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Title: Jewish History : An Essay in the Philosophy of History
Author: Dubnow, Simon, 1860-1941
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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By S. M. Dubnow


The author of the present essay, S. M. Dubnow, occupies a well-nigh
dominating position in Russian-Jewish literature as an historian and
an acute critic. His investigations into the history of the
Polish-Russian Jews, especially his achievements in the history of
Chassidism, have been of fundamental importance in these departments.
What raises Mr. Dubnow far above the status of the professional
historian, and awakens the reader's lively interest in him, is not so
much the matter of his books, as the manner of presentation. It is
rare to meet with an historian in whom scientific objectivity and
thoroughness are so harmoniously combined with an ardent temperament
and plastic ability. Mr. Dubnow's scientific activity, first and last,
is a striking refutation of the widespread opinion that identifies
attractiveness of form in the work of a scholar with superficiality of
content. Even his strictly scientific investigations, besides offering
the scholar a wealth of new suggestions, form instructive and
entertaining reading matter for the educated layman. In his critical
essays, Mr. Dubnow shows himself to be possessed of keen psychologic
insight. By virtue of this quality of delicate perception, he aims to
assign to every historical fact its proper place in the line of
development, and so establish the bond between it and the general
history of mankind. This psychologic ability contributes vastly to the
interest aroused by Mr. Dubnow's historical works outside of the
limited circle of scholars. There is a passage in one of his books[1]
in which, in his incisive manner, he expresses his views on the limits
and tasks of historical writing. As the passage bears upon the methods
employed in the present essay, and, at the same time, is a
characteristic specimen of our author's style, I take the liberty of

"The popularization of history is by no means to be pursued to the
detriment of its severely scientific treatment. What is to be guarded
against is the notion that tedium is inseparable from the scientific
method. I have always been of the opinion that the dulness commonly
looked upon as the prerogative of scholarly inquiries, is not an
inherent attribute. In most cases it is conditioned, not by the nature
of the subject under investigation, but by the temper of the
investigator. Often, indeed, the tediousness of a learned disquisition
is intentional: it is considered one of the polite conventions of the
academic guild, and by many is identified with scientific thoroughness
and profound learning.... If, in general, deadening, hide-bound caste
methods, not seldom the cover for poverty of thought and lack of
cleverness, are reprehensible, they are doubly reprehensible in
history. The history of a people is not a mere mental discipline, like
botany or mathematics, but a living science, a _magistra vitae_,
leading straight to national self-knowledge, and acting to a certain
degree upon the national character. History is a science _by_ the
people, _for_ the people, and, therefore, its place is the open
forum, not the scholar's musty closet. We relate the events of the
past to the people, not merely to a handful of archaeologists and
numismaticians. We work for national self-knowledge, not for our own
intellectual diversion."

  [1] In the introduction to his _Historische Mitteilungen,
    Vorarbeiten zu einer Geschichte der pol-nischrussischen

These are the principles that have guided Mr. Dubnow in all his works,
and he has been true to them in the present essay, which exhibits in a
remarkably striking way the author's art of making "all things seem
fresh and new, important and attractive." New and important his essay
undoubtedly is. The author attempts, for the first time, a psychologic
characterization of Jewish history. He endeavors to demonstrate the
inner connection between events, and develop the ideas that underlie
them, or, to use his own expression, lay bare the soul of Jewish
history, which clothes itself with external events as with a bodily
envelope. Jewish history has never before been considered from this
philosophic point of view, certainly not in German literature. The
present work, therefore, cannot fail to prove stimulating. As for the
poet's other requirement, attractiveness, it is fully met by the work
here translated. The qualities of Mr. Dubnow's style, as described
above, are present to a marked degree. The enthusiasm flaming up in
every line, coupled with his plastic, figurative style, and his
scintillating conceits, which lend vivacity to his presentation, is
bound to charm the reader. Yet, in spite of the racy style, even the
layman will have no difficulty in discovering that it is not a clever
journalist, an artificer of well-turned phrases, who is speaking to
him, but a scholar by profession, whose foremost concern is with
historical truth, and whose every statement rests upon accurate,
scientific knowledge; not a bookworm with pale, academic blood
trickling through his veins, but a man who, with unsoured mien, with
fresh, buoyant delight, offers the world the results laboriously
reached in his study, after all evidences of toil and moil have been
carefully removed; who derives inspiration from the noble and the
sublime in whatever guise it may appear, and who knows how to
communicate his inspiration to others.

The translator lays this book of an accomplished and spirited
historian before the German public. He does so in the hope that it
will shed new light upon Jewish history even for professional
scholars. He is confident that in many to whom our unexampled past of
four thousand years' duration is now _terra incognita_, it will
arouse enthusiastic interest, and even to those who, like the
translator himself, differ from the author in religious views, it will
furnish edifying and suggestive reading. J. F.


The English translation of Mr. Dubnow's Essay is based upon the
authorized German translation, which was made from the original
Russian. It is published under the joint auspices of the Jewish
Publication Society of America and the Jewish Historical Society of
England. H. S.





   Historical and Unhistorical Peoples
   Three Groups of Nations
   The "Most Historical" People
   Extent of Jewish History


   Two Periods of Jewish History
   The Period of Independence
   The Election of the Jewish People
   Priests and Prophets
   The Babylonian Exile and the Scribes
   The Dispersion
   Jewish History and Universal History
   Jewish History Characterized


   The National Aspect of Jewish History
   The Historical Consciousness
   The National Idea and National Feeling
   The Universal Aspect of Jewish History
   An Historical Experiment
   A Moral Discipline
   Humanitarian Significance of Jewish History
   Schleiden and George Eliot


   Three Primary Periods
   Four Composite Periods


   Cosmic Origin of the Jewish Religion
   Tribal Organization
   Egyptian Influence and Experiences
   Mosaism a Religious and Moral as well as a Social and Political
   National Deities
   The Prophets and the two Kingdoms
   Judaism a Universal Religion


   Growth of National Feeling
   Ezra and Nehemiah
   The Scribes
   The Maccabees
   Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes
   Alexandrian Jews


   The Isolation of Jewry and Judaism
   The Mishna
   The Talmud
   Intellectual Activity in Palestine and Babylonia
   The Agada and the Midrash
   Unification of Judaism


   The Academies
   Beginning of Persecutions in Europe
   Arabic Civilization in Europe


JEWS (980-1492)
   The Spanish Jews
   The Arabic-Jewish Renaissance
   The Crusades and the Jews
   Degradation of the Jews in Christian Europe
   The Provence
   The Lateran Council
   The Kabbala
   Expulsion from Spain


JEWS (1492-1789)
   The Humanists and the Reformation
   Palestine an Asylum for Jews
   Messianic Belief and Hopes
   Holland a Jewish Centre
   Poland and the Jews
   The Rabbinical Authorities of Poland
   Isolation of the Polish Jews
   Mysticism and the Practical Kabbala
   Persecutions and Morbid Piety


   The French Revolution
   The Jewish Middle Ages
   Spiritual and Civil Emancipation
   The Successors of Mendelssohn
   Zunz and the Science of Judaism
   The Modern Movements outside of Germany
   The Jew in Russia
   His Regeneration
   Anti-Semitism and Judophobia


   Jewry a Spiritual Community
   Jewry Indestructible
   The Creative Principle of Jewry
   The Task of the Future
   The Jew and the Nations
   The Ultimate Ideal


What is Jewish History? In the first place, what does it offer as to
quantity and as to quality? What are its range and content, and what
distinguishes it in these two respects from the history of other
nations? Furthermore, what is the essential meaning, what the spirit,
of Jewish History? Or, to put the question in another way, to what
general results are we led by the aggregate of its facts, considered,
not as a whole, but genetically, as a succession of evolutionary
stages in the consciousness and education of the Jewish people?

If we could find precise answers to these several questions, they
would constitute a characterization of Jewish History as accurate as
is attainable. To present such a characterization succinctly is the
purpose of the following essay.





    Le peuple juif n'est pas seulement considérable par son
    antiquité, mais il est encore singulier en sa durée, qui a
    toujours continué depuis son origine jusqu'à maintenant ...
    S'étendant depuis les premiers temps jusqu'aux derniers,
    l'histoire des juifs enferme dans sa durée celle de toutes nos
    histoires.--PASCAL, _Pensées_, II, 7.

To make clear the range of Jewish history, it is necessary to set down
a few general, elementary definitions by way of introduction.

It has long been recognized that a fundamental difference exists
between historical and unhistorical peoples, a difference growing out
of the fact of the natural inequality between the various elements
composing the human race. Unhistorical is the attribute applied to
peoples that have not yet broken away, or have not departed very far,
from the state of primitive savagery, as, for instance, the barbarous
races of Asia and Africa who were the prehistoric ancestors of the
Europeans, or the obscure, untutored tribes of the present, like the
Tartars and the Kirghiz. Unhistorical peoples, then, are ethnic groups
of all sorts that are bereft of a distinctive, spiritual
individuality, and have failed to display normal, independent capacity
for culture. The term historical, on the other hand, is applied to the
nations that have had a conscious, purposeful history of appreciable
duration; that have progressed, stage by stage, in their growth and in
the improvement of their mode and their views of life; that have
demonstrated mental productivity of some sort, and have elaborated
principles of civilization and social life more or less rational;
nations, in short, representing not only zoologic, but also spiritual

  [2] "The primitive peoples that change with their environment,
    constantly adapting themselves to their habitat and to
    external nature, have no history.... Only those nations and
    states belong to history which display self-conscious action;
    which evince an inner spiritual life by diversified
    manifestations; and combine into an organic whole what they
    receive from without, and what they themselves originate."
    (Introduction to Weber's _Allgemeine Weltgeschichte_, i,
    pp. 16-18.)

Chronologically considered, these latter nations, of a higher type,
are usually divided into three groups: 1, the most ancient civilized
peoples of the Orient, such as the Chinese, the Hindoos, the
Egyptians, the Chaldeans; 2, the ancient or classic peoples of the
Occident, the Greeks and the Romans; and 3, the modern peoples, the
civilized nations of Europe and America of the present day. The most
ancient peoples of the Orient, standing "at the threshold of history,"
were the first heralds of a religious consciousness and of moral
principles. In hoary antiquity, when most of the representatives of
the human kind were nothing more than a peculiar variety of the class
mammalia, the peoples called the most ancient brought forth recognized
forms of social life and a variety of theories of living of fairly
far-reaching effect. All these culture-bearers of the Orient soon
disappeared from the surface of history. Some (the Chaldeans,
Phoenicians, and Egyptians) were washed away by the flood of time, and
their remnants were absorbed by younger and more vigorous peoples.
Others (the Hindoos and Persians) relapsed into a semi-barbarous
state; and a third class (the Chinese) were arrested in their growth,
and remained fixed in immobility. The best that the antique Orient had
to bequeath in the way of spiritual possessions fell to the share of
the classic nations of the West, the Greeks and the Romans. They
greatly increased the heritage by their own spiritual achievements,
and so produced a much more complex and diversified civilization,
which has served as the substratum for the further development of the
better part of mankind. Even the classic nations had to step aside as
soon as their historical mission was fulfilled. They left the field
free for the younger nations, with greater capability of living, which
at that time had barely worked their way up to the beginnings of a
civilization. One after the other, during the first two centuries of
the Christian era, the members of this European family of nations
appeared in the arena of history. They form the kernel of the
civilized part of mankind at the present day.

Now, if we examine this accepted classification with a view to finding
the place belonging to the Jewish people in the chronological series,
we meet with embarrassing difficulties, and finally arrive at the
conclusion that its history cannot be accommodated within the compass
of the classification. Into which of the three historical groups
mentioned could the Jewish people be put? Are we to call it one of the
most ancient, one of the ancient, or one of the modern nations? It is
evident that it may lay claim to the first description, as well as to
the second and the last. In company with the most ancient nations of
the Orient, the Jewish people stood at the "threshold of history." It
was the contemporary of the earliest civilized nations, the Egyptians
and the Chaldeans. In those remote days it created and spread a
religious world-idea underlying an exalted social and moral system
surpassing everything produced in this sphere by its Oriental
contemporaries. Again, with the classical Greeks and Romans, it forms
the celebrated historical triad universally recognized as the source
of all great systems of civilization. Finally, in fellowship with the
nations of to-day, it leads an historical life, striding onward in the
path of progress without stay or interruption. Deprived of political
independence, it nevertheless continues to fill a place in the world
of thought as a distinctly marked spiritual individuality, as one of
the most active and intelligent forces. How, then, are we to
denominate this omnipresent people, which, from the first moment of
its historical existence up to our days, a period of thirty-five
hundred years, has been developing continuously. In view of this
Methuselah among the nations, whose life is co-extensive with the
whole of history, how are we to dispose of the inevitable barriers
between "the most ancient" and "the ancient," between "the ancient"
and "the modern" nations--the fateful barriers which form the
milestones on the path of the historical peoples, and which the Jewish
people has more than once overstepped?

A definition of the Jewish people must needs correspond to the
aggregate of the concepts expressed by the three group-names, most
ancient, ancient, and modern. The only description applicable to it is
"the historical nation of all times," a description bringing into
relief the contrast between it and all other nations of modern and
ancient times, whose historical existence either came to an end in
days long past, or began at a date comparatively recent. And granted
that there are "historical" and "unhistorical" peoples, then it is
beyond dispute that the Jewish people deserves to be called "the most
historical" (_historicissimus_). If the history of the world be
conceived as a circle, then Jewish history occupies the position of
the diameter, the line passing through its centre, and the history of
every other nation is represented by a chord marking off a smaller
segment of the circle. The history of the Jewish people is like an
axis crossing the history of mankind from one of its poles to the
other. As an unbroken thread it runs through the ancient civilization
of Egypt and Mesopotamia, down to the present-day culture of France
and Germany. Its divisions are measured by thousands of years.

Jewish history, then, in its range, or, better, in its duration,
presents an unique phenomenon. It consists of the longest series of
events ever recorded in the annals of a single people. To sum up its
peculiarity briefly, it embraces a period of thirty-five hundred
years, and in all this vast extent it suffers no interruption. At
every point it is alive, full of sterling content. Presently we shall
see that in respect to content, too, it is distinguished by
exceptional characteristics.



From the point of view of content, or qualitative structure, Jewish
history, it is well known, falls into two parts. The dividing point
between the two parts is the moment in which the Jewish state
collapsed irretrievably under the blows of the Roman Empire (70 C.
E.). The first half deals with the vicissitudes of a nation, which,
though frequently at the mercy of stronger nations, still maintained
possession of its territory and government, and was ruled by its own
laws. In the second half, we encounter the history of a people without
a government, more than that, without a land, a people stripped of all
the tangible accompaniments of nationality, and nevertheless
successful in preserving its spiritual unity, its originality,
complete and undiminished.

At first glance, Jewish history during the period of independence
seems to be but slightly different from the history of other nations.
Though not without individual coloring, there are yet the same wars
and intestine disturbances, the same political revolutions and
dynastic quarrels, the same conflicts between the classes of the
people, the same warring between economical interests. This is only a
surface view of Jewish history. If we pierce to its depths, and
scrutinize the processes that take place in its penetralia, we
perceive that even in the early period there were latent within it
great powers of intellect, universal principles, which, visibly or
invisibly, determined the course of events. We have before us not a
simple political or racial entity, but, to an eminent degree, "a
spiritual people." The national development is based upon an
all-pervasive religious tradition, which lives in the soul of the
people as the Sinaitic Revelation, the Law of Moses. With this holy
tradition, embracing a luminous theory of life and an explicit code of
morality and social converse, was associated the idea of the election
of the Jewish people, of its peculiar spiritual mission. "And ye shall
be unto me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" is the figurative
expression of this ideal calling. It conveys the thought that the
Israelitish people as a whole, without distinction of rank and
regardless of the social prominence of individuals, has been called to
guide the other nations toward sublime moral and religious principles,
and to officiate for them, the laity as it were, in the capacity of
priests. This exalted ideal would never have been reached, if the
development of the Jewish people had lain along hackneyed lines; if,
like the Egyptians and the Chaldeans, it had had an inflexible caste
of priests, who consider the guardianship of the spiritual treasures
of the nation the exclusive privilege of their estate, and strive to
keep the mass of the people in crass ignorance. For a time, something
approaching this condition prevailed among the Jews. The priests
descended from Aaron, with the Temple servants (the Levites), formed a
priestly class, and played the part of authoritative bearers of the
religious tradition. But early, in the very infancy of the nation,
there arose by the side of this official, aristocratic hierarchy, a
far mightier priesthood, a democratic fraternity, seeking to enlighten
the whole nation, and inculcating convictions that make for a
consciously held aim. The Prophets were the real and appointed
executors of the holy command enjoining the "conversion" of all Jews
into "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." Their activity cannot
be paralleled in the whole range of the world's history. They were not
priests, but popular educators and popular teachers. They were
animated by the desire to instil into every soul a deeply religious
consciousness, to ennoble every heart by moral aspirations, to
indoctrinate every individual with an unequivocal theory of life, to
inspire every member of the nation with lofty ideals. Their work did
not fail to leave its traces. Slowly but deeply idealism entered into
the very pith and marrow of the national consciousness. This
consciousness gained in strength and amplitude century by century,
showing itself particularly in the latter part of the first period,
after the crisis known as "the Babylonian Exile." Thanks to the
exertions of the _Soferim_ (Scribes), directed toward the
broadest popularization of the Holy Writings, and constituting the
formal complement to the work of the Prophets, spiritual activity
became an integral part of Jewish national life. In the closing
centuries of its political existence, the Jewish people received its
permanent form. There was imposed upon it the unmistakable hallmark of
spirituality that has always identified it in the throng of the
nations. Out of the bosom of Judaism went forth the religion that in a
short time ran its triumphant course through the whole ancient world,
transforming races of barbarians into civilized beings. It was the
fulfilment of the Prophetical promise--that the nations would walk in
the light of Israel.

