Page 101 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

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NASH / AHAD HA*AM: WORDSMITH AND MORAL FORCE
91
gards him as guilty of deadly sin.” Even in this ascetic view of
study
the sympathetic ear will detect, between the lines, the appre­
hension, the trembling anxiety for the future of a wandering
people which has nothing to call its own but a Book, and for
which any attachment to the land of its sojourn means mor­
tal danger. (Bialik, “Halakhah and Aggadah”)
Uncompromising single-mindedness and seriousness character­
ize so many aspects of Ahad Ha'am’s work. His well-wrought se­
ries of analogies in “Priest and Prophet” drives home the idea
that in physics, astronomy, psychology and life, as a whole, only
an unrelenting and unveering force can exert any influence what­
soever. For Ahad Ha'am and his fraternity of followers, Sons of
Moses, the rabbinic characterization of their hero Moses, “Let
justice pierce the mountain,” was the keynote. “Do not show
favoritism in judgment to a poor man” epitomized for Ahad
Ha'am the sternness of a view of Judaism which leaves no room
for softness or mercy. (“Between Two Alternatives”) The purely
lyrical or lighthearted had no place in his province either as
editor or theologian. (“The Platform of
Ha-Shilloah
”) Reason
was his tyrant, ascetic rigor his watchword.
And yet this same man, when he waxed emotional, did so as
if under high compression. His was a personality that eschewed
sentimentalism; hence, his peaks of enthusiasm are convincing
and memorable. Like his stern spiritual forebears, Moses and
Moses ben Maimon, his love had to surface under constraint,
between the lines. It was that same unwitting explosion of sen­
timent he attributed to Maimonides. (“Supremacy of the Intel­
lect”) The perfect creature of reason and self-discipline becomes
possessed by the dumb unconscious thrust of the folk to sur­
vive. In a little known satire, “Withered Pages,” Ahad Ha'am
celebrates “Abraham the Dunce,” a village simpleton who runs
headlong towards an unachievable goal. This man represented
for Ahad Ha'am “in the course of time . . . a great ideal in the
spheres of will and deed.”
WHY REMAIN JEWISH IN THIS WORLD?
Hence we indeed see that for Ahad Ha'am unreflective instinct
merges mysteriously with stern rationality and sobriety. Why