Page 184 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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172
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
noise of the wind in the night; he suffers at the hands of his ailing,
bitter father, his cruel
melamed
(teacher), his stingy mother. Yet
Halpern asks us to consider that we may be like that pathetic
Leyb-Bear (whose name means, ironically, lion-bear and echoes
Halpern’s own first name). Leyb-Bear’s passionate nostalgia
makes him unable to recognize how inappropriate that feeling is
for his actual home; we, too, may be blind to the ridiculous dis­
proportion of our own passionate longings and sorrows to the ac­
tual objects and situations. It is human nature to long for what
one cannot have or should not want:
A home is a home; Leyb-Bear remains Leyb-Bear
But his homesickness is often too much to bear.
(INY: AS,
p. 65)
Halpern is an ironist who turns his own cold, comparing eye on
himself in the process of depicting the situation he deploringly
observes in another. In “Zlotchev, My Home,” Halpern renders
Leyb-Bear’s dilemma in the first person and in apparently auto­
biographical terms:
0 , Zlotchev, you, my home, my city,
With your church spire and
shul
and baths,
And with your huckstresses in the marketplace
And with your little Jews who loose themselves
Like dogs on the peasant who comes down
From Sasover Mountain with a basket of eggs
As life quickens in spring, so quickens in me
My poor little bit of longing fo r you
My home, my Zlotchev.
(Di goldene pave,
p. 20)
The seasonal nostalgia, unwilled and natural, calls up in the
speaker, as in Leyb-Bear, only images of unpleasant individuals,
such as the Rich Man Rappaport and the pious hypocrite Shaye
Hillel, and the bitter story of being displaced from home:
When my grandfather, with the help of the police,
Threw my mother out of the house,
My grandmother, her legs apart,
Smiled sweet as honey,
Like a
shikse
standing between two soldiers.
With this image of the crude pleasure of the evictors and the