Hazaz, Ḥayyim

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HAZAZ, ḤAYYIM (1898–1973), Hebrew writer. Born in Sidorovichi (Kiev province), Hazaz received a traditional and secular education, studying Hebrew and Russian literature. From the age of 16 (1914), when he left home, to 1921 he moved from one large Russian city to another. During and after the Russian Revolution he worked in Moscow on the Hebrew daily Ha-Am and at the time of the *Denikin and Wrangel pogroms he was in the Ukraine from where he escaped to the Crimean Mountains (1920). Hazaz went to Constantinople in 1921 where he lived about a year and a half and then moved to Western Europe, spending nine years in Paris and Berlin. The German capital had for a short time in the early 1920s become the Hebrew literary center after the Russian one had been destroyed by the revolution. Early in 1931 he left for Ereẓ Israel and settled in Jerusalem. Hazaz was politically active much of his life. He was the president of the Israel-Africa Friendship Association from 1965 (when it was founded) until 1969. After the Six-Day War (1967) Hazaz was prominent in the Land of Israel movement calling for settlement in the territories occupied during the war and for their permanent inclusion in the State of Israel.

Early Period – Russia

Hazaz began his literary career in Russia, publishing in Ha-Shilo'ah (1918, 274–84) under the pseudonym Ḥ. Ẓevi "Ke-Vo ha-Shemesh," a sketch, followed half a year later by his only short poem, "Al ha-Mishmar," dedicated to Saul Tchernichowsky. "Meri" and "Ma'amar Moshe Rabbenu" also appeared in Ha-Shilo'aḤ (1925, 1926), but under his own name. Hazaz published much during this period; his stories were well received and he gained wide acclaim. Many of his stories are set against the background of the Russian Revolution, among these are: "Mi-Zeh u-mi-Zeh" ("From This and That," in Ha-Tekufah, 21 (1924), 1–32); "Pirkei Mahpekhah" ("Chapters of the Revolution," ibid., 22 (1924), 69–97); and "Shemu'el Frankfurter" (ibid., 23 (1925), 81–184). The overall theme is the fate of the Jewish shtetl and the chaos and destruction wrought in its traditional way of life by the revolution whose impact is however only implicitly expressed. It is reflected in the interaction of forces from within and from without rather than directly represented by any single character. In all three stories only one non-Jewish revolutionary appears. Hazaz' fundamental interest in the revolution is thus on the level of human relations and understanding where it sowed bewilderment and confusion. The brief and concise description of events, trends, emotions, and characters and the fragmentary dialogue lend reality and immediacy to the narrative. However, the division of characters into the young revolutionary generation on the one hand and the anti-revolutionary older generation on the other is somewhat schematic. The general pervading mood is one of destruction in which the old world is wrenched from its axis while the new world is as yet not clearly focused. Thus the older generation, in the throes of tragedy, gains the sympathy of the reader. The young, however, are neither accused nor derided and even the irony directed against them is mild. Hazaz rewrote two of the stories: "Mi-Zeh u-mi-Zeh" became "Nahar Shotef" ("Flowing River," 1955, 1958, 1968), and "Pirkei Mahpekhah" became Daltot Nehoshet ("Copper Doors," 1 vol., 1956; 2 vols., 1968). Best among the revolutionary stories, "Shemu'el Frankfurte," has as a protagonist a revolutionary idealist, a Jesus-like figure, whose noble character leads him to a martyr's death. The story was excluded from his collected works and the author has stated that it needs rewriting (Ma'ariv, Sept. 26, 1969). At this time Hazaz also wrote a number of works not on the shtetl theme. "Ḥatan Damim" ("Bridegroom of Blood," in Ha-Tekufah, 23 (1925), 149–72), a prose poem, unfolds against the stark Midian desert. Zipporah, the wife of Moses, is portrayed as a tragic figure abandoned by her husband who had become a man of God. Modern in tone, the work is a lyrical masterpiece. It appeared in all of Hazaz' editions (in four slightly different versions) including a bibliophilic edition. Be-Yishuv shel Ya'ar ("In a Forest Settlement," 1930), Hazaz' first novel, is set in the early 1900s during the Russo-Japanese war. The plot centers around a Jewish family living among gentiles "in a forest settlement" and evolves against a background of revolutionary ideas and the disintegration of tradition. The gentile characters are tall strong woodcutters closely tied to their native soil. On the surface the members of the Jewish family seem to be living peacefully but beneath the apparent calm lurks the reality of the Jew's rootlessness. This alienation casts him simultaneously in a derisive and in a tragic light. The Jewish characters seem to be haunted by a fatalistic pessimism which affects everything they do. Thus they view their moving to the countryside and their abandoning of traditional values as determined by fate. The parodic and satiric figure of the young melammed, a revolutionary who expounds Marxian theories, also believes that his failure to be active in political affairs is predetermined by fate. The underlying symbol of cutting down the trees is imbued with Jewish characteristics. Be-Yishuv shel Ya'ar has not been included in any edition of Hazaz' works. He called it "a book full of printing errors and sown with some wild oats. This book does not exist for me" (Ma'ariv, Dec. 29, 1967), and yet he thought of rewriting it (Ma'ariv, Sept. 26, 1969).

