Page 98 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
youthful bravado: “I app roached Moses and said to him :/ A r­
range the camps thus and so./ He looked at me/ A rranged them
as I bid.” T h e poet reminiscing recalls many girl friends from
d iffe ren t places, all displaced because o f the war, bu t one wom­
an is missing: “she who in my name/ was carved and fixed .”
T h e bravado collapses and the youth yields to Moses: “Moses,
Moses, lead on the people./ See, I am so tired and still want
to sleep,/ I am still a young boy.”6
Moses is presen ted obliquely in the play
Balaam
by Matityahu
Shoham. Shoham lived in Poland and died there before World
War II. Balaam, dwelling on the banks o f the Euphrates, is
visited by representatives o f d iffe ren t civilizations who want to
know the meaning o f life. He had once been a childhood friend
o f Moses, but now he is jealous o f his fo rm e r friend , for Moses
is the p rophe t o f blessing and he, Balaam, is destined to p ro ­
nounce a curse. His jealousy is fu r th e r aroused because his
daugh ter, No‘ah, is in love with Moses and has ju s t dream ed
about him and about the death o f he r father. Zimri and
Phinehas arrive in disguise, bearing a message o f peace from
Moses. The messengers o f the king o f Moab arrive, offering
Balaam great sums if he will curse Israel. In the meanwhile,
Zimri and Kozbi, a Midianite princess, fall in love, and No‘ah
informs her fa the r o f this. Balaam is then encouraged to use
Moabite women to draw the Israelites away from their God.
Zimri wishes for peace between Israel and Moab, but Phinehas
wants war. Unlike the biblical story, Balaam is amazed at the
spiritual power o f Moses and Israel, which have attracted both
Kozbi and his d augh the r No‘ah. Balaam prays to God for a
prophecy o f blessing. In the th ird act, Joshua approaches the
Midianites and Moabites and offers peace, whereupon Balaam
blesses Israel. T h e fanatic Phinehas, enraged , kills Balaam and
Zimri. Moses appears and upbraids the excessive zeal o f
Phinehas but, inconsistently, proclaims his action publicly as a
great deed. Moses then protests the hum an weaknesses that p re ­
vent redemption .
6. Translation by Ruth Finer Mintz,
Modern Hebrew Poetry
(University o f Cal­
ifornia Press, 1966), p. 258.
7. Ruth Karton-Blum,
From Tyre to Jerusalem
(University o f California Press,
1969), pp. 97-117; Gershon Shaked,
Ha-Mahazeh ha-Ivri ha-Histori bi-Tekufat
ha-Tehiyyah (The Hebrew Historical Drama in the Twentieth Century)
(Jerusalem,
1970), pp. 66-67, 166-74.