Page 103 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

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e itlin
origin of Shabuot as an oath to Noah. One cannot regard the
tannaitic explanation of Shabuot (on
Sivan) as the “Day of the
Revelation,” as being similar to the description in the Bible (with
out a date) or in Jubilees (which puts Shabuot in the middle
of the month).
In like manner, Zeitlin demonstrated the interesting difference
terms which have often been
regarded as synonymous. The former, according to Zeitlin, refers
to one who voluntarily changed his faith; the latter to one who
was forced to adopt another religion under coercion. Such careful
distinctions, he insists in his writings, reflect upon the whole
concept of the Halakhah, which to him is the basis of all Jewish
living. Hence one must be conversant with the development of
Halakhah to understand Jewish history.
One of his volumes that has made deep impact and reveals the
perspectives of communal inter-relationship is his
Religious and
Secular Leadership.
It deals with the conflict of religious and
secular forces for leadership, from earliest times to the present day.
As usual, the treatment is replete with original ideas and inter-
pretations. He presents Saadia, Rashi and Maimonides as proto-
types of Jewish leadership in the Diaspora. Saadia and Rashi
considered Jews as a religious community; hence leadership should
avouch spiritual authority. Maimonides, however, held that leader-
ship should be vested in a secular leader, an exilarch. Rashi was
responsible for the institution of the Rabbinate as an official office.
Saadia was responsible for the supremacy of Babylonian hegemony
over Palestine. According to Saadia, Jews were to be united under
religious leadership; they were a people only because of Torah.
On the Halakhah of the Tannaim
Zeitlin’s studies of the Halakhah of the tannaim have not been
academic “papers.” They have served as a “Philosophy of History”
and have set forth many principles of Judaism. He insists that the
“chain of Jewish tradition cannot be broken.” Hence he voices
the hope that the State of Israel will adopt the pattern of the
sages of the Second Commonwealth by enacting laws in consonance
with life and that the Synagogue should eschew involvement in
political struggles. Zeitlin invokes the history of the Pharisees and
the Second Commonwealth as authority and precedent that religi-
ous leaders should not interfere in political matters, nor secular
leaders interfere in religion. He demonstrates many parallels
between the Second Commonwealth and the present State of
Israel. Thus, in his Introduction to his
magnum opus, The Rise
and Fall of the Judaean State
, he writes: “It is of historical interest
to make a parallel of the emergence of the Second Commonwealth