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ברכות־הנפטרין על פי האמונה הבוקוניסטית | the Last Rites of Bokonon, by Kurt Vonnegut (1963, Hebrew translation by Amatsyah Porat 1978)

https://opensiddur.org/?p=52834 ברכות־הנפטרין על פי האמונה הבוקוניסטית | the Last Rites of Bokonon, by Kurt Vonnegut (1963, Hebrew translation by Amatsyah Porat 1978) 2023-10-02 19:17:59 This is an adaptation of the "Last Rites of Bokonon" from the 99th chapter of Kurt Vonnegut's novel <em>Cat's Cradle</em> (1963) translated by Amatsyah Porat for the 1978 Hebrew language edition of the novel. Text the Open Siddur Project Aharon N. Varady (transcription) Aharon N. Varady (transcription) Amatsyah Porat (translation) Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. https://opensiddur.org/copyright-policy/ Aharon N. Varady (transcription) https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/107 Dying 20th century C.E. 58th century A.M. תשובה teshuvah בני אדם bnei adam Needing Vocalization
In her Rosh haShanah 5784 sermon, Rabbi Shoshana Friedman relates a story concerning her father-in-law, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi from 2013:

We arrived in Boulder for Pesach, and gathered around a full seder table with Reb Zalman in his giant wooden chair. At one point, the rebbe leaned forward with a glint in his eye, and announced he was going to recite the Last Rites of Bokonon for us.

Yotam retreived a dog-eared copy of Cat’s Cradle, the iconic novel (and critique of organized religion) in which Kurt Vonnegut describes a fictional faith called Bokononism. Reb Zalman easily found the page he wanted. He looked around the table, held all of us in rapt attention, and recited the following. (To understand what I’m about to read you just have to know two Bokonon words – a wampeter is the purpose of a person’s life, how they are meant to serve God. And a karass is the group of people who share your wampeter. Take a moment to reflect on your own wampeter, if you have an idea of what it is… and a moment to note if you’ve been lucky enough to meet others in your karass.)

I can still hear the way Reb Zalman recited it – his gentle tone, the slight Yiddish/German accent, the impish twinkle in his eyes, the extraordinary tender reverence he always had when talking about God as a beloved, as a friend. None of us knew it at that seder, but fourteen months later, Reb Zalman – Yotam’s beloved Abba — would lie down and go to sleep a month shy of his 90th birthday. I am certain he was celebrated in heaven, for having done a remarkable job helping his karass fulfill their wampeter.


TABLE HELP

Translation (Hebrew)Source (English)
Performed in the Boko-Maru posture,
the bare soles of the giver and receiver of the rites pressed against one another.
Each line repeated in response:
אתה, אלהים, עשית את הבוֹץ
ואתה ראית, אלהים, כי לא טוב היותך לבדך
God made mud,
God got lonesome,[1] C.f. Genesis 2:18. 
ואתה, אלהים, אמרת לקומץ בוץ: ישב!
ואתה אמרת, אלהים: ”ראֵה את כל מעשי: ראֵה הרי, ראֵה ימִי, ראה שמַי וכוכבים אשר כוֹנַנתי.“
So God said to some of the mud, “Sit up!”,
“See all I’ve made,” said God, “the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars.”
ואני, קומץ בוץ שכמותי, ישבתי ופניתי כה וכה לראות.
And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
אשרַי, אשרֵי בוץ יושב, אשרי יושב בוץ.
Lucky me, lucky mud.
ואני, בוץ וָבֶצֶץ, ישבתי וראיתי את מלאכתך, אלהים, אשר עשית.
I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
יופי של עבודה, אלהים!
Nice going, God!
אלהים, מי יִדמה לָך ומי יִשוה לך[2] Here Porat uses language that directly references the prayer Nishmat kol Ḥai from the Shabbat morning (and Passover Hallel) service  ומי יעשה כאלה חוץ ממֶךָּ! אני בודאי לא הייתי מסוגל.
Nobody but You could have done it, God! I certainly couldn’t have.
נכזה הייתי בעינַי, במה נחשבתי לעומתֶךָ.
I feel very unimportant compared to You.
בזאת אֶחָשֵׁב מעט בעיני, בחשבי על כל הבוץ אשר אפילו לשבת ולראות לא זכה.
The only way that I can feel the least bit important is to think of all the mud that didn’t even get to sit up and look around.
מה טוב ומה רב חלקי, ומה זעוּם ומה מצער חלקו של רוב הבוץ.
I got so much, and most mud got so little.
אודךָ כי כיבדתני!
Thank you for the honor!
ועתה ישוב הבוץ אל הבוץ וילך לישון עם ישני בוץ.
Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
שלבוץ יהיו זכרונות שכאלה!
What memories for mud to have!
וכל מיני הבוֹצים היושבים המעניינים שפגשתי!
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met!
שמח לבבי בכל מה שראיתי!
I loved everything I saw!
לילה טוב.
לגן־עדן תהיה הליכתי עכשיו.
Good night.
I will go to heaven now.
קצרה רוחי…
לדעת אל־נכון מה היה ה’רבסרן’ שלי…
ומי היה “ב’טנרב’ שלי…
ואת כל המעשים הטובים שעשה טַנרָבֵנוּ לשמֶךָ.
I can hardly wait…
To find out for certain what my wampeter[3] the central theme or purpose of a karass — a group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial linkages are not evident. Each karass has two wampeters at any given time, one waxing and one waning. Similar to one’s wampeter but in Judaism is the concept of תפקיד (tafqid) — one’s divinely ordained purpose.  was. . .
And who was in my karass[4] find note above. . . .
And all the good things our karass did for you.
אמן.
Amen.

