Page 170 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 11 (1952-1952)

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(On the 100th Anniversary of his Death)
a m u e l
i t l ik
IFE is primarily a qualitative, not a quantitative process.
This is particularly true of the life of Micah Joseph Leben-
sohn (1828-1852) whose span of creative activity extended over
the short duration of some six or seven years.
He was born in a period when the
movement — the
movement that aimed at kindling the light of world culture in the
gloomy and isolated Jewish ghettoes — was gaining greater impe-
tus in the life of the Jews of Eastern Europe. His predecessors
were reformers, fighters for the cause of enlightenment. They
were the singers and admirers of the
haskalah hat ha-shamayim
enlightenment, daugther of heaven. Their poetry, in which Micah
Joseph’s father occupied no mean place, was, in a sense, more
philosophy than poetry; their writings were predominantly the
products of intellect rather than of emotion or imagination.
The home of Abraham Lebensohn (known as Adam Ha-Kohen
Lebensohn), Micah Joseph’s father, was the meeting place of the
most prominent
of Wilna (the home town of our poet).
From his early youth, Micah Joseph’s ears had been attuned to the
sweet sounds and rhythm of biblical Hebrew. His was a world of
harmony undisturbed by the bitter struggle between the
and their fanatic opponents. In his youth he had acquired a
mastery not only of the Bible and the Hebrew language and
literature, but also of several European languages which he read
fluently and extensively. The rich and stimulating social milieu
which Micah Joseph found in his father’s home was supplemented
by the beautiful natural surroundings of the Wilna suburb where
his home was located. The mountains and the rivers in the
vicinity became identified in the imagination of the dreamer-boy
with famous biblical places.
These charming days of childhood, however, did not last long.
As he says in his poem “Childhood” :
The days of youth soon shattered the garden of childhood;
Soon the buds withered, the flowers faded,
Never to bloom again.