Page 99 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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Throughout his literary career, Leivick grappled with one of
the great ideas of Jewish history and produced a trilogy of plays
{Chains of the Messiah, The Golem
The Comedy o fRedemption),
poetic drama
The Wedding in Fernwald,
and a number of shorter
poems on the Messianic theme. Taken together, these works
comprise a major poetic history of the Messianic idea, a record of
the growth of the hope and the longing in the heart of the author
and his contemporaries, and a framework in which the Messiah
symbol might become relevant in our time.
In a foreword to the Hebrew translation of the redemption tril­
ogy, Leivick wrote that “especially now, after years of catastrophe
and destruction in our lives, events which were followed by the
miracle of the birth of the State of Israel — only now does it seem
to me that we stand anew before the first sensing of Messiah’s
existence, before the feeling that he is with us, but we still do not
see his full countenance, his revealed likeness. We are in the
minutes of the Beginning, and feel his existence in the tremor of
the heart, as on the day in which there arose in us the legend of his
The dominant motif of Leivick’s Messianic plays and poems is
the sense of responsibility for all that suffers. In addition, he
emphasized that the redemption cannot be forced. Until the
spirit necessary for deliverance emerges, until moral responsibil­
ity and conscience prevail on earth, redeemers will be “only a pre­
text, only ajoke for the last fool on the street.”12Like the Messiah
of whom Isaiah spoke, who would act with justice to the hopeless
and decide fairly for the humble (Isa. 11:4), Leivick’s Messiah is
motivated by a horrifying sense of responsbility for those that suf­
fer and those who are wronged. Leivick’s message is that people
must be made aware that Messiah can be found in their own
midst. Like the pioneers of Israel, “with white fingers he frees the
dust and stone” (.
Der Goyel in Negev).
“What is sorrow?,” asked
Leivick. “Sorrow is responsibility for everything, for everyone,
for all times.”13 Only when all people share in the moral con­
science and responsibility which is the essence of Messiah will
their encounter with him really take place.
11 H. Leivick,
Hezyonei Geulah,
Jerusalem, 1956, p.ix.
12 H. Leivick,
Ale Verk,
New York, 1940, vol. 2, p. 156.
p. 26 If.