Page 21 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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H
oen ig
— I
srael
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N
ew
H
istor iography
15
in the hands of Jewish savants, brought about a complete reac­
tion as a result of the establishment of the state of Israel. Not
only were translations of these works produced, but, more im­
portant, it was felt that these masterpieces had originally
belonged to the Jewish people and hence should be returned to
their own sphere. The desire to give specific Jewish interpretation
to these works which had always been covered with a christo-
logical veil was, therefore, most urgent. I t resulted in a resurg­
ence of the deep study of the Second Temple era, with a throb­
bing impact on the scholastic recognition of the new Jewish
state.
Moreover, the recognition that the period of the Second Com­
monwealth laid the foundations for rabbinic Judaism—which
virtually is
present-day
Judaism—spurred a more profound inves­
tigation of the early rabbinic works in an historic critical manner.
Thus the restudy of the Mishnah by Hanoch Albeck was not
mere devotional or religious discipline; it became a new inves­
tigation into history and its sources. In the same manner J. N.
Epstein and Yitzhak F. Baer produced their distinctive volumes.
Not forgetting the Nazi holocaust on the other hand, many
scholars, in a manner reliving history or aiming to reinterpret
the problems of existence in the face of catastrophe, began to
devote special attention to a re-analysis of the expulsion from
Spain (Ephraim Shmueli), of the Messianic concept (Aharon
Eshkoli, also previously J. Klausner), and the impact of mysti­
cism (Gershom Shalom). Others wrote on the history of Polish
Jewry (Yehiel Halpern), but basically all these volumes revealed
an inner disturbance. They were the products of the natural
impact of the new state as it emerged from the horrors of the
crematoria.
The establishment of Israel also inspired a determined study
of the geography of the land and the archaeology of the Bible
and of the post-biblical era. These studies were not mere con­
coctions stewed in an academic ivory tower. They became rather
the expression of the very life-blood of the Jewish people and
their aspirations, the re-living of the past. Hence these volumes
gained singular value and importance.
To choose ten or fifteen volumes of this productive era for
review and evaluation would be a most difficult task. Neverthe­
less, those selected reveal more than others the intrinsic contri­
bution of the historians of the past seventeen years.
Prime recognition comes to Yehezkel Kaufmann’s
History of
Jewish Religion,
which established the unique place of mono­
theism and Judaism in the development of universal idealistic
concepts. The chapters dealing with the return from the Exile
are of special interest. They depict the manner of Israel’s rejuve­