At the very moment when the strength and fertility of the Jewish mind
reached the culminating point, occurred a political revolution--the
period of homeless wandering began. It seemed as though, before
scattering the Jewish people to all ends of the earth, the providence
of history desired to teach it a final lesson, to take with it on its
way. It seemed to say: "Now you may go forth. Your character has been
sufficiently tempered; you can bear the bitterest of hardships. You
are equipped with an inexhaustible store of energy, and you can live
for centuries, yea, for thousands of years, under conditions that
would prove the bane of other nations in less than a single century.
State, territory, army, the external attributes of national power, are
for you superfluous luxury. Go out into the world to prove that a
people can continue to live without these attributes, solely and alone
through strength of spirit welding its widely scattered particles into
one firm organism!"--And the Jewish people went forth and proved it.

This "proof" adduced by Jewry at the cost of eighteen centuries of
privation and suffering, forms the characteristic feature of the
second half of Jewish history, the period of homelessness and
dispersion. Uprooted from its political soil, national life displayed
itself on intellectual fields exclusively. "To think and to suffer"
became the watchword of the Jewish people, not merely because forced
upon it by external circumstances beyond its control, but chiefly
because it was conditioned by the very disposition of the people, by
its national inclinations. The extraordinary mental energy that had
matured the Bible and the old writings in the first period, manifested
itself in the second period in the encyclopedic productions of the
Talmudists, in the religious philosophy of the middle ages, in
Rabbinism, in the Kabbala, in mysticism, and in science. The spiritual
discipline of the school came to mean for the Jew what military
discipline is for other nations. His remarkable longevity is due, I am
tempted to say, to the acrid spiritual brine in which he was cured. In
its second half, the originality of Jewish history consists indeed, in
the circumstance that it is the only history stripped of every active
political element. There are no diplomatic artifices, no wars, no
campaigns, no unwarranted encroachments backed by armed force upon the
rights of other nations, nothing of all that constitutes the chief
content--the monotonous and for the most part idea-less content--of
many other chapters in the history of the world. Jewish history
presents the chronicle of an ample spiritual life, a gallery of
pictures representing national scenes. Before our eyes passes a long
procession of facts from the fields of intellectual effort, of
morality, religion, and social converse. Finally, the thrilling drama
of Jewish martyrdom is unrolled to our astonished gaze. If the inner
life and the social and intellectual development of a people form the
kernel of history, and politics and occasional wars are but its
husk,[3] then certainly the history of the Jewish diaspora is all
kernel. In contrast with the history of other nations it describes,
not the accidental deeds of princes and generals, not external pomp
and physical prowess, but the life and development of a whole people.
It gives heartrending expression to the spiritual strivings of a
nation whose brow is resplendent with the thorny crown of martyrdom.
It breathes heroism of mind that conquers bodily pain. In a word,
Jewish history is history sublimated.[4]

  [3] "History, without these (inner, spiritual elements), is a
    shell without a kernel; and such is almost all the history
    which is extant in the world." (Macaulay, on Mitford's History
    of Greece, Collected Works, i, 198, ed. A. and C. Armstrong
    and Son.)

  [4] A Jewish historian makes the pregnant remark: "If ever the
    time comes when the prophecies of the Jewish seers are
    fulfilled, and nation no longer raises the sword against
    nation; when the olive leaf instead of the laurel adorns the
    brow of the great, and the achievements of noble minds are
    familiar to the dwellers in cottages and palaces alike, then
    the history of the world will have the same character as
    Jewish history. On its pages will be inscribed, not the
    warrior's prowess and his victories, nor diplomatic schemes
    and triumphs, but the progress of culture and its practical
    application in real life."

In spite of the noteworthy features that raise Jewish history above
the level of the ordinary, and assign it a peculiar place, it is
nevertheless not isolated, not severed from the history of mankind.
Rather is it most intimately interwoven with world-affairs at every
point throughout its whole extent. As the diameter, Jewish history is
again and again intersected by the chords of the historical circle.
The fortunes of the pilgrim people scattered in all the countries of
the civilized world are organically connected with the fortunes of the
most representative nations and states, and with manifold tendencies
of human thought. The bond uniting them is twofold: in the times when
the powers of darkness and fanaticism held sway, the Jews were
amenable to the "physical" influence exerted by their neighbors in the
form of persecutions, infringements of the liberty of conscience,
inquisitions, violence of every sort; and during the prevalence of
enlightment and humanity, the Jews were acted upon by the intellectual
and cultural stimulus proceeding from the peoples with whom they
entered into close relations. Momentary aberrations and reactionary
incidents are not taken into account here. On its side, Jewry made its
personality felt among the nations by its independent, intellectual
activity, its theory of life, its literature, by the very fact,
indeed, of its ideal staunchness and tenacity, its peculiar historical
physiognomy. From this reciprocal relation issued a great cycle of
historical events and spiritual currents, making the past of the
Jewish people an organic constituent of the past of all that portion
of mankind which has contributed to the treasury of human thought.

We see, then, that in reference to content Jewish history is unique in
both its halves. In the first "national" period, it is the history of
a people to which the epithet "peculiar" has been conceded, a people
which has developed under the influence of exceptional circumstances,
and finally attained to so high a degree of spiritual perfection and
fertility that the creation of a new religious theory of life, which
eventually gained universal supremacy, neither exhausted its resources
nor ended its activity. Not only did it continue to live upon its vast
store of spiritual energy, but day by day it increased the store. In
the second "lackland" half, it is the instructive history of a
scattered people, organically one, in spite of dispersion, by reason
of its unshaken ideal traditions; a people accepting misery and
hardship with stoic calm, combining the characteristics of the thinker
with those of the sufferer, and eking out existence under conditions
which no other nation has found adequate, or, indeed, can ever find
adequate. The account of the people as teacher of religion--this is
the content of the first half of Jewish history; the account of the
people as thinker, stoic, and sufferer--this is the content of the
second half of Jewish history.

A summing up of all that has been said in this and the previous
chapter proves true the statement with which we began, that Jewish
history, in respect to its quantitative dimensions as well as its
qualitative structure, is to the last degree distinctive and presents
a phenomenon of undeniable uniqueness.



We turn now to the question of the significance to be attached to
Jewish history. In view of its peculiar qualities, what has it to
offer to the present generation and to future generations as a subject
of study and research?

The significance of Jewish history is twofold. It is at once national
and universal. At present the fulcrum of Jewish national being lies in
the historical consciousness. In the days of antiquity, the Jews were
welded into a single united nation by the triple agencies of state,
race, and religion, the complete array of material and spiritual
forces directed to one point. Later, in the period of homelessness and
dispersion, it was chiefly religious consciousness that cemented Jewry
into a whole, and replaced the severed political bond as well as the
dulled racial instinct, which is bound to go on losing in keenness in
proportion to the degree of removal from primitive conditions and
native soil. In our days, when the liberal movements leavening the
whole of mankind, if they have not completely shattered the religious
consciousness, have at least, in an important section of Jewry,
effected a change in its form; when abrupt differences of opinion with
regard to questions of faith and cult are asserting their presence;
and traditional Judaism developed in historical sequence is proving
powerless to hold together the diverse factors of the national
organism,--in these days the keystone of national unity seems to be
the historical consciousness. Composed alike of physical,
intellectual, and moral elements, of habits and views, of emotions and
impressions nursed into being and perfection by the hereditary
instinct active for thousands of years, this historical consciousness
is a remarkably puzzling and complex psychic phenomenon. By our common
memory of a great, stirring past and heroic deeds on the battle-fields
of the spirit, by the exalted historical mission allotted to us, by
our thorn-strewn pilgrim's path, our martyrdom assumed for the sake of
our principles, by such moral ties, we Jews, whether consciously or
unconsciously, are bound fast to one another. As Renan well says:
"Common sorrow unites men more closely than common joy." A long chain
of historical traditions is cast about us all like a strong ring. Our
wonderful, unparalleled past attracts us with magnetic power. In the
course of centuries, as generation followed generation, similarity of
historical fortunes produced a mass of similar impressions which have
crystallized, and have thrown off the deposit that may be called "the
Jewish national soul." This is the soil in which, deep down, lies
imbedded, as an unconscious element, the Jewish national _feeling_,
and as a conscious element, the Jewish national _idea_.

It follows that the Jewish national idea and the national feeling
connected with it have their origin primarily in the historical
consciousness, in a certain complex of ideas and psychic
predispositions. These ideas and predispositions, the deposit left by
the aggregate of historical impressions, are of necessity the common
property of the whole nation, and they can be developed and quickened
to a considerable degree by a renewal of the impressions through the
study of history. Upon the knowledge of history, then, depends the
strength of the national consciousness.[5]

  [5] A different aspect of the same thought is presented with
    logical clearness in another publication by our author. "The
    national _idea_, and the national _feeling_," says
    Mr. Dubnow, "must be kept strictly apart. Unfortunately the
    difference between them is usually obliterated. National
    feeling is spontaneous. To a greater or less degree it is
    inborn in all the members of the nation as a feeling of
    kinship. It has its flood-tide and its ebbtide in
    correspondence to external conditions, either forcing the
    nation to defend its nationality, or relieving it of the
    necessity for self-defense. As this feeling is not merely a
    blind impulse, but a complicated psychic phenomenon, it can be
    subjected to a psychologic analysis. From the given historical
    facts or the ideas that have become the common treasure of a
    nation, thinking men, living life consciously, can, in one way
    or another, derive the origin, development, and vital force of
    its national feeling. The results of such an analysis,
    arranged in some sort of system, form the content of the
    national idea. The task of the national idea it is to clarify
    the national feeling, and give it logical sanction for the
    benefit of those who cannot rest satisfied with an unconscious

   "In what, to be specific, does the essence of our Jewish national
    idea consist? Or, putting the question in another form, what
    is the cement that unites us into a single compact organism?
    Territory and government, the external ties usually binding a
    nation together, we have long ago lost. Their place is filled
    by abstract principles, by religion and race. Undeniably these
    are factors of first importance, and yet we ask the question,
    do they alone and exclusively maintain the national cohesion
    of Jewry? No, we reply, for if we admitted this proposition,
    we should by consequence have to accept the inference, that
    the laxity of religious principle prevailing among
    free-thinking Jews, and the obliteration of race peculiarities
    in the 'civilized' strata of our people, bring in their train
    a corresponding weakening, or, indeed, a complete breaking up,
    of our national foundations--which in point of fact is not the
    case. On the contrary, it is noticeable that the
    latitudinarians, the _libres penseurs_, and the
    indifferent on the subject of religion, stand in the forefront
    of all our national movements. Seeing that to belong to it is
    in most cases heroism, and in many martyrdom, what is it that
    attracts these Jews so forcibly to their people? There must be
    something common to us all, so comprehensive that in the face
    of multifarious views and degrees of culture it acts as a
    consolidating force. This 'something,' I am convinced, is the
    community of historical fortunes of all the scattered parts of
    the Jewish nation. We are welded together by our glorious
    past. We are encircled by a mighty chain of similar historical
    impressions suffered by our ancestors, century after century
    pressing in upon the Jewish soul, and leaving behind a
    substantial deposit. In short, the Jewish national idea is
    based chiefly upon the historical consciousness." [Note of the
    German trl.]

But over and above its national significance, Jewish history, we
repeat, possesses universal significance. Let us, in the first place,
examine its value for science and philosophy. Inasmuch as it is
pre-eminently a chronicle of ideas and spiritual movements, Jewish
history affords the philosopher or psychologist material for
observation of the most important and useful kind. The study of other,
mostly dull chapters of universal history has led to the fixing of
psychologic or sociologic theses, to the working out of comprehensive
philosophic systems, to the determination of general laws. Surely it
follows without far-fetched proof, that in some respects the chapter
dealing with Jewish history must supply material of the most original
character for such theses and philosophies. If it is true, as the last
chapter set out to demonstrate, that Jewish history is distinguished
by sharply marked and peculiar features, and refuses to accommodate
itself to conventional forms, then its content must have an original
contribution to make to philosophy. It does not admit of a doubt that
the study of Jewish history would yield new propositions appertaining
to the philosophy of history and the psychology of nations, hitherto
overlooked by inquirers occupied with the other divisions of universal
history. Inductive logic lays down a rule for ascertaining the law of
a phenomenon produced by two or more contributory causes. By means of
what might be called a laboratory experiment, the several causes must
be disengaged from one another, and the effect of each observed by
itself. Thus it becomes possible to arrive with mathematical precision
at the share of each cause in the result achieved by several
co-operating causes. This method of difference, as it is called, is
available, however, only for a limited number of phenomena, only for
phenomena in the department of the natural sciences. It is in the
nature of the case that mental and spiritual phenomena, though they
may be observed, cannot be artificially reproduced. Now, in one
respect, Jewish history affords the advantages of an arranged
experiment. The historical life of ordinary nations, such nations as
are endowed with territory and are organized into a state, is a
complete intermingling of the political with the spiritual element.
Totally ignorant as we are of the development either would have
assumed, had it been dissevered from the other, the laws governing
each of the elements singly can be discovered only approximately.
Jewish history, in which the two elements have for many centuries been
completely disentangled from each other, presents a natural
experiment, with the advantage of artificial exclusions, rendering
possible the determination of the laws of spiritual phenomena with far
greater scientific exactitude than the laws of phenomena that result
from several similar causes.

Besides this high value for the purposes of science, this fruitful
suggestiveness for philosophic thought, Jewish history, as compared
with the history of other nations, enjoys another distinction in its
capacity to exercise an ennobling influence upon the heart. Nothing so
exalts and refines human nature as the contemplation of moral
steadfastness, the history of the trials of a martyr who has fought
and suffered for his convictions. At bottom, the second half of Jewish
history is nothing but this. The effective educational worth of the
Biblical part of Jewish history is disputed by none. It is called
"sacred" history, and he who acquires a knowledge of it is thought to
advance the salvation of his soul. Only a very few, however, recognize
the profound, moral content of the second half of Jewish history, the
history of the diaspora. Yet, by reason of its exceptional qualities
and intensely tragic circumstances, it is beyond all others calculated
to yield edification to a notable degree. The Jewish people is
deserving of attention not only in the time when it displayed its
power and enjoyed its independence, but as well in the period of its
weakness and oppression, during which it was compelled to purchase
spiritual development by constant sacrifice of self. A thinker crowned
with thorns demands no less veneration than a thinker with the laurel
wreath upon his brow. The flame issuing from the funeral pile on which
martyrs die an heroic death for their ideas is, in its way, as
awe-inspiring as the flame from Sinai's height. With equal force,
though by different methods, both touch the heart, and arouse the
moral sentiment. Biblical Israel the celebrated--medieval Judah the
despised--it is one and the same people, judged variously in the
various phases of its historical life. If Israel bestowed upon mankind
a religious theory of life, Judah gave it a thrilling example of
tenacious vitality and power of resistance for the sake of conviction.
This uninterrupted life of the spirit, this untiring aspiration for
the higher and the better in the domain of religious thought,
philosophy, and science, this moral intrepidity in night and storm and
in despite of all the blows of fortune--is it not an imposing,
soul-stirring spectacle? The inexpressible tragedy of the Jewish
historical life is unfailing in its effect upon a susceptible
heart.[6] The wonderful exhibition of spirit triumphant, subduing the
pangs of the flesh, must move every heart, and exercise uplifting
influence upon the non-Jew no less than upon the Jew.

  [6] "If there are ranks in suffering, Israel takes precedence of
    all the nations--if the duration of sorrows and the patience
    with which they are borne ennoble, the Jews are among the
    aristocracy of every land--if a literature is called rich in
    the possession of a few classic tragedies, what shall we say
    to a National Tragedy lasting for fifteen hundred years, in
    which the poets and the actors were also the heroes?" (Zunz,
    _Die synagogale Poesie_. Translation by George Eliot in
    "Daniel Deronda.")

For non-Jews a knowledge of Jewish history may, under certain
conditions, come to have another, an humanitarian significance. It is
inconceivable that the Jewish people should be held in execration by
those acquainted with the course of its history, with its tragic and
heroic past.[7] Indeed, so far as Jew-haters by profession are
concerned, it is running a risk to recommend the study of Jewish
history to them, without adding a word of caution. Its effect upon
them might be disastrous. They might find themselves cured of their
modern disease, and in the possession of ideas that would render
worthless their whole stock in trade. Verily, he must have fallen to
the zero-point of anti-Semitic callousness who is not thrilled through
and through by the lofty fortitude, the saint-like humility, the
trustful resignation to the will of God, the stoic firmness, laid bare
by the study of Jewish history. The tribute of respect cannot be
readily withheld from him to whom the words of the poet[8] are

 "To die was not his hope; he fain
  Would live to think and suffer pain."

