Page 141 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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ip t z in
— A
a r o n
l a n z
e y e l e s
the all-too-worldly Pope Clement VII, scion of the House of
Medici. The climactic scene, in which Molcho, the Jew, calls
upon Emperor Charles V, mightiest ruler of Christendom, to
give up illusions of temporal power, to dissolve the Empire, and
to initiate the return of man to God, is strongly reminiscent of
Friedrich Schiller’s climactic scene in
Don Carlos,
when Marquis
Posa calls upon King Philip of Spain to establish a reign of
religious tolerance, freedom of thought, and human fraternity
in all his realms. In both plays the monarch is deeply moved by
the splendor of the grandiose vision but both conclude by turning
over the messianic dreamers to the Inquisition.
The most memorable performance of the drama took place in
the doomed ghetto of Vilna towards the close of 1941 before an
audience of
Abraham Sutzkever, who composed a pro-
logue for this occasion, reported that he saw the performance
through a veil of tears.
Leyeles also deals with Jewish messianic longing in a second
Asher Lem len
(1928). On the eve of the Lutheran Re-
formation, when a peasant revolt threatens, messianic visions
come to the Jew Asher Lemlen. These visions help to fan the
rebellion. However, when Lemlen’s followers wish to join in the
struggle against oppressive aristocrats and landowners, he opposes
the use of brute force. He opposes bloodshed, and counsels
delay until God’s will is made manifest. He cannot face reality,
in which pure and impure ingredients are tangled. He can only
sacrifice himself and fall a victim.
In his seventy-fifth year Leyeles visited Israel for the first time
and was stimulated to a new burst of lyric creativity. Entranced
throughout his life by beauty as a goal, the poet saw in Israel a
free, sovereign Jewish community to which as in days of old
beauty came, if at all, only as a byproduct and not as an objective
of group activity. In a poem
Joseph and Judah ,
penned in Israel,
he contrasted the dazzling beauty of Joseph with the earthbound
virility of Judah. Joseph, the favorite of Jacob, saw in dream-
visions lords bowing low before him and peoples subjected to
his will, but now Joseph’s descendants, even as those of Reuben
and Simeon, have disappeared from the face of the globe, and
Joseph himself is but a legend of beauty, sad and nostalgic.
Judah, on the other hand, less beloved by his father and less
intent on dominating others, still lives a life of service. His
descendants still wander over the earth bearing his burden of
pain and memories and are still attached to his heaven and his
inward vision of service to his fellow-men. Now and then Judah
betakes himself to his old home, kisses its soil, builds anew
structures of stone and loam, but soon thereafter he resumes
his roaming over the world. He is, he exists, he carries on.