Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Siegfried as the German Soul

Meshal* of the Nebelungen
*A meshal is a Rabbinic literary form, a parable including its interpretation

The foreign warrior enters the land of an unfriendly king, for the sake of marrying the king's daughter. The sons of the king, admiring the foreign warrior's strength, befriend him and make a place for him as a vassal. The warrior marries the daughter of the king, the sister of the king's sons. This warrior grows stronger, surpassing the king in both strength and wealth. Now the son's wives grow jealous, and the king's court envious. They plot to assassinate the foreign vassal, and on doing so, expropriate his wealth.

The wife of the murdered vassal joins league with, and marries a warlike pagan neighbor. She hopes to inflict revenge, and also regain her wealth. She lures her brothers-in-law into her pagan court, where the king has them murdered. Then the queen murders her children by that pagan king, and then murders the king himself, bringing ruin on both houses.

There is another side to this history. It is the side we read in the history books:

There is a man whom many honor. He murders his wife. While his brothers and sisters, his friends, his teachers stand by his side, he murders her, coldly, cruelly. It was not unexpected, had anyone considered his behavior. One day he scorns her; then he degrades her; finally, in the light of day he murders her.

Who was this man? He was Europe, and his wife was Yisroyel. Though the man was brought to justice, what of his siblings, friends, and neighbors? What of his teachers?

But, you may ask, what does this have to do with the story of the king, the murdered vassal, and the revenge brought down by the vassal's wife? The first story is a spiritual history, with motivations, causes and effects. The second story is its political version, its outward events and the questions and doubts one is left with. But it is the same story. In the spiritual version, the king is a composite of many European rulers. The vassal is Yisroyel. The vassal's wife is the Divine Shekhena. Europe's crimes will not go unpunished, but, naturally, it will be God, not Yisroyel that will effect that punishment. In other words, the Divine reckoning will be invisible. The historians will record Europe's political and economic decline, and will find local, tenuous causes, but the spiritual causality of Europe's rise and then its ruin will remain unseen and unaccounted.

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