I brought home the conviction of having been in the oldest and the youngest of nations, of having come from a very living, vigilant land to a half-asleep nook of the world.
Indeed, one of his 1969 poems (“Israel, 1969”) explores just this paradox of the Jewish people’s simultaneous youth and antiquity, reflecting upon the “sweet insidiousness” that allowed Judaism to survive in various diasporas by resisting the swirling political currents around it, and that sprang into renewed life with the creation of the modern Jewish state: But surely, the poet queries momentarily, the Jewish people’s perpetual outsider status and constant focus on the preservation of the past must have bred a certain national spiritual languor? You shall build the homeland with swamps, you shall erect it in deserts.
Ecclesiastes, the one biblical book in this litany, bears little doctrinal or “national” stamp.
Not so, however, the reference to the “Table of the Breads and the Sea of Bronze”: items from Solomon’s Temple that conjure up elements of the Hebrew Bible most foreign to Christians—not to mention the ten (divine emanations) of Jewish mysticism.
It’s thus all too easy to understand him as viewing these diverse sources of wisdom as interchangeable, or at least as sharing a common source.
Yet the role he assigns to the Hebrew language is unique, since it is only by finding the Aleph that a person can see all else clearly.To understand what that is, it’s helpful to have some familiarity with his work more broadly.Borges’s fiction, seen by many scholars and critics as the precursor to literary postmodernism, plays with perspective, with the boundaries that separate reader from writer, with the reliability of his frequently mysterious narrators, and indeed with the frequently uncertain meaning of his parables.And as for Borges’s later extension of this admiration to the Jewish state, and his understanding of the role in Jewish history of its victory in the Six-Day War, these are nothing short of remarkable.When it came to Israel, his suspicion of nationalism seemed to disappear.Moreover, in a Borgesian landscape where subjectivity reigns, and everyone is prisoner to his own perspective, Israel remains present: “You’re in the book that is the mirror/ of each face approaching it.” These sentiments lead to a triumphant conclusion most uncharacteristic of Borges: “Long live Israel, who keeps God’s wall/ In your passionate battle.” In contrast to his typically ironic voice and his use of an unreliable narrator, these final verses emerge as a personal credo in which appreciation of Jewish accomplishment in the Diaspora past spills over into exhilarated admiration for the Jewish present and post-Diaspora future.Underscoring the point is an autobiographical essay published in the Early in 1969, invited by the Israeli government, I spent ten very exciting days in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.his month, a new Spanish volume was published about Jorge Luis Borges’s relationship to Judaism—timed to be released 50 years after his first visit to Israel at the personal invitation of David Ben-Gurion.The book, titled , explores the great Argentinian writer’s various Jewish connections.A lapsed Catholic with an interest in many religions, Borges (1899-1986) was particularly fascinated by Judaism, especially Kabbalah, and surprisingly erudite references to Jewish texts make their way into several of his stories.Even more unusually for a literary figure, especially one who traveled in avant-garde circles, his appreciation of Judaism translated into enthusiasm for the Jewish state.