Notebook

Law & Parables

There’d be much to say about Linda Kinstler’s important volume Come to this Court and Cry, a landmark study of the aftermath of the Shoah. I’d like, though, to hone in on a remark which indicates, as it were, the book’s hermeneutic framework. ‘In Jewish tradition’, writes Kinstler, ‘law and literature have a dialectic relation, inflecting and following upon one another. Where the law fails, parables point the way. Where stories are silent, law speaks. In this way, literature and law produce and revise one another. «The two are one in their beginning and their end», wrote Haim Bialik.’ This insight helps us understand an aspect of the contemporary cultural climate. In society, but also in the Church, a movement is abroad to abolish fundamental laws. At the same time we have largely forgotten our identity-shaping stories, no longer retold. What we’re left with is bewildering emptiness.