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Responses and Reactions II

- Abstract

This is the second in a bi-monthly series of personal commentaries by NORMAN MAILER on selections from Martin Buber’s two-volume collection, Tales of the Hasidim. Among Mr. Mailer’s works are The Naked and the Dead, Barbary Shore, and The Deer Park.

ON P. 293 or The Early Masters is a short story.

The Test

It is told:

When Prince Adam Czartoryski, the friend and counsellor of Czar Alexander, had been married for many years and still had no children, he went to the maggid of Koznitz and asked him to pray for him and because of his prayer the princess bore a son. At the baptism, the father told of the maggid’s intercession with God. His brother who, with his young son, was among the guests, made fun of what he called the prince’s superstition. “Let us go to your wonder-worker together,” he said, “and I shall show you that he can’t tell the difference between left and right.”

Together they journeyed to Koznitz, which was close to where they lived. “I beg of you,” Adam’s brother said to the maggid, “to pray for my sick son.”

The maggid bowed his head in silence. “Will you do this for me?” the other urged.

The maggid raised his head. “Go,” he said, and Adam saw that he only managed to speak with a great effort. “Go quickly, and perhaps you will still see him alive.”

“Well, what did I tell you?” Adam’s brother said laughingly as they got into their carriage. Adam was silent during the ride. When they drove into the court of his house, they found the boy dead.

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