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נאום לקבלת פרס ניומן מטעם אוניברסיטת ניו-יורק, 1976

אברהם רגלסון

© כל הזכויות שמורות.  החומר מובא ברשות בעלי הזכויות.

לתוכן הענינים

רבותי, אחי ואחיות; קהל נכבד,

 

My superiors, my brothers and sisters, worthy congregation, adepts of Hebrew literature, whether in actual fruit-bearing therein or in appreciation thereof and blessings over it.

In the Biblical account of creation the word precedes the deed:  ויאמר אלהים ויהי אור ויהי אור – – And God said:  Let there be light, and there was light.  In poetic craft, the word is the deed.  By balanced judicious word-arrangement, images of the wonders and beauties of Nature are invoked, prophetic dreams are converted to immediate experience, the roads to ideal goals are paved to embodiment in reality.  The reader is called upon to be co-creator with the poet, to transmute the rhythms, rhymes and images of the printed page into palpable living forces and definite delights and hopes and sorrows.  Helpless and vain is the poet's labor when it falls into minds incapable of visualizing the scenes depicted, of responding to the semimusical chimes and cadences, replete with emotional overtones.

A word about Hebrew, a language unique therein that its evolutions and changes are all equally open to the present-day writer.  Nothing that has been is passé, from בראשית to the last of the modern layers of this tongue, and in-between intervals of the Talmudic style, the Hebrew of the Mishnah, and the Aramaic-laden parlances of the Gemara – nothing is lost or wasted.  The intelligent Hebrew writer chooses from the vast treasures of the Sacred Tongue from its inception down to its modern classics, the idiom or word that best serves his purpose and intention – writings such as Maimonides' "מורה נבוכים"  ("Guide to the Perplexed"), Yehudah Halevi's "Kuzari" (written by him in Arabic and rendered in Hebrew by the Ibn Tibbon family), not to speak of the Hebrew poetry of Shlomo Ibn Gabirol and Yehudah Halevi and all of the Spanish-Arabic milieu which enlarged the poetic range of the Hebrew authors.

To the Hebraist of our time, the treasures of our Sacred Tongue in all ages are – and should be –  ready to serve the needs of the message and imagery of the beauty-laden modern poets in our everlasting ancient tongue.

I conclude with a poem of Longfellow's on a Talmudic theme, first in English and then – so we may taste a bit of Hebrew – – the same poem in my Hebraization, retaining the original rhyme-scheme and meter.

 

                            SANDALPHON

 

                            Have you read in the Talmud of old,

                            In the Legends the Rabbins have told

                                          Of the limitless realms of the air, –

                            Have you read it – the marvelous story

                            Of Sandalphon, the Angel of Glory,

                                          Sandalphon, the Angel of prayer?

 

                            How, erect, at the outermost gates

                            Of the City Celestial he waits,    

                                          With his feet on the ladder of light,

                            That, crowded with angels unnumbered,

                            By Jacob was seen, as he slumbered

                                          Alone in the desert at night?

 

                            The Angels of Wind and of Fire

                            Chaunt only one hymn, and expire

                                          With the song's irresistible stress;

                            Expire in their rapture and wonder,

                            As harp-strings are broken asunder

                                          By music they throb to express.

 

                            But serene in the rapturous throng,

                            Unmoved by the rush of the song,

                                          With eyes unimpassioned and slow,

                            Among the dead angels, the deathless

                            Sandalphon stands listening breathless

                                          To sounds that ascend from below; –

 

                            From the spirits of earth that adore,

                            From the souls that entreat and implore

                                          In the fervor and passion of prayer;

                            From the hearts that are broken with losses,

                            And weary with dragging the crosses

                                          Too heavy for mortals to bear.

 

                            And he gathers the prayers as he stands,

                            And they change into flowers in his hands,     

                                          Into garlands of purple and red;

                            And beneath the great arch of the portal,

                            Through the streets of the City Immortal

                                          Is wafted the fragrance they shed.

 

                            It is but a legend, I know, –

                            A fable, a phantom, a show,

                                          Of the ancient Rabbinical lore;

                            Yet the old mediaeval tradition,

                            The beautiful, strange supposition,

                                          But haunts me and holds me the more.

 

                            When I look from my window at night,

                            And the welkin above is allwhite,

                                          All throbbing and panting with stars,

                            Among them majestic is standing

                            Sandalphon the angel, expanding

                                          His pinions in nebulous bars.

 

                            And the legend, I feel, is a part

                            Of the hunger and thirst of the heart,

                                          The frenzy and fire of the brain,

                            That grasps at the fruitage forbidden,

                            The golden pomegranates of Eden,

                                          To quiet its fever and pain.

 

 

סַנְדַּלְפוֹן

ע"פ הנרי וואדסוורת לונגפלו

 

מלאך אחד שהוא עומד בארץ וראשו מגיע אצל החיות, במתניתא תנא, סנדלפון שמו. . . ועומד אצל המרכבה וקושר קשרים לקונו.

                                                                   (חגיגה, דף י"ג, עמוד ב')

 

                           הַאִם קְרָאתֶם בַּתַּלְמוּד מִלְפָנִים,

                                                      בְּאַגָּדוֹת סִפְּרוּ הָרַבָּנִים

                                    עַל מֶמְשְׁלוֹת-שַׁחַק אֵין-גְּדֹר?

                                                      הַאִם קְרָאתֶם אֶת פֶּלֶא-הַסִּפּוּר,

                                                      עַל סַנְדַּלְפוֹן, הַמַּלְאָךְ הֶהָדוּר,

                                    סַנְדַּלְפוֹן אֲשֶׁר בַּתְּפִילּוֹת יָשׂר?

