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Oneg Shabat by Elisha Porat
 translated from Hebrew by Suzan Rosenfeld
 
Yair is my name; my family name is not to be mentioned  here - because it is a well known name in the Yeshuv, a respected one. For  the sake of your boundless curiosity I will add only this: I am a violinist  and kibbutz member.

An odd combination. A strange combination. Two things that  don't go together. Don't pay any mind to what you've read in the old  newspapers. That is to say, a talented violinist with a brilliant career ahead of  him. And suddenly, while still young and with life's pull still vigorous and  strong, he gets up and leaves it all and settles down in the deep loess sands  around Beersheva.

Nonsense - note that down so you'll remember. Utter  nonsense. Untruth, or worse, if there's anything worse than untruth. For what  was it that aroused that venomous journalistic wrath? The career broken off  malevolently. The musical genius who quit. Or that he threw away his  potential on what was mediocre in him, and withdrew to the kibbutz. You, who  are familiar with this life, would you believe it? Kibbutz - what withdrawal  is there in it? From what did he withdraw and to what?

You see, everything is open to interpretation. An entire  life is before you to interpret. A unique life story, repeating itself  perhaps in double motifs. And so forth, ad infinitum. And its up to you to  decide: perhaps as a journalist - that is to say, a great musician who  became a small kibbutznik.

Or like my colleagues who stayed in the city and describe  it as a unforgivable act of folly. An act meriting ostracism and disgrace. Or  like my friends the metal worker and the welder - true friends - who discern  that once this fellow had a different life, different breath, was enveloped  in different air.

And its true: Once I was a well-known violinist for whom  great things were presaged. The giants from Europe and from Russia spoke  words of praise about me. That is, the gentle treatment of the sapling that  is expected one day to be plentifully endowed with fruit - that true  endowment, not counterfeit, for which everyone so yearns. For the record, I  am even prepared to add that I haven't deserted music for a single moment,  but have transferred it to a different production line, as people  say colloquially these days. I have measured it out in different portions. I have adapted it to the realistic existence which I have taken upon myself. To  the existence derived from that reality which I, as an omnipotent creator,  quite to the contrary, took upon myself as a privilege and a duty, an effort  and a pleasure, to celebrate as the reality of my life. Donut be hasty and go  making generalization right away. I did nothing earth-shaking. I didn't  debase what was lofty. I didn't raise up the lowly.

That is to say, basically, that I took upon myself the laws and customs prevalent in our bestial earthly kingdom. But I wanted to admit to it a little candle-light. To illuminate its darkness a bit. No,  donut aggravate me with your impatience; not with the help of my music. My  music is not lamp oil. I mean the light of a candle in a more spiritual,  higher, purer sense. Or, to be more precise, a more purifying sense.

Now, when you pick up a record you look to see: Where is Yair's playing as opposed to that of the orchestra? Where are his brilliant  performances? Where are his wonderful recitals which the journalists trampled so gleefully? Where are those echoing recitatives which he would squeeze out  of the violin pressed to his brave chin? Where are they all? Into what  ephemerality have they gone astray and disappeared?

The hand which pulled the bow has been exchanged for that which splits clods; the extraordinary fingers have been subjected to the  suffering and blisters of a worker on the night shift in the plastic factory;  the heart which thumped out tempos and melted time into them has been tuned  to the depressing noises of machinery, and his soul  he pioneering".

And you can add to your notebook, right away, without hesitation: prolonged, hard years of drought. The burning desert of  Beersheva, the hazy loess wilderness along highways shimmering in the heat. Years set ablaze in the great bellows of the desert. Yes, that's good. It  explains the background.

It prepares the listener for the period of metamorphosis  which comes next. Here you sow the seeds of surprise. When it comes to the  details of that evening after the concert, struggling with one another within  a forced succession whose outcome, apparently, is already known to you from  your previous conversation. From will call your former  meetings with the other heroes of the affair. First of all, perhaps you  ought to be more precise and say, the other heroines of the story. You persist? Very well: There was one man. Who? Correct, the ever-worried culture coordinator. Yes, I had almost forgotten about him. And really,  between us, what importance do you attach to him? What you say about his  being important as an accelerator can be considered laughable. The nuclear  accelerator of this farce, of this drama of degradation.

Take note that I am evading nothing; nor am I denying  anything. You expected a firm denial.

Your disappointment is reflected in your eyes and in your fingers scribbling energetically through the pages of your notebook. I won't  deny it, because I donut feel myself accused. You want to hear my story too,  - all right. You can add it to the accused". Here in this whole rotten story  there are no distinct positions of innocence and culpability; there are no  varying distances from the illuminating, nuclear center of some specific  justice. We are all stationed in positions of equal punishability. No one among  us is more worthy than the others.