Ereẓ Israel

Reḥayim Shevurim ("Broken Millstones," 1942) marks the beginning of Hazaz' Ereẓ Israel period. Six stories are still set in the Jewish shtetl while the remaining three depict life in Ereẓ Israel. The themes of the Diaspora stories – poverty, the bet ha-midrash and Torah study, interest on loans, loafers' banter, maskilim and gentiles, and riots – were also treated by his predecessors, but his individualistic outlook and style invested them with new meaning, originality, and verve. In "Shelulit Genuzah" ("The Hidden Puddle"), the protagonist, Eliah Kotlik, a pauper, runs away from his ever-nagging wife. The story is built upon a series of "flights" which reach their climax in his escape from Reb Kamatzel, who owes him money. Kotlik's last flight is of a moral nature motivated by the precept of the Torah not to harass an impoverished debtor. The contrast between the first and last flights points up the spiritual growth of the hero: the fleeing victim of the first flight turns into the fleeing persecutor of the last. On another level, the last flight reveals the shortcomings of the value system of modern society in contrast to that of traditional Judaism. Despite its debased material conditions, the Judaism of the shtetl was imbued with a great humanitarian spirit. Kotlik's jump into the muddy puddle is thus a symbolic act: he disturbed "… the stagnant puddle which had been contemplating the heavens." "Adam mi-Yisrael" ("A Jew") is a story episodic in structure whose narrator, the protagonist's son, relates the wanderings of his father from bet midrash to bet midrash and his death at the hand of rioters. A shtetl's mute cry on the day of a riot permeates "Ashamnu" ("We Have Sinned"), an ideational story. The quelled attempt at rebelling against the conventional behavior of the galut Jew in the face of danger serves but to heighten the anguish of the writhing shtetl. The tone, bitter and hostile, carries a note of choked helplessness. The structural framework of "Dorot Rishonim" ("First Generations") is a retrospective view of the destroyed shtetl on which Hazaz lavishes praise. The aura of stability and spiritual harmony of the shtetl is however disturbed by a sense of imminent danger. Ereẓ Israel is the locale of "Ha-Tayyar ha-Gadol" ("The Big Tourist"). The protagonist, a grotesque character, is drawn against the background of a satiric-humoristic description of the numerous holy historical sites that seem to spring up all over Ereẓ Israel. Hazaz' second major work, Ha-Yoshevet ba-Gannim ("Thou That Dwellest in the Gardens," 1944), is a novel which narrates the experiences of three generations of Yemenites living in Ereẓ Israel. The generation of elders is represented by an old man who dreams of the Messiah and tries to calculate his advent. Moving in a visionary world of his own, his sanity at times is doubted. His son represents the second generation that has thrown off the burden of the traditions of Yemenite-Jewish culture, but at the same time has not adapted to the cultural milieu of Israel. The third generation, the young daughter, though alive to the new environment, is unable to strike deep roots in the new culture and her integration remains superficial. Avanim Roteḥot ("Boiling Stones," 1946), his third book, is comprised of 10 stories, the first of which is the second edition of "Ḥatan Damim." "Galgal ha-Ḥozer," "Ba'alei Terisin," and "Yeraḥem ha-Shem" are sketches of Yemenite life. "Harat Olam" and "Ḥavit Akhurah" depict the life of German-Jewish immigrants in Ereẓ Israel. Humor and tragedy become inextricably intertwined especially when a ludicrous, grotesque, and mixed-up Israeli intrudes upon their life and creates even greater confusion. "Esh Bo'eret" and "Drabkin" are insights into the lives of immigrants from Eastern Europe. The former describes the naive devotion of halutzim who, despite overwhelming hardships, escaped from Russia. In the latter the protagonist, Drabkin, is an embittered Zionist who in the Diaspora had dedicated his life to the rebuilding of the homeland but in Ereẓ Israel was unable to find a significant role to play in its life. Drabkin's rejection is psychological. Having been badly received on arrival he projects his frustrations onto his ideals. The gap between ideals and their practical realization is questioned by a number of Hazaz' heroes. In "Ha-Derashah" ("The Sermon"), perhaps the most famous of his works, the hero, Yudke, strongly criticizes the accepted notions of Zionism. He objects to Jewish history which he describes as a boring chronicle of massacre and futility; a history created by the gentiles rather than willed by the Jewish people. He exhorts the Haganah leaders to wipe this humiliating and soiled record of a sorely tried people from the consciousness of the "new Jew." Jews of the past, he argues, wallowed in the tragedy of exile, they really did not wish to be redeemed. Traditional Judaism while praying for redemption was actually bent on preventing it. The story has many artistic flaws; on the first level it is clearly didactic and verbose. Another level, however, which gives the story dramatic impact, is created by the hero, a psychologically motivated round character, whose inner conflicts become apparent during his sermon; by the catcalls which his speech evokes; and by the network of imagery interwoven through the fabric of the story.

