Page 144 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
national redemption heralding a universal redemption. This is
the “end of days” of Isaiah’s vision, not an end of history but
an end to the days of man’s suffering and human aberration.
In Shazar’s view, the messianic idea wras one of the most sig­
nificant contributions of Judaism. Man’s lot on earth could be
improved significantly through his own efforts. Jewish messian-
ism had been soiled in the past by demagogery, uncontrolled
ecstasies and lack of concrete plans. This must not happen to
Zionism. The next messianic era could be ushered in successfully
only if the Jewish people were united in their determination to
create a
just
commonwealth in the land of Israel.
This profound sense of Jewish history and destiny, buttressed
by a strong belief in Labor Zionism as the instrument for the
Return to Zion, enabled Zalman Shazar to remain optimistic in
the face of the worst disasters. By the time he was thirty, the
institutions of his formal education—the
heder,
the yeshivah
and Baron Ginsberg’s famous academy—had dissolved in war
and revolution. At the age of fifty and helpless in Palestine, he
witnessed the extermination of six million Jews—including his
beloved Steibtz—and the obliteration of the thousand year-old
Jewish civilization in Europe. But Zalman Shazar did not de­
spair; he belonged to that fortunate generation before the First
World War, whose outlook was nurtured by invincible moral
verities.
Zalman Shazar was simultaneously Zionist, hasid,
maggid
and
socialist. The Return to Zion as the ultimate destiny of the Jews
was as natural to him as breathing. He was a hasid in his devo­
tion to the sheer joy of being Jewish; he was a socialist in his
devotion to the welfare of the “pintele Yid”; he was a
maggid
in his splendid capacity to express the yearning of his people
and to ignite passionate allegiance. Perhaps Zalman Shazar’s
legendary absent-mindedness and apparent lack of order derived
from the inner stress of welding these characteristics into an
effective personality. In any event, his mind was frequently oc­
cupied with the past and the future, the present serving only as
an unhappy interlude.
Shazar vowed that the Zionist movement must not fail for
want of historic guidance and he felt himself uniquely qualified
to ensure that the “holy vessels” of the Jews returned to Zion
with them. This determination informed the many posts he