A Parable about Joseph in Egypt

 

The City of Brisk attracted every kind of travelling preacher and story-teller (see "A Fire-and-Brimstone Preacher"). Here the author recalls the feeling of being transported on words back to ancient Egypt, where the Patriarch Jacob lies on his death-bed in the presence of his twelve sons. Joseph, the youngest, the Kingís Minister, has just brought forward his two sons Menasseh and Ephraim to receive their grandfatherís blessing.

In this remarkable parable, the great issues confronting the Jews of the Russian Pale are re-cast in biblical terms. Jacob represents the old traditions, and Menasseh and Ephraim represent the young people who wear modern clothes and attend the Russian schools. Note how images of Egypt are mixed with those of Old Russia...the style of dress, the way the story-teller translates the Hebrew dialogue into Yiddish for his listeners, and most of all, the image of the furious patriarch, outraged that his grandchildren should dare to appear before him in such "goyish" dress. Let us now join the enthralled congregation as the evening shadows are already beginning to appear on the walls of the tiny "Tailorís Synagogue". From Chapter Eighteen:

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