“Hasidic Scriptures” consists of twenty-nine lines divided into tercets, couplets, and one quatrain, all written in free verse. The title refers to the teachings of Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem Tov (1700-1760), the founder of Hasidism, and draws the reader immediately into the context of Jewish mysticism. An epigraph preceding the poem comments on the mystical relationship between the Law of the Commandments and man’s physical experience. The first line, “All is salvation in the mystery,” which repeats throughout the poem, indicates Nelly Sachs’s belief that it is inappropriate, if not impossible, to attain spiritual truth through logic. The poem unfolds as a meditation on this relationship between the Creator and the created world, in which Sachs transforms theological and metaphysical concepts into a deeply personal artistic vision.
The poem’s first eleven lines place the reader at the beginning of Creation as light is born of darkness in the protective, nurturing matrix of the universe. The entire process is distilled into images of night, stars, water, and sand. For Sachs, who was inspired by mysticism, the agent which initiates and sustains the Creation is language: “and the word went forth/Names formed/ like pools in the sand.” These “names” refer to the formative power of language and recall man’s role in naming the animals (Genesis 2:20), which implies a personal participation in language. In the syntax of the poem, the...
(The entire section is 547 words.)