ABSTRACT

Though the product of a similar Polish-Hasidic upbringing to that of Y. Y. Trunk and, within a decade, his contemporary, Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904—91) turns to folklore and legend for antithetical ideological and artistic ends. So far from seeking a reconciliation of Jews to a secular world, or from reflecting a passive resignation to a Jewish lot that cannot be amended, Singer's reworking of the pope myth militantly disidentifies itself from the assimilationism encouraged by the heirs of the Haskalah. In general, Singer tends to refuse any ideological system, since in his perception, none is capable of dealing adequately with the omnipresence of undeserved suffering in the world. In resistance to the punctilious observances of orthodoxy, he posits protest against what rabbinism is prepared to accept as the immutable will of God:

I myself try to think that I have made peace with human blindness and God's permanent silence, but they give me no rest. I feel a deep resentment against the Almighty. My religion goes hand in hand with a profound feeling of protest. [...] My feeling of religion is a feeling of rebellion. I even play with the idea of creating (for myself) a religion of protest. I often say to myself that God wants us to protest. He has had enough of those who praise Him all the time and bless Him for all his cruelties to man and animals. [...] I may be false and contradictory in many ways, but I am a true protester. If I could, I would picket the Almighty with a sign, 'Unfair to Life'. 1

Fiercely antagonistic to assimilation and 'enlightenment', Singer insists that material ambitions cut Jews off from any potential sources of validation for life. Singer's work consistently embodies his view that although Revelation, as the Torah defines it, may be uncertain, the moral absolutes of the Ten Commandments are not. While the premises that God created the world, gave the Jews the Torah, and 122through the Torah pointed them to the way of life may not have been true, 'once people believed in them, there was a way in life for [them]'. 2 By contrast, Singer has argued, 'the worship of reason [is] as idolatrous as bowing down to a graven image'. 3 For Singer, too, the materials of the Jewish pope myth provide the opportunity to make a central statement about the nature of Jewish identity and the possibilities for its continued viability.