This past week, our class has been dealing with Will Eisner’s A Contract with God and how its role as the first “graphic novel” by name changed literature. We dealt with character development, whether good or evil can be seen in certain characters, and the artistic direction and effort made by Eisner to showcase his thoughts and visualization of the Bronx and the characters inside it. But something that caught me while reading this week was the role of religion, specifically Judaism, and how the characters are tied to it. Hershel, of course, is the main and prime character surrounding this issue. Although one could use other examples such as The Super and how his tale relates to Samson and Delilah, I chose to deal with Herschel and how his Contract with God, differs and leads to his downfall in comparison to Moses and the First Convenient. Hershel, like Moses, was a foreigner and when the time came for the contracts they both obtain, they were living very poorly. Moses after leaving the Pharaohs palace became a shepherd, while Hershel leaves Russia to live a simple life in America. It is in Russia that a young Hershel writes his first “contract” with God. I put contract in quotes because his contract is his statement that in his life he will be just and right and do good things, and in exchange God must assure him success and happiness with no hardships. Now let’s look at Moses’ Contract, which was written by God himself. In the beginning, God appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush (another correlation between Moses and Hershel as his contract is written in front of a small fire) and commands Moses to free the Israelites so his people may be free. Moses obliges, frees them through several plagues, and leads them to Mount Sinai. Here God speaks to Moses and gives him the Ten Commandments or the first true contract with God.
The issues around Hershel’s “contract” is that God had no role in crafting it, nor did the contract have anything remotely close to what Judaism preaches as living through God’s will. The Ten Commandments are God’s contract with his followers and if you follow them, you will live not necessarily a “happy” life, filled with pleasure and joy, but you will lead a life that will lead you to heaven. Hershel forgets that in life there will always be hardship and tough times to hurt you, but through living a religious and faithful life you don’t need a “contract” for happiness. When he snaps and rejects this old “contract” and begins to create a new one God sends down punishment and almost anger towards Hershel for he does not live a true faithful life such as Moses did. As said in the Torah, Have faith and the Lord shall provide.