Page 100 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
idols o f the Asherah I am smashed and destroyed/ by the zeal
o f the God o f hosts in the mountains.”
H illel
Bavli
(1893 -1961 )
also
re f le c ts
on
th e
counterproductiveness o f a prophetic mission o f rage and ex­
ecution, in the poem “Elijah in the Wilderness.” Elijah, in his
soliloquy, admits that he has an abundance o f inner flame and
storm. He has killed the worshippers o f Baal, but this has
b rough t about no improvement in Israel: “A hollow echo whips
my ears in bitter scorn:/ Hold! You will not rebuild the na tion ’s
ruins/ by these means; not one desolate hea rt will you revive.”
But a mysterious silence
(demamah),
which has a voice (
kol)
never
before heard , comes to him. This mysterious voice ou t o f the
silence conveys the secrets o f existence and the heavenly glow
o f holiness: “Th e voice is deep, mighty in the power o f its
silence/ . . . it leads me ou t o f the darkness o f the depths, it
redeems me,/ it sheds upon me its tranquillity, its confidence.”
T he still, small voice in Bavli’s modern m idrash represen ts a
tu rn ing and a purification for Elijah. His ways o f ange r and
violence cannot bring positive results. Only a reaching into the
mystery o f the world and God will restore the p ro p h e t’s con­
fidence in his mission.
T he restorative meaning o f the experience o f the still, small
voice is also expressed in a prose trea tm en t o f the theme by
Jacob Cahan, “Elijah Asks to Die.” T h e still, small voice is not
separate from the voice o f God but identical with it. Elijah in
the wilderness is aware o f the silence a round him and o f the
silent glory o f God in the desolation. He tries to walk toward
it bu t is too weary. In the cave he has discovered and is using
as a shelter he hears one night a sound o f moaning (
hemyah)
and fierce whistling
(sherikah azzah),
then a faint silence and a
voice from that silence: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
T h e re follow the fierce wind, the earthquake and the fire. Elijah
realizes that God is not to be found in any o f these. T h e voice
ou t o f the silence again asks him what he is doing there and
then tells him, “Go, re tu rn .” T h e command to anno in t Elishah
in his stead is ignored by Cahan. Elijah realizes tha t his sole
mission on ea rth is to be a p rophe t o f God.
A complex interplay o f emotions in Elijah and the people
a round him is dramatically conveyed in the poetic d ram a o f
Matityahu Shoham,
Tyre and Jerusalem.
This d ram a centers
around the theme o f conflict between sensuousness, rep resen t­