This is an adaptation of the “Last Rites of Bokonon” from the 99th chapter of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle (1963) translated by Amatsyah Porat for the 1978 Hebrew language edition of the novel. In his translation, Porat makes some interesting choices that deviate slightly from Vonnegut’s text. Instead of shamayim for “Heaven,” Porat chooses “Gan Aden.” In one line, Porat also references the prayer Nishmat kol Ḥai (מִי יִדְמֶה לָּךְ וּמִי יִשְׁוֶה לָּךְ).

Chapter 99 presents the last rites as administered to the dictator of the fictional Caribbean island of San Lorenzo, Miguel “Papa” Monzano, by his physician, Dr. Schlichter von Koenigswald, a former SS Nazi doctor at Auschwitz concentration camp. (From chapter 83: “If he keeps going at his present rate, working night and day, the number of people he’s saved will equal the number of people he let die—in the year 3010.”) Each line of the rite spoken by von Koenigswald is repeated by Papa Monzano. Here, the repeated lines have been edited in order to present a clear copy of the liturgy. The irony found in this chapter in Cat’s Cradle is that Papa, an ardent foe of Bokonon, the founder of the religion of Bokononism, is secretly also a follower. (And Dr. von Koenigswald knows the liturgy well enough himself to not only recite it but administer it in the requisite Boko-Maru posture).

Twenty-four years after his graduate thesis in Anthropology at the University of Chicago, “The Fluctuations Between Good and Evil in Simple Tasks,” was rejected in 1947, Kurt Vonnegut was awarded a Masters of Arts degree by the university after submitting Cat’s Cradle. He wrote, “The fundamental idea is that stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper, and that the shape of a given society’s stories is at least as interesting as the shape of its pots or spearheads.”

Source(s)

page 159 – עריסת חתול (Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut 1963, translated by Amatsyah Porat 1978)

page 160 – עריסת חתול (Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut 1963, translated by Amatsyah Porat 1978)

page 161 – עריסת חתול (Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut 1963, translated by Amatsyah Porat 1978)

 

Notes

Notes
1C.f. Genesis 2:18.
2Here Porat uses language that directly references the prayer Nishmat kol Ḥai from the Shabbat morning (and Passover Hallel) service
3the central theme or purpose of a karass — a group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial linkages are not evident. Each karass has two wampeters at any given time, one waxing and one waning. Similar to one’s wampeter but in Judaism is the concept of תפקיד (tafqid) — one’s divinely ordained purpose.
4find note above.

 

 

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