Page 101 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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if of his own will he goes to the gas chamber, Messiah replies: “It is
not I who accomplish. It is the love of Israel that accomplishes.
Today I can do nothing but carry out the will to love the Jewish
people which goes to the gas chamber.”16 In “The Ballad of the
Desert,” Leivick links the generation of the Exodus with the gen­
eration of the Holocaust. Leivick, his parents, his elementary
school teacher, and Moses and Aaron are the heroes of this poetic
fantasy which views Jewish history as an ever-recurring cycle in
which God is forever rediscovered in the pain of the bush’s flames
which burn and burn but are never extinguished.
Jews march through the desert
In dream and reality
For three thousand years.
Jews leave Egypt
And so do I
I march
In line with the tribes.
I ’m not seven years old yet.
My teacher Shimen-Leyb
Raises his long hand
And shows me that it’s all recorded
In Numbers or Deuteronomy.
Now I have additional proof
That no one else can have:
Row on row of graves
I dug myself
With my little hand
On the march to Canaan
Through the desert.
(Di Balade fun Midber)
As a major spokesman of Yiddish culture in the twentieth cen­
tury, Leivick reacted to the bitter fate of the Yiddish language
and its cultural representatives as a result of the European Holo­
caust, Soviet persecution, Israeli antipathy, and American-Jewish
When I think about us, Yiddish poets,
Such sadness envelops me.
I want to shout and plead with myself
But just then my words turn mute.
(Yidishe Poetn)
16 Di
Khasene in Femvald,
p. 89.