Page 240 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
in his earliest writing and is often connected with the Jesus mo­
tif. In the earlier work, less so in the later, Greenberg embraces
Jesus, the suffering fellow Jew. Greenberg’s Jesus is the embod­
iment of compassion and unmerited human suffering and is
the ideal Jew.
We can cite only a few items out of many. In the Yiddish
poem “Uri Zvi Before the Cross o f INRI,” which is set typo­
graphically in the shape of a cross, Jesus is depicted as very
Jewish: “At your head is a Star of David, above the star of David
is the priestly benediction . . . At your feet: a pile o f severed
Jewish heads. Torn prayer-shawls. Pierced parchments. Linen
with blood stains.”23
Jesus is again presented in the Hebrew poem
Lefanav
(Before
Him) from the collection
Eymah Gedolah Ve-Yareah
(1924). The
title is based on the poet’s visiting Jesus to take leave of him
before making aliyah (which he did in 1924). Greenberg de­
scribes him as follows: “I have an impaled brother,/ a Galilean
brother, hanging/ on a vile post, on a stone between bushes./
His shame is public before the eyes of the world.” He asks Jesus
to tell him how to answer the question of the new shepherds
of Galilee, who are building the Jewish homeland. They will
say, “What is the role of Jesus our brother who is impaled/ on
several posts/ in the exile of the world;/ Do thousands of bells
/from thousands o f towers/ ring forgetfulness upon his brain?”
There are two versions of this poem, and in the later one Jesus
is given the identity of a Zionist and a Jewish Messiah: “He
is hanging in the middle of the world looking/ to the end of
all the generations/ at the end o f time./ Great is his longing
for Eretz Yisrael/ and he will return to Eretz Yisrael with the
tallit!
which was on his shoulders when he stood up for cru­
cifixion.”24
All these images are of a Jewish Jesus. Church bells and ec­
clesiastical pomp are, for Greenberg, a falsification of Jesus’Jew­
ishness. In a poem written in 1931 he excoriates the Pope, “The
Father who lives by the Tiber,” and his sons-nations, “for the
23. Uri Greenberg,
Albatross
2. (Warsaw, November, 1922), 3. Greenberg edited
the Yiddish literary journal
Albatross
between 1921 and 1923. For a Hebrew
translation in the cruciform typography, see
Siman Keri’ah
9 (May, 1979),
132-133.
24.
Eymah Gedolah Ve-Yareah,
pp. 35 -36 , cited and discussed by Bahat, 147,
n. 19.