Page 86 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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PINCH AS DORON
Hasidic and Folkloristic Motifs
in the Ballads of Shimshon Meltzer
On the Occasion of His 80th Birthday
I n
o r d e r
t o
ap p re c ia te the special ch a ra c te r an d flavo r o f
Sh im shon M e ltzer’s ballads, we would do well to b e a r in m ind
th a t a creative a r tis t pu ts in to his c rea tion only th a t which is
a p a r t o f him , o f his in n e rm o s t self. T h is is certa in ly t ru e o f
M eltzer (1909-
). M eltzer was re a re d an d grew u p in a
hasid ic-folkloristic e n v iro nm en t in e a s te rn Galicia. His f a th e r
was a hasid o f Cho rtkov . H ence M eltzer a t tem p te d to c a p tu re
the folk flavo r o f E a s te rn E u ro p e an Jew ry by us ing hasidic tales
an d motifs in his ballads. His poem s in co rp o ra te the hasidic
stories an d conve rsa tions th a t he h e a rd in his ch ildhood an d
you th in his hom e tow n T lu s te .
T h e tales a re mostly based on legends re la ting th e m iracles
an d w onde rs w o rked by the Baal Shem T ov an d his successors,
the g re a t zadd ik im . T h e m a in p o in t o f these legends a re th e
m iracu lous events; th e simple, un soph is tica ted hasidic teach ings
an d values in h e r e n t in the stories. T h e m a jo r hasidic do c tr in e s
th a t find exp ress ion in M e ltzer’s ballads include:
1. Every p e rson is “a p o r t io n o f God from above” (Job 3 1 :2).
2. Devotion to th e com m an dm en ts o f the T o ra h .
3. T h e im p o r tan c e an d s tre n g th o f the simp le Jew .
4. T h e g rea tne ss o f th e c om m a n dm e n t to love o n e ’s fellow-
Jew .
5. T h e re lig ious pow e r o f th e zaddik .
6. T h e pow e r o f fa ith in th e A lm ighty .
M eltzer instills a re lig ious a tm o sp h e re in to these legend s , on e
th a t is s a tu ra ted with un soph is tica ted be lie f an d mystical e le ­
m en ts. He has his h e ro e s speak a hasidic ja rg o n , which is a t