(1859–1886), Hebrew poet. Mordekhai Tsevi Mane was born in Radochkovitchi (Radoshkovich), in the Vilna region. As a child he showed a talent for drawing and sketching, and his parents’ support enabled him to realize his goals and enroll in the Vilna Art School in 1876. He was then offered a place in the prestigious Saint Petersburg Royal Academy of Arts, where, thanks to the patronage of Jewish philanthropists, he studied from 1881 to 1884. After suffering a serious bout of tuberculosis, he was forced to return to his hometown, spending the remaining two years of his life in his parents’ house, surrounded by friends and admirers.
During his period of study at Vilna, Mane began to write poetry, and from then on his creative work included both literature and the plastic arts, but with almost no connection between the two. It appears from his letters that he had invested all his hopes and aspirations in a career as a painter, which he regarded as his true calling. He considered poetry only secondary—something he wrote to entertain himself during his spare time. It was his poetry, however, that aroused the interest of his contemporaries, and he was counted among the most prominent poets of the Ḥibat Tsiyon generation. Mane’s poetry represented the interstice or transition between the end of the Haskalah period and the revolutionary changes in Hebrew verse that began with the appearance of Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik and Sha’ul Tchernichowsky in the last decade of the nineteenth century.
Mane expressed his yearnings for the Land of Israel, and showed an attachment to nature in both the tangible and symbolic senses. He located the lyrical individualistic ego at the center of a poetic universe that included both typically romantic motifs (loneliness, sorrow, love) and the use of poetry as a reflective exercise. His poems also contained direct and concrete autobiographical expression. Mane’s best-known piece, “Mas’at nafshi” (My Soul’s Desire; 1886), which was set to a popular melody, captivated the hearts of its many readers with its delicate balance of personal and national aspirations.
An anthology of Mane’s works and letters published posthumously in 1897 established his reputation as a poet who excelled in a romantic evocation of the vision of nature in bloom combined with feelings and a fear of death. His untimely death created a romantic halo around his short and bitter life, to the extent that a “Mane ritual”—frequent memorial ceremonies at his grave—developed in his hometown of Radochkovitchi that continued to be observed for a number of decades after his death.
Despite his reputation as a poet, Mane’s profound originality is manifested neither in his poetry nor in his drawings (most of which were lost), but rather in his essays on the plastic arts and their proper place in Jewish national life. In these essays, published beginning in 1881 (the first of their kind to appear in Hebrew), he criticized the traditional Jewish detachment from the visual arts and called for the fostering of an aesthetic sensibility among Jews, regardless of whether they wished to integrate within their general environment or whether they wished to cultivate a national distinctiveness. Mane’s essays anticipated the multifaceted debate about the nature and social function of Jewish secular culture in the national movement.
Hillel Barzel, “Ḥedvat ha-mar’ot: Mordekhai Tsevi Ma’neh,” in Shirat Ḥibat Tsiyon, pp. 66–94 (Tel Aviv, 1987); Avner Holtzman, “Mordekhai Tsevi Ma’neh: Meshorer ve-tsayar,” in Mele’khet maḥashevet, teḥiyat ha-umah: Ha-Sifrut ha-‘ivrit le-nokhaḥ ha-omanut ha-plastit, pp. 93–116 (Tel Aviv, 1999); Hayim Toren, “M. Ts. Ma’neh: Monografyah,” Mo’znayim 22 (1946): 18–26, 97–101, 156–163.
Translated from Hebrew by David Fachler