Page 97 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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91
I
vry
— Y
eh u d a
B
u r la
Ba-Ofek
(On the Horizon) : Volume I:
“Kissufim”
(Yearnings),
about Rabbi Yehudah Hai Alkalay, a great religious personality
in Sephardic Jewry more than a century ago, who called for an
immediate re turn to Zion instead of waiting for a miracle. The
novel was completed after three years, and the events are related
in an epic style. In order to enhance the action, Burla, a natural
story teller, devotes a great deal of attention to the life and activi-
ties of Haim Farchi, the treasurer and advisor of the Turkish pasha
in Acre. In describing the truculent pasha’s cruel treatment of
this Jewish statesman and financier, Burla points up the hopeless-
ness of Jewish political careers in exile. He enlivens this biograph-
ical novel by interweaving a love story of the young Omri Najara.
This affords him an opportunity to describe Jewish life in Damas-
cus as well as in Jerusalem, bu t does not add to the stature of
the novel.
In
“Kissufim”
he describes the arrival in Palestine in 1810 of
Rabbi Shlomoh Alkalay of Sarajevo and his son, Yehudah Hai. The
son becomes a great rabbi and Kabbalist, founder of the
Degel
Society
(Dorshei Geulah le-Israel)
, rabbi of the Jewish community
in Zemlin, and a moving force in the
Shivat Zion
movement in
the early part of the nineteenth century.
In the novel the young Kabbalist Rabbi Yehudah Hai Alkalay
declares:
All Jews must look for a way to bring about redemption. . . .
The thread that unites the people of Israel with their Heav-
enly Father was severed with the Destruction of the Temple.
To reconnect this thread, after a thousand years of the third
exile, is in human hands. The connection of all other threads
is in Heavenly hands, except the “thread of the kingdom.”
Otherwise, what sense is there in the length of exile? Why
should all other nations enjoy the “thread of kingdom,” while
the sons of Israel are debased and degraded and devoid of
the grace of kingdom?
Such meditations and disputations about Zion, exile, and re-
demption are not rare in the historical novel about Rabbi Ye-
hudah Hai Alkalay and his period. I t is written with strength
and conviction, and it is full of lively descriptions of character
and landscape, and fluent dialogue. It is colorful and teeming
with real life and human enthusiasm. ״
Another important historical novel by Burla some 10 years ago,
Ele Masei Yehudah Halevi,
is written partly in the
Makkama
form
and partly in free verse or prose. I t is supposedly composed by a
friend and admirer who accompanied the great Golden Age poet
Yehudah Halevi on his way from Granada to the Holy Land.