Page 114 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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108
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
What is unique about Jewish history in the context of the
general history of mankind is, in Baron’s view, that the Jews
have been from their beginnings the bearers of a messianic
religion of universal importance. Other peoples have an existence
which is rooted in space, on their ancestral soil, and they tend
to die when they are exiled. The Jews have outlived the trauma
of exile because their history was always characterized, even in
the glorious period of the Kings, by the presence of a diaspora.
Jewish culture is essentially religious, and this culture has created
a community which is prepared to exist not in space but in time.
In his twenties Baron was a student in Vienna and later an
academic colleague of Zvi Hirsch Chajes, the famous rabbi and
eminent scholar of that community, who was a passionate and
convinced Zionist. Baron has followed in the footsteps of his
teacher by affirming Zion, both in practice and in his historical
theory. He emphasizes that the apexes of Jewish creativity have
occurred in the homeland, but he is equally conscious of the
grandeur of Babylonian Jewry, of the great Spanish Jews, of the
various Ashkenazic centers and, indeed, of all the various com­
munities which together make up the roll of the Diaspora. Baron
tends to approach the various aspects of his subject without pre­
conceived praise or blame. His stance is that of seeing value in
every kind of Jewish community and in every variety of Jewish
expression.
Though Baron’s outlook on history is, in the technical sense,
idealistic (i.e. he sees the bearer of Jewish history as the religious
idea), he knows perhaps better than anyone in this generation of
historical scholarship that ideas are incarnate in human beings
and in their activities, which means in a community. The hard
facts of social life include the work not only of scholars and rabbis
but also of peddlers, businessmen, factions struggling for control
—of the whole host of people, in all their varieties, who go to
make up a society.
In his seventieth year, Salo Baron continues to work with
undiminished vigor. One can only conclude with the wish and
confident hope that he may continue to do so for many years
to come.