  [7] As examples and a proof of the strong humanitarian influence
    Jewish history exercises upon Christians, I would point to the
    relation established between the Jews and two celebrities of
    the nineteenth century, Schleiden and George Eliot. In his old
    age, the great scientist and thinker accidentally, in the
    course of his study of sources for the history of botany,
    became acquainted with medieval Jewish history. It filled him
    with ardent enthusiasm for the Jews, for their intellectual
    strength, their patience under martyrdom. Dominated by this
    feeling, he wrote the two admirable sketches: _Die Bedeutung
    der Juden für Erhaltung und Wiederbelebung der Wissenschaften
    im Mittelalter_ (1876) and _Die Romantik des Martyriums
    bei den Juden im Mittelalter_ (1878). According to his own
    confession, the impulse to write them was "the wish to take at
    least the first step toward making partial amends for the
    unspeakable wrong inflicted by Christians upon Jews." As for
    George Eliot, it may not be generally known that it was her
    reading of histories of the Jews that inspired her with the
    profound veneration for the Jewish people to which she gave
    glowing utterance in "Daniel Deronda." (She cites Zunz, was
    personally acquainted with Emanuel Deutsch, and carried on a
    correspondence with Professor Dr. David Kaufmann. See
    _George Eliot's Life as related in her Letters and
    Journals_. Arranged and edited by her husband, J. W. Cross,
    Vol. iii, ed. Harper and Brothers.) Her enthusiasm prompted
    her, in 1879, to indite her passionate apology for the Jews,
    under the title, "The Modern Hep! Hep! Hep!"

  [8] Pushkin.

When, in days to come, the curtain rises upon the touching tragedy of
Jewish history, revealing it to the astonished eye of a modern
generation, then, perhaps, hearts will be attuned to tenderness, and
on the ruins of national hostility will be enthroned mutual love,
growing out of mutual understanding and mutual esteem. And who can
tell--perhaps Jewish history will have a not inconsiderable share in
the spiritual change that is to annihilate national intolerance, the
modern substitute for the religious bigotry of the middle ages. In
this case, the future task of Jewish history will prove as sublime as
was the mission of the Jewish people in the past. The latter consisted
in the spread of the dogma of the unity of creation; the former will
contribute indirectly to the realization of the not yet accepted dogma
of the unity of the human race.



To define the scope of Jewish history, its content and its
significance, or its place among scientific pursuits, disposes only of
the formal part of the task we have set ourselves. The central problem
is to unfold the meaning of Jewish history, to discover the principle
toward which its diversified phenomena converge, to state the
universal laws and philosophic inferences deducible from the peculiar
course of its events. If we liken history to an organic being, then
the skeleton of facts is its body, and the soul is the spiritual bond
that unites the facts into a whole, that conveys the meaning, the
psychologic essence, of the facts. It becomes our duty, then, to
unbare the soul of Jewish history, or, in scientific parlance, to
construct, on the basis of the facts, the synthesis of the whole of
Jewish national life. To this end, we must pass in review, by periods
and epochs, one after another, the most important groups of historical
events, the most noteworthy currents in life and thought that tell of
the stages in the development of Jewry and of Judaism. Exhaustive
treatment of the philosophical synthesis of a history extending over
three thousand years is possible only in a voluminous work. In an
essay like the present it can merely be sketched in large outline, or
painted in miniature. We cannot expect to do more than state a series
of general principles substantiated by the most fundamental arguments.
Complete demonstration of each of the principles must be sought in the
annals that recount the events of Jewish history in detail.

The historical synthesis reduces itself, then, to uncovering the
psychologic processes of national development. The object before us to
be studied is the national spirit undergoing continuous evolution
during thousands of years. Our task is to arrive at the laws
underlying this growth. We shall reach our goal by imitating the
procedure of the geologist, who divides the mass of the earth into its
several strata or formations. In Jewish history there may be
distinguished three chief stratifications answering to its first three
periods, the Biblical period, the period of the Second Temple, and the
Talmudic period. The later periods are nothing more than these same
formations combined in various ways, with now and then the addition of
new strata. Of the composite periods there are four, which arrange
themselves either according to hegemonies, the countries in which at
given times lay the centre of gravity of the scattered Jewish people,
or according to the intellectual currents there predominant.

This, then, is our scheme:

  I. The chief formations:
    a) The primary or Biblical period.
    b) The secondary or spiritual-political period
      (the period of the Second Temple, 538
      B. C. E. to 70 C.E.)
    c) The tertiary or national-religious period
      (the Talmudic period, 70-500).

  II. The composite formations:
    a) The Gaonic period, or the hegemony of
      the Oriental Jews (500-980).
    b) The Rabbinic-philosophical period, or the
      hegemony of the Spanish Jews (980-1492).
    c) The Rabbinic-mystical period, or the hegemony
      of the German-Polish Jews
    d) The modern period of enlightenment (the
      nineteenth century).



In the daybreak of history, the hoary days when seeming and reality
merge into each other, and the outlines of persons and things fade
into the surrounding mist, the picture of a nomad people, moving from
the deserts of Arabia in the direction of Mesopotamia and Western
Asia, detaches itself clear and distinct from the dim background. The
tiny tribe, a branch of the Semitic race, bears a peculiar stamp of
its own. A shepherd people, always living in close touch with nature,
it yet resists the potent influence of the natural phenomena, which,
as a rule, entrap primitive man, and make him the bond-slave of the
visible and material. Tent life has attuned these Semitic nomads to
contemplativeness. In the endless variety of the phenomena of nature,
they seek to discover a single guiding power. They entertain an
obscure presentiment of the existence of an invisible, universal soul
animating the visible, material universe. The intuition is personified
in the Patriarch Abraham, who, according to Biblical tradition, held
communion with God, when, on the open field, "he looked up toward
heaven, and counted the stars," or when, "at the setting of the sun,
he fell into benumbing sleep, and terror seized upon him by reason of
the impenetrable darkness." Here we have a clear expression of the
original, purely cosmical character of the Jewish religion.

There was no lack of human influence acting from without. Chaldea,
which the peculiar Semitic shepherds crossed in their pilgrimage,
presented them with notions from its rich mythology and cosmogony. The
natives of Syria and Canaan, among whom in the course of time the
Abrahamites settled, imparted to them many of their religious views
and customs. Nevertheless, the kernel of their pure original theory
remained intact. The patriarchal mode of life, admirable in its
simplicity, continued to hold its own within the circle of the
firmly-knitted tribe. It was in Canaan, however, that the shepherd
people hailing from Arabia showed the first signs of approaching
disintegration. Various tribal groups, like Moab and Ammon,
consolidated themselves. They took permanent foothold in the land, and
submitted with more or less readiness to the influences exerted by the
indigenous peoples. The guardianship of the sublime traditions of the
tribe remained with one group alone, the "sons of Jacob" or the "sons
of Israel," so named from the third Patriarch Jacob. To this group of
the Israelites composed of smaller, closely united divisions, a
special mission was allotted; its development was destined to lie
along peculiar lines. The fortunes awaiting it were distinctive, and
for thousands of years have filled thinking and believing mankind with
wondering admiration.

Great characters are formed under the influence of powerful
impressions, of violent convulsions, and especially under the
influence of suffering. The Israelites early passed through their
school of suffering in Egypt. The removal of the sons of Jacob from
the banks of the Jordan to those of the Nile was of decisive
importance for the progress of their history. When the patriarchal
Israelitish shepherds encountered the old, highly complex culture of
the Egyptians, crystallized into fixed forms even at that early date,
it was like the clash between two opposing electric currents. The pure
conception of God, of _Elohim_, as of the spirit informing and
supporting the universe, collided with the blurred system of heathen
deities and crass idolatry. The simple cult of the shepherds,
consisting of a few severely plain ceremonies, transmitted from
generation to generation, was confronted with the insidious, coarsely
sensual animal worship of the Egyptians. The patriarchal customs of
the Israelites were brought into marked contrast with the vices of a
corrupt civilization. Sound in body and soul, the son of nature
suddenly found himself in unsavory surroundings fashioned by culture,
in which he was as much despised as the inoffensive nomad is by
"civilized" man of settled habit. The scorn had a practical result in
the enslavement of the Israelites by the Pharaohs. Association with
the Egyptians acted as a force at once of attraction and of repulsion.
The manners and customs of the natives could not fail to leave an
impression upon the simple aliens, and invite imitation on their part.
On the other hand, the whole life of the Egyptians, their crude
notions of religion, and their immoral ways, were calculated to
inspire the more enlightened among the Israelites with disgust. The
hostility of the Egyptians toward the "intruders," and the horrible
persecutions in which it expressed itself, could not but bring out
more aggressively the old spiritual opposition between the two races.
The antagonism between them was the first influence to foster the germ
of Israel's national consciousness, the consciousness of his peculiar
character, his individuality. This early intimation of a national
consciousness was weak. It manifested itself only in the chosen few.
But it existed, and the time was appointed when, under more favorable
conditions, it would develop, and display the extent of its power.

This consciousness it was that inspired the activity of Moses,
Israel's teacher and liberator. He was penetrated alike by national
and religious feeling, and his desire was to impart both national and
religious feeling to his brethren. The fact of national redemption he
connected with the fact of religious revelation. "I am the Lord thy
God who have brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt" was
proclaimed from Sinai. The God-idea was nationalized. Thenceforth
"Eternal" became the name peculiar to the God of Israel. He was,
indeed, the same _Elohim_, the Creator of the world and its
Guide, who had been dimly discerned by the spiritual vision of the
Patriarchs. At the same time He was the special God of the Israelitish
nation, the only nation that avouched Him with a full and undivided
heart, the nation chosen by God Himself to carry out, alone, His
sublime plans.[9] In his wanderings, Israel became acquainted with the
chaotic religious systems of other nations. Seeing to what they paid
the tribute of divine adoration, he could not but be dominated by the
consciousness that he alone from of old had been the exponent of the
religious idea in its purity. The resolution must have ripened within
him to continue for all time to advocate and cherish this idea. From
that moment Israel was possessed of a clear theory of life in religion
and morality, and of a definite aim pursued with conscious intent.

  [9] This is the true recondite meaning of the verses Exod. vi,
    2-3: "And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the
    Eternal: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto
    Jacob, as _El-Shaddai_ (God Almighty), but by my name
    Eternal I was not known unto them."

Its originators designed that this Israelitish conception of life
should serve not merely theoretically, as the basis of religious
doctrine, but also practically, as the starting point of legislation.
It was to be realized in the daily walks of the people, which at this
very time attained to political independence. Sublime religious
conceptions were not to be made the content of a visionary creed, the
subject of dreamy contemplation, but, in the form of perspicuous
guiding principles, were to control all spheres of individual and
social life. Men must beware of looking upon religion as an ideal to
be yearned for, it should be an ideal to be applied directly, day by
day, to practical contingencies. In "Mosaism," so-called, the
religious and the ethical are intimately interwoven with the social
and the political. The chief dogmas of creed are stated as principles
shaping practical life. For instance, the exalted idea of One God
applied to social life produces the principle of the equality of all
men before the One Supreme Power, a principle on which the whole of
Biblical legislation is built. The commands concerning love of
neighbor, the condemnation of slavery, the obligation to aid the poor,
humane treatment of the stranger, sympathy and compassion with every
living being--all these lofty injunctions ensue as inevitable
consequences from the principle of equality. Biblical legislation is
perhaps the only example of a political and social code based, not
upon abstract reasoning alone, but also upon the requirements of the
feelings, upon the finest impulses of the human soul. By the side of
formal right and legality, it emphasizes, and, in a series of
precepts, makes tangible, the principle of justice and humanity. The
Mosaic law is a "propaganda by deed." Everywhere it demands active,
more than passive, morality. Herein, in this elevated characteristic,
this vital attribute, consists the chief source of the power of
Mosaism. The same characteristic, to be sure, prevented it from at
once gaining ground in the national life. It established itself only
gradually, after many fluctuations and errors. In the course of the
centuries, and keeping pace with the growth of the national
consciousness, it was cultivated and perfected in detail.

The conquest of Canaan wrought a radical transformation in the life of
the Israelitish people. The acquiring of national territory supplied
firm ground for the development and manifold application of the
principles of Mosaism. At first, however, advance was out of the
question. The mass of the people had not reached the degree of
spiritual maturity requisite for the espousal of principles
constituting an exalted theory of life. It could be understood and
represented only by a thoughtful minority, which consisted chiefly of
Aaronites and Levites, together forming a priestly estate, though not
a hierarchy animated by the isolating spirit of caste that flourished
among all the other peoples of the Orient. The populace discovered
only the ceremonial side of the religion; its kernel was hidden from
their sight. Defective spiritual culture made the people susceptible
to alien influences, to notions more closely akin to its
understanding. Residence in Canaan, among related Semitic tribes that
had long before separated from the Israelites, and adopted altogether
different views and customs, produced a far greater metamorphosis in
the character of the Israelites than the sojourn in Egypt. After the
first flush of victory, when the unity of the Israelitish people had
been weakened by the particularistic efforts of several of the tribes,
the spiritual bonds confining the nation began to relax. Political
decay always brings religious defection in its train. Whenever Israel
came under the dominion of the neighboring tribes, he also fell a
victim to their cult. This phenomenon is throughout characteristic of
the so-called era of the Judges. It is a natural phenomenon readily
explained on psychologic grounds. The Mosaic national conception of
the "Eternal" entered more and more deeply into the national
consciousness, and, accommodating itself to the limited mental
capacity of the majority, became narrower and narrower in compass--the
lot of all great ideas! The "Eternal" was no longer thought of as the
only One God of the whole universe, but as the tutelar deity of the
Israelitish tribe. The idea of national tutelar deities was at that
time deeply rooted in the consciousness of all the peoples of Western
Asia. Each nation, as it had a king of its own, had a tribal god of
its own. The Phoenicians had their Baal, the Moabites their Kemosh, the
Ammonites their Milkom. Belief in the god peculiar to a nation by no
means excluded belief in the existence of other national gods. A
people worshiped its own god, because it regarded him as its master
and protecting lord. In fact, according to the views then prevalent, a
conflict between two nations was the conflict between two national
deities. In the measure in which respect for the god of the defeated
party waned, waxed the number of worshipers of the god of the
victorious nation, and not merely among the conquerors, but also among
the adherents of other religions.[10] These crude, coarsely
materialistic conceptions of God gained entrance with the masses of
the Israelitish people. If Moab had his Kemosh, and Ammon his Milkom,
then Israel had his "Eternal," who, after the model of all other
national gods, protected and abandoned his "clients" at pleasure, in
the one case winning, in the other losing, the devotion of his
partisans. In times of distress, in which the Israelites groaned under
the yoke of the alien, the enslaved "forgot" their "conquered"
"Eternal." As they paid the tribute due the strange king, and yielded
themselves to his power, so they submitted to the strange god, and
paid him his due tribute of devotion. It followed that liberation from
the yoke of the stranger coincided with return to the God of Israel,
the "Eternal." At such times the national spirit leaped into flaming
life. This sums up the achievements of the hero-Judges. But the traces
of repeated backsliding were deep and long visible, for, together with
the religious ideas of the strange peoples, the Israelites accepted
their customs, as a rule corrupt and noxious customs, in sharp
contrast with the lofty principles of the Mosaic Law, designed to
control social life and the life of the individual.

  [10] "Ye have forsaken me," says God unto Israel, "and served
    other gods; wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry
    unto the gods which ye have chosen: let them deliver you in
    the time of your tribulations" (Judges X, 13-14). The same
    idea is brought out still more forcibly in the arguments
    adduced by Jephthah in his message to the king of Ammon (more
    correctly, Moab), who had laid claim to Israelitish lands:
    "Thou," says Jephthah, "mayest possess that which Kemosh thy
    god giveth thee to possess, but what the Lord our God giveth
    us to possess, that will we possess" (Judges xi, 24). Usually
    these words are taken ironically; to me they seem to convey
    literal truth rather than irony.

The Prophet Samuel, coming after the unsettled period of the Judges,
had only partial success in purifying the views of the people and
elevating it out of degradation to a higher spiritual level. His work
was continued with more marked results in the brilliant reigns of
Saul, David, and Solomon. An end was put to the baleful disunion among
the tribes, and the bond of national tradition was strengthened. The
consolidated Israelitish kingdom triumphed over its former oppressors.
The gods of the strange peoples cringed in the dust before the
all-powerful "Eternal." But, with the division of the kingdom and the
political rupture between Judah and Israel, the period of
efflorescence soon came to an end. Again confusion reigned supreme,
and customs and convictions deteriorated under foreign influence.
Prophets like Elijah and Elisha, feverish though their activity was,
stood powerless before the rank immorality in the two states. The
northern kingdom of Israel, composed of the Ten Tribes, passed swiftly
downward on the road to destruction, sharing the fate of the
numberless Oriental states whose end was inevitable by reason of inner
decay. The inspired words of the early Israelitish Prophets, Amos,
Hosea, and Micah, their trumpet-toned reproofs, their thrilling
admonitions, died unheeded upon the air--society was too depraved to
understand their import. It was reserved for later generations to give
ear to their immortal utterances, eloquent witnesses to the lofty
heights to which the Jewish spirit was permitted to mount in times of
general decline. The northern kingdom sank into irretrievable ruin.
Then came the turn of Judah. He, too, had disregarded the law of
"sanctification" from Sinai, and had nearly arrived at the point of
stifling his better impulses in the morass of materialistic living.

