multitude of pagan gods who surrender to temptations and war amongst themselves, Dimont observes, "the God of Abraham acts with a moral purpose and a preconceived plan. He is not a capricious god who acts on a day-to-day basis. The Jews know what God expects of them and can therefore make long range plans." By the time Abraham's descendants settle in Egypt, they are suffused with the idea of monotheism. It will not be relinquished in the presence of their enemies. There will be many such adversaries over the course of history. Often these enemies come from without, like the Philistines; but sometimes they come from within, irresistible temptations that change the individual and threaten his people. Those enticements become an integral part of the melodrama. The gods of the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans are subject to follies, passions, and mistakes. Jehovah never exhibits such weaknesses. He leaves the scandals to his all-too-human followers, who never experience a shortage of family violence. Cain murders Abel. Jacob betrays his brother Esau. Absalom rebels against his father, dies in the field, and King David's cry resounds through the eons: "Would God I had died for thee, O, Absalom, my son, my son!" Joseph is cast out by his jealous brothers, who rend his coat of many colors and falsely report his death. And should the reader's attention flag, sexual adventures are there to pique it. Sodom is destroyed because of the uncontrolled lives of its citizens. David is so besotted by Bathsheba that he sends her husband off to war so that he can disport with her. The mighty Samson, seduced and weakened by Delilah, is destroyed for lust. The elders leering at Susannah, the ruinous fleshpots of Gomorrah, and, on a higher plane, the explicit love songs of Solomon ("My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and I was moved by him") all speak of the pleasures and snares of carnal desire. And this is only the beginning. After the HolyKanfer, Stefan is the author of 'Stardust Lost The Triumph, Tragedy, and Meshugas of the Yiddish Theater in America', published 2007 under ISBN 9781400078035 and ISBN 1400078032.

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