Ode to Shavuos

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12 Responses

  1. cvmay says:

    Thank you for the inspiring poem.
    R. Chaim N. Bialik was a unique, gentle and heartfelt poet.

  2. tzippi says:

    Bialik may have been the poet laureate of modern Hebrew, but I think this poem’s classical cadence may be a major factor in its being so moving.
    If I may share a brief quote from the Artscroll siddur, on Av Harachim, the memorial prayer said to martyrs throughout the year, and always after the memorial prayer Yizkor. It’s Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s commentary on the words, “May He exact retribution”:
    “We do not pray that we be strong enough to avenge our martyrs; Jews are not motivated by a lust to repay violence and murder with violence and murder. Rather we pray that G-d choose how and when to atone for the blood of His fallen martyrs. For the living, decency and integrity remain the primary goals of social life.”

  3. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “R. Chaim N. Bialik was a unique, gentle and heartfelt poet.”

    “Al tadin es chaveircha ad she’tagia l’mekomo.” I would not presume to pass judgement on Bialik, who lived during an era of extraordinary challanges. But of one thing I am certain: He does not deserve an “R.” in front of his name.

    [YA – Maybe. Maybe not. Elazar ben Durdaya got the R. in front of his name when he did teshuvah, although he didn’t live very long in that state. I was taught that Bialik did teshuvah, and put on tefilin every day after that. Maybe that entitled him to the R. for the years he had spent learning when younger.]

  4. Chareidi Leumi says:

    Bialik once told R’ Zvi Yehuda (when R’ Avraham Yitzchak Kook was still alive) that he should tell his father that he should not be too upset with him since he is not an apikores leHachis but rather an apikores leTe’avon.

    Bialik was also a fierce advocate of Shabbat Observance in the public sphere. He would kick people out of his house during his weekly Shabbat poetry readings if they dared light a smoke.

    He also more than once convinced local tel-Aviv shopkeepers who felt they had to keep their stores open on Shabbat to close down.

    His Sefer HaAgada is one of the most wonderful compilations of Aggadot I have yet to see.

    I think it is fair to say that he saw himself as an ally – not an enemy – of tradition. The big tragedy about Bialik are not his person as much as the circumstances which led him to believe that he could not achieve true national/cultural rivival within the bounds of observance.

  5. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    As I heard it, Bialik had a close and complex relationship with Rav Kook. Rav Kook did not push him but at one point surprisingly exhorted him to consider teshuva. Within days he passed away. Many believe that the tzaddik Rav Kook did indeed influence Bialik to have hirhurei teshuva (thoughts of repentence) just before he died. The juxtaposition is inviting.

  6. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >As I heard it, Bialik had a close and complex relationship with Rav Kook. Rav Kook did not push him but at one point surprisingly exhorted him to consider teshuva. Within days he passed away. Many believe that the tzaddik Rav Kook did indeed influence Bialik to have hirhurei teshuva (thoughts of repentance) just before he died. The juxtaposition is inviting.<

    Bialik had a very positive relationship with Rav Kook zt"l but the story you cite is actually involving Eliezer ben Yehuda and not Bialik. It is printed in page 80 of "Malachim Kivnei Adam" by R' Simcha Raz. The source for the Story is Dr. Nachum Arieli, son of R' Yizchak Arieli zt"l – a long time Havruta of R' Kook. During one of their study sessions (which were practically the only time R' Kook ever locked the door to his study), they forgot to lock the door. Elizer ben Yehuda walked in and sat quietly in the corner (he often came to R' Kook to consult regarding etymologies and new word coinages). When R' Kook noticed him, they started conversing regarding technical linguistic matters. At a certain point, there was a pause in the conversation and R' Kook said to ben Yehuda: "אדון בן-יהודה, אולי הגיעה השעה שתשוב?" and ben Yehuda replied with one word "אולי", stood up and left the room. This happened on Friday afternoon, the second day of Hanukah תרפ"ג-1923 a few hours before ben Yehuda passed away. It was R' Arieli who interpereted ben Yehuda's answer as hirhurei teshuva. an אולי is quite an achievement for some who used to sign his letter with the pseudonym בן-בלי-דת.

  7. michoel halberstam says:

    Where I come from R means Reb and applies to everyone. I first read this poem in 1965 I have never forgotten it. It is good to know there are4 others who appreciate it as well thanks.

  8. Chaim Wolfson says:

    Just for curiosity, did Rav Kook know Bialik from Volozhin?

  9. Chaim Wolfson says:

    [YA – Maybe. Maybe not. Elazar ben Durdaya got the R. in front of his name when he did teshuvah, although he didn’t live very long in that state. I was taught that Bialik did teshuvah, and put on tefilin every day after that. Maybe that entitled him to the R. for the years he had spent learning when younger.]

    Its funny, but after I sent in my comment I had the same thougt about R’ Elazar ben Durdaya. But I always understood that he earned the “R.” because by his example he taught the power of teshuvah, so in that sense he was indeed a “Rebbi” to all of Klal Yisrael. Perhaps the same could be said of Bialik, but for that you’ll have to do a better job of publicizing his teshuvah [without sounding triumphalist, of course :)].

  10. Reb Yid says:

    Thanks for bringing back a lot of memories…I first read this in school in 7th grade. A Bialik classic.

  11. Nachum says:

    Charedi Leumi, the story about Shabbat was (also) told by R’ Ahron Soloveichik. Bialik set up a Seuda Shlishit group that would meet every Shabbat, learn, eat, and then say Maariv and Havdala. Religious or not, everyone (every man, I suppose) had to cover their heads. They ran well past Shabbat, of course, and once, about a half hour after Shabbat was over, someone lit up a cigarette. Bialik stood up and shouted, “Menuval, tze min habayit!”*

    According to R’ Ahron, Bialik tried to have Tchnernikovsky (one of the relative few in that “group” of poets who was specifically anti-religious, and who was married to a non-Jew) thrown out of Israel, but only Ussishkin supported him. The point of that part of R’ Ahron’s essay (written to defend the honor of his late brother after he had been attacked) was that many (most?) of the people widely attacked by the “velt” were a lot frummer than we think.

    *It was probably “bayis.” I know an elderly gentleman who has lived in Rechavia his whole life who’s told me about the time Bialik came to visit his class and was upset that they were studying his poems in Sepharadit, as they were written, and actually “work,” in AshkenNUzis. My father, who majored in Hebrew in YU, agrees.

  12. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >Just for curiosity, did Rav Kook know Bialik from Volozhin?

    No, their times there did not overlap.

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