Our gate into Bialik's poem "In the City of Slaughter" is the line used for the title of the present essay. The voice that the poet hears at the cemetery is an amazing one, as long as it is taken to be a human voice. A divine voice may ascribe senselessness without creating so much amazement. A divine voice may ascribe senselessness from another point of view, that of a certain divine project, in which such an individual human being could have played a role but failed to. Accordingly, the claims that "senseless is your life" and "senseless is your death" should be understood within the framework of a divine project that failed.

What is the divine project that failed? A prevalent reading of the poem leads to a simple answer to our question. The divine project is that of maintaining a Jewish form of life that is honorable. Thus, self-defense of Jews was justified on grounds of honor protection.

The major conceptual ingredient of the new, viable, collective project that emerged as a lesson of the poem is the idea of shouldering full responsibility for the Jewish fate. Most important among the differences between the old and the new projects is the difference between every Jewish form of life in exile and a possible Jewish form of life in an independent state of the Jews.

Pace Bialik, even on the background of a new collective project, an ascription of "senselessness" to a certain person's life rests on conceptual mistakes. The lives and deaths of the victims of Kishinev were not senseless, even though they took place within a collective project that failed and that was replaced by an alternative one.


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pp. 153-164
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