Rome and Jerusalem/Fourth Letter

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

Fourth Letter[edit]

German Anti-Semitism-Patriotic romanticists and philosophic book-dealers-Otto Wigand-Berthold Auerbach-Moleschott-Dr. Gallavardin-Reform and Jewish noses -A Photographic picture -Hebrew prayers-Patriotism-My grandfather-Our Mother Rachel-National sorrow-The Black Sabbath

It seems that German education is not compatible with our Jewish national aspirations. Had I not once lived in France, it would never have entered my mind to interest myself with the revival of Jewish nationality. Our views and strivings are determined by the social environment which surrounds us. Every Living, acting people, like every active individual, has its special field. .Indeed, every man, every member of the historical nations, is a. political, or as we say at present, a social animal; yet within this sphere of the common social world, there are special places reserved by Nature for individuals according to their particular calling. The specialty of the German of the higher class, of course, is his interest in abstract thought; and because he is too much of a universal philosopher, it is difficult for him to be inspired by national tendencies. "Its whole tendency," my former publisher, Otto Wigand, once wrote to me, when I showed him an outline of a work on Jewish national aspirations, "is contrary to my pure human nature."

The "pure human nature" of the Germans is, in reality, the character of the pure German race, which rises to the conception of humanity in theory only, but in practice it has not succeeded in overcoming the natural sympathies and antipathies of the race. German antagonism to Jewish national aspiration has a double origin, though the motives are really contrary to each other. The duplicity and contrariety of the human personality, such as we can see in the union of the spiritual and the natural, the theoretical and the practical sides, are in no other nation so sharply marked in their points of opposition as in the German. Jewish national aspirations are antagonistic to the theoretical cosmopolitan tendencies of the German. But in addition to this, the German opposes Jewish national aspirations because of his racial antipathy, from which even the noblest Germans have not as yet emancipated themselves. The publisher, whose "pure human" conscience revolted against publishing a book advocating the revival of Jewish nationality, published books preaching hatred to Jews and Judaism without the slightest remorse, in spite of the fact that the motive of such works is essentially opposed to the "pure human conscience." This contradictory action was due to inborn racial antagonism to the Jews! But the German, it seems, has no clear conception of his racial prejudices; he sees in his egoistic as well as in his spiritual endeavors, not German or Teutonic, but "humanitarian tendencies"; and he does not know that he follows the latter only in theory, while in practice he clings to his egoistic ideas.

Progressive German Jews, also, seem to think that they have sufficient reason for turning away from the Jewish national movement. My dear old friend, Berthold Auerbach, is disappointed with me, just as much as my former publisher, though not on the ground of "pure human conscience." He complains bitterly about my attitude and finally exclaims: "Who appointed you as a prince and judge over us?" It seems that on account of the hatred which surrounds him on all sides, the German Jew is determined to estrange himself from Judaism as far as possible, and endeavors even to deny his race. No reform of the Jewish religion, however extreme, is radical enough for the educated German Jew. But the endeavors are vain. Even conversion itself does not relieve the Jew from the enormous pressure of German Anti-Semitism. The German hates the Jewish religion less than the race; he objects less to the Jews' peculiar beliefs than to their peculiar noses. Neither reform, nor conversion, nor emancipation throw open to the Jew the gates of social life, hence their anxiety to deny their racial descent. Moleschott, in his Physiological Sketches (p. 251), tells how the son of a converted Jew used to spend hours every morning at the looking-glass, comb in hand, endeavoring to straighten his curly hair, so as to give it a more Teutonic appearance. But as little as the "radical" Reform movement-an appellation which characterizes it so well, inasmuch as it lays the ax at the root of Judaism and its national historical cult-accomplished its aim, so little will the tendency of some Jews to deny their racial descent fulfill their purpose. Jewish noses cannot be reformed, and the black, wavy hair of the Jews will not change through conversion into blond, nor can its curves be straightened out by constant combing. The Jewish race- is one of the primary races of mankind that has retained its integrity, in spite of the continual change of its climatic environment, and the Jewish type has conserved its purity through the centuries.

