Mordecai in the early chapters is picking potatoes with the Poles. Mind you, this is not the Nazis yet. He's picking potatoes, and he comes, and he wants to cook a potato on the fire. He's done nothing wrong. And they start mocking him. The farm hands fell silent at his approach. He squatted and slipped three potatoes into the embers of the fire. All those silent glances released a mortal anguish within him. Mordecai saw himself as between the jaws of the wolf, posed delicately on the quivering tongue. At his slightest gesture, the fangs would close. Breathing heavily in fear, he plucked out a potato jiggling it in his palms. Some people use the fire without even asking, a voice growled. In the clutch of terror, Mordecai dropped the potato. I didn't know, sir. Forgive me, I thought. You hear that, the Pole asked. Did you hear it? He thought. We have here, a typical moment of bullying, right? The bullying of the group against the pretty much defenseless, young Jew. The peasant was about his age, but his arms were bare in spite of the cold, and his half open tunic unveiled the majestic beginnings of a taurine neck. Taurine from Taurus like your favorite football players. His knotty hands, resting square and jaunty on his hips, accented his look of a stocky animal, Mordecai trembled. From a good-natured, ruddy face, two delicately blue eyes stare at him with a placid, hating, Polish gravity. No help for it, the voice said, you've got to fight. Mordecai rallied, why, what for? Fight for what? Well, you know what happens next. You know about bullies. Gentlemen, he began spreading his arms, I take you to witness, for I had no wish to insult this gentleman, in using the hearth from my potatoes, can you believe otherwise? And since there was no offense, he went on. And since there has been no offense, do you not think farmers in general and that reasonable explanations might allow us to resolve the differences between myself and this gentleman? So, in the face of what is a group that wants to see a fight, he talks about rationality, no offense, right? And though, the response is, they know how to talk, these Yidels, said the young Pole in the voice of gesture, of sincere conviction. And then sweeping the air with an elegant gesture, he flung Mordecai to the ground. He's gotta fight. And he's beaten up, but then Schwarz-Bart has an interesting moment here about The Last of the Just. He was barely on his feet to flee, when the kick caught him on his rump, depositing him face down in the dirt. The young Pole was repeating placidly, dirty Jew, dirty Jew, dirty Jew, and drove a foot against his rump each time he tried to rise. In his voice was so strong a note of triumph that soon Mordecai felt his contempt for the man, transform itself into an aching flame that consumed him entirely, reducing him suddenly to a human body, flexed and sinewy as a bow. He never knew how it happened. He found himself standing and flung himself toward the young Pole, crying, what do you think you're doing? He was indignant. We have the chapter break. When the peasants dragged him off the defeated foe whom he was still hammering with his fists, his feet, his elbows, if possible, he would have thrashed him with the whole stiffened mass of his body. Mordecai, haggard and almost drunk on blood, discovered he had conquered the whole Christian universe of violence in one campaign. Notice the phrasing, the whole Christian universe of violence. That one, a peasant said, that one's not like the rest of them. Slowly, a dry shame invaded Mordecai. Now, he said, with a naive arrogance they liked, now I can use your fire. And that evening, he knew that henceforth, he held an advantage over his own people, of a body intimately bound to the earth, to plants, to trees, to all animals inoffensive or dangerous, including those who bear the name of man. So he understood that he has to fight back. So he's not just the standard Lamed-Vovnik, right? He fights. He resists. And in this case, he beats the bullies. So, I bring this to you as one of the things that Schwarz-Bart is talking about, one of the things he's trying to tell us, that here is a Jew who resists and is then respected for fighting against the bullies. And, in this case, winning against big odds. But this is just fists, right? And this is not just the whole of the issue. Another passage. Well, I'll just paraphrase. This is on pages 68 and 69, where he meets another Jew and they have a conversation. And this Jew, Goldfaden. Had ceased to believe in God. Benjamin stared at him, uncomprehending. Mr Goldfaden, the cosmopolitan gentleman, had shown him more consideration than anyone except the Lamed-Vovniks had ever displayed. Assuredly he was not an unbeliever, then what could this mean? What do you mean exactly, dear Mr. Goldfaden, when you tell me that you don't believe in God? I am not entirely sure that I grasp the basis of your thought. The old man turned away. He seemed mysteriously irritated by Benjamin's tone. The boy went on with the same skeptical indulgence. Am I to deduce, dear Mr. Goldfaden, that you don't believe that God created the heavens and earth and all that followed? Benjamin understood, illumined by a sudden insight that the good Mr. Goldfaden quite simply did not believe in God. But after all, dear Mr. Goldfaden he went on, chilled by fear, if God did not exist, what would you and I be? The old man offered a compassionate smile, and his voice sought vainly for the lost tone of gaiety. Poor little Jewish workingmen, no? That's all? Alas, said the old presser. So, Benjamin that night tried to picture all things as Mr. Goldfaden must see them. Bit by bit, he arrived at the terrifying conclusion that if God did not exist, Zemyock, his little town, was only an absurd fragment of the universe. But then he wondered, where does all the suffering go? This is exactly what Wiesel is trying to deal with. Seeing again Mr. Goldfaden's hopeless expression, he cried out in a sob that ripped through the darkness of the workshop. It goes for nothing, oh, my God, it goes for nothing. So, if God does not exist in Benjamin's universe, the suffering goes for nothing. And this is something that this young Lamed-Vovnik cannot accept. So, Benjamin is now confronting this question, and it's a question that had already been asked by Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov. I hope you have a chance to read that, it's really an amazing book. And has been raised by Wiesel and other writers that were looking at what is the point of the suffering? And by this myth of the 36 just men, Schwarz-Bart is trying to suggest that the very active questioning has been part of what the Jews have been doing. From the Middle Ages into the modern world, that they are still holding on to the role they have played in the culture. And in this sense, he's got a wider sweep to his story than the other books that we're reading, because he's suggesting a kind of continuity from the medieval world onward. But the medieval world could not because of Christian theology countenance the notion that they would exterminate the Jews, but that is what is being faced now with the Nazis. So the novel is called The Last of the Just. And in that sense, it's a book that's providing a mythological response, and that's different. But it's also a book that is providing a mythological response while it's being very realistic. And it's full of moments when it deals with the historical experience that is being raised, that is happening. So it isn't just a martyrology, it isn't just the lives of the saints, it's continuing in the Wiesel tradition, how can I make sense of what's going on?