Hazaz' most comprehensive work, Ya'ish (4 vols., 1947–52), is set within an ethnological framework and traces the life of Ya'ish, a young Yemenite Jew. An ascetic and a dreamer, he abandons his mysticism upon his arrival in Ereẓ Israel. The work is a deep psychological probing into the inner recesses of Ya'ish's mind. Hazaz demonstrates an amazing familiarity with Yemenite culture and its rich religious heritage. These form a closely woven pattern within which the trials and conflicts of the protagonist are enacted. The emotional range and tension of the hero's struggles are filtered through the agonizing experience of a man whose fertile imagination and hallucinations are those of a kabbalist, whose perception is deep and penetrating, and whose inner struggles reveal a suffering divided soul. A network of symbols is woven through the fabric of the story highlighted by such fantasy scenes as Ya'ish's ascent to heaven where he converses with the angels. The Yemenite world with its local color and folklore is vividly and realistically conveyed and Ya'ish's life, steeped in mysticism, stands out in sharp relief against the backdrop of the humdrum life of the community. During the time that Hazaz wrote Ya'ish, he also published Be-Keẓ ha-Yamim ("At the End of Days," 1950) a play set in Germany (Ashkenaz) during the time of *Shabbetai Ẓevi; the theme of redemption not only creates the mood but is the motivating force of the dramatis personae. Despite the historical setting, the confrontation of ideas and concepts transcends time and place. The hero, a zealous advocate of messianism, faces a hostile public led by the rabbi who is the very embodiment of rationalist orthodoxy. The central theme of the drama is similar to that of "Ha-Derashah": Jews sufferexile because they lack the courage to be redeemed. Daltot Nehoshet (1956), an adapted and extended version of "Pirkei Mahpekhah," was considerably revised stylistically. The author expanded the descriptive passages and restrained the expressionistic outbursts of the narrator whose personal feelings and attitude toward the revolution are now that of an outsider, the "objective observer." Instead of the earlier stormy fearful mood, the style is freighted with minute ironic descriptions. A retrospective tone weaves its way through the fabric of the story deflecting, and at times distorting, the narrator's angle of vision. Ḥagorat Mazzalot ("The Zodiac," 1958) is a collection of three stories: "Ofek Natui," "Ḥuppah ve-Tabba'at," and "Nahar Shotef." The plot of "Ofek Natui" ("Horizon") unfolds against the background of the Lachish region, an area developed for agricultural settlement in the 1950s; the theme is again the basic Jewish problem of Diaspora versus "redemption." The protagonist of "Ḥuppah ve-Tabba'at" ("Canopy and Wedding Ring") is an old Tel Avivian woman who lost all her sons in the Holocaust. She supports herself through peddling notions in cafes and donates her last penny toward the writing and consecration of a Sefer Torah. This symbolic act underlines her death which comes to her while she has a vision on the seashore. She leaves life, in which she was an alien, to go to a world where she belongs. Nahar Shotef, an adaptation of "Mi-Zeh u-mi-Zeh," shows similar stylistic changes as those effected in Daltot ha-Nehoshet. Be-Kolar Eḥad ("In the One Collar," 1963; translated into French and Swedish) harks back to the struggle waged by the Jewish underground against the British in Palestine. The protagonists, young Jewish fighters condemned to death, cheat the hangman by committing suicide (the story is based on an actual occurrence). The question of Diaspora, redemption, and *Kiddush ha-Shem is also a major theme here. The concept of self-sacrifice as an ideal holy to man is present in all of Hazaz' works.

