Page 239 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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the old man to Eretz Yisrael, but during the trip he becomes
colder and colder, turning to stone. The old man arrives in
Jerusalem dead. He is not carried by Jesus but by a band of
angels. Pious Jews do him the final honors.
Agnon is renowned for his unique enigmatic, ironic and gent­
ly mocking style. It would appear that not only is he negative
on the Christian society — many of the authors are — he is
also negative on Jesus himself, while other writers make him
a hero. I would suggest that in Agnon’s story there is no process
of rethinking Jesus but rather an ironic reminder that he is
not the person Jews can look to. It even seems probable that
Agnon is warning other Yiddish and Hebrew writers to dampen
their excessive enthusiasm for the Jesus image which they think
they can isolate from the world of Christian anti-Semitism.21
GREENBERG’S POETRY
The noted poet, Uri Zvi Greenberg (1894-1981), makes ref­
erence in numerous places to Jesus, both in his Hebrew poems
and in his earlier Yiddish ones.22 It is not easy to sum up the
general characteristics of this major poet. He has been classified
as an expressionist. His poetry also carries political overtones,
conveying a Revisionist view, and makes use of a complex of
images which evoke primal feelings and ideas: messianism; mar­
tyrdom; grief, guilt, and vehement anger over the violence done
to Jews by Christians; and a sense of a sado-masochistic com­
munion with God in Jewish history. Greenberg’s collection of
poems,
Rehovot Ha-Nahar
(1951), is considered to be one of the
most dramatic expressions of grief over the Holocaust. His view
of the unbridgeable gap between Jew and Christian so often
expressed in that book, it should be noted, was also present
21. Band,
op cit.,
p. 105, suggests two possible satirical aims: 1) against the
reliance o f secular Zionism upon the goodness and rationality of the Gentile
world or 2) against the nai'vite o f the Jew who thinks his redemption can
be found through the church. My interpretation is closer to the second
of these.
22. Some treatments are: Yaakov Bahat,
Uri Zvi Greenberg
(Hebrew) (Jerusalem
and Tel Aviv: Devir, 1983); Shalom Lindenbaum,
The Poetry of Uri Zvi
Greenberg
(Hebrew) (Tel Aviv, 1984), 118-135, 206 -223 ; Yehudah Fried­
lander,
Studies in the Poetry of Uri Zvi Greenberg
(Hebrew) (Jerusalem-Tel
Aviv: Schocken, 1973); Leon I. Yudkin,
On the Poetry of Uri Zvi Greenberg
(Hebrew, 1987).
WALDMAN /GLIMPSES OF JESUS IN YIDDISH AND HEBREW LITERATURE
231