Page 81 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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POLISH ----INTELLECTUAL WORLD OF AHAD HA‘AM
73
festation in which the “humanity of every people is revealed in
accordance with its mode of life, needs and history . . . (Uni­
versalism) is the general and internal spirit from which are derived
the products for group life in all their forms; and (nationalism) is
the external aspect, different in each people/’ Both complement
rather than oppose each other. They are represented, respectively,
by writers and by men of action. The latter are concerned with
the external life of the people and correct it by direct action without
scrutinizing too closely the spirit of the people. External change
eventually alters the people’s internal spirit. The writers, however,
must change the people’s spirit from within. When this is accom­
plished, the “improved ‘humanity’ will suddenly burst outward,
and will of itself destroy with one stroke the old external forms it
can no longer bear.”
An historical example of the compatibility of the particular and
universal values is found in the prophets of Israel. Because of their
love for their people, they conjured up visions of “ the end of days.”
This seeming paradox was due to the hopeless political position of
Palestine in their day, and to the consequent projection by the
prophets of their most cherished hopes into the future. Thus their
universal ideals stemmed from their national loyalties. Their
universalism was conceived in terms of Israel. They held that
their virions of a moral world could be fulfilled by the resurrection
of Israel on its own soil and not by dispersion. Conversely, they
maintained that the goal of our national revival is moral perfec­
tion, not political power.
All this is applicable to Hebrew literature. In
Haskalah
times
writers were concerned with external changes only. They hoped
to give Jewry a European “front” and to make the Jew “a man in
going forth.” But in going forth, the Jew found he could not be
an abstract man. He had to be either a Pole or a Russian, if not a
Jew. Though the
Haskalah
writers realized this, they used this
device as a subterfuge for drawing their people away from Jewish
values. They stressed the “man in going forth” and neglected the
“Jew in the tent.” The inevitable reaction resulted in a distortion
of Judaism in the opposite direction. The hyper-nationalism of
this reaction produced a Jew as ignoble as the
Haskalah's
“man” .
The new literature forgot humanity. In its zeal to bring the Jew
out into the world, it did not see fit to stress an inner reform.
The concept of “be a man in your tent” was disregarded.
Whenever a balance is struck between Jewish and world culture,
Judaism profits thereby. Our syncretistic powers permitted us to
integrate with our spirit whatever we had borrowed, until it
became part of our national character. This adaptation of other