Wisdom literature -- Criticism, interpretation, etc.
In the drama of sapiential persuasion shoah played a brief but powerful role. As sages determined to direct youths toward a life of skill and success, it was the prospect of shoah that threatened as alternative, the fools' final end. This article applies poetic analysis to three occurrences in biblical wisdom literature. When first introduced in Proverbs, shoah raises the sapiential warning to a fierce crescendo (Prov 1:27). In the second occurrence, shoat-resha'im turns from threat to rich reassurance as it measures the safety enjoyed by the wise—they will escape unscathed from the wicked's demise (Prov 3:25). Widening the semantic range, Job used shoah to describe the dilemma of suffering undeserved (Job 30:14). Through this study it becomes evident that shoah occupied a position of superlative yet not simplistic disaster.
Rechovot ha-nahar, Uri Zvi Greenberg's great book of lamentation over the destruction and loss of European Jewry, follows an ancient tradition of lamentation over the destruction and persecution of the Jewish people which has developed in Hebrew poetry since the era of the piyyut and medieval poetry. In this book Greenberg uses a new poetic language, including concepts and expressions such as kosef ('yearning'), nigun ('melody') and nofim ('landscapes'), which appear for the first time in this book but will reappear in other contexts in later texts. In this sense, Rehovot ha-nahar is a constitutive text, which introduces a new poetic and linguistic code.
The design of kosef as a central poetic code in the book is based on 140 occurrences and many variations of the term. Mapping of the appearances in the light of their various contexts and tracing their combination with or separation from fixed semantic clusters permits a different reading of the poems, leading to a complex world of meanings and spiritual modes, in a constant state of flux. The semantic shifts of the term kosef reflect the multiple aspects of human existence after the destruction of European Jewry.
Leah Goldberg was not known for writing war poems or poems in response to the Shoah. On the contrary: with the outbreak of World War II, Goldberg provoked a major literary controversy with her declaration in an essay published in Hashomer Hatsa 'ir that she had no intention of writing war poems. This paper examines Leah Goldberg's 1950 poem cycle "Keneged arba' ah banim" (1950), one of the few cycles she wrote in response to the catastrophe of World War II. Using the motif of the Four Sons of the Haggadah, Goldberg's cycle simultareously reinvigorates and undermines liturgical language, offering a provocative reconsideration of what it means to be wise, wicked, simple, or unquestioning in the post-Holocaust era.
Something about Whales, a children's book written by Abba Kovner, is an allegory dealing with calamity, survival, bereavement, and remembrance. The paper positions the book in the scholarly discussion of Kovner's work, highlighting the manner in which the molding of the protagonist and the shaping of the locale anchor the work in Kovner's poetics, and tracing its thematic roots to Kovner's world view and his concept of Jewish continuity. The paper also discusses Something about Whales in the context of Holocaust representation in children's literature, with reference to strategic decisions and composition choices involved in producing such literature for very young readers.
The past three decades have witnessed a proliferation of treatments of the Shoah by Israeli writers born after the event who explore the impact the Holocaust has had on their society. In two such works, "Momik," the opening section of David Grossman's novel, See Under: "Love" (1986), and a short story by Yehudit Katzir, "Schlaffstunde" that appeared in her collection Closing the Sea (1989), the authors choose to do so through the prism of child fantasies about the Land of Over There. In each work, but to varying degrees based on distance from the event, the child protagonists seek to come to terms with the terrors that so visibly weigh on the minds and hearts of the primary adult figures in their lives. Beyond any autobiographical relevance for authors growing up in the 60s and 70s, these depictions may also serve as a figure for contemporaneous Israeli society, when discussion of the Holocaust was largely suppressed and its legacy perceived as a contradiction of the heroic myth so inextricably bound up with the rise of the State. In these works, use of the child voice may thus be connected with the search for alternative modes counter to the monolithic claims of the Zionist epic narrative that have served to silence the small, individual voice.
Amichai, Yehuda. My son, my son, my head, my head.
Yehuda Amichai was born in Germany in 1924. Once the rise of the Nazi monster could neither be denied or ignored, he and his family escaped from there and arrived in Israel. Accordingly, one might expect that at least a significant cluster of poems by Amichai would address the Holocaust. This assumption, however, is at odds with the aesthetic reality of Yehuda Amichai's "poetic republic." Indeed, one can trace very few "Holocaust poems" among his many thousands, composed during the course of over five decades. Did he deliberately suppress the Holocaust's atrocities in order to challenge the verbal nature of his literary medium, and to translate its verbality into roaring muteness? One will never be able to tell. Nevertheless, these considerations are entirely irrelevant when one addresses aesthetically the poetry of Yehuda Amichai (or any other artist's work). The psychological or autobiographical intentions that are invested in the literary text have no place in the investigative realms of the literary scholar. He or she focuses on the literary text per se and addresses its aesthetic texture only, while dismissing any information that is not invested in the text itself.
Many studies of the Holocaust focus exclusively on European Jewry. It is essential to mention what happened at the time of the Holocaust to Sephardim and Near Eastern Jews. The fate of Near Eastern Jews would have been similar to the fate of their brothers in Europe had the Germans been successful on the North African front. One of the means by which Sephardim and Near Eastern Jews reacted to the tragedy of their brothers in Europe was through folk poetry and poetry. Near Eastern Jews expressed deep feelings of brotherhood with the Jewish victims of the Holocaust both at the time and after. Poets from Tunisia, Iraq, Yemen, and other countries wrote poetic responses to it at the time. In Israel, Sephardim and Near Eastern Jews published poetry about the Holocaust. On June 1-2, 1941, there was a pogrom against the Jews in Iraq as a result of Nazi incitement and propaganda and nationalistic-religious instigation. Jews were injured and murdered, Jewish women were raped, Jewish property was looted, and Jewish houses were burnt down. Jewish poets of Iraqi origin wrote poetic responses to this pogrom in Hebrew in Iraq and in Israel. In the poems of Sephardim and Near Eastern Jews about the Holocaust, the poets identify completely with the victims ("Us"—not "them"); the "crime" of the Jews was that they existed. A religious crisis was inevitable for some people, who asked where God was. The yearning and fight for a Jewish state was inevitable.