Page 97 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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his arms and give the victory to Israel? O f what value are Israel’s
laws and Moses’ own encoun te r with the coal which bu rned his
tongue and the fire o f the bu rn ing bush in a world where bloody
Amalek triumphs and instinctual gratification is the norm? He
asks: “T h e God who creates basilisk and scorpion —/ does He
fight for justice?/ The God who mu rders myriads each morning
—/ Are His ways just?/ Let my arms slacken and let him divide
the spoil/ Let Amalek trium ph .” Moses, however, lays aside his
doubts. I f God has failed, the human being must not: “I f God
has abdicated and the world is abandoned —/ My arms are firm
in faith!” At the end o f the battle, a weary people sleeps, u n ­
aware o f the God who gave the victory, but He descends toward
Moses from the clouds. He tells Moses to remember the vicious­
ness o f Amalek and to fight him forever: “Drive away every
doubt, remove every weakness,/ and build, build the fence.”
Clearly the experience o f the Nazi h o rro r and the goal o f re ­
demption have influenced both poems. The loneliness o f a lead­
er is again depicted by Shin Shalom in “Forty Days and Forty
Nights,” where Moses rum inates on his betrayal by his people
in the golden calf incident: “Where am I going with tablets o f
proclamation,/ white flame on black,/ the spoil o f my sufferings
beyond relief/ . . . I have no more faith in your love —/ leave
me, I will smash and smash.”
David Frischmann (1859-1922), in the poem “Two Bowls,”
presents a bitter Moses charging his successor, Joshua. Moses
is the weary p rophe t in whom the fires, however, still burn.
He has always been a stranger to his people. Now he charges
Joshua to exercise his leadership differently, to be harsh and
dom inate the rebellious people, and (a refrain occurring at the
end o f each o f eight verses) not to choose the bowl o f coals.
This allusion to the well known legend o f Moses bu rn ing his
tongue might signify avoiding the pain o f solitude and sensitivity
and remaining immune from hurt.
A very personal app rop riation o f Moses is in the poem
“Mosheh,” by Amir Gilboa (1907-1984). The poem is based
upon memories o f the Second World War and its aftermath ,
and it deals with youthful vigor and assertion, which then col­
lapse into weakness and dependency. The poem begins with