Page 119 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

Basic HTML Version

his time.” In the sudden transition from second to third person
singular, in the euphemism “gathered unto his people,” he im­
itates biblical usage. The sage deals harshly also with his daughter.
She is so beautiful that a man bores a hole in the fence of the sage’s
house in order to catch a glimpse of her body. And the father
resolves that, since she brings grief to mankind, she must return
to dust so that men may not lapse into transgression because of
her beauty.
Out of this story, unique in talmudic literature, Sackler created
in 1915 one of his first plays in Yiddish:
Yosi Fun Yokeret,
Yosi of
Yokeret. It was produced in New York in the Irving Place Thea­
ter under the title
Der Heiliger Tyran,
The Holy Tyrant. But the
protagonist is more than a tyrant. As a spiritual leader he pushes
ethical severity to the point where progeny and pupil are physi­
cally sacrificed on the altar of his mistaken sainthood. The remote
sage in remote Galilee attracts a handful of students. With under­
standable alacrity they fall in love with his daughter — a dreamer
and a realist, dreaming girlish dreams of a prince on a white
charger and a realist in search of dominant power in the Galilean
household. During a brief absence of her father two of his pupils
— and her lovers — confront each other in a fight which ends with
the stabbing and killing of one of them.
On his return Yosi of Yokeret discovers the crime and crushes
the murderer. The passionate pupil who killed out of love is no
match for the sage in passionate pursuit of purity in faith. Yosi
had killed his son who associated with pagans in order to retain
the reputation of a zealot among his people. And he kills the
daughter: “You are a poisoned stream, your lust is hell, your kiss
is the kiss of death.” The mother, who has not forgiven and not
forgotten the death of her son, will not forgive and not forget the
death of the daughter. Justice will be consumed by the flames of
The play, based on a brutal story, stresses the conflict of moral­
ity in search of self-assertion and amorality in unbudging stance.
And it compels admiration for the dramatist whose idealism did
not blind him to harsh realities.
Yosi o f Yokeret
brance, established Sackler as a major dramatist. Both plays are
anchored in folklore —
Yosi o f Yokeret
in talmudic folklore,