Page 143 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

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KATSH / ZALMAN SHAZAR
133
his party work. A picture of Rubashov is portrayed by Gershom
Scholem:
To me he appeared as a messenger who descended from distant
places, from a world of a vital Jewry, to revitalize the dry bones of
German Jewry.5
It was Shazar, then engaged in spreading Borochov’s reconcilia­
tion of socialism and Zionism, who nurtured Scholem’s interest
in Shabbatai Zvi, an interest later to blossom into a whole field
of scholarship.
THE PULL BETWEEN POL IT ICS AND SCHOLARSHIP
The pull—the fatal pull—between frenetic public political ac­
tivity and the unhurried calm of private scholarship prevented
Shazar from fulfilling his hope to write a history of biblical
criticism and of the Shabbatai Zvi movement. His researches in­
spired others and galvanized his own world view. Contrary to
Dubnow and Graetz, he brilliantly exposed the central role of
the Return to Zion in the civil and religious life of the Jews,
thereby transforming the Shabbatai Zvi heresy into a dramatic
and central event. The Jews had flocked to Shabbatai Zvi’s
banner because he promised redemption, heralded by a return
to Zion. Reviewing Shazar’s article on the false Messiah in the
Russian
Jewish Encyclopedia,
his old roommate and close friend
from the Baron Ginzberg’s Academy, Professor Solomon Zeitlin,
wrote penetratingly:
I saw in it the youthful Rubashov of our student days. His burning
passion for the land of Israel and his imagination and yearning for
the return of the Jews to their ancestors were evident in every word
he wrote. The central point of his article was not so much the man
Shabbatai Zvi but the aspiration and hope of the people for a
Messiah. The hope of redemption from misery and of return to
their homeland. . . .6
Had the idea of the return not been deeply embedded in the
Jews of the 17th century (as it was in the Jews of Steibtz), the
appeal of Shabbatai Zvi would have fallen on deaf ears. False
messianism was a deformation of the true messianic ideal, a
5 “My Youth in the Company of Shazar,”
Zer le-Gevurot, op. cit.,
p. 21.
6 “My Friend Shazar,”
ibid.