Only Yesterday

By S. Y. Agnon; Barbara Harshav | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
Back to Balak

1

Balak found rest for his body, but consolation for his soul he didn't find. He was sorry about what had slipped away from under his feet and was not happy about what had come into his hands. The entire world was not worthwhile for him as was the place he was exiled from. Between one thing and another, he settled down among the nations and was melted among the Gentiles and defiled himself with the cooking of the heathens and his heart was numbed and he couldn't distinguish between Jewish holiday and Christian holiday. But a convert for spite he didn't become, and he would still wake up in the second watch of the night and shout properly, for in the second watch, dogs shout.

The evil men of Israel are like dogs. But the evil men of Israel sometimes repent and sometimes don't repent. And even those who do repent don't repent on their own, but repent because of the Shofar on the Day of Judgment, for when they hear the sound of the Shofar, they tremble in fear and dread, while Balak did repent on his own, and it was in the month of Tamuz when the Shofars are still sleeping that he decided to repent. He had enough of the goodness of the Gentiles and was fed up with them. That month when the Angels of Destruction direct the sun, and because of its heat, offenses increase and sparks of purity succumb to the evil spirits, that month whose sign is Cancer, which engenders hot and bad air and all those who are afflicted with cancer are never cured, but will die of it, that month of Tamuz didn't kill Balak's heart, but on the contrary, Balak donned so much strength in it that he flung insolent words to the heavenly Cancer. What did Balak say, Cancer, Cancer, Crab, you

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