At this critical moment, on the line between to be and not to be, a
miracle came to pass. The spirit of the people, become flesh in its
noblest sons, rose aloft. From out of the midst of the political
disturbances, the frightful infamy, and the moral corruption,
resounded the impressive call of the great Prophets of Judah. Like a
flaming torch carried through dense darkness, they cast a glaring
light upon the vices of society, at the same time illuminating the
path that leads upward to the goal of the ethical ideal. At first the
negative, denouncing element predominated in the exhortations of the
Prophets: unsparingly they scourged the demoralization and the
iniquity, the social injustice and the political errors prevalent in
their time; they threatened divine punishment, that is, the natural
consequences of evil-doing, and appealed to the reason rather than the
feelings of the people. But gradually they elaborated positive ideals,
more soul-stirring than the ideals identified with the old religious
tradition. The Prophets were the first to touch the root of the evil.
It is clear that they realized that alien influences and the low grade
of intelligence possessed by the masses were not the sole causes of
the frequent backsliding of the people. The Jewish doctrine itself
bore within it the germ of error. The two chief pillars of the old
faith--the nationalizing of the God-idea, and the stress laid upon the
cult, the ceremonial side of religion, as compared with moral
requirements--were first and foremost to be held responsible for the
flagrant departures from the spirit of Judaism. This was the direction
in which reform was needed. Thereafter the sermons of the Prophets
betray everywhere the intense desire, on the one hand, to restore to
the God-idea its original universal character, and, on the other hand,
while strongly emphasizing the importance of morality in the religious
and the social sphere, to derogate from the value of the ceremonial
system. The "Eternal" is no longer the national God of Israel,
belonging to him exclusively; He becomes the God of the whole of
mankind, the same _Elohim_, Creator and Preserver of the world,
whom the Patriarchs had worshiped, and to whom, being His creatures,
all men owe worship. His precepts and His laws of morality are binding
upon all nations; they will bring salvation and blessing to all
without distinction.[11] The ideal of piety consists in the profession
of God and a life of rectitude. The time will come when all nations
will be penetrated by true knowledge of God and actuated by the
noblest motives; then will follow the universal brotherhood of man.
Until this consummation is reached, and so long as Israel is the only
nation formally professing the one true God, and accepting His blessed
law, Israel's sole task is to embody in himself the highest ideals, to
be an "ensign to the nations," to bear before them the banner of God's
law, destined in time to effect the transformation of the whole of
mankind. Israel is a missionary to the nations. As such he must stand
before them as a model of holiness and purity. Here is the origin of
the great idea of the spiritual "Messianism" of the Jewish people, or,
better, its "missionism," an eternal idea, far more comprehensive than
the old idea of national election, which it supplanted.

  [11] Two Biblical passages, the one from Deuteronomy, the other
    from Deutero-Isaiah, afford a signal illustration of the
    contrast between the religious nationalism of the Mosaic law
    and the universalism of the Prophets. Moses says to Israel:
    "Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy
    God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself,
    above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord
    did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were
    more in number than any people: for ye were the fewest of all
    people. But because the Lord loved you...." (Deut. vii, 6-8).
    And these are the words of the prophecy: "Listen, O isles,
    unto me, and hearken, ye people, from far! The Lord hath
    called me... and said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel,
    in whom I will be glorified! But I had thought, I have labored
    in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain; yet
    surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.
    For now said the Lord unto me... It is too light a thing that
    thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
    and to restore the preserved of Israel: no, I will also give
    thee for a light to the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach
    unto the end of the earth" (Is. xlix, 1-6).

These sublime teachings were inculcated at the moment in which Judah
was hastening to meet his fate. It had become impossible to check the
natural results of the earlier transgressions. The inevitable
happened; Babylon the mighty laid her ponderous hand upon tiny Judah.
But Judah could not be crushed. From the heavy chastisement the Jewish
nation emerged purified, re-born for a new life.



The rank and file of a people are instructed by revolutions and
catastrophes better than by sermons. More quickly than Isaiah and
Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar brought the Jews to a recognition of their
tasks. The short span of the Babylonian Exile (586-538 B. C. E.) was a
period of introspection and searching self-examination for the people.
Spiritual forces hitherto latent came into play; a degree of
self-consciousness asserted itself. The people grasped its mission. At
last it comprehended that to imitate inferior races, instead of
teaching them and making itself a model for them to follow, was
treason to its vocation in life. When the hour of release from the
Babylonian yoke struck, the people suddenly saw under its feet "a new
earth," and to "a new heaven" above it raised eyes dim with tears of
repentance and emotion. It renewed its covenant with God. Like the
Exodus from Egypt, so the second national deliverance was connected
with a revelation. But the messages delivered by the last
Prophets--especially by "the great unknown," the author of the latter
part of the Book of Isaiah--were too exalted, too universal in
conception, for a people but lately emerged from a severe crisis to
set about their realization at once. They could only illumine its path
as a guiding-star, inspire it as the ultimate goal, the far-off
Messianic ideal. Meanwhile the necessity appeared for uniform
religious laws, dogmas, and customs, to bind the Jews together
externally as a nation. The moralizing religion of the Prophets was
calculated to bring about the regeneration of the individual,
regardless of national ties; but at that moment the chief point
involved was the nation. It had to be established and its organization
perfected. The universalism of the Prophets was inadequate for the
consolidating of a nation. To this end outward religious discipline
was requisite, an official cult and public ceremonies. Led by such
considerations, the Jewish captives, on their return to Jerusalem,
first of all devoted themselves to the erection of a Temple, to the
creating of a visible religious centre, which was to be the rallying
point for the whole nation.

The days of the Prophets were over. Their religious universalism could
apply only to a distant future. In the present, the nation, before it
might pose as a teacher, had to learn and grow spiritually strong.
Aims of such compass require centuries for their realization.
Therefore, the spiritual-national unification of the people was pushed
into the foreground. The place of the Prophet was filled by the Priest
and the Scribe. Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah were permeated by the
purpose to make religion and the cult subservient to the cause of
national union and isolation. The erection of the Temple, the solemn
service with the singing of Psalms and the public reading from the
"Book of the Law" (the Pentateuch, which underwent its final redaction
at that time), the removal of whatever might arouse the remembrance of
strange and heathen institutions--these were the levers of their
unifying activity. At first sight this activity might appear almost
too one-sided. But if we summon to mind a picture of the conditions
prevailing in those days, we are forced to the conclusion that, in the
interest of national restoration, a consistent course was imperative.
In point of fact, however, some of Ezra's innovations testify to the
broad-minded, reformatory character of this activity; as, for
instance, the public reading of the Pentateuch, introduced with a view
to making the people see the necessity of obtaining detailed knowledge
of the principles of its religion, and obeying the precepts of the
Law, not blindly, but with conscious assent. The object steadily aimed
at was the elevation of the whole body of the people to the plane of
spirituality, its transformation, in accordance with the Biblical
injunction, into a "kingdom of priests."

This injunction of civilizing import became the starting point of the
activity of all of Ezra's successors, of the so-called school of the
_Soferim_, the Scribes, those versed in the art of writing. The
political calm that prevailed during the two centuries of the Persian
supremacy (538-332 B. C. E.), was calculated to an eminent degree to
promote spiritual development and the organization of the inner life
of the people. During this period, a large part of the writings after
the Pentateuch that have been received into the Bible were collected,
compiled, and reduced to writing. The immortal thoughts of the
Prophets clothed themselves in the visible garb of letters. On
parchment rolls and in books they were made accessible to distant
ages. The impressive traditions transmitted from earliest times, the
chronicles of the past of the people, the Psalms brought forth by the
religious enthusiasm of a long series of poets, all were gathered and
put into literary shape with the extreme of care. The spiritual
treasures of the nation were capitalized, and to this process of
capitalization solely and alone generations of men have owed the
possibility of resorting to them as a source of faith and knowledge.
Without the work of compilation achieved by the _Soferim_, of
which the uninstructed are apt to speak slightingly, mankind to-day
had no Bible, that central sun in world-literature.

These two centuries may fitly be called the school-days of the Jewish
nation; the Scribes were the teachers of Jewry. In the way of original
work but little was produced. The people fed upon the store of
spiritual food, of which sufficient had been laid up for several
generations. It was then that the Jews first earned their title to the
name, "the People of the Book." They made subservient to themselves
the two mightiest instruments of thought, the art of writing and of
reading. Their progress was brilliant, and when their schooling had
come to an end, and they stepped out into the broader life, they were
at once able to apply their knowledge successfully to practical
contingencies. They were prepared for all the vicissitudes of life.
Their spiritual equipment was complete.

Nothing could have been more opportune than this readiness to assume
the responsibilities of existence, for a time of peril and menace was
again approaching. From out of the West, a new agent of civilization,
Hellenism, advanced upon the East. Alexander the Great had put an end
to the huge Persian monarchy, and brought the whole of Western Asia
under his dominion (332 B. C. E.). His generals divided the conquered
lands among themselves. With all their might, the Ptolemies in Egypt
and the Seleucidae in Syria hellenized the countries subject to their
rule. In the old domain of the Pharaohs, as in Babylonia, in Phoenicia,
and in Syria, the Greek language was currently spoken, Greek
ceremonies were observed, the Greek mode of life was adopted. Athens
ceded her rights of primogeniture to New Athens, Alexandria, capital
of Egypt, and cosmopolitan centre of the civilized world. For a whole
century Judea played the sad part of the apple of discord between the
Egyptian and the Syrian dynasty (320-203 B. C. E.). By turns she owned
the sway of the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae, until finally, in 203,
she was declared a Syro-Macedonian province. Here, as in the other
parts of their realm, the rulers devoted themselves energetically to
the dissemination of Greek culture. Meeting with resistance, they had
resort to main force. At first, indeed, a large part of the people
permitted itself to be blinded by the "beauty of Japheth," and
promoted assimilation with the Greeks. But when the spread of
Hellenism began to threaten the spiritual individuality of Judaism,
the rest of the nation, endowed with greater capacity of resistance,
arose and sturdily repulsed the enemy.

Hellenism was the first gravely dangerous opponent Judaism had to
encounter. It was not the ordinary meeting of two peoples, or of two
kinds of civilization. It was a clash between two theories of life
that stood abruptly opposed to each other, were, indeed, mutually
exclusive. It was a duel between "the Eternal" on the one side, and
Zeus on the other--between the Creator of the universe, the invisible
spiritual Being who had, in a miraculous way, revealed religious and
ethical ideals to mankind, and the deity who resided upon Olympus, who
personified the highest force of nature, consumed vast quantities of
nectar and ambrosia, and led a pretty wild life upon Olympus and
elsewhere. In the sphere of religion and morality, Hellene and Judean
could not come close to each other. The former deified nature herself,
the material universe; the latter deified the Creator of nature, the
spirit informing the material universe. The Hellene paid homage first
and foremost to external beauty and physical strength; the Judean to
inner beauty and spiritual heroism. The Hellenic theory identified the
moral with the beautiful and the agreeable, and made life consist of
an uninterrupted series of physical and mental pleasures. The Judean
theory is permeated by the strictly ethical notions of duty, of
purity, of "holiness"; it denounces licentiousness, and sets up as its
ideal the controlling of the passions and the infinite improvement of
the soul, not of the intellect alone, but of the feelings as well.
These differences between the two theories of life showed themselves
in the brusque opposition in character and customs that made the
Greeks and the Jews absolute antipodes in many spheres of life. It
cannot be denied that in matters of the intellect, especially in the
field of philosophy and science, not to mention art, it might have
been greatly to the advantage of the Jews to become disciples of the
Greeks. Nor is there any doubt that the brighter aspects of Hellenism
would make an admirable complement to Judaism. An harmonious blending
of the Prophets with Socrates and Plato would have produced a
many-sided, ideal _Weltanschauung_. The course of historical events
from the first made such blending, which would doubtless have
required great sacrifices on both sides, an impossible consummation.
In point of fact, the events were such as to widen the abyss between
the two systems. The meeting of Judaism and Hellenism unfortunately
occurred at the very moment when the classical Hellenes had been
supplanted by the hellenized Macedonians and Syrians, who had accepted
what were probably the worst elements of the antique system, while
appropriating but few of the intellectual excellencies of Greek
culture. There was another thwarting circumstance. In this epoch, the
Greeks were the political oppressors of the Jews, outraging Jewish
national feeling through their tyranny to the same degree as by their
immoral life they shocked Jewish ethical feeling and Jewish chastity.

Outraged national and religious feeling found expression in the
insurrection of the Maccabees (168 B. C. E.). The hoary priest
Mattathias and his sons fought for the dearest and noblest treasures
of Judaism. Enthusiasm begets heroism. The Syrian-Greek yoke was
thrown off, and, after groaning under alien rule, the Persian, the
Egyptian, and the Syro-Macedonian, for four hundred years, Judea
became an independent state. In its foreign relations, the new state
was secured by the self-sacrificing courage of the first Maccabean
brothers, and from within it was supported by the deep-sunk pillars of
the spiritual life. The rise of the three famous parties, the
Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes, by no means testifies, as
many would have us believe, to national disintegration, but rather to
the intense spiritual activity of the people. The three tendencies
afforded opportunity for the self-consciousness of the nation to
express itself in all its variety and force. The unbending religious
dogmatism of the Sadducees, the comprehensive practical sense of the
Pharisees in religious and Rational concerns, the contemplative
mysticism of the Essenes, they are the most important offshoots from
the Jewish system as held at that time. In consequence of the external
conditions that brought about the destruction of the Maccabean
state[12] after a century's existence (165-63 B. C. E.), the Pharisee
tendency, which had proved itself the best in practice, won the upper
hand. When Judea was held fast in the clutches of the Roman eagle, all
hope of escape being cut off, the far-seeing leaders of the people
gained the firm conviction that the only trustworthy support of the
Jewish nation lay in its religion. They realized that the preservation
of national unity could be effected only by a consistent organization
of the religious law, which was to envelop and shape the whole
external life of the people. This explains the feverish activity of
the early creators of the Mishna, of Hillel, Shammai, and others, and
it interprets also the watchword of still older fame, "Make a fence
about the Law." If up to that moment religious usage in its
development had kept abreast of the requirements of social and
individual life, the requirements out of which it had grown forth, it
now became a national function, and its further evolution advanced
with tremendous strides. For the protection of the old "Mosaic Laws,"
a twofold and a threefold fence of new legal ordinances was erected
about them, and the cult became more and more complicated. But the
externals of religion did not monopolize all the forces. The moral
element in the nation was promoted with equal vigor. Hillel, the head
of the Pharisee party, was not a legislator alone, he was also a model
of humane principles and rare moral attainments.

  [12] The external causes of the downfall of the Maccabean state,
    dynastic quarrels, are well known. Much less light has been
    thrown upon the inner, deeper-lying causes of the catastrophe.
    These are possibly to be sought in the priestly-political
    dualism of the Judean form of government. The ideal of a
    nation educated by means of the Bible was a theocratic state,
    and the first princes of the Maccabean house, acting at once
    as regents and as high priests, in a measure reached this
    ideal. But the attempts of other nations had demonstrated
    conclusively enough that a dualistic form of government cannot
    maintain itself permanently. Sooner or later one of the two
    elements, the priestly or the secular, is bound to prevail
    over the other and crush it. In the Judean realm, with its
    profoundly religious trend, the priestly element obtained the
    ascendency, and political ruin ensued. The priestly-political
    retreated before the priestly-national form of government.
    Though the religious element was powerless to preserve the
    _state_ from destruction, we shall see that it has
    brilliantly vindicated its ability to keep the _nation_

While Judaism, in its native country was striving to isolate itself,
and was seizing upon all sorts of expedients to insure this end, it
readily entered into relations, outside of Judea, with other systems
of thought, and accepted elements of the classical culture. Instead of
the violent opposition which the Palestinian Judaism of the
pre-Maccabean period, that is, the period of strife, had offered to
Hellenism, the tendency to make mutual concessions, and pave the way
for an understanding between the two theories of life, asserted itself
in Alexandria. In the capital city of the hellenized world the Jews
constituted one of the most important elements of culture. According
to Mommsen, the Jewish colony in Alexandria was not inferior, in point
of numbers, to the Jewish population of Jerusalem, the metropolis.
Influenced by Greek civilization, the Jews in turn exercised decisive
influence upon their heathen surroundings, and introduced a new
principle of development into the activity of the cultivated classes.
The Greek translation of the Biblical writings formed the connecting
link between Judaism and Hellenism. The "Septuaginta," the translation
of the Pentateuch, in use since the third century before the Christian
era, had acquainted the classical world with Jewish views and
principles. The productions of the Prophets and, in later centuries,
of the other Biblical authors, translated and spread broadcast, acted
irresistibly upon the spirit of the cultivated heathen, and granted
him a glimpse into a world of hitherto unknown notions. On this soil
sprang up the voluminous Judeo-Hellenic literature, of which but a
few, though characteristic, specimens have descended to us. The
intermingling of Greek philosophy with Jewish religious conceptions
resulted in a new religio-philosophic doctrine, with a mystic tinge,
of which Philo is the chief exponent. In Jerusalem, Judaism appeared
as a system of practical ceremonies and moral principles; in
Alexandria, it presented itself as a complex of abstract symbols and
poetical allegories. The Alexandrian form of Judaism might satisfy the
intellect, but it could not appeal to the feelings. It may have made
Judaism accessible to the cultivated minority, to the upper ten
thousand with philosophic training; for the masses of the heathen
people Judaism continued unintelligible. Yet it was pre-eminently the
masses that were strongly possessed by religious craving. Disappointed
in their old beliefs, they panted after a new belief, after spiritual
enlightenment. In the decaying classical world, which had so long
filled out life with materialistic and intellectual interests, the
moral and religious feelings, the desire for a living faith, for an
active inspiration, had awakened, and was growing with irresistible

Then, from deep out of the bosom of Judaism, there sprang a moral,
religious doctrine destined to allay the burning thirst for religion,
and bring about a reorganization of the heathen world. The originators
of Christianity stood wholly upon the ground of Judaism. In their
teachings were reflected as well the lofty moral principles of the
Pharisee leader as the contemplative aims of the Essenes. But the same
external circumstances that had put Judaism under the necessity of
choosing a sharply-defined practical, national policy, made it
impossible for Judaism to fraternize with the preachers of the new
doctrine. Judaism, in fact, was compelled to put aside entirely the
thought of universal missionary activity. Instead, it had to devote
its powers to the more pressing task of guarding the spiritual unity
of a nation whose political bonds were visibly dropping away.

