Page 82 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
cultures to our own use proved stimulating, for it impelled us to
greater efforts at outdoing our neighbors. The Arabic period in
Jewish history furnishes a good example. Thus the way for
national strength lies neither in spiritual isolationism nor in utter
defection from Jewish culture, but in “competitive adaptation”
(Hikuy shel hitharut).
Ahad Ha‘Am resorts to a drastic device
to indicate the efficacy of this view. His conversion of the anti­
social superman idea into a concept of the moral superiority of the
Jewish people reveals how even Nietzsche can be welded to the
Jewish spirit. His device is truly syncretistic; he creates a blending
of universalism and particularism through the Jewish nation’s
adoption of a universal task. He also points out that those Jews,
who would attempt to force Judaism into a literal strait-jacket of
the superman idea, are reducing it to just another chauvinism.
Ahad Ha'Am’s third paradox concerns itself with the nation
and the individual. He begins with the statement that there is
but one objective in the Torah — the success of Israel in its land.
There is no concern with individual happiness. The individual is
but a segment of the group; the good it derives is also his reward.
The peoplehood of Israel is an endless chain through the genera­
tions. The individuals who come and go are fragments of the
whole, in no way altering the essential unity of the group.
The individual found compensation in the strengthening of his
social consciousness. He considered himself a part of society, not
an isolated entity. He saw the purpose of existence to be the
perpetuation of the group. Death meant making room for others
who would renew the group and prevent its stagnation. But why
must the group survive? Here Ahad Ha‘Am summarizes his entire
outlook — it is that Israel, consecrated for the task, shall be an
example to humanity through the Torah.
Only with the collapse of our national fortunes, when group
success could no longer inspire the people, did the individual begin
to turn inward and seek personal happiness. Personal religion and
the idea of retribution developed. Nevertheless, the national
consciousness persisted. It became, however, secondary to the
idea of personal salvation, and eventually was completely over­
shadowed by it.
Unfortunately, Zionist leaders, out of an urge for easy success,
have appealed to the personal economic needs of their fellow-Jews.
As a result, when the economically motivated converts discover
the stern realities of Palestinian life, they become u tterly dis­
illusioned. The personal interests which impelled them toward
Zionism, now repel them. “This is not the way.” We must plant