Understanding Sin - Poem by gershon hepner
All human spirit is the understanding
of sin, declared once Thomas Mann in "Joseph and His Brothers."
As soon as we become far more demanding
regarding sin we lose it, having for it no more druthers.
Joseph Epstein ("Putting Literary Flesh on Biblical Bones, " WSJ,8/25-26/12) writes about Thomas Mann's Joseph and His Broothers in the "Masterpiece" section of the WSJ. I read the book while I was in the yeshiva of Kerem B'Yavneh between 1956 and 1957:
One could create a dazzling anthology of aphorisms from 'Joseph and His Brothers.' 'It takes understanding to sin; yes, at bottom, all spirit is nothing else than understanding of sin.' And: 'We fail to realize the indivisibility of the world when we think of religion and politics as fundamentally separate fields.' And: 'No, the agonies of love are set apart; no one has ever repented having suffered them.' And again: 'Man, then, was a result of God's curiosity about himself.'
In another of the book's aphorisms, Mann writes: 'Indeed resolution and patience are probably the same thing.' How often must that sentiment, over the years he spent composing this grand prose epic, have occurred to Mann himself. At the end of his foreword to the single-volume edition, he wonders if his tetralogy 'will perhaps be numbered among the great books.' He cannot know, of course, but as the son of a tradesman he does know that only quality endows the products of human hands with endurance. 'The song of Joseph is good, solid work, ' he writes, 'done out of that fellow feeling for which mankind has always been sensitively receptive. A measure of durability is, I think, inherent in it.'
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