On the western mountain slope which encloses the City of the Dead, at Thebes, in Egypt, there still exists the tomb of one of the ancient architects, who supervised the construction of the king's buildings, on which are depicted reliefs of all the works constructed under his direction. Here we can see how the obelisks were erected, the sphinxes hewn out of the rock, the palaces built, as well as how all the preliminary labor was performed. Here are scenes representing white Asiatic slaves making bricks, many of which are piled up near the building, while other slaves are carrying stones away. At a little distance from the group of laboring slaves stands the overseer with raised whip in his hand. The tomb was built, according to the inscription, about the time of Moses, and in the reliefs of the Asiatic slaves there is a resemblance to the present Jewish type. Later Egyptian monuments, likewise, show Jewish reliefs which strikingly resemble our modern Jews.

The Jewish race, which was so hard pressed and almost destroyed by many nations of antiquity, would have disappeared long ago, in the sea of the Indo-Germanic nations, had it not been endowed with the gift of retaining its peculiar type under all circumstances and of reproducing it. If Judaism owes its immortality to the remarkable religious productivity of the Jewish genius, this genius owes its existence to the fertility of the Jewish race. The words of the Bible, "But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad and the land was filled with them," which were written of the Jews in Egypt, are true of them also during the third exile.

Of the predominance of the Jewish type in cases of intermarriage with members of the Indo-Germanic race, I can quote an example from my own experience. It is a well-known fact, that in unions between members of the Mongolian, with those of the Indo-Germanic race, the Mongolian type predominates; for example, the Russian nobles, who have little Mongolian blood in their veins, yet display in their physiognomy Mongolian features even to the present day! Among my friends there is a Russian nobleman who, like all the Russian boyars; betrays his mixed descent, the Mongolian, by his features, and the Indo-Germanic, by his fine intellect. This friend married a Polish Jewess, by whom he had a number of sons, who all possess Jewish features in marked degree. As you see, my esteemed friend, Jews and Jewesses endeavor, in vain, to obliterate their descent through conversion or intermarriage with the Indo-Germanic and Mongolian races, for the Jewish type is indestructible. Nay more, the type is undeniable, even in its most beautiful representatives, where it approaches the ancient Greek type, and even surpasses it with its peculiar soul expression. Hence I was not surprised, when traveling through Antwerp, I showed an artist the beautiful picture known to you, that he, enthusiastically admiring the image that would have done credit to a Phidias, exclaimed: "I will wager that it is the picture of a Jewess."

The Jewish race, throughout the world, possesses the ability to acclimatize itself more than all other races. Just as in the native land of the Jews, Palestine, there grow plants of the southern and of the northern zones, so does this people, of the temperate clime, thrive in all zones. A French physician, Dr. Gallavardin, has demonstrated this physiological phenomenon by many statistical data, in his well-known work, The Position of the Jews in the World.

And just as it is impossible for me to entertain any prejudice against my own race, which has played such an important role in universal history and which is destined for a still greater one in the future, so it is impossible for me to show against the holy language of our fathers the antipathy of those who endeavor to eliminate Hebrew from Jewish life, and even supersede it by German inscriptions in the cemetery. I was always exalted by the Hebrew prayers. I seem to hear in them an echo of fervent pleadings and passionate entreaties, issuing from suffering hearts of a thousand generations. Seldom do these heart-stirring prayers fail to impress those who are able to understand their meaning. The most touching point about these Hebrew prayers is, that they are really an expression of the collective Jewish spirit; they do not plead for the individual, but for the entire Jewish race. The pious Jew is above all a Jewish patriot. The "new" Jew, who denies the existence of the Jewish nationality, is not only a deserter in the religious sense, but is also a traitor to his people, his race and even to his family. If it were true that Jewish emancipation in exile is incompatible with Jewish nationality, then it were the duty of the Jews to sacrifice the former for the sake of the latter. This point, however, may need a more elaborate explanation, but that the Jew must be above all a Jewish patriot, needs no proof to those who have received a Jewish education. Jewish patriotism is not a cloudy Germanic abstraction, which dissolves itself in discussions about being and appearance, realism and idealism, but a true, natural feeling, the tangibility and simplicity of which require no demonstration, nor can it be disposed of by a demonstration to the contrary.

