Only Yesterday

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

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
Isaac Wants to Return to Jerusalem and Cannot

1

In those days, Rabinovitch returned from Outside the Land. At first, we didn't recognize him because his hair had turned white and because he was dressed like a tourist, until he tapped us on the shoulder and then we recognized him. Everyone who returns to the Land of Israel even dressed in foreign garb, when his foot touches its soil, he is no longer estranged from it.

Isaac heard that Rabinovitch had returned and longed to see him but was afraid of him. Even though his affairs with Sonya were over, his affairs with himself weren't over. And if Rabinovitch had never been out of his mind's eye for a day, those days he grew severalfold. And as he grew so did that sin grow and none of his justifications justified his deeds. And if he put Shifra before his mind's eye to prove that he has nothing with Sonya, He Who reproaches him evokes Sonya in his mind's eye. Isaac's love for Shifra made him forget Sonya's good qualities and he was amazed at himself and asked, What did I see in her to trail along after her? And He Who reproaches him says to him, That's the same question I ask. Isaac's peace was gone and he found no satisfaction staying in that Jaffa he had been so fond of just a short time ago. When he wanted to return to Jerusalem, his hut held him. That hut which had made him stay in Jaffa longer than he had planned at first didn't let him go, for he had to deliver the key and he didn't know who to deliver it to.

Sweet Foot went and no one knows where he went. Two or three times, the Rabbi's Wife came to ask about him and Isaac replied that he doesn't know. An hour or two after the Rabbi's Wife left, Mendel the upholsterer came to spy on her. Since he didn't find

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