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- Judaism - 10/11 -


and the dispersal of Israel not a punishment but a stage in the fulfilment of Israel's destiny as revealed to Abraham. Israel is High-Priest, and can only fulfil his mission in the close neighbourhood of those to whom he is elected to minister.

This, no less than the non-Messianic Zionism, is a considerable change from older beliefs. As a Messianic hope it transcends the visions of Isaiah. The prophet looks forward to an ideal future, a reign of peace and felicity, but the nations are to flow to Zion. The significance of the change lies in this. The Messianic idea now means to many Jews a belief in human development and progress, with the Jews filling the role of the Messianic people, but only as _primus inter pares_. It is the expression of a genuine optimism. 'Character, no less than Career,' said George Eliot, 'is a process and an unfolding.' So with the Character of mankind as a whole. But this idea of development, unfolding, is quite modern in the real sense of the terms; it is something outside the range even of the second Isaiah. Judaism was never quite sure whether to join the ranks of the '_laudatores temporis acti_,' or to believe that man never is but always to be blest. On the one hand, the person of Adam was endowed with perfections such as none of his successors matched. On the other hand, the Golden Age of Judaism, as Kenan said, was thrown forward into the future. That on the whole Judaism has taken the prospective rather than the retrospective view, is the sole justification for the modern conception of the Messianic Age which is fast becoming predominant in the Synagogue. The Synagogue does not share the Roman poet's sentiment:

'A race of men baser than their sires Gave birth to us, a progeny more vile, Who dower the world with offspring viler still';

but the English poet's trust:

'Yet I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs, And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.'

Denouncing the 'Calculators of the End,' a Rabbi said (Sanh. 97 b): 'All the computed terms have passed, and the matter dependeth now on repentance and good deeds' (cf. S. Singer, The Messianic Idea in Judaism, pp. 1 and 18)

If, however, Israel is not destined to a Restoration, if the Jewish Mission is the propagation of an idea, on what ground is the continued existence of Israel as a separate organisation defensible or justified? Israel is indestructible, said Jehuda Halevi in the twelfth century; certainly Israel is undestroyed. When Frederick the Great asked what should make him believe in God, he received in answer, 'the survival of the Jews.' Dr. Guttmann of Breslau not long since put forward a similar plea in vindication of the continued significance of Judaism. In nature all forms die when their utility is over; in history, peoples succumb when their work in and for the world is complete. Shall, he asks, we recognise Judaism as the solitary exception, as the unique instance of the survival of the unfit and the unnecessary?

The modern apologists for all religions rarely belong to the rank and file. Whether it be Harnack for Christianity or Mr. Montefiore for Judaism, the vindicators stand far above the average of the believers whose faith they are vindicating. The average man needs no defence for a religion which enables him to live and thrive, materially and spiritually. The importance of this consideration is very great. Restricting our attention to Judaism, it is clear that it still offers ideals to many, prescribes and enforces a moral law, teaches a satisfying doctrine of God. If so, then it is futile to discuss whether Judaism is still necessary. Can the world afford to surrender a single one of its forces for good? If there are ten millions of men, women, and children who live, and live not ignobly, by Judaism, can it be contended that Judaism is obsolete? The first, the main justification of Judaism is its continued efficiency, its proved power still to control and inspire many millions of human lives. There are more people living as Jews to-day, than there were at any previous moment in the world's history.

But, like many answers to questions, this reply does not satisfy those who raise the question. I refer exclusively to the doubters among the Jews themselves, for if Jews were themselves convinced of the justification of the Jewish separateness, the rest of the world would be convinced. Now, the Jews who ask this question are those who are not so completely given over to Judaism, that they are blind to the claims of other religions. To them the question is one not of absolute, but of comparative truth. Judaism may still be a power, but it may not be a desirable power. The further question therefore arises as to the mission of Israel in history to come as well as in history past. History seems contradicted by the claim made by Judaism. Jews are quick enough to see the weakness of the pretension made by certain sects of dogmatic Christianity that it is the last word of religion, that all saving truth was once for all revealed some nineteen centuries ago. History, says the Jewish controversialist, teaches no such lessons of finality. Forces appear, work their destined course, and then make way for other forces. The world does not stand still; it moves on. Then how can Judaism claim for itself a permanence, a finality, which it must deny to every other system, to every other influence which has in its turn moulded human destiny?

A favourite answer is: Judaism is the exception that proves the rule. It _has_ been a permanent force in the world's history. It is argued that Jewish ideals have exercised recurrent influence at all important crises. Dr. Guttmann somewhat rhetorically makes this identical claim. He points to the birth of Christianity, the rise of Islam, the mediaeval Scholasticism, the Italian Renaissance, the German Reformation, the English and American Puritanism, the modern humanitarian movement, as exemplifications of the continued power of Judaism to mould the minds and souls of men. There is a sense in which this claim is just. It is a valuable support to the Jew's allegiance to Judaism. But even if Dr. Guttmann's claim were granted, and it is considerably exaggerated, how does it help? We are all agreed as to the debt which the world owes to Greece. That debt is a great one. Is it obsolete? Surely not. Greece has again and again revived its ancient power to inspire men. The world would be a poor one to-day without all that Greek culture stands for. Greece did not give men enough to live by; Hebraism did that. But Greece made life more worth living. Hellenism is an ever-recurrent force in human civilisation. Yet no one argues that because Hellenism is still necessary, Hellenes are also necessary. Who contends that for carrying on Greek culture you need Greeks? On the contrary, it was the case of Greece that gave rise to the profound observation that just as a man must die to live, so peoples must die that men may live through them. Renan, who, among the moderns, gave fullest value to this truth, included Judaea with Greece in the generalisation. Certainly as a nation, whether temporarily or irrevocably, Judaea perished no less than Athens, that a new world might be born. And a new Jewish nation would no more be the old Judaea of Isaiah than the Athens of to-day is the Athens of Pericles, or the Rome of to-day the Rome of Augustus. History does not retrace its steps.

