Page 84 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
80
individual, and he decries it especially for dealing the death
blows to Jewish life in Russia. He finds, however, that the in-
ternal decay of Judaism had already weakened Jewish life so that
it was impotent to repulse the onslaught of the Revolution. In
portraying the personal lives of the people of the era, the author
emphasizes the tragedy of the alienation of parents and children,
the failure of the young people to find love, and the disillusion-
ment of the idealists.
In subsequent works Hazaz continued to develop the themes
of these earliest stories. In stories like “Ashamnu,” “Ir u-Vehalot,”
and “Shelulit Genuzah,” he portrayed a disintegrating society in
which individual Jews and the Jewish people endure excruciating
torment and anguish. There is no money, no food, no young peo-
pie to carry on the traditions, no defense against enemies, and
only a modicum of religious purity. Even in “Dorot Rishonim,”
presenting and praising a society seemingly whole and healthy,
Hazaz ironically exposes the inroads of decay and debility.
Other works articulate more pointedly Hazaz’s criticism of
Jewish life in the
shtetl.
“Betzilan Shel Malkhuyot,” “Hesed
Shel Emet,” and especially “Haderashah,” castigate the Jews for
not seeking change. Hazaz indicts the traditional Jewish Messi-
anic concept of redemption as deterring the Jews from helping
themselves. He suggests that, corrupted by the Diaspora, they
invented Messianism as a pretext for holding on to the familiar
conditions of exile.
Hazaz’s indictment extended also to other communities adher-
ing to traditional Judaism. In
Beketz Hayamim,
he portrayed the
corrupted attitude in seventeenth-century Germany of Jews who
rejected the possibility of imminent redemption because it would
destroy their financial and personal standing. In
Ya’ish,
the exile
of Yemen is described as being very much like that of Russia:
the people are poor, hungry, and downtrodden; the religious
values have deteriorated, even though the culture is steeped in
Judaism; and the majority of the Jews are willing to subsist in
these conditions until the coming of the Messiah. Even in Pales-
tine, Hazaz contended, traditional Jews do not abandon their
passivity, their empty scholasticism, their superstitions, and their
extravagant hopes for the future. He gave examples of such Jews
from both the West and the East in “Hagilgul,” “Hatayar Haga-
dol,” “Ba’ale Trisim,” “Galgal Hozer,” and
Hayoshevet Baganim.