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THE WILL TO LIVE ON by Herman Wouk


This Is Our Heritage

by Herman Wouk

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-06-019608-4

The celebrated author's post-Holocaust living will. What can Pulitzer Prize-winning Wouk add after thirteen novels, four plays, and more? This valedictory, darker than The Hope (1993), includes various wars and remembrances. When the winds of war settled, the Holocaust and Israel provided Jews with "the energy of guilt and the energy of pride. Both are waning . . . [and Jewry is now] running on empty." The destruction of European Jewry is compared to the epic loss of the Second Temple, and the Rabin assassination put in terms of a biblical analogy. Wouk, noting that the commandant of Auschwitz predicted that Western Jews would assimilate and seal Hitler's victory, worries about Jewry's cultural mutiny. The grandchildren of Marjorie Morningstar are demographic icicles. The hope, if not the glory, of a Jewish future may have to be qualitative rather than quantitative. Wouk, urging cultural survival through cultural literacy, devotes his large central section to a brisk but skillful summary of the Jewish classics: all the books of the Hebrew Bible, plus the talmud, the kabbalah, and Yiddish culture. His anecdotal evidence suggests that even secular Jews might enjoy his daily mental workout on the monkey bars of talmudic law. Wouk sees learning and living by Judaism's classics as Jewry's only hope for living on in the diaspora. Despite his dire predictions, his testament—enlivened by memories of Rabin, Ben-Gurion, Bellow, Agnon, and his family patriarchs—is more optimistic than ominous. The first and perhaps the last learned American-Jewish novelist begins his Afterword, "So my task ends." Like Moses the Lawgiver in his book-length farewell address in Deuteronomy, Wouk at 84 leaves us with a recap of Torah wisdom and the encouragement to choose survival. Here is the lion of Judah in winter.