Hayyim Nachman Bialik
Hayyim Bialik’s early childhood shaped and inspired his poems. Born in Radi Ukraine, Bialik comes from a religious family whose business revolved around lumber. The Jews under Russian rule at this period were for the most part restricted to residing in the Pale of Settlement. Strict laws were enforced upon the Jews. Employment was limited to casual laborers, peddlers, shopkeepers, tailors, shoemakers, and moneylenders; additionally they were prohibited from owning land.
Despite the harsh conditions, the Bialik’s seemed to have faired well. Bialik’s grandfather Ya’akov Mosheh was an accomplished man. He started a prosperous lumber business in Zhitomir. In addition to being financially successful, he was also regarded as a torah scholar. His first wife bore him two children, Hayyim and Yitzchak Yossi. Yitzchak Yossi was Bialik’s father. Ya’akov Moshe retired from the lumber business at an earlier stage in his life to devote his efforts to the study of torah. To compensate for his role in the lumber business he gave equal portions of the business to his sons to manage. Yitzchak Yossi inherited the leased woodlands in Radi Ukraine where his fortunes would unfortunately not mirror those of his father.
Yitzchak Yossi’s business sense was not as sharp as others were in his family; his interests were elsewhere, but he was tragically stranded supporting for his family in a trade he didn’t much care for. Bialik’s father became the black sheep in the family, but his endeavors were not all failures; he was an accomplished torah scholar like his father. After the death of his first wife, Yitzhak Yossi found Dinah Privah Skorotin who would bare him three children: Hannah Idis, Beryl and Hayyim Nachman. Hayyim was born into tragic circumstances, his father was a failure, his mother was often sad and they had little money. Bialik recounts his father’s appearance, “’stocky, broad shouldered, with a heavy gait, who carried his yoke like a weary beast of burden, obstinate, resigned and apathetic…his eyes were full of sadness,“ Despite the sadness surrounding him, Bialik was able to find his version of the Garden of Eden in his surroundings.