For just then the Jewish nation, gory with its own blood, was
struggling in the talons of the Roman eagle. Its sons fought
heroically, without thought of self. When, finally, physical strength
gave out, their spiritual energy rose to an intenser degree. The state
was annihilated, the nation remained alive. At the very moment when
the Temple was enwrapped in flames, and the Roman legions flooded
Jerusalem, the spiritual leaders of Jewry sat musing, busily casting
about for a means whereby, without a state, without a capital, without
a Temple, Jewish unity might be maintained. And they solved the
difficult problem.



The solution of the problem consisted chiefly in more strictly
following out the process of isolation. In a time in which the worship
of God preached by Judaism was rapidly spreading to all parts of the
classical world, and the fundamental principles of the Jewish religion
were steadily gaining appreciation and active adherence, this intense
desire for seclusion may at first glance seem curious. But the
phenomenon is perfectly simple. A foremost factor was national
feeling, enhanced to a tremendous degree at the time of the
destruction of Jerusalem. Lacking a political basis, it was
transferred to religious soil. Every tradition, every custom, however
insignificant, was cherished as a jewel. Though without a state and
without territory, the Jews desired to form a nation, if only a
spiritual nation, complete in itself. They considered themselves then
as before the sole guardians of the law of God. They did not believe
in a speedy fulfilment of the prophetical promise concerning "the end
of time" when all nations would be converted to God. A scrupulous
keeper of the Law, Judaism would not hear of the compromises that
heathendom, lately entered into the bosom of the faith, claimed as its
due consideration. It refused to sacrifice a single feature of its
simple dogmatism, of its essential ceremonies, such as circumcision
and Sabbath rest. Moreover, in the period following close upon the
fall of the Temple, a part of the people still nursed the hope of
political restoration, a hope repudiating in its totality the
proclamation of quite another Messianic doctrine. The delusion ended
tragically in Bar Kochba's hapless rebellion (135 C. E.), whose
disastrous issue cut off the last remnant of hope for the restoration
of an "earthly kingdom." Thereafter the ideal of a spiritual state was
replaced by the ideal of a spiritual nation, rallying about a peculiar
religious banner. Jewry grew more and more absorbed in itself. Its
seclusion from the rest of the world became progressively more
complete. Instinct dictated this course as an escape from the danger
of extinction, or, at least, of stagnation. It was conscious of
possessing enough vitality and energy to live for itself and work out
its own salvation. It had its spiritual interests, its peculiar
ideals, and a firm belief in the future. It constituted an ancient
order, whose patent of nobility had been conferred upon it in the days
of the hoary past by the Lord God Himself. Such as it was, it could
not consent to ally itself with _parvenus_, ennobled but to-day,
and yesterday still bowing down before "gods of silver and gods of
gold." This white-haired old man, with a stormy past full of
experiences and thought, would not mingle with the scatter-brained
crowd, would not descend to the level of neophytes dominated by
fleeting, youthful enthusiasm. Loyally this weather-bronzed,
inflexible guardian of the Law stuck to his post--the post entrusted
to him by God Himself--and, faithful to his duty, held fast to the
principle _j'y suis, j'y reste_.

As a political nation threatened by its neighbors seeks support in its
army, and provides sufficient implements of war, so a spiritual nation
must have spiritual weapons of defense at its command. Such weapons
were forged in great numbers, and deposited in the vast arsenal called
the Talmud. The Talmud represents a complicated spiritual discipline,
enjoining unconditional obedience to a higher invisible power. Where
discipline is concerned, questions as to the necessity for one or
another regulation are out of place. Every regulation is necessary, if
only because it contributes to the desired end, namely, discipline.
Let no one ask, then, to what purpose the innumerable religious and
ritual regulations, sometimes reaching the extreme of pettiness, to
what purpose the comprehensive code in which every step in the life of
the faithful is foreseen. The Talmudic religious provisions, all taken
together, aim to put the regimen of the nation on a strictly uniform
basis, so that everywhere the Jew may be able to distinguish a brother
in faith by his peculiar mode of life. It is a uniform with insignia,
by which soldiers of the same regiment recognize one another. Despite
the vast extent of the Jewish diaspora, the Jews formed a
well-articulated spiritual army, an invisible "state of God"
(_civitas dei_). Hence these "knights of the spirit," the
citizens of this invisible state, had to wear a distinct uniform, and
be governed by a suitable code of army regulations.

As a protection for Jewish national unity, which was exposed to the
greatest danger after the downfall of the state, there arose and
developed, without any external influence whatsoever, an extraordinary
dictatorship, unofficial and spiritual. The legislative activity of
all the dictators--such as, Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai, Rabbi Akiba,
the Hillelites, and the Shammaites--was formulated in the Mishna, the
"oral law," which was the substructure of the Talmud. Their activity
had a characteristic feature, which deserves somewhat particularized
description. The laws were not laid down arbitrarily and without
ceremony. In order to possess binding force, they required the
authoritative confirmation to be found in the Mosaic Books. From
these, whether by logical or by forced interpretation of the holy
text, its words, or, perchance, its letters, they had to be derived.
Each law, barring only the original "traditions," the _Halacha
le-Moshe mi-Sinai_, was promulgated over the supreme signature, as
it were, that is, with the authentication of a word from the Holy
Scriptures. Or it was inferred from another law so authenticated. The
elaboration of every law was thus connected with a very complicated
process of thought, requiring both inductive and deductive reasoning,
and uniting juridical interpretation with the refinements of
casuistry. This legislation was the beginning of Talmudic science,
which from that time on, for many centuries, growing with the ages,
claimed in chief part the intellectual activity of Jewry. The schools
and the academies worked out a system of laws at once religious and
practical in character, which constituted, in turn, the object of
further theoretic study in the same schools and academies. In the
course of time, however, the means became the end. Theoretic
investigation of the law, extending and developing to the furthest
limits, in itself, without reference to its practical value, afforded
satisfaction to the spiritual need. The results of theorizing often
attained the binding force of law in practical life, not because
circumstances ordered it, but simply because one or another academy,
by dint of logic or casuistry, had established it as law. The number
of such deductions from original and secondary laws increased in
geometric progression, and practical life all but failed to keep up
with the theory. The "close of the Mishna," that is, its reduction to
writing, had no daunting effect upon the zeal for research. If
anything, a new and strong impetus was imparted to it. As up to that
time the text of the Holy Scriptures had been made the basis of
interpretation, giving rise to the most diverse inferences, so the
rabbis now began to use the law book recently canonized as a new basis
of interpretation, and to carry its principles to their utmost
consequences. In this way originated first the "Palestinian Gemara."
Later, when the Patriarchate in Palestine was stripped of its glory by
persecutions, and, in consequence, the centre of activity had to be
transferred from the Talmud academies of Palestine to those of
Babylonia, supreme place and exclusive dominion were obtained by the
"Babylonian Gemara," put into permanent form about the year 500 C. E.,
a gigantic work, the result of two hundred years of mental labor.

This busy intellectual activity was as comprehensive as it was
thoroughgoing. Talmudic legislation, the Halacha, by no means confines
itself to religious practices, extensive as this field is. It embraces
the whole range of civil and social life. Apart from the dietary laws,
the regulations for the festivals and the divine service, and a mass
of enactments for the shaping of daily life, the Talmud elaborated a
comprehensive and fairly well-ordered system of civil and criminal
law, which not infrequently bears favorable comparison with the famous
_rationi scriptae_ of the Romans. While proceeding with extreme
rigor and scrupulousness in ritual matters, the Talmud is governed in
its social legislation by the noblest humanitarian principles.
Doubtless this difference of attitude can be explained by the fact
that religious norms are of very much greater importance for a nation
than judicial regulations, which concern themselves only with the
interests of the individual, and exercise but little influence upon
the development of the national spirit.

The most sympathetic aspects of the Jewish spirit in that epoch are
revealed in the moral and poetic elements of the Talmud, in the Agada.
They are the receptacles into which the people poured all its
sentiments, its whole soul. They are a clear reflex of its inner
world, its feelings, hopes, ideals. The collective work of the nation
and the trend of history have left much plainer traces in the Agada
than in the dry, methodical Halacha. In the Agada the learned jurist
and formalist appears transformed into a sage or poet, conversing with
the people in a warm, cordial tone, about the phenomena of nature,
history, and life. The reader is often thrown into amazement by the
depth of thought and the loftiness of feeling manifested in the Agada.
Involuntarily one pays the tribute of reverence to its practical
wisdom, to its touching legends pervaded by the magic breath of poesy,
to the patriarchal purity of its views. But these pearls are not
strung upon one string, they are not arranged in a complete system.
They are imbedded here and there, in gay variety, in a vast mass of
heterogeneous opinions and sentiments naive at times and at times
eccentric. The reader becomes aware of the thoughts before they are
consolidated. They are still in a fluid, mobile state, still in
process of making. The same vivacious, versatile spirit is revealed in
the Midrashim literature, directly continuing the Agada up to the end
of the middle ages. These two species of Jewish literature, the Agada
and the Midrashim, have a far greater absolute value than the Halacha.
The latter is an official work, the former a national product. Like
every other special legislation, the Halacha is bound to definite
conditions and times, while the Agada concerns itself with the eternal
verities. The creations of the philosophers, poets, and moralists are
more permanent than the work of legislators.

Beautiful as the Agada is, and with all its profundity, it lacks
breadth. It rests wholly on the national, not on a universal basis. It
would be vain to seek in it for the comprehensive universalism of the
Prophets. Every lofty ideal is claimed as exclusively Jewish. So far
from bridging over the chasm between Israel and the other nations,
knowledge and morality served to widen it. It could not be otherwise,
there was no influx of air from without. The national horizon grew
more and more contracted. The activities of the people gathered
intensity, but in the same measure they lost in breadth. It was the
only result to be expected from the course of history in those ages.
Let us try to conceive what the first five centuries of the Christian
era, the centuries during which the Talmud was built up, meant in the
life of mankind. Barbarism, darkness, and elemental outbreaks of man's
migratory instincts, illustrated by the "great migration of races,"
are characteristic features of those centuries. It was a wretched
transition period between the fall of the world of antique culture and
the first germinating of a new Christian civilization. The Orient, the
centre and hearth of Judaism, was shrouded in impenetrable darkness.
In Palestine and in Babylonia, their two chief seats, the Jews were
surrounded by nations that still occupied the lowest rung of the
ladder of civilization, that had not yet risen above naive mysticism
in religion, or continued to be immersed in superstitions of the
grossest sort.

In this abysmal night of the middle ages, the lamp of thought was fed
and guarded solely and alone by the Jews. It is not astonishing, then,
that oblivious of the other nations they should have dispensed light
only for themselves. Furthermore, the circumstance must be considered
that, in the period under discussion, the impulse to separate from
Judaism gained ground in the Christian world. After the Council of
Nicaea, after Constantine the Great had established Christianity as
the state-church, the official breach between the Old Testament and
the New Testament partisans became unavoidable.

Thus the Jews, robbed of their political home, created a spiritual
home for themselves. Through the instrumentality of the numberless
religious rules which the Talmud had laid down, and which shaped the
life of the individual as well as that of the community, they were
welded into a firmly united whole. The Jewish spirit--national feeling
and individual mental effort alike--was absorbed in this pursuit of
unification. Head, heart, hands, all human functions of the Jew, were
brought under complete control and cast into fixed forms, by these
five centuries of labor. With painful exactitude, the Talmud
prescribed ordinances for all the vicissitudes of life, yet, at the
same time, offered sufficient food for brain and heart. It was at once
a religion and a science. The Jew was equipped with all the
necessaries. He could satisfy his wants from his own store. There was
no need for him to knock at strange doors, even though he had thereby
profited. The consequences of this attitude, positive as well as
negative consequences, asserted themselves in the further course of
Jewish history.



With the close of the Talmud, at the beginning of the sixth century,
the feverish intellectual activity abated. The Jewish centre of
gravity continued in Babylonia. In this country, in which the Jewish
race had heard its cradle song at the dawn of existence, and later on
_Judaea capta_ had sat and wept remembering Zion, Judaism, after
the destruction of the second Temple and hundreds of years of trials,
was favored with a secure asylum. In the rest of the diaspora,
persecution gave the Jews no respite, but in Babylonia, under Persian
rule, they lived for some centuries comparatively free from
molestation. Indeed, they enjoyed a measure of autonomy in internal
affairs, under a chief who was entitled Exilarch (_Resh-Galutha_).
The Law and the word of God went forth from Babylonia for the Jews of
all lands. The Babylonian Talmud became the anthoritative code for the
Jewish people, a holy book second only to the Bible. The intellectual
calm that supervened at the beginning of the sixth century and lasted
until the end of the eighth century, betrayed itself in the slackening of
independent creation, though not in the flagging of intellectual activity
in general. In the schools and academies of Pumbeditha, Nahardea,
and Sura, scientific work was carried on with the same zest as before,
only this work had for its primary object the sifting and exposition of
the material heaped up by the preceding generations. This was the
province of the Sabureans and the Geonim, whose relation to the Talmud
was the same as that of the Scribes (the _Soferim_) of the Second
Temple to the Bible (see above, ch. vi). In the later period, as in the
earlier, the aim was the capitalization of the accumulated spiritual
treasures, an undertaking that gives little occasion for movement and
life, but all the more for endurance and industry.

This intellectual balance was destroyed by two events: the appearance
of Islam and the rise of Karaism. Islam, the second legitimate
offspring of Judaism, was appointed to give to religious thought in
the slumbering Orient the slight impulse it needed to start it on its
rapid career of sovereign power. Barely emancipated from swaddling
clothes, young Hotspur at once began to rage. He sought an outlet for
his unconquerable thirst for action, his lust for world-dominion. The
victorious religious wars of the followers of Allah ensued. This
foreign movement was not without significance for the fate of the
Jews. They were surrounded no longer by heathens but by Mohammedans,
who believed in the God of the Bible, and through the mouth of their
prophet conferred upon the Jews the honorable appellation of "the
People of the Book." In the eighth century the wars ceased, and the
impetuous energy of the rejuvenated Orient was diverted into quieter
channels. The Bagdad Khalifate arose, the peaceful era of the growth
of industry, the sciences, and the arts was inaugurated. Endowed with
quick discernment for every enlightening movement, the Jews yielded to
the vivifying magic of young Arabic culture.

Partly under the influence of the Arabic tendency to split into
religio-philosophic sects, partly from inner causes, Karaism sprang up
in the second half of the eighth century. Its active career began with
a vehement protest against the Talmud as the regulator of life and
thought. It proclaimed the creators of this vast encyclopedia to be
usurpers of spiritual power, and urged a return to the Biblical laws
in their unadulterated simplicity. The weakness of its positive
principles hindered the spread of Karaism, keeping it forever within
the narrow limits of a sect and consigning it to stagnation. What gave
it vogue during the first century of its existence was its negative
strength, its violent opposition to the Talmud, which aroused
strenuous intellectual activity. For a long time it turned Judaism
away from its one-sided Talmudic tendency, and opened up new avenues
of work for it. True to their motto: "Search diligently in the Holy
Scriptures," the adherents of Karaism applied themselves to the
rational study of the Bible, which had come to be, among the
Talmudists, the object of casuistic interpretation and legendary
adornment. By the cultivation of grammar and lexicography as applied
to the Biblical thesaurus of words, they resuscitated the Hebrew
language, which, ousted by the Aramaic dialect, had already sunk into
oblivion. By the same means they laid the foundation of a school of
rejuvenated poetry. In general, thought on religious and philosophic
subjects was promoted to a higher degree by the lively discussions
between them and the Talmudists.

By imperceptible steps Talmudic Judaism, influenced at once by the
enlightened Arabs and the protesting Karaites, departed from the "four
ells of the Halacha," and widened its horizon. Among the spiritual
leaders of the people arose men who occupied themselves not only with
the study of the Talmud but also with a rational exegesis of the
Bible, with philology, poetry, philosophy. The great Gaon Saadiah
(892-942) united within himself all strands of thought. Over and above
a large number of philological and other writings of scientific
purport, he created a momentous religio-philosophic system, with the
aim to clarify Judaism and refine religious conceptions. He was an
encyclopedic thinker, a representative of the highest Jewish culture
and of Arabic culture as well--he wrote his works in Arabic by
preference. In this way Jewish thought gained ground more and more in
the Orient. It was in the West, however, that it attained soon after
to the climax of its development.

Gradually the centre of gravity of Jewry shifted from Asia Minor to
Western Europe. Beginning with the sixth century, the sparsely sown
Jewish population of Occidental Europe increased rapidly in numbers.
In Italy, Byzantium, France, and Visigothic Spain, important Jewish
communities were formed. The medieval intolerance of the Church,
though neither so widespread nor so violent as it later became,
suffered its first outbreak in that early century. The persecutions of
the Jews by the Visigothic kings of Spain and the Bishops Avitus of
Clermont and Agobard in France (sixth to the ninth century) were the
prelude to the more systematic and the more bloody cruelties of
subsequent days. The insignificant numbers of the European Jews and
the insecurity of their condition stood in the way of forming an
intellectual centre of their own. They were compelled to acknowledge
the spiritual supremacy of their Oriental brethren in faith. With the
beginning of the tenth century the situation underwent a change.
Arabic civilization, which had penetrated to Spain in previous
centuries, brought about a radical transformation in the character of
the country. The realm of the fanatic Visigoths, half barbarous and
wholly averse to the light of progress, changed into the prosperous
and civilized Khalifate of the Ommeyyades. Thither the best forces of
Oriental Jewry transferred themselves. With the growth of the Jewish
population in Arabic Spain and the strengthening of its communal
organization, the spiritual centre of the Jewish people gradually
established itself in Spain. The academies of Sura and Pumbeditha
yielded first place to the high schools of Cordova and Toledo.

