Page 104 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

Basic HTML Version

96
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
(cheated) day laborer with his tools in his belt. He thus debunks
the prophetic stance he has otherwise adopted; “I will re tu rn
to my pasture and its valleys/ and I will make my covenant with
the sycamores o f the forest./ But you — you are co rrup tion
and rot/ and tomorrow the storm will carry you all away.” Lit­
erary in terp re tation o f Bialik is complex and voluminous. Bialik
has to be understood as functioning between the polarities o f
public involvement and the desire for privacy, between a fu ture-
directed optimism and a sense o f desolation and despair.
Space does not perm it inclusion o f all the relevant treatments
o f the biblical prophets. We may cite some in terpre tations o f
Jonah , the an ti-p rophe t who flees his mission, who acts ou t more
extremely the resistance to prophecy o f Moses and Jerem iah .
The difference, however, is that unlike o ther prophets, Jonah
rejects God’s message o f mercy. He demands only pun ishm en t
for the sinner. Lamdan’s poem, “Jonah Flees From His God,”
presents the theme o f a rejection o f election, mission and suf­
fering found in some o f his o the r poems, as we have noted.
Jonah wants privacy and peace: “Why do You deny shelter to
one who has m u rdered his tranquil soul/ and cast its pieces to
others, who never sought it?” Aharon Zeitlin (1898-1973), in
the long poem, “Jo n ah ,” stresses J o n a h ’s egotism, social ind if­
ference and bu rden o f anger. Jonah despises the God who loves
prayer and adulation, who created sin and Satan as an en te r­
tainment for Himself. The unwilling p rophe t wants death , the
only re lief he can see from his ange r and sense o f betrayal,
but God will not gran t it to him: “Woe, the One has betrayed
me, the one who is in His image.”
To conclude on a positive note, a b rief poem by B. Mordechai
(1910-1986), “T h e Vision o f the Dry Bones,” describes the mi­
raculous event from the point o f view o f one o f the dead being
revived and as a m e tapho r for contemporary Jewish revival.
He, the Jew, is emotionally cut off, “a tear that has no eye or
eyelid.” T h e wonder happens, the tumu lt o f a reviving people
free o f the burdens o f its past is heard , and “the great awe
and glory and all the lights o f spring slap across my face.”
As seen from this b rief and partial survey, the biblical p ro p h ­
ets serve as vehicles for modern writers to record the ir own
o r their contemporaries’ despair, rebellion and affirmation.