A revised edition of all his writings appeared in 1968. Hazaz more than once rewrote many of his works and while claiming that he remained faithful to the essence of his writings (Moznayim, 26 (1968), 261), he also insisted that whoever only read his early writings, without rereading them in the later editions, would not know him (Ma'ariv, Dec. 29, 1967). Hazaz' writings are extensive geographically, historically, and ethnographically. Geographically, he ranges over an area that extends from the far north of Russia to the south of Yemen, from Germany in the west to Ereẓ Israel in the east. Historically his creative imagination encompasses biblical times, prior to the revelation at Mount Sinai, extending to the Second Temple period before the destruction of the Temple, the messianic dreamers in Germany, the prerevolutionary period and the revolution years in Russia, the riots in the Diaspora and in Ereẓ Israel, the Holocaust generation and the one that has been resuscitated out of its own ashes, the fighters for Israel's freedom, and the new settlement in Israel. Ethnographically he roams over much of the Diaspora (from Russia to Yemen), probing into the life of different segments of the Jewish people and portraying them in their original dwellings and in their new homes. His themes form a network of fundamental ideas and phenomena of contemporary Jewish life, which he relates to the history of the nation. The modern Jewish period he sees as a link in the great chain of Jewish national history and of the different Jewish historical epochs: "These are multivariant parts of culture of one national personality which have been welded together" (Hed ha-Ḥinnukh, no. 37 (1968), 7). This concept of unity is also reflected in Hazaz' style and language, whose imagery and multiplicity of meaning are rooted in the ancient sources, thus encompassing and integrating simultaneously sources and originality. The wealth of his linguistic associations and his original imagery, at once real and fictitious, are the hallmarks of his style. Hazaz in his writings drew on his very wide knowledge of Talmud and Midrash to weave an intricate literary pattern. Thus many of his references and allusions are somewhat obscure to the average modern reader. In his revisions he has tended to minimize Arabic idioms which he had used extensively to create an effect of colloquial speech. He also deleted kabbalistic and gematria allusions and plays on cryptic words to arrive at a more limpid style. All his revisions thus have a sense of novelty and freshness. A movement from the tragic to the grotesque and satiric can be discerned in most of Hazaz' writings, especially in his later works. He uses different stylistic devices to achieve the tragic-comic. In his Russian tales the shtetl often rises to tragic stature, only to sink into caricature. A juxtaposition of sublime beliefs and the pettiness of those who profess them strikes the tragic-comic note in the Yemenite tales: thus the exalted redemptive theme of Ha-Yoshevet ba-Gannim is offset by parody; and the tragic moments in Ya'ish are undermined by the absurd. The play Be-Keẓ ha-Yamim borders on the tragic-grotesque. Hazaz was awarded the Israel Prize for literature in 1953.

[Jacob Bahat]

Hazaz was awarded the Bialik Prize for the second time in 1971 and the following year the Annual Prize of the American Academy for Jewish Research. In 1973 there appeared a collection of 16 short stories under the title Even Sha'ot, one of which, "Otto ha-Ish," has been translated into English, French, German, Spanish, Swedish, and Russian.

