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Mickiewicz, Adam°


MICKIEWICZ, ADAM ° (1798–1855), Polish poet. Born in Lithuania, Mickiewicz became involved in student nationalist politics at Vilna University and in 1826 was expelled from the country and ordered to live in Russia. In 1829 he was given permission to go abroad, and started the journeying from one European city to another that was to last for the rest of his life. It was during the period 1823–32 that he wrote his great drama Dziady (3 vols. (Paris, 1832); partial trans. Forefathers' Eve, 1928), in which he drew a picture of the future savior of Poland which has been interpreted as referring to himself. According to the vision of one of the characters, this savior would be "a son of an alien mother; his blood, the blood of ancient heroes; and his name – forty-and-four." Mickiewicz's mother, descended from a converted Frankist family, was an "alien"; and his own name, Adam (אדם), omitting the unvoiced "A" (א), has the numerical value of 44. Such kabbalistic notions were gleaned from the writings of the French mystic, Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin. Although Mickiewicz at first occasionally referred slightingly to the Jews, even in his biblically-influenced Księgi narodu polskiego i pielgrzymstwa polskiego ("Books of the Polish Nation and the Polish Pilgrimage," Paris, 1832), he soon revised his attitude. In this he was influenced by the mystical philosopher Andrzej Towiański, who considered the Jews, together with the French and Poles, to be a "chosen nation" and whose Messianic nationalism drew inspiration from Mesmer, Swedenborg, and the Kabbalah. Thus the idealized Jew, Jankiel, in Mickiewicz's masterpiece, the great epic Pan Tadeusz (1834), is an ardent Polish patriot. In the lectures he gave as professor of Slavonic languages and literatures at the Collège de France in Paris (1840–44), Mickiewicz was at pains to praise the Jews and defend them against their detractors. In a sermon delivered in a Paris synagogue on the Fast of the Ninth of Av, 1845, he expressed his sympathy for Jewish suffering and yearning for Ereẓ Israel. Although he dreamed for years of the conversion of the Jews to Christianity, he was greatly disappointed at the assimilationist tendencies of French Jews. In one of the statutes of the Polish legion which he organized in Italy in 1848 to fight against Russia Mickiewicz wrote: "To Israel, our elder brother: honor, fraternity, and help in striving towards his eternal and temporal goal. Equal rights in all things." When the Crimean War broke out in 1853, Mickiewicz went to Constantinople to help raise a Polish regiment to fight against the Russians. He hoped to include Jewish units, and was prepared to assure them the right to observe the Sabbath and all other religious obligations. His chief assistant, a French medical officer named Armand Lévy, was a Jewish nationalist, and it is possible that the two men believed that the creation of Jewish units would be a first step towards the revival of the Jewish nation in its own land. Mickiewicz died suddenly before his mission in Constantinople was completed.


A.G. Duker, in: M. Kridl (ed.), Adam Mickiewicz, Poet of Poland (1951), 108–25; S. Scheps, Adam Mickiewicz: ses affinités juives (1964); R. Brandstaetter, Legjon żydoswki Adama Mickiewicza (1932=Miesięcznik żydowski, 2 (1932), 20–45, 112–32, 225–48); W. Feldman, Stosunek Adama Mickiewicza do Żydów (1890); P. Kon, in: Źródłamocy, 1 (1924), bibl. of Heb. and Yid. trans.; R.A. Braudes (Broydes), Adam Mickiewicz (Heb., 1890); F. Kupfer and S. Strelcyn, Mickiewicz w przekładach hebrajskich (1955).

[Yehuda Arye Klausner]

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