JHOM - Personalities - Gluckel - Suffering
Davis observes that the long-suffering Glückel frequently views herself
as a sinful woman; Glückel may have believed on some level that her
complaints, laments and anxiety signaled a lack of trust in God.
 Below, Davis discusses the ways in which Glückel
invokes God in order to atone for this sinfulness.
is repeatedly invoked in her autobiography, and not just in the closing of each
book or in formulaic ejaculatory phrases, but in short tkhines prayers
and in recollections of earlier
prayers "My husband may the memory of the saintly
be a blessing stood weeping in one corner of the
room and I in the other, imploring God's mercy," she says of the time one
of their children was thought seriously ill, positioning herself and Haim in
corners as rabbinical commentary had positioned Rebecca and Isaac when they
were begging the Lord that Rebecca should conceive.
In the second place,
Glikl refers to herself often as a sinner and ordinarily uses her sins, in traditional
Jewish fashion, to account for the worst blows of the Lord. This explanation
for human suffering was being challenged in her day by the dualism of the Lurianic
Kabbalah, which attributed evil in human life to the action of an eternal demonic
power the "Anti-Adam of Belial"
and not just to human sins.
Glikl had access to Kabbalah
only in the watered-down version of Horowitz's Yesh Nochalin, but she
had certainly read about spirit possession in her Mayse Bukh and about
demons in her Brantshpigl, not to mention what her mother and grandmother
would have told her. In her autobiography, she advises her children that giving
alms during life will protect the soul at death against the "troop of angels
(or demons) of destruction, the malakhe habbalah
God forbid who are in the air between heaven and
earth." (She does not mention the amulets widely used to ward off evil
spirits, but her repeated "God forbid" is both a plea to the Lord
and a deflection of the malakhe habbalah.) Still, this familiar host
of demons was no match for the Lord's power, as was the new Anti-Adam of Belial.
Glikl held to the older view that "everything
comes from the Lord," and her usual formulation was that "if we are
sometimes punished, it is because of our own misdeeds." Haim Hamel was
taken away "because of my sins"; "as it is said, because of the
wicked, the saint is taken away." "My sins are too heavy to bear .
. . Every day, every hour, every minute-full of sins."
Zemon Davis. Women on the Margins. Copyright © 1995 by the
President and Fellows of Harvard College. Cambridge: Harvard University
Press. P. 53. [back]
prayers published in
booklets for a woman's individual devotion and recited according to the
rhythm of the Jewish holy days, as well as the rhythm of her own life,
body, and family affairs)
commentary on Genesis 25:21 ("And Isaac entreated the Lord for his
wife, because she was barren") noted that the Hebrew phrase "for
his wife" could also mean "facing his wife" and that Isaac
and Rebecca were thus praying to God in different parts of the room (Midrash
Rabbah, Genesis 63 ). Rashi's commentary on the text: "He stood
in one corner and prayed, whilst she stood in another corner and prayed"
(Chumash with Targum Onkelos, Haphtaroth and Rashi's Commentary,
trans. A. M. Silberman and M. Rosenbaum [Jerusalem: Silbermann Family,
1985], p. 114, n.21). [back]
Dan, "'No Evil Descends from Heaven': Sixteenth-Century Jewish Concepts
of Evil," in Bernard Dov Cooperman, ed., Jewish Thought in the
Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983),
pp. 89-105; idem, "Manasseh ben Israel's Nishmat Hayyim and the Concept
of Evil in Jewish Thought in the Seventeenth-Century ," in
Isidore Twersky and Bernard Septimus, eds., Jewish Thought in the Seventeenth
Century (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1987), pp. 63-75.
Zemon Davis. Women on the Margins. Copyright © 1995 by the President
and Fellows of Harvard College (Cambridge: Harvard University Press), pp.
50-51. Reprinted by permission of the author.
mourns the death of her