Page 89 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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Even in his studies at school, young Leivick seemed to be drawn
to suffering. His first childhood vision was that o f the ram
trapped in the thicket by its horns and destined to be slaughtered
in Isaac’s stead. I f Isaac’s neck managed to escape the knife, did
another neck have to take its place?, asked Leivick. Could not the
altar remain vacant? In his nightmares he saw the mutilated
horns of the ram and its round, fiery eyes yearning to cry out but
unable to do so.
The horns fa ll to earth like cut-off branches,
The ram's head suddenly turns gray as i f it were human.
The eyes want to scream but are silent,
Faithful to Isaac's silence which entered them.
(Mayn Ershte Yinglshdike Zeung)
In his first book of poems Leivick was to recall that already as a
child he felt that he was in possession of a great secret which had
to be concealed from others. Observing how people suffer in
silence, he absorbed their silence and imagined that when he
grew up something great and wonderful would emerge from suf­
I will be the first to see the great and wondrous,
No longer hide it from anyone.
I will go from door to door, knock on every window pane
To announce the bright morning.
I know not who chose me from among all,
Estranging and alienating me in shame.
With head hung low, I accepted my fate,
Purifying my youth in anticipation.
A brillliant yeshiva student, Leivick soon discovered Hebrew
Haskalah literature and early Zionist writings. He was especially
taken with Jewish history and in particular with books about the
Spanish Inquisition. Expelled from the yeshiva when he was
caught reading the first modern Hebrew novel — Abraham
Love of Zion,
he eventually abandoned the piety of his
father and of the yeshiva, and joined the Jewish Labor Bund.
Arrested for revolutionary activity during 1905 and refusing the
assistance of a defense attorney, he was sentenced to four years of
imprisonment to be followed by permanent exile in Siberia.1The
1 Leivick’s memoirs o f his years in imprisonment and in Siberia are contained in
A f Tsarisher Katorge,
Tel Aviv, 1959.