Commentary Magazine


Norman Mailer's Hasidism

To the Editor:

Norman Mailer’s commentaries on the Tales of the Hasidim [December 1962; February 1963] brought to my mind a rabbinic story. . . .

It is the one about the author who came to a famous rabbi seeking an endorsement of his interpretation of the Book of Proverbs. The rabbi, after studying the manuscript, advised the man to apply his efforts instead to the Book of Job. Job, he explained, was the victim of so many afflictions in his life, it would scarcely make a difference were he to suffer yet another indignity.

I can well understand that Mr. Mailer’s meditations are a form of abstract modern art, demanding a special sense of appreciation; however, implicating the masters of Hasidism in this strange mental exercise, is an imposition these saintly souls need not suffer.

If there is any relationship between these efforts of Mr. Mailer and those of the Hasidic rabbis, it is one of opposites, for . . . they considered it their mission on earth to save the ‘“holy sparks” that had strayed from their original source and fallen into pollution.

Sol Muhlstein
Norwalk, Connecticut

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