The Place of Anger
Jay Michaelson

There was, in the moment after Eliezer Kornfield unintentionally killed his wife, a stillness in the air that reminded him of home. Her body lay askew on the beige Jerusalem tile, and Eliezer stood, motionless, thinking of the brown shingles of a house in Roslyn Heights, Long Island, where he had grown up thirty years ago.

So it was that anger, which the holy texts call a form of idolatry, led to murder. A double murder, Eliezer thought at once: my life as I have known it is over – finally. And my temper to blame, just as when I was a young boy and the other kids didn’t play the games according to the rules. Eliezer remembered how angry he had been then, how ready he was to smash the lego buildings they had built against his wishes.

Eliezer had been waiting for this moment of transformation and rebirth, although he had not known that it would take this shape. In times colored by political unrest, he had come to believe in the eschatological pronouncements of Rabbi Abraham Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, the founder of contemporary religious Zionism, as interpreted by his most ardent and devout followers. Eliezer believed -- no, he knew, and felt, and was certain with complete certainty -- that Israel’s founding was the dawn of redemption, that the reconquering of the territories of Biblical Israel had also been foretold (the Rabbi had bewailed the lack of Hebron, of Bethlehem, just weeks before the 1967 war recaptured their holy places); and that, any moment now, the final war would begin and redemption would be at hand. Events had borne out this prophecy, and now, for Eliezer at least, it was here.

After all, who may discern the shape of the messiah? The redemption which Eliezer and others believed to be imminent was not a matter of childish horsemen and apocalypse. Indeed, it might be a secret redemption that few would even know had occurred. It would be, just as the steps leading up to it had been, so subtle that only the attentive and discerning would understand that a new era had begun. For most, the malls would remain open; the cafes would still be bombed; everything would be as it was, just ever so slightly inflected. Yet for Eliezer and those who, like him, discerned the truth, all would be new.

So now all was new, and different. Was this, then, redemption?

Eliezer stood motionless, over his wife's body. Surely, had this been an intentional act, to call it redemption would be blasphemy. This would be no change in the nature of things -- it would merely be the immoral act of one man. But he had killed her by accident.

He had killed her by accident by picking up, and throwing, of all things, of all absurd messengers of change and disrepute, television set -- and more: tuned, of all things, to the news, reporting of riots, the uprooting of communities, the painful ignorance of the idolaters. Thus, Eliezer reasoned, one could ask: what caused this? He himself, of course; but also the television, the news, the politicians, the terrorists – this moment of departure was a confluence of events, a chance encounter of a thousand causes. The true author of the deed was unknown.

Eliezer continued: We call it an ‘accident’ in our language, but is such language merely a screen over that which we are afraid to admit?

In fact, the rage had blinded him. The tedious day at work; the irritating tone in Chava's voice; the way he had, for years now, spun in circles without going anywhere at all; these where what killed her. It was reasonable to conclude that no man could endure this. But, Eliezer thought, as he stood there: this was not entirely true. He had killed her. Whatever the true chain of causation, he was the proximate cause, he ought to have had the power to stop.

At moments of Eliezer’s burning anger, he felt entirely out of time. He was, while the rage lasted, five years old again, teased and beaten up by older boys; he was wrongly accused of cheating on a junior high school math exam; he was informed of the death of an acquaintance in an Arab suicide attack. The rage transported him out of his temporal context and into a zone that could only be described as eternal. It was utterly familiar, utterly comfortable, and it was the same every time. He was at one with his essence: pure, white, hot fire. His strength seemed superhuman, and although he always regretted it later, Eliezer’s ability to destroy doors, appliances, cars even, amazed him. He stood in awe of his own power, felt himself an agent of something larger, a manifestation of energy. Who had done this act?

The first thing Eliezer remembered destroying was a toy truck. He must have been four or five years old, not more. There was something wrong with it; it wouldn’t roll straight, or Eliezer had tripped on it; he no longer remembered. But he took the truck into his hands and smashed it on the floor, over and over again, until finally, a small plastic piece broke off. Small, but crucial; now the truck wouldn’t roll at all. It was junk. So Eliezer threw it against a wall, making a mark on the wall for which he was spanked later, and then took it into his hands and broke it into small pieces. “It’s an experiment,” he told his mother when she found the pieces. Really, it was just a broken toy.

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Image: Klaus Lange, Kandiskypalette

August 2005

Tisha B'Av
David Harris Ebenbach

Postcards from Gaza
Photographs by
Kitra Cahana

Morituri Te Salutant
Ari Belenkiy

The Place of Anger
Fiction by Jay Michaelson

Much Ado on 2nd Avenue
Leah Koenig

Elinor Carucci: Diary of a Dancer
Commentary by Eliot Markell

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From previous issues:

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