Page 83 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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P
arzen
— T
h e
C
en t en a r y
o f
a
B
ook
77
were apparently not involved in the struggle for emancipation
nor in the drive for enlightenment. Accordingly, his childhood
was spent in the shelter of the typical traditional Jewish home.
When Hess was eight years old, his parents moved to Cologne
where he was left in the care of his grandfather, Nathan, a
learned man, a
musmakh,
who earned his living from a trade.
References in the book indicate that he imbued the lad with
respect for learning, with reverence for the Jewish heritage and
with love for the Jewish people and the Holy Land. Moses
received a wholesome traditional upbringing and was inspired
by the personality and piety of his grandfather.
The obtruding pressures of modernism would, however, not be
denied. At eighteen Hess enrolled at the University of Bonn.
So far as we know, he did not take a degree; but he assimilated
its dominant intellectual influences, with the result that he was
swept into the current social whirlpool and became a partisan
radical. Since the father did not approve of his son’s social pro­
clivities, their relations became strained. The family link was
utterly severed with his marriage, in 1840, to a non-Jewess of
unsavory reputation who, nevertheless, proved a patient and
helpful wife.
Now unrestrained, he plunged into the world of his choice
and became one of its leading personalities. Even during these
hectic years, his Jewishness was momentarily awakened by the
Damascus ritual murder affair. He has recorded in his book: “I
wanted to express my Jewish patriotism in a cry of anguish, but
it was unfortunately stifled in my heart by a greater pain which
the suffering of the European proletariat evoked in me.”3 His
stifled sentiments reawakened, however, as a result of his studies
in Paris. This renascent Jewish consciousness is vividly expressed
in
Rome and Jerusalem.
This is a small, compact book. The main text consists of
twelve letters to a friend, followed by an “Epilogue” of six small
chapters amplifying certain philosophical and historical subjects
which would otherwise mar the unity of the work. The final
section comprises ten “Notes” elucidating Jewish theological and
contemporaneous questions.
Nationalism with a Religious Overtone
In essence this book advocates a third trend in Jewish life
—nationalism with a religious overtone. “The ‘new’ Jew who
decries 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.”4
8 P. 68.
4
P. 62.