Page 103 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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WALDMAN / PROPHETS IN HEBREW LITERATURE
9 5
et has a universal appeal, bu t the one who promises no thing
but dem ands repen tance will not be popular.
AMOS’ IMAGE
O thers have stressed the relentless and driven quality o f
Amos’ onslaught. Pinhas Elad (1905-1987), in a poem closely
following the biblical account,
La-Derekh
(“On the Way”), ad ­
dresses Amos, who sniffed the presence o f the violent God pass­
ing th rough the mountains and hea rd his mighty roar. Amos
abandons his beloved home and hears only the thund e r and
the roaring. T h e re are coals on his stammering lips, a reference
to the rabbinic tradition about Amos’ speech impediment and
a comparison with Moses (Amos =
amus bi-leshono,
“whose
tongue is heavy,”
Midr. Vayikra Rabbah
10:2). Amos marches
on; he has no alternative. Ano ther poem,
Amos
, describes how
the awesome p rophe t disrupts the service o f the opu len t Ba’al
shrine, with its self-serving priests and seductive women.
Perhaps the most famous literary reflection o f the language
and determ ina tion o f Amos is Bialik’s poem
Hozeh, Lekh Berah
(“Visionary, Flee”). This poem and others have given rise to
the image o f Bialik as a “prophe tic” poet, preaching, denounc­
ing and predicting doom like the prophe ts o f the Bible. The re
are, however, some impo rtan t differences. Bialik may assume
the persona o f the p rophe t for the needs and message o f a
particular poem ,9 but elsewhere he denies possessing the higher
gift (revelation as such or as a m e taphor for poetic inspira­
tion ).10 It has been shown that the motif o f prophetic preaching
and involvement in Bialik alternates with a mood o f contempt
and withdrawal to a private sphere, a luxury the biblical p rophe t
could not allow himself.
All these elements are presen t in “Visionary, Flee.” His re ­
sponse to the rejection is “A man like me/ does not flee!/ My
cattle have taugh t me to walk softly,/ though my tongue has
not learned to speak so/ and my word falls like a heavy axe.”
T h e poet-p rophet will not flee in fear, but he will withdraw
in contempt for the public. He compares himself to an unpaid
9. Cf.
Ve-hayah K i Ya’arikhu ha-Yamim; Akhen Gam Zeh Musar Elohim; Re’itikhem
Shuv be-Kotzer Yedkhem; Kir'u la-Nehashim.
10.
Lu Her’ani Elohim; Lo Zakhiti va-Or Min ha-Hefker, Mi-Ani u-Mah Ani.