Athens fell, and with it the Athenians. Why then, when Judaea fell, did the Jews remain? Greek culture does not need Greeks to carry it on; why does Jewish culture need Jews? The first suggestion to be offered is this:--Israel is the protestant people. Every religious or moral innovator has also been a protestant. Socrates, Jesus, Luther; Isaiah, Maimonides, Spinoza; all of them, besides their contributions--very unequal contributions--to the positive store of truth, assumed also the negative attitude of protesters. They refused to go with the multitude, to acquiesce in current conventions. They were all unpopular and even anti-popular. The Jews as a community have fulfilled, and are fulfilling, this protestant function. They have been and are unpopular just because of their protestant function. They refuse to go with the multitude; they refuse to acquiesce. Geiger used this argument very forcibly, from the spiritual point of view, in the early part of the nineteenth century, and Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu (in his book _Israel among the Nations_) even more forcibly used it at the end of the same century, from the historical point of view. This ingenious French observer cites a suspicion that 'the sons of Jacob, as compared with the rest of the human race, represent a higher state of evolution' (p. 232). No modern Jew would make so preposterous a claim. But when the same writer sees in the Jew a _different_ stage of evolution, then he is on the right tack. Here is a passage which deserves to be quoted again and again: 'I have little taste, I confess, for uniformity; I leave that to the Jacobins. My ideal of a nation is not a monolith, nor a bronze formed at a single casting. It is better that a people should be composed of diverse elements and of many races. If the Jew differs from us, so much the better; he is the more likely to bring a little variety into the flat monotony of our modern civilisation' (p. 261). And the same argument applies to religions. There is a permanent value to the world in Israel's determined, protestant attitude. The handful of protestants who, in Elijah's day, refused to bow to Baal and to kiss him, were the real saviours of their generation. And though the world to-day is in no need of such salvation, still the Jew remains the finest exemplification of the truth that God fulfils Himself in many ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

Then again, Judaism seems destined to survive because it represents at once the God-idea and the ethical idea. The liberal Jew, as well as the orthodox, believes that no other religion does this in the same way as does Judaism. Putting it crudely, the Jew would perhaps admit that Christianity has absorbed, developed, enlarged and purified the Hebrew ethics, but he would, rightly or wrongly, think that it has obscured by dogmatic accretions the Jewish Monotheism. On the other hand, the Jew would admit that Islam has absorbed and purified the Jewish Monotheism, but has done less of the flattery of imitation to the Hebrew ethics. Islam has certainly a pure creed; it freed itself from the entanglements of anthropomorphic metaphors and conceptions of God, which are apparent in the early strata of the Hebrew Bible, and from which Judaism, because of its reverence for the Bible, has not emancipated itself yet. But that it can emancipate itself is becoming progressively more clear. And even if we drop comparisons, Judaism stands for a life in which goodness and God are the paramount interests.

But, beyond all, the Jew believes himself to be a Witness to God. He thinks that on him, in some real sense, depends the fulfilment of the purposes of God. It may be an arrogant thought, but unlike most boasts it at once humiliates and ennobles, humiliates by the consciousness of what is, ennobles by the vision of what might be. After enumerating certain ethical and religious ideas which, he holds, Judaism still has to teach the world, the Rev. M. Joseph adds: 'But to the Jew himself, first of all, these truths are uttered. He is to help to win the world for the highest ideals. But if he is to succeed, he must himself be conspicuously faithful to them. He is the chosen, but his very election binds him to vigorous service of truth and righteousness. "Be ye clean, ye that bear the vessels of the Lord." Only when Israel proves by the nobility of his life that he deserves his holy vocation will the accomplishment of his mission be at hand. When all the peoples of the earth shall see that he is worthily called by the name of the Lord, the Divine name and law will be near to the attainment of their destined empire over the hearts of men' (_Judaism as Creed and Life_, p. 513).

A community that believes itself to fill this place in the Divine purpose deserves to live. Its separate existence is a means, not an end; for when all has been said, the one God carries with it the idea of one humanity. The Fatherhood of God implies the brotherhood of man. And so, amid all its trust that the long travail of centuries cannot fulfil itself in Israel's annihilation, amid all its particularism, there soars aloft the belief in the day when there will be no religions, but only Religion, when Israel will come together with other communions, or they with Israel. And so, thrice daily, in most Synagogues of Israel, this


Judaism - 10/11

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