Andrè Schwarz Last of the Just - Andrè Schwarz-Bart’s...

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Andrè Schwarz-Bart’s novel, The Last of the Just intertwines the legend of the Lamed- Vov with the Levys of Zemyock in a story spanning hundreds of years and many generations. It begins in 1185 in York with Rabbi Yom Tov Levy, who under threat of an angry mob and ongoing siege of the watchtower which the Jews of York were trapped in, advised the group to return themselves to god and die rather than convert to Christianity. This singular act of extreme piety became legend, and sealed the Levy family’s destiny- or perhaps curse- that each succeeding generation of Levy should bear a Lamed-Vovnik, a ‘Just Man.’ But what of the women in the story? Within traditional Judaism itself there are certain limitations which the women have to adhere to. They are not encouraged to peruse higher education or religious study. Women are not qualified to fulfill a minyan, or the count of ten Jewish men which are required for public prayer. Women are certainly not able to be a Lamed Vov, a saintly Just Man who holds the sorrows and purpose of the world in themselves. Their primary role is instead as keeper of the household and husband, yet Schwarz-Bart, although chiefly following the men of the Levy line, entertains reflections on the role of the females Levys as well. Shwarz-Bart’s characters do adhere somewhat to their archetypal roles, Judith as matriarch, and Golda as dewy lover for example,
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