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Hirsh Osherovich (6.25.1908, Panevezys - 6.6.1994, Tel Aviv)

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

In Yiddish literary circles Hirsh Osherovich was nicknamed “iceberg”, because “only the tiny visible part is known about him."

The poet and playwright Hirsh Osherovich was born in the Lithuanian town of Panevėžys

(Ponevezh in Yiddish). At the beginning of the 20th century, this town possessed eight synagogues, a Karaite kenassa, a Talmud Torah, a Jewish hospital, several state and private Jewish primary schools (including one for girls). Shortly before World War I, a yeshiva was opened there, which gained fame soon.

In 1928, Hirsh Osherovich graduated from the gymnasium, where teaching was conducted in Hebrew. Then he entered the Faculty of Law at Kaunas University and graduated from it in 1933.

Since the 1930s, Osherovich began to contribute to the Yiddish press. He worked for the Kaunas newspaper "Di yidishe shtime" (the Jewish Voice) and other periodicals.

He started publishing poetry in 1934. The entire circulation of his first collection "Baginen" (Dawn, Vilnius, 1941) fell into the hands of the Nazis and was demolished.

Luckily, Hirsh Osherovich himself managed to flee from the Germans, After long wanderings along Russian roads (Saratov, Novosibirsk, Moscow), he reached Alma-Ata (now in Kazakhstan), where he remained until the liberation of Vilnius in 1944.

From Vilnius he wrote for the Moscow Yiddish newspaper “Eynikayt” (Unity) - the organ of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. In 1947, Osherovich's book "Fun klem aroys" (Breaking Free from the Grip) was published in Moscow.

Two years later, Osherovich shared the fate of most Soviet Yiddish writers: he was arrested. In 1949, he was sentenced to ten years in the camps "for anti-Soviet and nationalist-Zionist activities."

In June 1956, after 7 years in GULAG, Osherovich was rehabilitated and returned to Vilnius. Soon there appeared his poetry collection in Russian translation "My Kindhearted Maple" and two collections in translation into Lithuanian.

Before leaving for Israel in November 1971, Hirsh Osherovich published his poems in the Moscow Yiddish magazine “Sovetish Heymland” (Soviet Motherland), of which he was a member of the editorial board.

In Tel Aviv, nine books of his poems appeared: "Tsvishn blits un duner" (Between Lightning and Thunder, 1973), "Mayn Ponevezh" (My Panevėžys, 1974, with parallel translation into Hebrew text by Avraham Shlonsky), "In der velt fun akeydes” (In the World of Sacrifices, 1975), “Gezang fun labirint” (Song of a Labyrinth, 1977), “Tanakh-poemes” (Biblical poems, 1979), “Bloye

bumerangen” (Blue boomerangs, 1979), “Baym ets hadas" (At the Tree of Knowledge, 1981), "Vundiker bitokhn" (Wounded Hope, 1987), and "A liderheym" (House of Songs, 1990).

Hirsh Osherovich's creative work has been awarded prizes named after I. Manger, J. Fikhman and some more.


It’s night over Tyre (a city in Lebanon)...

Moloch is over Tyre, his belly full of ashes.

An owl is sitting

Upon his bronze crown which has cooled down.

The day has flowed out

With clots of congealed blood.

Fathers are lying motionlessly in their beds,

While mothers are glowing as if on fire.

It’s night over Tyre,

and Moloch is alone.

He is standing silently, shrouded in black darkness.

The day has flowed out with blood.

Wave tongues are licking the scorched shore.

Bitter hope is burning hearts,

The hope to buy peace for blood.

Moloch, do give us salvation!

Give us salvation!

You are punishing again,

Punishing us...

No matter how we ask,

No matter how we pray...

It’s night over Tyre.

Moonless and black.

The darkness is insurmountable,

And in the unsteady slumber

Fathers are trembling, while mothers are swearing

Their womb and their breasts,

Whereas children silently await death.

Moloch, Moloch, have mercy on us,

Moloch, Moloch, do not torment us,

Be kind to us, forgive us, Moloch,

As we are ready to forgive you.

It’s night over Tyre.

No one wants to lend ear to his longing

And no one

Dares admit it into his consciousness.

But how can you drive that longing out of the heart -

Longing for young doomed life?

