Page 92 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

Basic HTML Version

8 4
The address “The Individual Jew,” which Leivick delivered at
the Ideological Conference in Jerusalem in 1957, was a major
attempt to heal rifts between Israel and the Diaspora and
between Hebraists and Yiddishists following the Holocaust and
the establishment of Israel. “Here, on the soil of Jerusalem, I can
say again that
was bad, ugly and we must be redeemed from
it, but the Jew in
was beautiful. It is our pride to be the heirs
of such beauty.” He proclaimed that an Israeli Jew who denies his
relationship with every Jew outside Israel and feels that
the galut
Jew is in any sense less worthy than he, has lost the essence of his
Jewish image. It was not true that with Yiddish the Jew of the
marched only to the gas chamber. “With Yiddish the Jew of
also ascended many a national height. . . . The Yiddish
language has developed a great national literature which is
incomparable both in its vitality, in its encouragement o f Jewish
survival, and in its bemoaning of the destruction of our people in
the Hitler era, in shattering expressions of lamentation.”4
In his last dramatic poem,
In the Days ofJob
(1953) and in his
final volumes of verse,
A Leaf on an Apple Tree
(1955) and
Songs to
the Eternal
(1959), Leivick reached new heights of artistic insight.
They are justly regarded as the crowning achievements of his lit­
erary career. The paralytic stroke which he suffered in 1958 and
which rendered him mute and immobile until his death in 1962,
appeared once again to many of his readers to be an uncanny ful­
fillment of premonitions that had been expressed in his poems
through the years.
In Leivick’s earliest poems, a melancholy evocation of lyrical
beauty blossomed in Yiddish amid the shroud-white of the Sibe­
rian landscape. The rhythm of his first poems was that of the
heavy dragging of clanging chains plowing through the Siberian
wastelands, and of the whir of whips cutting stripes into flogged
humanity.5Two symbols dominate these poems: white snow and
chains. A connection between purity and pain was thus estab­
lished which is reminiscent of the biblical and talmudic doctrine
of suffering as atonement.
4 H. Leivick, “The Individual Jew,” translated by Emanuel S. Goldsmith,
vol. 23, no. 17 (December 27, 1957), pp. 7-12.
c f
M. Gross-Zimerman,
Intimer Videranand,
Tel Aviv, 1964, p. 138.