Sunday, August 4, 2013
the last book I ever read (The Slave by Isaac Bashevis Singer, excerpt eight)
from The Slave by Isaac Bashevis Singer:
The men of the burial society lifted the corpse, opened the window, and recited the justification of God’s decree. They placed Jacob with his feet toward the door and set two candles at his head. Pious men gathered to recite the Psalms. The news that Jacob had died spread swiftly through the district. Even though he had lived in obscurity for twenty years in the land of Israel, how he had conducted himself was not unknown, and he was thought of as a righteous man. The original cemetery plot was long since fully occupied, so Jacob was given ground in the new part. The body was cleansed and taken to the study house were the rabbi spoke the eulogy. The whole town attended Jacob’s funeral. When the gravedigger broke ground for Jacob’s grave, his spade struck bones. He began to dig more carefully, and soon a body was seen that had not yet completely decomposed, perhaps because the earth there was so sandy and dry. From the skeleton and from pieces of clothing, the burial society women saw that it was a female. Strands of blond hair still entwined the skull, and it soon became clear that this was the grave of Sarah, who had been buried unshrouded in her own dress. The community had buried Sarah outside but the dead had gathered to take her in. The cemetery itself had ordained it; Sarah was a Jewish daughter and a sanctified corpse.