Page 78 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
The Jewish concept of Justice is based unalterably upon equal­
ity. It recognizes no distinction between “I” and “you,” nor does
it favor the poor any more than it favors the rich. The injunction,
“Love thy neighbor as thyself,” summarizes this undeviating
equality in human relations. Jewish justice is therefore objective,
an inflexible yard-stick by which all human conduct is measured.
Christianity, based on the principle of love, is subjective. Its
evangelical altruism renders fixed standards for human relations
impossible. “A nation cannot accept as moral imperatives self-
abasement and relinquishment of rights for the sake of other
people.” A specially gifted people is required to preach the doctrine
of absolute justice, a people “whose spiritual character will qualify
it for a moral development exceeding that of other peoples . . . a
people which will be fertile ground for the rise of the super-man.”
These ideas represent Ahad Ha'Am’s concept of Israel’s selection
and its mission. To him the chosen people is not specially privi­
leged, but as a prophet people it is specially obligated In the
transvaluation from Nietzsche’s super-man to the super-people,
we perceive an intimation of the writer’s consistent stress upon the
ascendancy of society over the individual.
One specific aspect of Israel’s dedication to absolute justice is
the idea of Messianism, the fulfillment of that act of Justice by
which the people will be restored to their rightful place. Through
faith in our ultimate restoration we express the conviction that in
Judaism redemption applies primarily to the group, and not to the
individual. Our national consciousness is identified with faith in
the ultimate return to Palestine. That is why so much commen­
tary was written on biblical law. Ahad Ha‘Am quotes from the
Sifre, “Though I exile you from the land, be diligent in the
mitzvot
,
so that when you return, you will not have new ones.” Without
this future hope, the Torah is doomed.
The second factor in Judaism which requires preservation is our
national culture, of which one of the elements is the Hebrew
language. Without an adequate language, our writers will con­
tinue to be deficient in original ideas and in coping with general
problems. Only through a revived literature can we attain self-
knowledge. Jewish culture, because of the Diaspora, is ambiguous.
Many Jews contribute exclusively to world culture, while many
Christians specialize in Jewish lore. Even many Jews who write
on Jewish themes do not fully contribute to Jewish culture because
they do not write in Hebrew.
Too, we lack Hebrew works on nineteenth-century Judaism and
on the Bible. “The source of our national spirit is the Bible, and
if good days are yet in store for Israel, the prophets will rise again