4. The Nationalist

LET me make this clear: I do not speak of "assimilated" Jews only.  These are pagan Jews indeed, living up (more or less successfully) to the doctrine that we have to adapt ourselves to "non- Judaism ".  But they are not the only ones to do that.

When I gave up the idea that it is enough for a Jew to announce his allegiance to the Jewish nation; when I realized that he also has to share in its cultural inheritance; and when I finally demanded that he, above all, enter into its religious spirit—I also came to realize that the Jewish nationalist who does not do that is still assimilated to the paganism of the modern world.

I do not deny that the Jewish nationalists have put the will to stay within the Jewish community in place of the desire to escape from it.  Moreover, they have helped to clarify the fact that Judaism as a creed necessarily rests upon the foundation of Jewish nationhood.  I acknowledge their good will—and their not inconsiderable strength.  But when we come to the decisive issue –the question of G-d and world– they take the same attitude as the assimilationists whom they so heartily despise.  In all their words and acts I see the note of rebellion. They move in the same tracks of modern taste, morality, and ideals; they are just as inclined toward snobbery, toward trading in ideas, towards journalistic self-complacency, and the degeneration of Jewish social feeling and moral discipline.  Apart from a little demonstrative impertinence, they are just as eager for the applause of others, depend on their approval, and cut their Judaism to their order.

It is not only their practices which reveal them as rebels.  It is just as much their dreams and aspirations.  In their affirmation of Jewish nationhood they are merely concerned with questions of national prestige and power, but by no means with spiritual issues.  There is no acceptance of the basic Jewish ideal of a "G-d-nationhood" based on common loyalty and service to the Master of human destinies; where a faint trace of this idea appears, it assumes the modern form of "G-d-seeking" or, even worse, "G-d-inventing".  For the Jewish nationalists, the Jewish land is not the land given by G-d to our people so that it may there live for Him, but merely a historic domicile in which we can live "like all the nations".  For them, the Hebrew language is not the language of Holy Writ, expressing the profound pathos of universal humanity, but merely the language of a certain people.  They do not demand national rights and autonomy in the diaspora as an opportunity to live as a community dedicated to G-d, with its own religious culture, but only in order to imitate the newest European fashions.  The actions and achievements which issue from such goals and demands (no matter how significant in themselves) can never correspond to the true nature of the Jew, can never lead to Jewish self-realization, but will always represent a pagan rebellion in a Jewish garb.

What goes for the modern Jewish nationalists of Western Europe, also applies to their Eastern European fellows-in-arms.  I must give them even more credit than to the others.  I respect the great Hebrew and Yiddish writers, who draw their power from the eternal font of Jewish life, even though they do not share in its profound and fervent faith and great religious self-discipline.  I also acknowledge that particularly the younger generation among them seeks the spiritual soul of the Jewish people; they have not fallen prey to the fallacy of those nationalists who are proud of the sacred Jewish past, but in effect, deny this past by excluding our spiritual traditions from their own picture of national life.

But, on the other hand, the nationalists of the Eastern European brand are even more dangerous than their more assimilated Western friends, because of their closer contact and greater influence upon the Yiddish-speaking religious masses.  And I notice the same unhappy aberrations spreading among them which I spoke of before—all the more rudely and repulsively because their Eastern European devotees are quite new to them.  I see them argue and debate in small and smaller parties and groups, all the more confused and narrow-minded the more radical and materialistic they are.

The traces of their pagan rebellion can be found not only in their manners but also in their goals and desires.  Instead of penetrating to the core of the Jewish soul, they stick to petty and superficial features of it, and know nothing of the real holiness of Judaism.  Their efforts for a national culture are based upon the time-bound ideas of our age, and not upon the eternal Jewish values.  Their aspirations for national autonomy among the nations are governed by worldly desires; and in their struggle for the Yiddish language (however meritorious in itself) they do not consider this an expression of the spirit but a tool of the people, like any other language.  Thus, I can only conclude that, no matter how successful they will be, they too are only pagan rebels in a Jewish garb.  

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