Page 154 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

Basic HTML Version

1 4 6
working simultaneously on Hebrew grammar with the rabbi. He
continued with both Zionist activities and the study of Hebrew in
Raseiniai in 1916-17, even helping to set up a Hebrew library in a
town nearby, which undoub ted ly inc luded the writings o f
Bialik.15 It was during this period of involvement with Hebrew
and Zionism that Steinhardt drew
Pogrom III
and towards the end
o f it that he sent it off, with the title
To Bialik,
to the Secession
Pogrom III
is not, however, the only evidence of Bialik’s influ­
ence on Steinhardt at this time. His depictions o f old Jews — al­
ways thin and suffering — studying and praying at night by the
light o f a single candle, or walking at night through the desolate
streets, recall Bialik’s depiction o f the shtetl. For instance,
Steinhardt’s depiction o f
Winter in Lithuania
o f 1916 (fig. 4)
portrays Jews old before their time — even the children on the
right are old — who appear like wraiths against the wooden hov­
els of the town, while at the left the candle, the fish and the word
“Shabbat” on the pages o f a book suggest that despite their
misery, they continue to cling to their faith. This and similar pic­
tures recall Bialik’s words at the beginning of “The Matmid” (The
Talmud-Student) o f 1894-95:
There are abandoned corners of our Exile,
Remote, forgotten cities of Dispersion,
Where still in secret burns our ancient light,
Where God has saved a remnant in a ruin o f ashes,
Pent and unhappy souls maintain the vigil
Spirits grown old beyond the count of time,
Grown old beyond the reckoning o f days.
In the same way, his various versions ofJews passing by a house
where a man is studying at night (e.g. K 25 and 33 and fig. 5),
recall the continuation o f this poem:
And when thou goest forth alone, at nightfall,
Wandering in one o f these, the sacred cities,
When heaven above is quick with breaking stars,
And earth beneath with whispering spirit-winds
Thine ear will catch the murmur of a voice,
15 Ibid., pp. 43, 45-46, quoting from the war diary. In his autobiography o f
1936-37, Steinhardt added that he read Bialik, M endele and Sholem
Aleichem at this time (p. 3).