Page 91 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

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85
G
rayzel
— G
raetz
s
S
truc tur ing
o f
H
istory
cherished every scholar no matter how petty, and sought out
every philosopher no matter how unoriginal. But as a 19th-
century rationalist, he could not see that mysticism and legalism
were also means of studying and applying the religious ideal. He,
in fact, felt that Kabbala and Hasidism obscured rather than
clarified the desirable rational and studious approach to life.
He had little that was favorable to say about the Jews of eastern
Europe, in large measure because he blamed them for having
yielded to what he considered the obscurantist manifestations
of Jewish life.
At the same time there was another and perhaps even more
cogent reason why he disparaged the East European experience.
He neglected it, as he neglected the economic factor, because of
difficulties inherent in research in that day. Like Jost before him,
he labored under the great disadvantage of being a pioneer in
his field. The source material they had at hand was meager
compared to what came into being in the two or three subsequent
generations; but for western Europe it could at least be uncovered
and interpreted, whereas for eastern Europe it was almost
completely unavailable.
The same was true in the area of economics. Even Simon
Dubnow, Graetz’s great successor as historian of the Jewish
people who wrote some fifty years later than he, underplayed
economic history, presumably because little had been written on
the subject. It is a curious fact that Jewish researchers, of all
people, should have neglected this aspect of Jewish history and
that so few monographs in this area have been produced during
the very years when economic thought played such an important
role in historical interpretation. The fault may stem from the
fact that Jewish historians have been recruited largely from
among rabbis and philologians. In any event, Graetz’s conception
of economics as a factor in history was most inadequate.
The Problem of Synchronologizing
Quite apart from areas of concern and personal likes and dis-
likes, Graetz's
History
suffers from a difficulty characteristic of
Jewish history in general. The problem is what one might call
“synchronologizing.” How is one to deal with a scattered people
without losing sight of its unity as well as of its participation in
the on-going life of a variety of nations and civilizations? Graetz
used a purely chronological method. He lumped into a single
chapter all experiences of the Jewish people—political, social,
intellectual, cultural, religious—that occurred in the various lands
of the dispersion. This method results in a certain disjointedness
in his discussion, since the reader has little more than a date on
which to hang his rapid-fire impressions. Dubnow adopted the