The Legend of the Three and Four1 is the most important work written by Bialik after he left Russia in 1922. It belongs to the same genre as "The Scroll of Fire," a prose poem composed in 1905. Both works are based upon ancient Rabbinic legends. Their theme is akin to that of the medieval European legends about the quest for the holy grail -- the symbol of salvation.
"The Scroll of Fire" utilizes and refines several Jewish legends about the heavenly fire once used on the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem, which was salvaged and hidden in a cave in a distant land. Once the Temple is rebuilt, so the legend goes, the fire will be returned to the altar. Bialik transfers the hiding place to a mountain crag and introduces a devout youth who sets off in a quest to recover the fire in order to hasten the promised restoration (i.e., salvation). He finally reaches the fire but cannot hold onto it. It tumbles into the abyss of perdition, and he is cast into eternal exile. The Legend of the Three and Four has its source in a Midrash2 about King Solomon's daughter, who was enclosed by him in a high tower on a remote island to protect her from unsuitable lovers. She is rescued by a daring____________________