Page 61 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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became known as the “City of Slaughter,” has been recently
reported to have lost sixty thousand Jews, killed in cold blood by
Roumanian Nazi hooligans. Similar ghastly news has come to us
from Poland and other Nazi-occupied lands. Nevertheless, the
soul of our poet can find solace in the thought that on the
steppes of the Ukraine, in the desert of Libya and in the hills of
Judea, Jewish youths have lived and died as the poet wished,
the sons “of the last generation of subjection and the first for
The quality of Bialik which more than any other makes him
a truly national poet and assures him forever a place in the
Jewish pantheon is his passionate faith in and love for his
people, Israel. Indeed, this is the test of a national poet; has he
the genius to see beyond the immediate failings of his people
and has he the fortitude to rise above his own doubts and dis-
illusionments? Bialik gives us the answer. The same poet who
speaks so harshly of his people as “dry grass,” can also plead
humbly and tenderly, “May my portion be with you,” address-
ing himself to the simple, unknown workers in the cause of Zion.
T h e Bialik who sees the misery and the cowardice of a people
that has no longer the strength to raise a fist also remembers that
the blood of the Maccabees courses in the veins of our sons, and
he bids them “re-establish your people, raise a new generation.”
Enthusiastically and joyfully he calls and wakens the dormant
forces of his people. He has nothing but contempt for doubters
and fault finders on the sidelines, “Shame on scorners” who
look down upon the “day of small deeds,” and words of encour-
agement and endearment for “the comrades rebuilding the land
of our fathers with the sweat of their brow.”
I t is because of his boundless love and devotion to his people
that Bialik is a true heir to the great spirits in Israel from the
days of the prophets to Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev. In keeping
with age-long traditions Bialik does not only reprove and
castigate his people, he also prays for them, comforts them and
pleads their cause; and, if need be, challenges and calls Destiny
itself to account for the shame and misery brought upon his
people. As a poet by the “grace of God” who communes with
Bialik in our time fulfilled the role of the priest
and the prophet of old—that of mediator between his people and
his God. Before the passionate plea of Bialik, the
attorney of his people, the God-head itself is made to say, “Your
God, like you, is poor; forgive me ye who bled.” “Why stretch
out their hands to me? Has none a fist? And where’s a thunder-
bolt to take revenge for all the generations; To blast the world
and tear the heavens asunder and wreck the universe, my throne
of glory?”
Would that there were a Bialik today to call men to account
for the unspeakable tragedies that have befallen Jewry. Until
another poet comes into our midst to ut ter a new word of com-