Moloch, Moloch, help us,

Do not punish us anymore, Moloch,

Why, great Moloch,

Have you transformed help into punishment?

It’s night over Tyre.

The spouses are lying next to each other,

But there is no strength left for desire.

Hearts are empty, cradles are also empty,

Your child is a trail of blood in the grass...

Moloch, Moloch, Father Moloch!

These children... are our children...

Not yours... how can we give them to you?..

It’s night over Tyre,

The wind is blowing from the sea

And sprinkling salt on the eyelids of sleeping ones.

And the waves are beating into the rocks,

And the rock is lying on the heart like a stone giant.

And Moloch is watching...

It will dawn soon,

And today will turn into yesterday.

Moloch, forgive us, show mercy,

You are father, we are your children...

But we also give birth to children -

Our flesh, and blood, and happiness.

Fruit of love and fruit of hope

Will turn into ashes in your stomach...

Moloch, Moloch, you are angry again,

What didn't we please you with?

Or have we shed few tears,

Maternal and paternal ones?

There is no happiness for Tyre without children.

Moloch, Moloch, you are our Lord,

You are also a creation of our hands.

So why do you hate us?

Even though we sin sometimes,

We are constantly obedient to you.

We endow with you without a dispute

What is dearest to us.

For you we are always ready

To tear out our heart!

So why are you punishing us?

So why are you hitting us again?

Tell us at least - what are we guilty of?

It’s night over Tyre.

The shed blood is sobbing in the sand,

And in reply

The blood that still remains in the veins, is groaning.

Dawn will not bring joy, but horror:

With the sunrise, Moloch will come to life...

Where to run?

You can't protect yourself from the daytime.

... And again hiding eyes from each other

And forgetting the meaning of the words "mom" and "dad"...

Moloch demands for himself

What you have sown in your mother's bosom,

What you joyfully raised,

So as he would tear to pieces alive...

... But what can we do?

Who will give advice?

After all, a wretched person

Can't reach the copper skull

Nor tear the iron belly...

The bloody altar is hidden behind black smoke,

And the children’s lives are hanging by a thread.

... But who will give us advice

And what can we do? ..

It’s night over Tyre.

But the inhabitants do not sleep.

They are frozen like that owl

On Moloch’s skull...

They are ready to accept everything.

Is it out of their indifference?

Or wisdom?

Or pre-death dullness?

Or despair?..

Those who rivet an idol on their own demand,

At first don't know the price

They’ll have to pay for their true God.

After all, an idol is blind and deaf,

He doesn't give life,

But devours it...

He who created

With his own labor, with his own hand

The cast idol - a fruit of his fear

And of his vain dream to avoid death

By means of giving it his life -

He will only redeem his fault

By an open challenge and sacrilege:

If God is mighty -

Let him punish!

Since there is no strength to suffer!

It’s night over Tyre...

But there is no silence.

Who got up first? Who ran out of the house?..

The crowd is rushing, filling the streets,

Swirling, whirling, surrounding God:

- Robber! Predator!...

- Give me back my happiness!

- Bring back my child!...

- I'm not afraid of you!

- I have nothing to lose!

- I will not calm down

Until I break your head,

I will destroy you with my own hand!..

It’s night over Tyre...

But people have no time for sleep.

They fly like an arrow, jumping out of bed,

Hearts are burning, rage is sparkling in my eyes

In the hands - clubs, axes, sledgehammers...

- Where is he, Moloch?

- Where is he, the idol?

- We’ll crush him into pieces!

- Let's grind the castrato into powder!

“Damn you, killer god!

- You god, fat from [eating] our flesh!

- You god, drunk with our blood!

- Give in, you damned spider!

- That will do – we’ve had it enough,

We’ve wept for our children!

- No, I’ll better hit him not with a club,

But with my bare hands

I'll reach his copper throat,

I will pay for those burned,

I’ll uphold the alive ones for life

And I’ll take revenge on the murderer!

... Here, Moloch started growling and staggering,

And here he is falling onto the ground with a howl,

And the wild crowd is trampling his wings,

And twists his arms in a rage,

And hits his chest, decorated with the bull muzzle...

- Cannibal, you iron fool!

- Let our fingers swell,

- Let the skin peel off our fists,

- With bloody hands

We’ll tear you apart! ..

... No, not you, soulless one, we will kill,

But our own blindness*.

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