Jewish Mysticism and Messianism in Isaac Bashevis Singer's Family Chronicle Di Familye Mushkat (The Family Moskat)

in European Judaism

Isaac Bashevis Singer's novel Di familye Mushkat (The Family Moskat) depicts the lives of three generations of a Polish-Jewish family and their associates from the early 1900s until 1939. Messianism and the unfulfilled hope for redemption constitute an important theme. Bashevis presents both the traditional Jewish belief in the coming of the Messiah and modern secular models of redemption. He leaves his readers with two possible solutions, reflected in the different endings of the Yiddish and the English editions. The English ends with a modern Jewish intellectual's resigned response to the impending catastrophe, seeing messianic redemption only in death. The Yiddish edition, whose final chapter the English omits, exposes all the new secular messiahs as failures and shows the validity of traditional Judaism despite the evil awaiting the Jews in Poland. In this novel, the dominant leitmotif is death. The descriptions of some of the protagonists' dying hours are replete with Kabbalistic images of the higher spheres and of 'sparks of holiness' scattered through the universe. In the face of death, in the last chapter of the Yiddish edition, the main protagonist of the novel discovers the power of the words of the Torah, from whose letters, according to Sefer Yetzirah, the world was created.