“I still felt in the last moment / The unsheathing of the great knife of parting”: Absence, Abandonment, and Maternal Lament as Poetic Theology in Five Poems by Nelly Sachs
Images of mothers and children proliferate throughout German-Jewish poet Nelly Sachs’s first two post-World War Two collections of poetry. Compelled by this pattern, this thesis contends that mother and child figures in five poems from these two collections utter laments for those Jews murdered in the Shoah which articulate a specifically female theological position. This position laments the absence of God’s immanent and intimate maternal presence in the Shoah and therefore the dissolution of the covenant, thereby differing in its concerns and attitudes from certain post-Shoah theological responses by male thinkers. Whereas these male theological responses lament what they view as an abusive encounter between God and his covenant people, Sachs’s poems lament a perceived total lack of an encounter between the Shekhinah and her children. This perception, and the lament response it elicits, unites these five poems as a poetic theology.