The first work published after his death by his wife, as his executor, was Pa'amon ve-Rimon (1975), consisting of 20 short stories written between 1969 and 1973. It was followed by Mishpat ha-Ge'ulah (1977), a collection of his essays and public addresses delivered on various occasions between 1950 and 1973, and in the same year a third printing of his 15 volumes was published in a paperback edition (Am Oved).

Hazaz was one of the initiators of Bet Ha-Sofer, the Hebrew Literary Center in the Old City of Jerusalem, and after his death the building was named in his honor.

An English translation of Hazaz's Daltot Neḥoshet (Gates of Bronze) was published in 1975. A French translation of Be-Keẓ ha-Yamim (A la Fin des Temps) was published in 1977 and an English translation entitled The End of Days 1982. "Raḥamim" appeared in G. Abramson (ed.), The Oxford Book of Hebrew Short Stories (1996). For English translations see: Goell, Bibliography, 2140–69, 2648, 2817; see also Spicehandler, in Ariel 1967. For further translations see ithl at www.ithl.org.il. For a bibliography of Hazaz's works see R. Weiser (1992).

[Aviva Hazaz]


M. Avishai, Shorashim ba-Ẓammeret (1969), 107–20; A. Ukhmani, Le-Ever Adam (1953), 248–82; J. Bahat, S.Y. Agnon ve-Ḥ. HazazIyyunei Mikra (1962), 175–257; idem, in: Ha-Ḥinnukh, 3–4 (1967), 121–7; idem, in: Tarbiz, 39 (1969/70), 390–414; idem, in: Hasifrut, 2 (1970), 538–64; A. Ben-Or, Toledot ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit be-Dorenu, 2 (1955), 97–131, includes bibliography; I. Halpern, Ha-Mahpekhah ha-Yehudit (1967), 518–45; I. Zmora, Shenei MesapperimH. Hazaz ve-Ya'akov Horovitz (1940), 9–32; I. Cohen, Demut el Demut (1949), 56–115; D. Kena'ani, Beinam le-Vein Zemannam (1955), 37–93; F. Lachower, Rishonim va-Aḥaronim, 2 (1935), 182–94; B.Y. Michali, Ḥayyim Hazaz; Iyyunim bi-Yẓirato (1968); D. Miron, Ḥayyim Hazaz (1959); D. Sadan, Avnei Boḥan (1951), 237–51; S.Y. Penueli, Demuyyot be-Sifrutenu ha-Ḥ¦ḍ¦ṣḥ¦ḥ (1946), 131–43; idem, Ḥulyot be-Sifrutenu ha-Ḥadashah (1953), 171–85; idem, Sifrut ki-Feshutah (1963), 297–324; S. Kremer, Re'alizm u-Shevirato (1968), 149–73; Y. Keshet, Havdalot (1962), 170–232; E. Schweid, Shalosh Ashmorot (1964), 71–89. add. bibliography: Y. David, H. Hazaz (1965); W. Bargad, Character, Idea and Myth in the Works of Hayim Hazaz (1970); E.I. Morris, Key Motifs in the Writings of H. Hazaz (1974); I. Zimran, Yeẓirato shel H. Hazaz: Ha-Shoah ben Shalosh Mahadurot Yeẓirah (1974); I. Kalish, Siḥot im Hazaz (1976); S. Katz, Nof Yerushalayim be-Yeẓirotehem shel Shenei Mesaperim: H. Hazaz ve-D. Shaḥar (1978); D. Sadan and D. Laor (ed.), Me, assef Mukdash li-Yeẓirat H. Hazaz (1978); A.H. Elhanani, Arba'ah she-Sippru: Burla, Agnon, Reuveni, Hazaz (1978); R. Lee, Masa al Rega ha-Hesed: Iyyunim bi-Yeziroteihem shel Agnon ve-Hazaz (1978); H. Barzel (ed.), H. Hazaz: Mivḥar Ma'amrei Bikoret al Yeẓirato (1978); D. Laor, H. Hazaz, ha-Ish vi-Yeẓirato (1984); S. Werses, Mi-Mendele ad Hazaz (1987); H. Barzel, Ḥazon ve-Hizayon (1988).

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Hazaz, Ḥayyim

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