The Jewry of the East resigned the national hegemony to the Jewry of
the West. The Geonim withdrew in favor of the Rabbis. After centuries
of seclusion, the Jewish spirit once more asserted itself, and enjoyed
a period of efflorescence. The process of national growth became more
complex, more varied.



The five centuries marked at their beginning by the rise of
Arabic-Jewish civilization in Spain and at their end by the banishment
of the Jews from Spain (980-1492), offer the Jewish historian an
abundance of culture manifestations and intellectual movements so
luxuriant that it is well-nigh impossible to gather them up in one
formula. The monotony formerly prevailing in Jewish national life,
both in its external and in its internal relations, was succeeded by
almost gaily checkered variety. Swept along by the movement towards
enlightenment that dominated their surroundings, the Jews of Arabic
Spain threw themselves into energetic work in all the spheres of life
and thought. While they had political ground more or less firm under
their feet, and for the most part enjoyed peace and liberty, the Jews
in the Christian lands of Europe stood upon volcanic soil, every
moment threatening to swallow them up. Exposed constantly to
persecutions, they lived more or less isolated, and devoted themselves
to one-sided though intense intellectual activity. Sombre shadows and
streaks of bright light alternate with each other in this period. In
its second half, the clouds massed themselves heavily upon the
darkening horizon. Even the "privileged" Spanish Jews suffered an
untoward change in their affairs at the beginning of the thirteenth
century: gradually they were withdrawn from under the sovereignty of
the Arabs, and made subject to the power of the Catholic monarchs.
They became thenceforward the equal partners of their brethren in
faith in the rest of Europe. All without distinction had a share in
the spiritual martyrdom which is the greenest bayleaf in the crown of
Jewish history. To think and to suffer became the watchword of the
whole nation.

At first, as we have said, a considerable portion of the Jewish people
enjoyed the happy possibility of thinking. This was during the
classical epoch of the Arabic-Jewish Renaissance, which preceded the
Italian Renaissance by four centuries. There is a fundamental
difference between the two Renaissance periods: the earlier one was
signalized by a re-birth of the sciences and of philosophy, the later
one pre-eminently of the arts and of literature. The eleventh and
twelfth centuries marked the meridian of the intellectual development
of medieval Judaism. As once, in Alexandria, the union of Judaic with
Hellenic culture brought in its train a superabundance of new ideas of
a universal character, so again the amalgamation, on Spanish soil, of
Jewish culture with Arabic gave rise to rich intellectual results,
more lasting and fruitful than the Alexandrian, inasmuch as, in spite
of their universal character, they did not contravene the national
spirit. The Jewish people dropped its misanthropy and its leaning
toward isolation. The Jews entered all sorts of careers: by the side
of influential and cultivated statesmen, such as Chasdai ibn Shaprut
and Samuel Hanagid, at the courts of the Khalifs, stood a brilliant
group of grammarians, poets, and philosophers, like Jonah ibn Ganach,
Solomon Gabirol, and Moses ibn Ezra. The philosophic-critical
scepticism of Abraham ibn Ezra co-existed in peace and harmony with
the philosophic-poetic enthusiasm of Jehuda Halevi. The study of
medicine, mathematics, physics, and astronomy went hand in hand with
the study of the Talmud, which, though it may not have occupied the
first place with the Spanish Jews of this time, by no means
disappeared, as witness the compendium by Alphassi. Unusual breadth
and fulness of the spiritual life is the distinction of the epoch.
This variety of mental traits combined in a marvelous union to form
the great personality of Maimonides, the crown of a glorious period.
With one "Strong Hand," this intellectual giant brought order out of
the Talmudic chaos, which at his word was transformed into a
symmetrical, legal system; with the other, he "guided the Perplexed"
through the realm of faith and knowledge. For rationalistic clarity
and breadth of view no counterpart to the religio-philosophic doctrine
which he formulated can be found in the whole extent of medieval
literature. The main feature of the philosophy of Maimonides and of
the systems based upon it is rationalism, not a dry, scholastic,
abstract rationalism, but a living rationalism, embracing the whole
field of the most exalted psychic phenomena. It is not philosophy pure
and simple, but religious philosophy, an harmonization, more or less
felicitous, of the postulates of reason with the dogmas of faith. It
is reason mitigated by faith, and faith regulated by reason. In the
darkness of the middle ages, when the Romish Church impregnated
religion with the crudest superstitions, going so far as to forbid its
adherents to read the Bible, and when the greatest philosopher
representatives of the Church, like Albertus Magnus, would have
rejected offhand, as a childish fancy or, indeed, as an heretical
chimera, any attempt to rescue the lower classes of the people from
their wretched state of spiritual servitude--in a time like this, the
truly majestic spectacle is presented of a philosophy declaring war on
superstition, and setting out to purify the religious notions of the

Not a breath of this ample spiritual development of the Jews of Arabic
Spain reached the Jews living in the Christian countries of Europe.
Their circumstances were too grievous, and in sombreness their inner
life matched their outer estate. Their horizon was as contracted as
the streets of the Jewries in which they were penned. The crusades
(beginning in 1096) clearly showed the Jews of France and Germany what
sentiments their neighbors cherished towards them. They were the first
returns which Christianity paid the Jewish people for its old-time
teaching of religion. The descendants of the "chosen people," the
originators of the Bible, were condemned to torture of a sort to
exhaust their spiritual heritage. Judaism suffered the tragic fate of
King Lear. Was it conceivable that the horrors--the rivers of blood,
the groans of massacred communities, the serried ranks of martyrs, the
ever-haunting fear of the morrow--should fail to leave traces in the
character of Judaism? The Jewish people realized its imminent danger.
It convulsively held fast to its precious relics, clung to the pillars
of its religion, which it regarded as the only asylum. The Jewish
spirit again withdrew from the outer world. It gave itself up wholly
to the study of the Talmud. In northern France and in Germany,
Talmudic learning degenerated into the extreme of scholastic pedantry,
the lot of every branch of science that is lopped off from the main
trunk of knowledge, and vegetates in a heavy, dank atmosphere, lacking
light and air. Rashi (1064-1105), whose genial activity began before
the first crusade, opened up Jewish religious literature to the
popular mind, by his systematic commentaries on the Bible and the
Talmud. On the other hand, the Tossafists, the school of commentators
succeeding him, by their petty quibbling and hairsplitting casuistry
made the Talmudic books more intricate and less intelligible. Such
being the intellectual bias of the age, a sober, rationalistic
philosophy could not assert itself. In lieu of an Ibn Ezra or a
Maimonides, we have Jehuda Hachassid and Eliezer of Worms, with their
mystical books of devotion, _Sefer Chassidim, Rokeach_, etc.,
filled with pietistic reflections on the other world, in which the
earth figures as a "vale of tears." Poetry likewise took on the dismal
hue of its environment. Instead of the varied lyrical notes of Gabirol
and Halevi, who sang the weal and woe, not only of the nation, but
also of the individual, and lost themselves in psychologic analysis,
there now fall upon our ear the melancholy, heartrending strains of
synagogue poetry, the harrowing outcries that forced themselves from
the oppressed bosoms of the hunted people, the prayerful lamentations
that so often shook the crumbling walls of the medieval synagogues at
the very moment when, full of worshipers, they were fired by the
inhuman crusaders. A mighty chord reverberates in this poetry:
_Morituri te salutant_.

One small spot there was, in the whole of Europe, in which Jews could
still hope to endure existence and enjoy a measure of security. This
was Southern France, or the Provence. The population of Provence had
assimilated the culture of the neighboring country, Arabic Spain, and
become the mediator between it and the rest of Europe. This work of
mediation was undertaken primarily by the Jews. In the twelfth century
several universities existed in Provence, which were frequented in
great numbers by students from all countries. At these universities
the teachers of philosophy, medicine, and other branches of science
were for the most part Jews. The rationalistic philosophy of the
Spanish Jews was there proclaimed _ex cathedra_. The Tibbonides
translated all the more important works of the Jewish thinkers of
Spain from Arabic into Hebrew. The Kimchis devoted themselves to
grammatical studies and the investigation of the Bible. In
Montpellier, Narbonne, and Lunel, intellectual work was in full swing.
Rational ideas gradually leavened the masses of the Provençal
population. Conscience freed from intellectual trammels began to
revolt against the oppression exercised by the Roman clergy. Through
the Albigensian heresy, Innocent III, founder of the papal power, had
his attention directed to the Jews, whom he considered the dangerous
protagonists of rationalism. The "heresy" was stifled, Provence in all
her magnificence fell a prey to the Roman mania for destruction, and,
on the ruins of a noble civilization, the Dominican Inquisition raged
with all its horrors (1213).

Thenceforward the Catholic Church devoted herself to a hostile watch
upon the Jews. Either she persecuted them directly through her
Inquisition, or indirectly through her omnipotent influence on kings
and peoples. In the hearts of the citizens of medieval Europe, the
flame of religious hatred was enkindled, and religious hatred served
as a cloak for the basest passions. Jewish history from that time on
became a history of uninterrupted suffering. The Lateran Council
declared the Jews to be outcasts, and designed a peculiar,
dishonorable badge for them, a round patch of yellow cloth, to be worn
on their upper garment (1215). In France the Jews became by turns the
victims of royal rapacity and the scapegoats of popular fanaticism.
Massacres, confiscations, banishments followed by dearly purchased
permission to return, by renewed restrictions, persecutions, and
oppressions--these were the measures that characterized the treatment
of the Jews in France until their final expulsion (1394). In Germany
the Jews were not so much hated as despised. They were _servi
camerae_, serfs of the state, and as such had to pay oppressive
taxes. Besides, they were limited to the meanest trades and to usury
and peddling. They were shut up in their narrow Jewries, huddled in
wretched cabins, which clustered about the dilapidated synagogue in a
shamefaced way. What strange homes! What gigantic misery, what
boundless suffering dumbly borne, was concealed in those crumbling,
curse-laden dwellings! And yet, how resplendent they were with
spiritual light, what exalted virtues, what lofty heroism they
harbored! In those gloomy, tumbledown Jew houses, intellectual
endeavor was at white heat. The torch of faith blazed clear in them,
and on the pure domestic hearth played a gentle flame. In the abject,
dishonored son of the Ghetto was hidden an intellectual giant. In his
nerveless body, bent double by suffering, and enveloped in the shabby
old cloak still further disfigured by the yellow wheel, dwelt the soul
of a thinker. The son of the Ghetto might have worn his badge with
pride, for in truth it was a medal of distinction awarded by the papal
Church to the Jews, for dauntlessness and courage. The awkward, puny
Jew in his way was stronger and braver than a German knight armed
cap-a-pie, for he was penetrated by the faith that "moves mountains."
And when the worst came to the worst, he demonstrated his courage.
When his peaceful home was stormed by the bestialized hordes of
Armleder, or the drunken bands of the Flagellants, or the furious
avengers of the "Black Death," he did not yield, did not purchase life
by disgraceful treason. With invincible courage he put his head under
the executioner's axe, and breathed forth his heroic spirit with the
enthusiastic cry: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One."

At length the turn of the Spanish Jews arrived. For the unbroken peace
they had enjoyed, they had to atone by centuries of unexampled
suffering. By degrees, the Arabs were forced out of the Pyrenean
Peninsula, and the power they had to abdicate was assumed by the
Catholic kings of Castile and Aragon. In 1236 occurred the fall of
Cordova, the most important centre of Arabic Jewish culture.
Thereafter Arab power held sway only in the province of Granada. The
fortunes of the Spanish Jews underwent a calamitous change. The kings
and the upper ten thousand were, indeed, favorably disposed toward
them. At the courts of Castile and Aragon, the Jews were active as
ministers, physicians, astronomers. But the people, incited by the
propaganda of the clerics, nursed frightful hatred against the Jews,
not only as "infidels," but also as intellectual aristocrats. The rage
of the populace was the combustible material in the terrific
explosions that occurred periodically, in the bloody saturnalia of the
Pastouraux (1320), in the Black Death riots (1348), in the massacre of
Seville (1391).

Dire blows of fortune were unable to weigh down the Spanish Jew,
accustomed to independence, as they did the German Jew. He carried his
head proudly on high, for he was conscious that in all respects he
stood above the rabble pursuing him, above its very leaders, the
clerics. In spite of untoward fate his mental development proceeded,
but inevitably it was modified by the trend of the times. By the side
of the philosophic tendency of the previous age, a mystical tendency
appeared in literature. The Kabbala, with its mist-shrouded symbolism,
so grateful to the feelings and the imagination, chimed in better than
rationalistic philosophy with the depressed humor under which the
greater part of the Jews were then laboring. Another force
antagonistic to rationalistic philosophy was the Rabbinism
transplanted from France and Germany. The controversy between
Rabbinism and philosophy, which dragged itself through three-quarters
of a century (1232-1305), ended in the formal triumph of Rabbinism.
However, philosophic activity merely languished, it did not cease
entirely; in fact, the three currents for some time ran along parallel
with one another. Next to the pillars of Rabbinism, Asheri, Rashba,
Isaac ben Sheshet, loomed up the philosophers, Gersonides (Ralbag),
Kreskas, and Albo, and a long line of Kabbalists, beginning with
Nachmanides and Moses de Leon, the compiler of the Zohar, and ending
with the anonymous authors of the mysterious "Kana and Pelia."

The times grew less and less propitious. Catholicism steadily gained
ground in Spain. The scowling Dominican put forward his claim upon the
Jewish soul with vehement emphasis, and made every effort to drag it
into the bosom of the alone-saving Church. The conversion of the Jews
would have been a great triumph, indeed, for Catholicism militant. The
conversion methods of the Dominican monk were of a most insinuating
kind--he usually began with a public religious disputation.
Unfortunately, the Jews were experts in the art of debate, and too
often by their bold replies covered the self-sufficient dignitaries of
Rome with confusion. The Jews should have known, from bitter
experience, that such boldness would not be passed over silently. From
sumptuous debating hall to Dominican prison and scaffold was but a
short step. In 1391, one of these worthy soul-catchers, Bishop
Ferdinando Martinez, set the fanatical mob of Seville on the Jews, and
not without success. Terrorized by the threat of death, many accepted
Catholicism under duress. But they became Christians only in
appearance; in reality they remained true to the faith of their
fathers, and, in secret, running the risk of loss of life, they
fulfilled all the Jewish ordinances. This is the prologue to the
thrilling Marrano tragedy.

Finally, the moment approached when gloomy Catholicism attained to
unchallenged supremacy in the Pyrenean Peninsula. On the ruins of the
enlightened culture of the Arabs, Ferdinand the Catholic and Isabella
of Castile reared the reactionary government of medieval Rome. The
Inquisition was introduced (1480). Torquemada presided as high priest
over the rites attending the human sacrifices. _Ad gloriam
ecclesiae_, the whole of Spain was illuminated. Everywhere the
funeral pyres of the Inquisition flared to the skies, the air was rent
by the despairing shrieks of martyrs enveloped in flames or racked by
tortures, the prisons overflowed with Marranos,--all instruments of
torture were vigorously plied.

At last the hour of redemption struck: in 1492 all Jews were driven
from Spain, and a few years later from Portugal. Jewish-Arabic culture
after five centuries of ascendency suffered a sudden collapse. The
unhappy people again grasped its staff, and wandered forth into the
world without knowing whither.