 

                                                      אֵיךְ זָקוּף בְּשַׁעַר גַּן-יָהּ יַעֲמֹד

                                                      וְרַגְלָיו עַל רֹאשׁ סֻלַּם-הַהוֹד

                                    אֲשֶׁר יַעֲקֹב בַּחֲלוֹמוֹ שָׁחַר.

                                                      צְפוּף מַלְאָכִים בַּעֲלוֹתָם וְרִדְתָּם,

                                                      בְּעֵת עָיֵף וְגַלְמוּד נִרְדַּם,

                                    שָׁם בְּעֶרְיַת הַמִּדְבָּר?

 

                                                      מַלְאֲכֵי הָאִשׁ וְהַסּוּפָה רַק שִׁיר אֶחָד יָרִיעוּ

                                                      וּמִיָּד אֶל קֶרֶץ-חַיֵּיהֶם יַגִּיעוּ

                                    מֵעָצְמַת הֶלֶם הָרִנָּה,

                                                      יִגְוְעוּ תּוֹךְ פְּלִיאָה וָהֶדֶר

                                                      כְּמֵיתְרֵי-נֵבֶל נִתָּקִים בְּאֶדֶר

                                    מֵרוּם נְסִיקַת הַמַּנְגִינָה.

 

                                                      וְאוּלָם, שֵׁלְאֲנָן בֵּין הֶהָמוֹן הַנִּלְהָב,

                                                      בִּלְתִּי נִגְרָף בְּשִׁבֹּלֶת-הַשִּׁיר, נִצָּב –

                                    בְּעֵינַיִם שְׁקֵטוֹת מְפִיקוֹת בִּינָה,

                                                      בֵּין הַמַּלְאָכִים הַמֵּתִים – סַנְדַּלְפוֹן, הַשַּׂר

                                                      בֶּן-הָאַלְמָוֶת, וּמַקְשִׁיב בְּנֶשֶׁם נֶעְצַר

                                    בַּעֲלוֹת מִשֵּׁפֶל תְּפִילָּה וּתְחִנָּה, –

 

                                                      מִנְּפָשׁוֹת עַל הָאָרֶץ הַמַּאְדִּירוֹת,

                                                      מִנְּשָׁמוֹת הַמִּתְחַנְנוֹת וּמַפְצִירוֹת,

                                    מִידוּעֵי עֹנִי, חֳלִי וּשְׁכוֹל,

                                                      מִבְּרִיּוֹת דְּווּיוֹת, רְצוּצוֹת, אֻמְּלָלוֹת

                                                      וַעֲיֵפוֹת מִטְּעֹן עֻמְסֵי הַסְּבָלוֹת,

                                    כָּבְדוּ מִבְּנֵי-תְמוּתָה לִסְבֹּל.

 

                                                      וְהוּא אוֹסְפָן בְּהַגִּיעָן עָדָיו

                                                      וְהֵן נֶהֱפָכוֹת לִפְרָחִים בְּיָדָיו,

                                    לְזֵרֵי חַכְלִיל וְאַרְגָּמָן:

                                                      וּבַחֲלַל הֵיכְלֵי גִנְזֵי-טְמִירִין

                                                      וּדְבִירֵי נִשְׁמוֹת קַדִּישִׁין וְעִירִין

                                    נוֹדֵף נִיחוֹחָן הָרַעֲנָן.

 

                                                      יָדַעְתִּי, אֵין זוֹ אֶלָּא אַגָּדַת-דִּמְיוֹן,

                                                      מְשַׁל-מְלִיצָה וְשַׁעֲשׁוּעַ-חָזוֹן

                                    שֶׁל לֶמֶד-חֲכָמִים עַתִּיק;

                                                      אַךְ זוֹ מָסֹרֶת-הָאֱמוּנָה הַנָּאוָה,

                                                      יְלִידַת גַּעְגּוּעִים וְהַפְלָגַת-מַחֲשָׁבָה,

                                    בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת בִּי תַחֲזִיק.

 

                                                      כִּי אַבִּיט מֵאֶשְׁנַבִּי בַּלֵּיל,

                                                      וְהָרָקִיעַ מִמַּעַל לָבָן יָהֵל

                                    פָּעוֹם וְרָגוֹשׁ בְּרִבְבוֹת כּוֹכָבִים –

                                                      אֲדַמֶּה, בִּקְהָלָם סַנְדַּלְפוֹן עוֹמֵד,

                                                      רְסִיסֵי-אוֹרוֹת לְקַרְקַפְתּוֹ עוֹנֵד,

                                    וּפָרוֹשׂ כְּנָפַיִם נוֹהֲרוֹת לַמֶּרְחָבִים –

 

                                                      אָז אַרְגִּישׁ כִּי הָאַגָּדָה הִיא שֶׁבֶב

                                                      מֵרַעֲבוֹן-צִמְאוֹן הַלֵּבָב –

                                    מִשִּׁגְעוֹן הַמֹֹּחַ וְתַבְעֵרָתוֹ,

                                                      הַשּׁוֹלֵחַ חִשְׁקוֹ אֶל הַפְּרִי הַמְסֻכָּן,

                                                      אֶל רִמּוֹנֵי-הַפָּז שֶׁל עֵדֶן-הַגָּן,

                                    לְשַׁכֵּךְ כִּסּוּפָיו וּמְאֵרָתוֹ.

 

To the Neuman family, Professor Rudavsky, Dr. Chayim Leaf and all who had a hand in granting me the honor of being chosen as recipient of the Neuman prize for this year – – my humble and sincere thanks.

                                                                                                                          Abraham Regelson

                                                              December 13, 1976

כ"א כסלו, תשל"ז

 

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