about it, this secret study of mine, this sudden hidden lucubration, my unexpected resurgence of interest in subjects Jewish. These were the subjects I’d been forced to study at Young Israel, if not on pain of death then on pain of parental disapproval, and it felt strange, it felt illicit, to be delving into those very same tragedies now, and with more attention being paid than ever before, for the sake of my employer.
As I turned the pages (the English-language pages, whose frequent references to the Hebrew-language work of “Ben Zion,” “Ben zion,” and “B. Netanyahu” indicated that the bulk of his scholarship was out of my grasp); as I applied myself to his introductions that read like conclusions and tried to stay reading through to his conclusions that read like prayers, I found myself simultaneously attuned to every sound in the house, from the shift and settle of the foundations up through the vibrance of the refrigerator and the ticking of the clock, to the chestnuts that clattered on the roof and the squirreled-and-chipmunked gutters; so alert and yet so spooked by the adventitious rustle, it was as if I were afraid of being caught . . . but caught by whom? My wife and daughter? The informer moon? An Inquisition tribunal from the College Seminary escorted by an armed posse of desperadoes deputized by the offices of the Corbin- dale Sheriff ? And caught doing what? Caught doing my job? I kept telling myself that what I was doing was required of me; it was a committee responsibility, a Department prereq; I was just following orders! Let them bind me to a pole and set me ablaze with what should’ve burned in the hearth, my last words would be: In the Name of Dr. Morse!
But as I paged deeper, I was scandalized myself: It was difficult for me to feel that I wasn’t blaspheming, just by reading.