Page:The International Jew - Volume 1.djvu/17

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
13
THE JEW IN CHARACTER AND BUSINESS

hogging; the land was apportioned among the people, and though it might be lost by debt or sold under stress, it was returned every 50 years to its original family ownership, at which time, called “The Year of Jubilee,” there was practically a new social beginning. The rise of great landlords and a moneyed class was impossible under such a system, although the interim of 50 years gave ample scope for individual initiative to assert itself under fair competitive conditions.

If, therefore, the Jews had retained their status as a nation, and had remained in Palestine under the Law of Moses, they would hardly have achieved the financial distinction which they have since won. Jews never got rich out of one another. Even in modern times they have not become rich out of each other but out of the nations among whom they dwelt. Jewish law permitted the Jew to do business with a Gentile on a different basis than that on which he did business with a brother Jew. What is called “the Law of the Stranger” was defined thus: “unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury.” Being dispersed among the nations, but never merging themselves with the nations and never losing a very distinctive identity, the Jew has had the opportunity to practice “the ethics of the stranger” for many centuries. Being strangers among strangers, and often among cruelly hostile strangers, they have found this law a compensating advantage. Still, this alone would not account for the Jew’s preeminence in finance. The explanation of that must be sought in the Jew himself, his vigor, resourcefulness and special proclivities.

Very early in the Jewish story we discover the tendency of Israel to be a master nation, with other nations as its vassals. Notwithstanding the fact that the whole prophetic purpose with reference to Israel seems to have been the moral enlightenment of the world through its agency, Israel’s “will to mastery” apparently hindered that purpose. At least such would seem to be the tone of the Old Testament. Divinely ordered to drive out the Canaanites that their corrupt ideas might not contaminate Israel, the Jews did not obey, according to the old record. They looked over the Canaanitish people and perceived