Page 96 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
is shared by the people o f Israel, who, af te r the revelation,
“stood like a community o f priests o f God and princes,/ with
crowns o f glory on their heads and the heavenly fire in their
h ea rt.”
ON MOUNT NEBO
A picture o f Moses reflectively contemplating the meaning
o f his work for his generation and the fu tu re is given by
Avraham Regelson (1896-1981). In Moses on Mount Nebo, the
p rophe t looks ahead, not to the cities and gardens o f the coming
Israelite commonwealth, bu t to fu tu re generations tha t will seek
God. He admits that he toned down the vigor o f his revelation,
“darken ing with smoke/ the white o f the fire in the bush ,” and,
he says, “I sweetened the waters o f my teaching/ for the mouths
o f slaves who cannot sanctify tru th .” He blesses fu tu re prophe ts
who will separate fire from smoke, gold from dross, and who
will smash tablets, for “ . . . the words o f God freeze in hum an
teaching,” and new prophe ts must destroy petrified structures.
Moses, for his part, is ready for death. Silence dom inates the
desert, and the kiss o f God descends toward him.
Against these depictions o f a heroic Moses we also encoun te r
a doubting and depleted leader. T h e stimulus for this kind o f
midrash can be the Bible itself (cf. Ex. 32:31-33; Numb.
11:11-15), the Hebrew w riter’s own sense tha t he has had no
influence upon the life o f the community o r the ho rro r o f the
Holocaust. David Shimoni (1886-1956), in his poem
Ha-Sneh
(“The Bush”), dated 1940, describes a Moses meditating at the
burn ing bush. It is wondrous tha t the bush burns and is not
consumed, but, he says, “who counts and weighs my suffering?
Why does God appea r only in fire, why not in rain and dew?”
This is a complaint against the destiny that has been forced
upon the Jew, the price o f his being singled ou t for a unique
history o f religious teaching and pain. Similar complaints
against Jewish chosenness were voiced by Yitzhak Lamdan in
his poems “Israel,” “Jon ah Flees From His God” and “For the
Sun Had Set.” Significantly, Shimoni entitles a g roup o f poems
dealing with Jewish suffering and heroism
Min ha-Sneh
(“From
the Bush”).
Shin Shalom (Shalom Schapira; 1904-1990) imagines a down­
cast p rophe t at the battle with Amalek. Why should he raise