Page 94 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Gunkel, who says, tha t when an ecstasy seizes the p rophe t, he
. . loses command o f his limbs; he staggers and stutters like
a d runken man . . . his ord inary sense o f what is decent deserts
him; he feels an impulse to do all kinds o f strange actions and
seems to have become insane.”4 Ano ther view o f the p rophe t
shows him liberated from primitive ecstasy and arriving at a
h igher intellectual and spiritual awareness. T h e p rophe t may
also be seen as a bea rer o f a terrible bu rden o f anger. The
theology o f the Divine pathos and its reflection in the p rophe t
has been developed by A.J. Heschel.5 With the exception o f
Gunkel’s picture o f chaotic ecstasy, we will find in modern He­
brew treatments o f the p rophe ts reflections o f these views.
At the very beginning o f the Haskalah, Naftali Herz Wessely
(1725-1805), inspired by H e rd e r and Klopstock, composed
Shirei Tiferet
(Songs o f Glory; published 1789-1802, 1829). In
the fashion o f the time, he invokes God (in place o f the Muse).
He depicts a Moses who is moral, respectable and bourgeois,
evidence that there is a God and justice in the land. T h e op ­
timism expressed is the same which motivated maskilim and
assimilationists to strive for emancipation.
BIALIK’S VIEW
Ano ther picture o f the moral Moses is that o f Hayyim N ah­
man Bialik (1873-1934). Bialik, a follower o f Ahad Ha-Am’s
teaching that Judaism is a cu lture with absolute justice as its
foremost aspiration, rejected physical violence as a reaction to
the Kishinev pogrom o f 1903. While in his poem, “The City
o f S laughter,” he mocked the cowardice o f the Jewish victims,
in his b itter
Al ha-Shehitah
(“On the S laughter”) he says: “And
cursed be he who says: ‘Avenge!’/ Such revenge, revenge for
the blood o f a small child/ even Satan has not yet created .” T h e
image o f Moses as a moral giant is presen ted in
Al Rosh Harel
(“On the T op o f God’s Mountain”). On this mountain “stands
silently, from the earliest, primeval times, an old man./ In his
left hand is a mighty staff, while his right holds the tablets.”
Two giants (Christianity and Islam) struggle with him to seize
4. Hermann Gunkel, “The Secret Experiences o f the Prophets,”
Expositor
IX /1
(1924); 356.
5. Abraham J. Heschel,
The Prophets
(Philadelphia, 1962), pp. 221-31, 483-92.