Page 149 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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143
H
oltz
— H
illel
Z
e itl in
representative assembly be convened to resolve the present spirit-
ual crisis. He hoped to reawaken the collective will and to
deepen Jewish national consciousness. By redeeming the Jewish
spirit from its languor it could retrieve the ancient splendor
and vitality.
Although staunchly advocating intensive Jewish educational
programs and the formation of voluntary, non-partisan groups
of devotees to the study and strict observance of
m itzvot,
Zeitlin
opposed coercion as a means to religious conformity. He re-
peatedly underscored the principle that religion in general, and
Judaism in particular, was a matter of conviction and persuasion.
Force and compulsion led to mechanical ritualism and perfunc-
tory pietism which ought never be considered as true standards.
Each individual has to nurture his own sense of the sublime
as a prerequisite for true religion and its sister disciplines poetry
and music. Genuine soul searching, coupled with contemplation
of the world’s horrors, will ready him for compassion towards
his fellow man and love of God. However, Zeitlin often cau-
tioned that this emphasis on the individual should not be
construed as meaning that the Torah was not to influence the
public domain. On the contrary, he yearned for the day when
unfeigned Torah Judaism would affect every aspect of Jewish
society. He never desisted from attacking the “self-styled saints”
who, while viewing themselves and their cohorts as “the true
believers,” related to all others as wicked apostates. Since no
one can be certain that he is closest to God, any categorization
of Jews into “believers” and “non-believers,” “religious” and
“non-religious,” was specious and absurd3.
On the Destiny of the Jewish Nation
Possessed by a boundless adoration for “every Shmuel, Hayyim
and Itche Meir” and with sympathy for their plight, he zeal-
ously maintained his folkist and territorialist stand despite tur-
bulent opposition from opposing groups. These positions he re-
peated were never to be taken as anti-Zionism. Contrariwise,
his religious posture firmly grounded in Jewish sacred texts did
not permit him to forget that Zion as the exclusive site for the
redeemed people was inextricably associated with Israel’s pro-
phetic and apocalyptic visions. Nevertheless, he felt that the
exigencies of Jewish colonization projects in Eretz Yisrael, about
which he learned at first hand during a most exhilirating visit
in 1925, hindered its becoming the exclusive haven for the myr­
8
Der Moment,
May 18, 1912, p. 3; Oct. 15, 1915, p. 3; Mar. 28, 1924, and
Mar. 20, 1931, p. 4.