My grandfather once showed me some olives and dates, and remarked, with beaming eyes, "These were raised in Eretz Yisroel." Everything that reminds the pious Jew of Palestine is as dear to him as the sacred relics of his ancestral house. It is customary that a bag containing earth from the Holy Land is put into the grave of every pious Jew. In this practice, however, as well as in the ritualistic use of the citron and palm branch which, like the bag of earth, are imported from Palestine at great expense, there is something more than the mere carrying out of a religious precept or the prompting of superstitious belief. All feast and fast days of the Jews, their deep piety and reverence for tradition, which almost apotheosizes everything Hebraic, nay even the entire Jewish cult, all have their origin in the patriotism of the Jewish nation. The Jewish "reformers," who have emancipated themselves from Jewish nationality, understand this quite well; they are therefore very careful in expressing their heartfelt opinions. They find it more comfortable to take refuge in the falsehood of the dualistic theory, which sees in every natural and simple feeling, as well as in patriotism, a double essence-an ideal and a real. This dualistic theory is very useful, as it can be adjusted at well, either to the one point of view or to the other.

This false theory is of recent German invention and need not be taken seriously. Spinoza conceived Judaism to be grounded in Nationalism, and held that the restoration of the Jewish kingdom depends entirely upon the will and courage of the Jewish people. Even the rationalistic Mendelssohn did not know of a cosmopolitan Judaism. It is only in modern times that, for the purposes of obtaining equal rights, some German Jews denied the existence of Jewish nationality. Moreover, they have convinced themselves, contrary to the fact that the further existence of Judaism will not at all be threatened by the elimination of its innermost essence.

True, my dear friend, it is a fact which may even come to the attention of our German Jewish reformers, that the Jewish religion is, above all, Jewish patriotism. I always recall, with deep emotion, the scenes that I lived through when a child, at the house of my grandfather at Bonn, on the fast-day commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem. On the first day of the month of Ab, which is the first of the nine days preceding the eventful day, the sorrow which had been manifested since the beginning of the "three weeks," assumed a more perceptible form. Even the Sabbath day lost its festive character during these days of national mourning, and was named "the black Sabbath." My pious grandfather was one of those revered scholars who, though not using the Torah as a means of subsistence, yet possessed the title and knowledge of a rabbi. Every evening, at the close of his business day, he spent several hours in studying the Talmud and its commentaries. But in the "nine days" this study was interrupted, and instead be read with his grandchildren the stories and legends concerning the exile of the Jews from Jerusalem. The tears fell upon the snow-white beard of the stern old man as he read those stories, and we children, too, would cry and sob. I remember, especially, one particular passage which impressed us both deeply. It runs as follows:

"When the children of Israel were led into captivity by the soldiers of Nebuchadnezzar, their road lay past the grave of our Mother Rachel. As they approached the grave, a bitter wailing was heard. It was the voice of Rachel, weeping at the fate of her unhappy children."

You can now discern clearly the source of the Jewish belief in immortality; it is the product of our remarkable family love. Our immortality extends back into the past as far as the Patriarchs, and in the future to Messiah's reign. It is the Jewish conception of the family which gave rise to the vivid belief in the continuity of the spirit in human history. This belief, which is one of the fairest blossoms of Judaism, the roots of which are to be found in Jewish family love and the trunk in Jewish patriotism, has, in the course of ages, shrunk to the belief in the atomistic immortality of the individual soul; and thus, torn from its roots and trunk, has withered and decayed. It is only in the Jewish conception of the family that the former living belief is still retained. When modern dualism of spirit and matter, the result of the separation of Christianity from Judaism, had found its highest expression in the works of the last Christian philosopher, Descartes, and had threatened to kill all unity of life, there arose again out .of Judaism the belief in the existence of one eternal force in Nature and history. This belief acted as a bulwark against spiritual egoism, on the one hand, and materialistic individualism on the other just as Christian dualism received its mortal blow from the teachings of Spinoza, so does the existence of the ancient Jewish people, with its model family life, act as an antidote against this disease of dualism in practical life. Even today the wholesome influence of the Jewish family life is noticeable in literature, art and science. How much greater will that influence be when once again we create history and literature, when once more the Torah will go forth from Zion and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem?