The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism -

“Cast your bread among the wa­ters, for you shall find it af­ter many days” “The end of the mat­ter, all things hav­ing been heard, fear God, and keep His com­mand­ments; for this is the whole man” I SPOT­TED th­ese two apho­risms on ei­ther side of an im­pres­sive grave­stone in Lon­don’s Willes­den ceme­tery, in­scribed exquisitely into a mag­nif­i­cent stone. Both quo­ta­tions are from the Book of Ko­helet, Ec­cle­si­astes, which is re­cited be­fore to­mor­row’s To­rah read­ing. Tra­di­tion­ally as­cribed to King Solomon, it has proved a pop­u­lar in­spi­ra­tion for grave­stone quo­ta­tions, es­pe­cially in the late 19th cen­tury!

Many as­pects of Vic­to­rian moral­ity and Jewish phi­los­o­phy are nat­u­rally har­mo­nious. But Ko­helet con­tains an in­trigu­ing com­bi­na­tion of moral­ity and scep­ti­cism. The scathing na­ture of some of the sting-in-the-tail apho­risms found in Ko­helet pos­si­bly also ap­pealed to a new age of doubt and ques­tion­ing. But the other ob­vi­ous rea­son for choos­ing Ko­helet ex­tracts for the grave is the book’s fo­cus on death.

Ko­helet ex­plores the in­abil­ity of man to con­trol his des­tiny and his frus­tra­tion with the un­cer­tainty of for­tune. The only thing that can be en­tirely re­lied on is death.

At times, in this strange and com­pellingly beau­ti­ful book, death is to be dreaded, but at other times its ar­rival is an­tic­i­pated as a friend, one that can be re­lied on and even wel­comed. Death is the ul­ti­mate ex­am­ple of God’s or­der­ing of the uni­verse. This al­ter­nately ex­as­per­ates and com­forts the writer, but there it is, unar­guably in chap­ter three: “a time to be born and a time to die”. This seemed es­pe­cially to res­onate with the Jewish Vic­to­rian pa­ter­fa­mil­ias or­der­ing his epi­taph and con­fronting his own mor­tal­ity. MAU­REEN KENDLER

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.