Page 62 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 13

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
56
counter-measures taken against the brilliant Jewish group. The
Jews, too, were disappointed at the behavior of their fellow-
citizens, who seemed intent on snatching the fruits of Emanci-
pation from them. Jewish intellectuals came to see through the
glamorous web of words to the lurking reality of the death-dealing
spiders and a sardonic smile flitted across their lips. They became
critical of fair-sounding slogans and cosmopolitan panaceas. They
no longer took at face value the protestations of good-will with
which liberals and radicals showered them. Some even sought to
grope their way back to the Jewishness of their childhood and to
the warmth of their family rituals. Of these, the most distinguished
were Moses Hess, who found his way from aesthetic international
communism to religious Zionism, and Heinrich Heine, who mean-
dered along many erring paths before homesickness for Jewishness
brought him back to his ancestral roots.
The paradoxes, contradictions, and inconsistencies in the life
and thought of Heine find their parallel in other Jewish intellec-
tuals of his generation, but he, far more than others, possessed the
gift of expressing these complexities in clear images and melodious
verses. The pupil of the
Heder
early came in contact with Catho-
licism in a French lycee at Diisseldorf, when this town was tem-
porarily dominated by French troops, French administrators, and
French culture, and his appreciation of Catholic religious fervor
led him to compose
The Pilgrimage to Kevlaar
, one of the finest
Catholic lyrics in the German tongue. Although Heine was in the
eighteen-twenties a colleague of Leopold Zunz and a co-founder
of the
Gesellschaftfur Kultur und Wissenschaft der Juden
, he never-
theless turned apostate during the epidemic of baptism which
characterized that decade in Germany. He was converted to
Lutheranism, even while working on his
Rabbi von Bacharach
, a
novel which was to idealize medieval Jewish life. As a lover of
Hellenism and as an aesthetic worshiper of Venus and Apollo, he
wrote during his robust, sense-intoxicated days inspired hymns to
the gods of Greece and to the heathen heroes who preferred beauty
to truth. However, in his years of affliction, writhing in his mat-
tress-grave, he reverted to the God of the synagogue and to the
Princess Sabbath of his childhood; he rediscovered his affinity
with ancestors who wept by the waters of Babylon and with the
Sephardic troubadours Ibn Gabirol, Ibn Ezra, and especially
Yehuda Halevi, whom he hailed as the flaming pillar of song at
the vanguard of Israel’s suffering caravan in the desolation of
exile. Jerusalem became the final home of his longing, after Berlin
and Athens had failed him and he lay dying in Paris. The truth
of Torah then rated higher with him than the beauty of Phidias