Donut forget that in your hurried scribbling in your  notebook. I quote: Equal reward for different work. That's the nucleus of the  collective idea, isn't it? So allow me to ask, does this mean material reward  or a reward which is not material? Televisions or a reward from above? Lets  see if your as smart as you make yourself out to be. Go ahead, try to give  me an answer: What reward is meant here? And donut make it easy on yourself,  please. When we say work, what work do we mean? Serving this great Golem, the  kibbutz? Or the service of the individual within the community? Or  serving idols?

You see, you can immediately discern the weakness of  formulas. Music in exchange for kibbutz. Neglect of the individual  personality in order to blend into kibbutz existence. Conquering the  wilderness of the Negev around Beersheva. With the strength of hands running  back and forth along a conveyor belt of melted plastic, and not with the  volunterable strength of musicians hands. Understood? I wont mention my  last name, and I will not allow you to mention so much as a hint of it. I have the feeling that everything will be revealed if I should say it in public. That is to say, as long as those who know the family is a distinguished one,  purebred, real, among the foundation stones of the Yeshuv, as long as that is all they're talking about - its not so bad. But the moment they start making  ignoble connections and pointing out questionable blood relationships and  known madmen in the family who must have passed on the iron-clad rules of  their madness to someone, to some distant offspring - no, I refuse to put up  with that. Not even at the price of the story. You wont find any of that on  the dust jackets of records. Neither beneath my picture nor above it.

By the way, I have also renounced making records. You  didn't know that either? What's with you, man? Why didn't you prepare  properly for this meeting? All these things lose their importance if I'm  having a dialogue with an ignoramus. You mumble and lead me to think that  maybe you really know something, and that you curiosity is based on something  deeper. And in the end, only shameful shallowness. You simply neutralize all  the enjoyment I might have gotten out of the story. Sluggard - go learn something about the history of the Yeshuv, the history of great people, the history of the kibbutz. Have you ever heard of A.D. Gordon? Have you read  Brenner? And, damn it, what do you even know about music? There's more to life than gossip. True, its sometimes hard to find in it more than snatches  of gossip made by mere shadows of human beings within some lump of time  collecting dust on its way through the present. Right before our wondering  eyes. But this way you are liable to lose interest in what's going on around  you. All at once I shiver as I feel a sudden draft blowing from within that  zero, moving quickly toward me, making me dizzy for a few moments and then,  fortunately - my good fortune - leaving me alone. Such polar frigidity, if  it lays hold of you, can empty you of everything that was in you and leave you an empty and puzzled child, as if you had never traveled and  experienced all those years, as if during their passage you had never been  charged with an electrifying load which keeps you alive, as you are, longing  for the music which you will never be able to play, and secretly taking  pride, a miserable foolish pride, that after all, if art has eluded you and  will not return, there still remains in your closed fist the train of the  raiment of another existence which will not fly off and vanish so quickly. A settled, comfortable existence that you donut have to run after. On the contrary, it chases you. Sometimes kibbutz "pioneering". Sometimes it can be termed sacrifice. And sometimes it can be said that you have sold you soul to the Satan of  Justice. Do you know what it means for your hand to cry at night from longing for a touch of the bow, for the vibration of the strings, the smell  of lacquer, the curvature of the wood.

"Damned eroticism", as you inquired. Snare or pit? Facing  you open notebook and your young hand running through it, I find it very difficult to phrase my words. I could simply throw the raw materials, main  points, hints, and principles at you, and leave the job of formulating it to  you. But I donut trust you. I'm afraid you're liable to disappoint me. Its not just a matter of formulating things. Its a much more inclusive organization. You have to decide which portion of the tremendous flow you're  going to freeze. Then you have to decide how many times to magnify it, which  details you wish to conceal, and which, out of strange gleeful vengeance,  you wish to highlight. That is to say, who within you to leave exposed - which may prove dangerous although that's something you cant know beforehand. There may be danger inherent in it, and also pleasure. When you are alone with the violin you are doing the same thing: freezing a bit of time. And afterwards, when it begins to rise and float on the face of the  formlessness, you choose yourself a focal length and a wave and frequencies  and modulations and magnify and clarify. But not the whole segment. Only portions of it. The ones that seem relevant to the matter at hand. And here  you are lost if the ear of your audience interferes. No deals under the table.

Any compromise is rotten. Only what your inner ear  whispers to you. Donut take the audience of you listeners into consideration. They're charmed. It is you who are leading them. They have only two external  ears, connected to their heads. But you have more. You have an inner ear  joined to other systems as well as to the systems of your body. A sensitive  ear which absorbs sounds from other worlds. They sit spellbound. You are bound to the source which pours into you. They stretch out to you, to the  motions of your hands, to the pressure of your fingers, to the sound  waves which you create from within your body, from within your body warmth,  your sweat, your metabolism, your horrible smells.

You stretch in a different direction. You have someone else calling to you through openings torn in the acoustic lining of the ceiling. You are different. They are blind. Donut see the light penetrating  through those openings. They are unseeing. They think that there is no rent in  the ceiling.

That only fluorescent lamps are shedding light upon them. You have more. More light gets through to you, flows to you, standing on the little stage, the vase of lilies for concert nights shaking on its stand from  the impact of the notes. You are alone with the sources that have opened up  to you tonight. Here they are. Their hearts open up to you. It is you who  bring forth and present to them. Donut collapse under the weight of this responsibility. Ignore them.

Woe to you if you stop to ask: What do you think? Do you  like it? Run ahead. Donut stop. Store away the profusion now so that you'll be able to scatter it to them, crumb by crumb, on the day the heavens close themselves to you and you can receive no more of their light.

Damned eroticism." I have already told you, and I repeat. You donut know whether you are bringing down or being brought down. Whether  you are conquering or are vanquished. It is a wretched crawling from the  snare into the pit. And again, back and fourth, over and over. There are always charming young women standing there, the smell of their youth  astonishing - hanging their legs over the concrete stairs and turning their  heads back at the sound of the screen door... The slight, faint breeze ruffles their soft hair, and your heart bursts within you foe what is unobtainable. Here, if you ask me, I am prepared to make a declaration: The most beautiful thing in the entire world is the soft hair of a young girl  blowing in a gentle breeze. Donut misjudge me for being so  frank.

Everything else, I tell you, everything else is just stories. A cabin whose foundations are rotting. A neglected garden. Bats devouring all the juicy fruit of the mimosa tree. Just a young girls hair blowing in a gentle breeze and my heart slows to a standstill. The spring  returning the screen door with a forceful slam. A car disappearing in  the darkness between the trunks of the Indian birches with their notched bark. That is only the background, I tell you. Donut aggravate me. Write it down exactly like that: background. I take the cabin and turn it upside down,  pull it up with its foundations. Until the fifty-year-old iron rods are  suddenly exposed and I throw it far away, and in its place bring a lawn on  Shabbat or a lounge deserted after a celebration or a drinking party. Do you  get the idea? You move your bow, and from the belly of the violin produce the  necessary note, which vanishes among the accessories. It can make its way in  any direction. Because, for it, any direction is true. Trees, roads, houses -  all can pass away. Because they are not true. They are here only by accident. A sort of wrapping which may or may not be removed. But the true note is not interchangeable. It is one of a kind.

Follow it and see how it escapes from the lounge in the  direction of the cabin. As if of its own accord, by the force of  gravity.

Damned eroticism". From the snare of the concert stage  into the pit of the wide bed in the guest room which the violinist is given  for the night. And the long road from the sandstorms around Beersheva to  this humid and burdensome coastal plain which now threatens to settle on his  tired heart and burst it by force of these things which only he realizes will  never return. And follow him further, as he escapes, like a youth after his first act of love, through the window with its shattered hinges; as he makes a soft landing on the earth of the neglected garden; as he hurries  instinctively in the direction of his car parked in the unfamiliar lot, turns on its lights, slices the foliage-encased darkness with  the surprise of spotlights; turns in place and without even checking to see if he has thrown  all his things into the trunk, he lurches ahead, wildly, until the degrading  encounter with the gatekeepers on the way out of the kibbutz. Its obvious  that your heroines have filled your granaries with useful information. You're in a bad way. Your filled notebooks wont save you. You'll have to  decide: Do you favor them or me? The marks you put down on the paper with  such amazing speed will not let you avoid a slow moment of thought. Where to  now? With Yair to the pits yawning at his feet at each concert? With Zipporka and with all the complainers in the world, who are always betrayed by people  more important and more noble than they - taken advantage of, led by the nose  until finally a cruel justice is done to the swindlers? Or perhaps with  pretty Naomi, with her lilies, her soft hair waving in the afternoon breeze?  The sheet music which her pretty hand turns fore. Her body, her bed, her  searing warmth. Or with the culture coordinator, who wasn't involved in  the affair at all but just floated in it at his leisure, from a safe  distance, step after step, until its strange denouement?

Take your time to make up your mind. I wont press you. I  have plenty of time and I'm prepared to wait. Ill gladly postpone our next  meeting. For a week? Two weeks? As long as you like. But you must remember  one thing: Donut put my family name into your papers where it doesn't belong.  Donut touch that name!

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