JEWS (1492-1789)

The expulsion from Spain was a stunning blow. The hoary martyr people
which had defied so many storms in its long life was for a moment
dazed. The soil of Europe was quaking under its feet. At the time when
the medieval period had formally come to a close for Occidental
Christendom, and the modern period had opened, the middle ages
continued in unmitigated brutality for the Jews. If anything, the life
of the Jews had become more unendurable than before. What, indeed, had
the much-vaunted modern age to offer them? In the ranks of the
humanistic movement Reuchlin alone stood forth prominently as the
advocate of the Jews, and he was powerless before the prejudices of
the populace. The Reformation in Germany and elsewhere had illuminated
the minds of the people, but had not softened their hearts. Luther
himself, the creator of the Reformation, was not innocent of hating
the followers of an alien faith. The Jews especially did not enjoy too
great a measure of his sympathies. The wars growing out of the
Reformation, which in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
devastated Europe in the name of religion, were not calculated to
favor the spread of tolerance and milder manners. The conflict raging
in the bosom of the Church and setting her own children by the ears,
was yet insufficient to divert her maternal care from her
"unbelieving" stepchildren. In Spain and Portugal, stakes continued to
burn two centuries longer for the benefit of the Marranos, the false
Christians. In Germany and Austria, the Jews were kept in the same
condition of servitude as before. Their economic circumstances were
appalling. They were forced to emigrate _en masse_ to Poland,
which offered the adherents of their faith a comparatively quiet life,
and by and by was invested with the Jewish hegemony. Some of the
smaller states and independent towns of Italy also afforded the Jews
an asylum, though one not always to be depended upon. A group of
hard-driven Spanish exiles, for instance, under the leadership of
Abarbanel had found peace in Italy. The rest had turned to Turkey and
her province Palestine,

For a time, indeed, the Jewish spiritual centre was located in Turkey.
What Europe, old, Christian, and hardhearted, refused the Jews, was
granted them by Turkey, young, Mussulman, and liberal. On hearing of
the banishment of the Jews from Spain, Sultan Bajazet exclaimed: "How
can you call Ferdinand of Aragon a wise king, the same Ferdinand who
has made his land poor and enriched ours?" His amazement characterizes
the relation of Turkey to the Jews of the day. The one-time Marrano,
Joseph Nassi, rose to be a considerable dignitary at the court of
Sultan Selim (1566-1580). Occasionally he succeeded, by diplomatic
means, in wreaking vengeance upon European courts in retaliation for
the brutal tortures inflicted upon his people. With the generosity of
a Maecenas, he assembled Jewish scholars and poets, and surrounded
himself with a sunlit atmosphere of intellectuality and talent. All
other Jewish communities looked up to that of Constantinople. Now and
again its rabbis played the part of Patriarchs of the synagogue. To
this commanding position the rabbis of Palestine especially were
inclined to lay claim. They even attempted to restore the
Patriarchate, and the famous controversy between Jacob Berab and Levi
ben Chabib regarding the _Semicha_ is another evidence of the
same assertive tendency. Among the Spanish exiles settled in the Holy
Land a peculiar spiritual current set in. The storm-tossed wanderers,
but now returned to their native Jordan from the shores of the
blood-stained Tagus and Guadalquivir, were mightily moved at the sight
of their ancestral home. Ahasuerus, who on his thorn-strewn pilgrim's
path had drained the cup of woe to the dregs, suddenly caught sight of
the home of his childhood razed level with the ground. The precious,
never-to-be-forgotten ruins exhaled the home feeling, which took
possession of him with irresistible charm. Into his soul there flowed
sweet memories of a golden youth, past beyond recall. The impact of
these emotions enkindled passionate "longing for Zion" in the heart of
the forlorn, homeless martyr. He was seized by torturing thirst for
political resurrection. Such melancholy feelings and vehement
outbursts found expression in the practical Kabbala, originating with
Ari (Isaac Luria) and his famous Safed school. A mystical belief in
the coming of Messiah thenceforward became one of the essential
elements of the Jewish spirit. It vanquished the heart of the learned
Joseph Karo, who had brought Rabbinism to its climax by the
compilation of his celebrated ritual code, the Shulchan Aruch. With
equal force it dominated the being of Solomon Molcho, the enthusiastic
youth who, at one time a Marrano, on his public return to Judaism
proclaimed the speedy regeneration of Israel. He sealed his faith in
his prophecy with death at the stake (1532). The Marranos beyond the
Pyrenees and the unfortunate Jews of Italy, who, in the second half of
the sixteenth century had to bear the brunt of papal fanaticism, on
the increase since the Reformation, were kept in a state of constant
excitement by this Messianic doctrine, with its obscure stirrings of
hope. A mournful national feeling pervades the Jewish literature of
the time. Recollections of torments endured enflamed all hearts. A
series of chronicles were thus produced that record the centuries of
Jewish martyrdom--_Jocha-sin, Shebet Jehuda, Emek ha-Bacha_, etc.
The art of printing, even then developed to a considerable degree of
perfection, became for the dispersed Jews the strongest bond of
spiritual union. The papal _index librorum prohibitorum_ was
impotent in the face of the all-pervading propaganda for thought and
feeling carried on by the printing press.

After Palestine and Turkey, Holland for a time became the spiritual
centre of the scattered Jews (in the seventeenth century). Holland was
warmly attached to the cause of liberty. When it succeeded in freeing
itself from the clutches of fanatical Spain and her rapacious king,
Philip II, it inaugurated the golden era of liberty of conscience, of
peaceful development in culture and industry, and granted an asylum to
the persecuted and abandoned of all countries. By the thousands the
harassed Ghetto sons, especially the Marranos from Spain and Portugal,
migrated to Holland. Amsterdam became a second Cordova. The
intellectual life was quickened. Freedom from restraint tended to
break down the national exclusivism of the Jew, and intercourse with
his liberal surroundings varied his mental pursuits. Rabbinism, the
Kabbala, philosophy, national poetry--they all had their prominent
representatives in Holland. These manifold tendencies were united in
the literary activity of Manasseh ben Israel, a scholar of extensive,
though not intensive, encyclopedic attainments. Free thought and
religious rationalism were embodied in Uriel Acosta. To a still higher
degree they were illustrated in the theory of life expounded by the
immortal author of the "Theologico-Political Tractate" (1640-1677).
This advanced state of culture in Holland did not fail to react upon
the neighboring countries. Under the impulse of enthusiasm for the
Bible Puritan England under Cromwell opened its portals to the Jews.
In Italy, in the dank atmosphere of rabbinical dialectics and morbid
mysticism, great figures loom up--Leon de Modena, the antagonist of
Rabbinism and of the Kabbala, and Joseph del Medigo, mathematician,
philosopher, and mystic, the disciple of Galileo.

These purple patches were nothing more than the accidents of a
transition period. The people as a whole was on the decline. The
Jewish mind darted hither and thither, like a startled bird seeking
its nest. Holland or Turkey was an inadequate substitute for Spain, if
only for the reason that but a tiny fraction of the Jews had found
shelter in either. The Jewish national centre must perforce coincide
with the numerical centre of the dispersed people, in which, moreover,
conditions must grant Jews the possibility of living undisturbed in
closely compacted masses, and of perfecting a well-knit organization
of social and individual life. Outside of Spain these conditions were
fulfilled only by Poland, which gradually, beginning with the
sixteenth century, assumed the hegemony over the Jewry of the world.
This marks the displacement of the Sephardic (Spanish, in a broader
sense, Romanic) element, and the supremacy of the Ashkenazic
(German-Polish) element.

Poland had been a resort for Jewish immigrants from Germany since the
outbreak of the Crusades, until, in the sixteenth century, it rose to
the position of a Jewish centre of the first magnitude. As the
merchant middle class, the Jews were protected and advanced by the
kings and the Szlachta. The consequent security of their position
induced so rapid a growth of the Jewish element that in a little while
the Jews of Poland outnumbered those of the old Jewish settlements in
Occidental Europe. The numerous privileges granted the Jews, by
Boleslaus of Kalish (1246), Kasimir the Great (1347-1370), Witowt
(1388), Kasimir IV (1447), and some of their successors, fortified
their position in the extended territory covered by Poland, Lithuania,
and the Ukraine. Their peculiar circumstances in Poland left an
impress upon their inner life. An intense mental activity was called
forth. This activity can be traced back to German beginnings, though
at the same time it is made up of many original elements. For a space
Rabbinism monopolized the intellectual endeavors of the Polish Jews.
The rabbi of Cracow, Moses Isserles, and the rabbi of Ostrog, Solomon
Luria (d. 1572), disputed first place with the foremost rabbinical
authorities of other countries. Their decisions and circular letters
regarding religious and legal questions were accorded binding force.
Associates and successors of theirs founded Talmud academies
throughout the country, and large numbers of students attended them.
Commentators upon the Talmud and expounders of classical works in
Jewish theological literature appeared in shoals. Jewish printing
establishments in Cracow and Lublin were assiduous in turning out a
mass of writings, which spread the fame of the Polish rabbis to the
remotest communities. The large autonomy enjoyed by the Polish and
Lithuanian Jews conferred executive power upon rabbinical legislation.
The _Kahal_, or Jewish communal government, to a certain degree
invested with judicial and administrative competence, could not do
without the guiding hand of the rabbis as interpreters of the law. The
guild of rabbis, on their side, chose a "college of judges," with
fairly extensive jurisdiction, from among their own members. The
organization of the Rabbinical Conferences, or the "Synods of the Four
Countries," formed the keystone of this intricate social-spiritual
hierarchy. The comprehensive inner autonomy and the system of Talmud
academies (_Yeshiboth_) that covered the whole of Poland remind
one of the brilliant days of the Exilarchate and the Babylonia of the
Geonim. One element was lacking, there was no versatile, commanding
thinker like Saadia Gaon. Secular knowledge and philosophy were under
the ban in Poland. Rabbinism absorbed the whole output of intellectual
energy. As little as the Poles resembled the Arabs of the "golden
age," did the Polish Jews resemble their brethren in faith in the
Orient at Saadia's time or in the Spain of Gabirol and Maimonides.
Isolation and clannishness were inevitable in view of the character of
the Christian environment and the almost insuperable barriers raised
between the classes of Polish society. But it was this exclusiveness
that gave peculiar stability and completeness to the life of the Jew
as an individual and as a member of Jewish society, and it was the
same exclusiveness that afforded opportunity for the development of a
sharply defined culture, for its fixation to the point of resisting
violent shocks and beyond the danger point of extinction through
foreign invasion.

The fateful year 1648 formed a turning point in the history of the
Polish Jews, as in the history of the countries belonging to the
Polish crown. The Cossack butcheries and wars of extermination of
1648-1658 were the same for the Polish Jews that the Crusades, the
Black Death, and all the other occasions for carnage had been for the
Jews of Western Europe. It seemed as though history desired to avoid
the reproach of partiality, and hastened to mete out even-handed
justice by apportioning the same measure of woe to the Jews of Poland
as to the Jews of Western Europe. But the Polish Jews were prepared to
accept the questionable gift from the hands of history. They had
mounted that eminence of spiritual stability on which suffering loses
the power to weaken its victim, but, on the contrary, endues him with
strength. More than ever they shrank into their shell. They shut
themselves up more completely in their inner world, and became morally
dulled against the persecutions, the bitter humiliations, the deep
scorn, which their surroundings visited upon them. The Polish Jew
gradually accustomed himself to his pitiable condition. He hardly knew
that life might be other than it was. That the Polish lord to whom he
was a means of entertainment might treat him with a trace of respect,
or that his neighbors, the middle class merchant, the German guild
member, and the Little Russian peasant, might cherish kindly feelings
toward him, he could not conceive as a possibility. Seeing himself
surrounded by enemies, he took precautions to fortify his camp, not so
much to protect himself against hostile assaults from without--they
were inevitable--as to paralyze the disastrous consequences of such
assaults in his inner world. To compass this end he brought into play
all the means suggested by his exceptional position before the law and
by his own peculiar social constitution. The _Kahal_, the
autonomous rabbinical administration of communal affairs, more and
more assumed the character of an inner dictatorship. Jewish society
was persistently kept under the discipline of rigid principles. In
many affairs the synagogue attained the position of a court of final
appeal. The people were united, or rather packed, into a solid mass by
purely mechanical processes--by pressure from without, and by drawing
tight a noose from within. Besides this social factor tending to
consolidate the Jewish people into a separate union, an intellectual
lever was applied to produce the same result. Rabbinism employed the
mystical as its adjutant. The one exercised control over all minds,
the other over all hearts. The growth of mysticism was fostered both
by the unfortunate conditions under which the Polish Jews endured
existence and by the Messianic movements which made their appearance
among the Jews of other countries.

In the second half of the seventeenth century, mysticism reached its
zenith in Turkey, the country in which, had stood the cradle of the
"practical Kabbala." The teachings of Ari, Vital, and the school
established by them spread like wildfire. Messianic extravagances
intoxicated the baited and persecuted people. In Smyrna appeared the
false Messiah, Sabbatai Zebi. As by magic he attracted to himself a
tremendous company of adherents in the East and in the West. For a
quarter of a century (1650-1676), he kept the Jewish communities
everywhere in a state of quivering suspense.

The harassed people tossed to and fro like a fever patient, and raved
about political re-birth. Its delirious visions still further heated
its agitated blood. It came to its senses but slowly. Not even the
apostasy and death of Sabbatai Zebi sufficed to sober all his
followers. Under the guise of a symbolic faith in a Messiah, many of
them, publicly or secretly, continued the propaganda for his

This propaganda prepared the fertile soil from which, in the
eighteenth century, shot up Messianic systems, tending to split
Judaism into sects. Nowhere did the mystical teachings evoke so ready
a response as in Poland, the very centre of Judaism. At first an ally
of the rabbinical school, mysticism grown passionate and
uncontrollable now and again acted as the violent opponent of
Rabbinism. Secret devotion to the Sabbatian doctrines, which had made
their home in Poland, sometimes led to such extremes in dogma and
ethics that the rabbis could not contain themselves. Chayyim Malach,
Judah Chassid, and other Galician mystics, in the second decade of the
eighteenth century brought down upon themselves a rabbinical decree of
excommunication. The mystical tendency was the precursor of the
heretical half-Christian sect of Frankists, who ventured so far as to
lift a hand against the fundamentals of Judaism: they rejected the
Talmud in favor of the Zohar (1756-1773). At the same time a much more
profound movement, instinct with greater vitality, made its appearance
among the Polish-Jewish masses, a movement rooted in their social and
spiritual organization. The wretched, debased condition of the average
Jew, conjoined with the traditions of the Kabbala and the excrescences
of Rabbinism, created a foothold for Chassidic teaching. Chassidism
replaced Talmudic ratiocination by exalted religious sentiment. By the
force of enthusiasm for faith, it drew its adherents together into a
firmly welded unit in contrast with Rabbinism, which sought the same
goal by the aid of the formal law. Scenting danger, the rabbinical
hierarchy declared war upon the Kabbala. Emden opposed Eibeschütz, the
Polish Sabbatians and Frankists were fought to the death, the Wilna
Gaon organized a campaign against the Chassidim. Too late! Rabbinism
was too old, too arid, to tone down the impulsive outbreaks of passion
among the people. In their religious exaltation the masses were
looking for an elixir. They were languishing, not for light to
illumine the reason, but for warmth to set the heart aglow. They
desired to lose themselves in ecstatic self-renunciation. Chassidism
and its necessary dependence upon the Zaddik offered the masses the
means of this forgetfulness of self through faith. They were the
medium through which the people saw the world in a rosy light, and the
consequences following upon their prevalence were seen in a marked
intensification of Jewish exclusiveness.

The same aloofness characterizes the Jews of the rest of the
eighteenth century diaspora. Wherever, as in Germany, Austria, and
Italy, Jews were settled in considerable numbers, they were separated
from their surroundings by forbidding Ghetto walls. On the whole, no
difference is noticeable between conditions affecting Jews in one
country and those in another. Everywhere they were merely tolerated,
everywhere oppressed and humiliated. The bloody persecutions of the
middle ages were replaced by the burden of the exceptional laws, which
in practice degraded the Jews socially to an inferior race, to
citizens of a subordinate degree. The consequences were uniformly the
same in all countries: spiritual isolation and a morbid religious
mood. During the first half of the "century of reason," Jewry
presented the appearance of an exhausted wanderer, heavily dragging
himself on his way, his consciousness clouded, his trend of thought
obviously anti-rationalistic. At the very moment in which Europe was
beginning to realize its medieval errors and repent of them, and the
era of universal ideals of humanity was dawning, Judaism raised
barricades between itself and the world at large. Elijah Gaon and
Israel Besht were the contemporaries of Voltaire and Rousseau.
Apparently there was no possibility of establishing communication
between these two diametrically opposed worlds. But history is a
magician. Not far from the Poland enveloped in medieval darkness, the
morning light of a new life was breaking upon slumbering Jewry in
German lands. New voices made themselves heard, reverberating like an
echo to the appeal issued by the "great century" in behalf of a
spiritual and social regeneration of mankind.



Two phenomena signalized the beginning of the latest period in Jewish
history: the lofty activity of Mendelssohn and the occurrence of the
great French Revolution. The man stands for the spiritual emancipation
of the Jews, the movement for their political emancipation. At bottom,
these two phenomena were by no means the ultimate causes of the social
and spiritual regeneration of the Jewish people. They were only the
products of the more general causes that had effected a similar
regeneration in all the peoples of Western Europe. The new currents,
the abandonment of effete intellectual and social forms, the
substitution of juster and more energetic principles, the protest
against superstition and despotism--all these traits had a common
origin, the resuscitation of reason and free thought, which dominated
all minds without asking whether they belonged to Jew or to Christian.
It might seem that the rejuvenation of the Jews had been consummated
more rapidly than the rejuvenation of the other peoples. The latter
had had two centuries, the period elapsing since the middle ages, that
is, the period between the Reformation and the great Revolution, in
which to prepare for a more rational and a more humane conduct of
life. As for the Jews, their middle ages began much later, and ended
later, almost on the eve of 1789, so that the revolution in their
minds and their mode of life had to accomplish itself hastily, under
the urgence of swiftly crowding events, by the omission of
intermediate stages. But it must be taken into consideration that long
before, in the Judeo-Hellenic and in the Arabic-Spanish period, the
Jews had passed through their "century of reason." In spite of the
intervening ages of suffering and gloom, the faculty of assimilating
new principles had survived. For the descendants of Philo and
Maimonides the rationalistic movement of the eighteenth century was in
part a repetition of a well-known historical process. They had had the
benefit of a similar course of studies before, and, therefore, had no
need to cram on the eve of the final examination.

In point of fact, the transformation in the life of the Jews did take
place with extraordinary swiftness. It was hastened in France by the
principles of the Revolution and the proclamation of the civil
equality of Jews with the other citizens. In Germany, however, it
advanced upon purely spiritual lines. Mendelssohn and Lessing, the
heralds of spiritual reform, who exposed old prejudices, carried on
their labors at a time in which the Jews still stood beyond the pale
of the law, a condition which it did not occur to Frederick II, "the
philosopher upon the throne," to improve. A whole generation was
destined to pass before the civil emancipation of the German Jews was
accomplished. Meantime their spiritual emancipation proceeded apace,
without help from the ruling powers. A time so early as the end of the
eighteenth century found the German Jews in a position to keep step
with their Christian fellow-citizens in cultural progress. Enlightened
Jews formed close connections with enlightened Christians, and joined
them in the universal concerns of mankind as confederates espousing
the same fundamental principles. If they renounced some of their
religious and national traditions, it was by no means out of
complaisance for their neighbors. They were guided solely and alone by
those universal principles that forced non-Jews as well as Jews to
reject many traditions as incompatible with reason and conscience.
Non-Jews and Jews alike yielded themselves up to the fresh inspiration
of the time, and permitted themselves to be carried along by the
universal transforming movement. Mendelssohn himself, circumspect and
wise, did not move off from religious national ground. But the
generation after him abandoned his position for that of universal
humanity, or, better, German nationality. His successors intoxicated
themselves with deep draughts of the marvelous poetry created by the
magic of Goethe and Schiller. They permitted themselves to be rushed
along by the liberty doctrines of 1789, they plunged head over heels
into the vortex of romanticism, and took an active part in the
conspicuous movements of Europe, political, social, and literary, as
witness Bôrne, Heine, and their fellow-combatants.

The excitement soon evaporated. When the noise of the liberty
love-feasts had subsided, when the cruel reaction (after 1814) had
settled heavily upon the Europe of the nineteenth century, and God's
earth had again become the arena of those agents of darkness whom
dreamers had thought buried forever beneath the ruins of the old
order, then the German Jews, or such of them as thought, came to their
senses. The more intelligent Jewish circles realized that, in devotion
to the German national movement, they had completely neglected their
own people. Yet their people, too, had needs, practical or spiritual,
had its peculiar national sphere of activity, circumscribed, indeed,
by the larger sphere of mankind's activities as by a concentric
circle, but by no means merged into it. To atone for their sin,
thinking Jews retraced their steps. They took in hand the transforming
of Jewish inner life, the simplification of the extremely complicated
Jewish ritual, the remodeling of pedagogic methods, and, above all,
the cultivation of the extended fields of Jewish science, whose head
and front is Jewish historical research in all its vastness and
detail. Heine's friend, Zunz, laid the cornerstone of Jewish science
in the second decade of the nineteenth century. His work was taken up
by a goodly company of zealous and able builders occupied for half a
century with the task of rearing the proud edifice of a scientific
historical literature, in which national self-consciousness was
sheltered and fostered. At the very height of this reforming and
literary activity, German Jewry was overwhelmed by the civil
emancipation of 1848. Again a stirring movement drew them into
sympathy with a great general cause, but this time without drawing
them away from Jewish national interests. Cultural and civil
assimilation was accomplished as an inner compelling necessity, as a
natural outcome of living. But spiritual assimilation, in the sense of
a merging of Judaism in foreign elements, was earnestly repudiated by
the noblest representatives of Judaism. It was their ideal that
universal activity and national activity should be pursued to the
prejudice of neither, certainly not to the exclusion of one or the
other, but in perfect harmony with each other. In point of fact, it
may be asserted that, in spite of a frequent tendency to go to the one
or the other extreme, the two currents, the universal and the
national, co-exist within German Jewry, and there is no fear of their
uniting, they run parallel with each other. The Jewish genius is
versatile. Without hurt to itself it can be active in all sorts of
careers: in politics and in civil life, in parliament and on the
lecture platform, in all branches of science and departments of
literature, in every one of the chambers of mankind's intellectual
laboratory. At the same time it has its domestic hearth, its national
sanctuary; it has its sphere of original work and its self-consciousness,
its national interests and spiritual ideals rooted in the past of the Jew.
By the side of a Lassalle, a Lasker, and a Marx towers a Riesser, a
Geiger, a Graetz. The leveling process unavoidably connected with
widespread culture, so far from causing spiritual desolation in
German Judaism, has, on the contrary, furnished redundant proof
that even under present conditions, so unfavorable to what is
individual and original, the Jewish people has preserved its vitality
to the full.

An analogous movement stirred the other countries of Western
Europe--France, Italy, and England. The political emancipation of the
Jews was accomplished earlier in them than in Germany. The
reconstruction of the inner life, too, proceeded more quietly and
regularly, without leaps and bounds, and religious reform established
itself by degrees. Yet even here, where the Jewish contingent was
insignificant, the spiritual physiognomy of the Jews maintained its
typical character. In these countries, as in Germany, the Jew
assimilated European culture with all its advantages and its
drawbacks. He was active on diplomatic fields, he devoted himself to
economic investigations, he produced intellectual creations of all
kinds--first and last he felt himself to be a citizen of his country.
None the less he was a loyal son of the Jewish people considered as a
spiritual people with an appointed task. Crémieux, Beaconsfield,
Luzzatti are counterbalanced by Salvador, Frank, Munk, Reggio, and
Montefiore. All the good qualities and the shortcomings distinctive of
the civilization of modern times adhere to the Jew. But at its worst
modern civilization has not succeeded in extinguishing the national
spirit in Jewry. The national spirit continues to live in the people,
and it is this spirit that quickens the people. The genius of Jewish
history, as in centuries gone by, holds watch over the sons of the
"eternal people" scattered to all ends of the earth. West-European
Jewry may say of itself, without presumption: _Cogito ergo sum_.

Russian Jewry, the Jewry that had been Polish, and that is counted by
the millions, might, if necessary, prove its existence by even more
tangible marks than Occidental Jewry. To begin with, the centre of
gravity of the Jewish nation lies in Russia, whose Jews not only
outnumber those of the rest of Europe, but continue to live in a
compact mass. Besides, they have preserved the original Jewish culture
and their traditional physiognomy to a higher degree than the Jews of
other countries. The development of the Russian Jews took a course
very different from that of the Jews of the West. This difference was
conditioned by the tremendous contrast between Russian culture and
West-European culture, and by the change which the external
circumstances of Jews outside of Russia underwent during the modern
period. The admission of the Polish provinces into the Russian Empire
at the end of the eighteenth century found the numerous Jewish
population in an almost medieval condition, the same condition in
which the non-Jewish population of Russian Poland was at that time.
The Polish regime, as we saw above, had isolated the Jews alike in
civil and spiritual relations. The new order did not break down the
barriers. The masses of Jews cooped up in the "Pale of Settlement"
were strong only by reason of their inner unity, their firmly
established patriarchal organization. The bulwark of Rabbinism and the
citadel of Chassidism protected them against alien influences. They
guarded their isolation jealously. True to the law of inertia, they
would not allow the privilege of isolation to be wrested from them.
They did not care to step beyond the ramparts. Why, indeed, should the
Jews have quitted their fortress, if outside of their walls they could
expect nothing but scorn and blows? The unfortunates encaged in the
sinister Pale of Settlement could have been lured out of their
exclusive position only by complete civil emancipation combined with a
higher degree of culture than had been attained by Russian society, an
impossible set of circumstances in the first half of the nineteenth
century. The legislative measures of the time, in so far as they
relate to the Jews, breathe the spirit of police surveillance rather
than of enlightenment and humanity. To civilizing and intellectual
influences from without the way was equally barred. Yet all this
watchfulness was of no avail. Nothing could prevent the liberty
principles espoused by the Jews of Western Europe from being smuggled
into the Pale, to leaven the sad, serried masses. A sluggish process
of fermentation set in, and culminated in the literary activity of
Isaac Beer Levinsohn and of the Wilna reformers of the second and
fourth decades of the nineteenth century. They were the harbingers of
approaching spring.

When spring finally came (after 1855), and the sun sent down his
genial rays upon the wretched Jewry of Russia, life and activity began
to appear at once, especially in the upper strata. As in Germany, so
in Russia spiritual emancipation preceded political emancipation.
Still shorn almost entirely of the elementary rights of citizens, the
Russian Jews nevertheless followed their ideal promptings, and
participated enthusiastically in the movement for enlightenment which
at that time held the noblest of the Russians enthralled. In a
considerable portion of the Russian Jewish community a process of
culture regeneration began, an eager throwing off of outworn forms of
life and thought, a swift adoption of humane principles. Jewish young
men crowded into the secular schools, in which they came in close
contact with their Christian contemporaries. Influenced by their new
companions, they gave themselves up to Russian national movements,
often at the cost of renunciation of self. Some of them, indeed, in
one-sided aspiration strove to become, not Russians, but men. The
influence exercised by literature was more moderate than that of the
schools. Rabbinic and Chassidistic literature, on the point of dying
out as it was, abandoned the field to the literature of enlightenment
in the Hebrew language, a literature of somewhat primitive character.
It consisted chiefly of naive novels and of didactic writings of
publicists, and lacked the solid scientific and historical element
that forms the crown of Western Jewish literature. It is indisputable,
however, that it exerted an educational influence. Besides, it
possesses the merit of having resuscitated one of the most valuable of
Jewish national possessions, the Hebrew language in its purity, which
in Russia alone has become a pliant instrument of literary expression.
A still greater field was reserved for the Jewish-Russian literature
that arose in the "sixties." It was called into being in order to
present a vivid and true picture of the social and spiritual interests
of the Jews. Proceeding from discussions of current political topics,
this literature gradually widened its limits so as to include Jewish
history, Jewish science, and the portrayal of Jewish life, and more
and more approached the character of a normal European literature. All
this was in the making, and the most important work had not yet begun.
The lower strata of the people had not been touched by the fresh air.
In time, if all had gone well, they, too, would have had their day.
And if the minority of the Jewish people in the West in a short span
of time brought forth so many notable workers in so many departments
of life and thought, how much superior would be the culture
achievements of the Eastern majority! How vigorously the mighty mental
forces latent in Russian Jewry would develop when their advance was no
longer obstructed by all sorts of obstacles, and they could be applied
to every sphere of political, social, and intellectual life!

Nothing of all this came to pass; exactly the opposite happened. Not
only were the barriers in the way of a prosperous, free development of
Jewry not removed, but fresh hindrances without number were
multiplied. Some spectre of the middle ages, some power of darkness,
put brakes upon the wheel of history. It first appeared in the West,
under the name anti-Semitism, among the dregs of European society. But
in its earliest abode it was and is still met with an abrupt rebuff on
the part of the most intelligent circles, those whom even the present
age of decadence has not succeeded in robbing of belief in lofty moral
ideals. Anti-Semitism in the West is in _anima vili_. Its cult is
confined to a certain party, which enjoys a rather scandalous
reputation. But there are countries in which this power of darkness,
in the coarser form of Judophobia[13], has cast its baleful spell upon
the most influential members of society and upon the press. There it
has ripened noxious fruit. Mocking at the exalted ideals and the
ethical traditions of religious and thinking mankind, Judophobia
shamelessly professes the dogma of misanthropy. Its propaganda is
bringing about the moral ruin of an immature society, not yet
confirmed in ethical or truly religious principles. Upon its victims,
the Jews, it has the same effect as the misfortunes of the middle
ages, which were meted out to our hoary people with overflowing
measure, and against which it learnt to assume an armor of steel. The
recent severe trials are having the same result as the persecutions of
former days: they do not weaken, on the contrary, they invigorate the
Jewish spirit, they spur on to thought, they stimulate the pulse of
the people.

 "The hammer shivers glass,
  But iron by its blows is forged."[14]

  [13] As anti-Semitism is called in Russia.
  [14] Pushkin.

The historical process Jewry has undergone repeatedly, it must undergo
once again. But now, too, in this blasting time of confusion and
dispersion, of daily torture and the horrors of international
conflict, "the keeper of Israel slumbereth not and sleepeth not." The
Jewish spirit is on the alert. It is ever purging and tempering itself
in the furnace of suffering. The people which justly bears the name of
the veteran of history withdraws and falls into a revery. It is not a
narrow-minded fanatic's flight from the world, but the concentrated
thought of a mourner. Jewry is absorbed in contemplation of its great,
unparalleled past. More than ever it is now in need of the teachings
of its past, of the moral support and the prudent counsels of its
history, its four thousand years of life crowded with checkered



Let us return now to the starting point of our discussion, and
endeavor to establish the thoughts and lessons to be deduced from the
course of Jewish history.

Above all, Jewish history possesses the student with the conviction
that Jewry at all times, even in the period of political independence,
was pre-eminently a spiritual nation, and a spiritual nation it
continues to be in our own days, too. Furthermore, it inspires him
with the belief that Jewry, being a spiritual entity, cannot suffer
annihilation: the body, the mold, may be destroyed, the spirit is
immortal. Bereft of country and dispersed as it is, the Jewish nation
lives, and will go on living, because a creative principle permeates
it, a principle that is the root of its being and an indigenous
product of its history. This principle consists first in a sum of
definite religious, moral, or philosophic ideals, whose exponent at
all times was the Jewish people, either in its totality, or in the
person of its most prominent representatives. Next, this principle
consists in a sum of historical memories, recollections of what in the
course of many centuries the Jewish people experienced, thought, and
felt, in the depths of its being. Finally, it consists in the
consciousness that true Judaism, which has accomplished great things
for humanity in the past, has not yet played out its part, and,
therefore, may not perish. In short, the Jewish people lives because
it contains a living soul which refuses to separate from its
integument, and cannot be forced out of it by heavy trials and
misfortunes, such as would unfailingly inflict mortal injury upon less
sturdy organisms.

This self-consciousness is the source from which the suffering Jewish
soul draws comfort. History speaks to it constantly through the mouth
of the great apostle who went forth from the midst of Israel eighteen
hundred years ago: "Call to remembrance the former days, in which,
after ye were enlightened, ye endured a great conflict of sufferings;
partly, being made a gazing-stock both by reproaches and afflictions;
and partly, becoming partakers with them that were so used.... Cast
not away therefore your boldness, which hath great recompense of
reward" (Epistle to the Hebrews, x, 32-34, 35).

Jewish history, moreover, arouses in the Jew the desire to work
unceasingly at the task of perfecting himself. To direct his attention
to his glorious past, to the resplendent intellectual feats of his
ancestors, to their masterly skill in thinking and suffering, does not
lull him to sleep, does not awaken a dullard's complacency or hollow
self-conceit. On the contrary, it makes exacting demands upon him.
Jewish history admonishes the Jews: "_Noblesse oblige_. The
privilege of belonging to a people to whom the honorable title of the
'veteran of history' has been conceded, puts serious responsibilities
on your shoulders. You must demonstrate that you are worthy of your
heroic past. The descendants of teachers of religion and martyrs of
the faith dare not be insignificant, not to say wicked. If the long
centuries of wandering and misery have inoculated you with faults,
extirpate them in the name of the exalted moral ideals whose bearers
you were commissioned to be. If, in the course of time, elements out
of harmony with your essential being have fastened upon your mind,
cast them out, purify yourselves. In all places and at all times, in
joy and and in sorrow, you must aim to live for the higher, the
spiritual interests. But never may you deem yourselves perfect. If you
become faithless to these sacred principles, you sever the bonds that
unite you with the most vital elements of your past, with the first
cause of your national existence."

The final lesson to be learned is that in the sunny days of mankind's
history, in which reason, justice, and philanthropic instinct had the
upper hand, the Jews steadfastly made common cause with the other
nations. Hand in hand with them, they trod the path leading to
perfection. But in the dark days, during the reign of rude force,
prejudice, and passion, of which they were the first victims, the Jews
retired from the world, withdrew into their shell, to await better
days. Union with mankind at large, on the basis of the spiritual and
the intellectual, the goal set up by the Jewish Prophets in their
sublime vision of the future (Isaiah, ch. ii, and Micah, ch. iv), is
the ultimate ideal of Judaism's noblest votaries. Will their radiant
hope ever attain to realization? If ever it should be realized,--and
it is incumbent upon us to believe that it will,--not a slight part of
the merits involved will be due to Jewish history. We have adverted to
the lofty moral and humanitarian significance of Jewish history in its
role as conciliator. With regard to one-half of Jewish history, this
conciliatory power is even now a well-established fact. The first part
of Jewish history, the Biblical part, is a source from which, for many
centuries, millions of human beings belonging to the most diverse
denominations have derived instruction, solace, and inspiration. It is
read with devotion by Christians in both hemispheres, in their houses
and their temples. Its heroes have long ago become types, incarnations
of great ideas. The events it relates serve as living ethical
formulas. But a time will come--perhaps it is not very far off--when
the second half of Jewish history, the record of the two thousand
years of the Jewish people's life after the Biblical period, will be
accorded the same treatment. This latter part of Jewish history is not
yet known, and many, in the thrall of prejudice, do not wish to know
it. But ere long it will be known and appreciated. For the thinking
portion of mankind it will be a source of uplifting moral and
philosophical teaching. The thousand years' martyrdom of the Jewish
people, its unbroken pilgrimage, its tragic fate, its teachers of
religion, its martyrs, philosophers, champions, this whole epic will
in days to come sink deep into the memory of men. It will speak to the
heart and the conscience of men, not merely to their curious mind. It
will secure respect for the silvery hair of the Jewish people, a
people of thinkers and sufferers. It will dispense consolation to the
afflicted, and by its examples of spiritual steadfastness and
self-denial encourage martyrs in their devotion. It is our firm
conviction that the time is approaching in which the second half of
Jewish history will be to the noblest part of _thinking_ humanity
what its first half has long been to _believing_ humanity, a
source of sublime moral truths. In this sense, Jewish history in its
entirety is the pledge of the spiritual union between the Jews and the
rest of the nations.

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