Page 144 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
premeditated, worldliness, remains no less valid in this group as
well. Jabotinsky’s perception of the awkwardly pathetic, defen­
sive, ingratiating and exhibitionist behavior of “emancipated”
Jews is razor sharp. Only Jews, he suggests, could deem it appro­
priate to “apologize” academically for the heinous blood-libel —
as if this sickness of the Gentile mind was, in actuality, the fault of
the Jews.
“Qui s ’excuse s ’accuse,”
he warned. He was cha r­
acteristically irate about the myth ofJews being cowards and poor
soldiers. But he could also waste no words with the sizable number
of Jews who in 1910 were asking: “Why is it forbidden for us to
convert, if we are barred from professions, etc.?” Jabotinsky’s
retort: “It is precisely this innate ability of the human being to feel
inner disgust, precisely this intuitive feeling for things which are
holy and for intangible (unweighable) restraints, which creates
what we call decency,
sittlicher Ernst.”
Whoever lacks this feeling
should not be surprised if he encounters public contempt.
A more subtle observation concerns “the peculiar phenome­
non” that at Russian literary gatherings, receptions for Russian
authors and all such public affairs, there seems to be a ludicrously
high proportion of Jews. Jabotinsky refuses to accept the self-
congratulatory theory that Jews are the best writers, the only true
intellectuals, or the like. It is more likely, he ventures, that the real
Russian intelligentsia withdraws politely from these public func­
tions once the Jews have become too numerous at them. Now,
Jewish intellectuals do not have to be overly upset over this mild
manifestation of anti-Semitism, but, at the same time, let them not
delude themselves into thinking that they alone are the best and
the brightest. And let them not forget that they are, all the while,
serving as the
klezmer
(musicians) at somebody else’s
simhah.”
In this general vein, the Passover Seder provides the scenario
for a clever homiletical comment. In Jabotinsky’s view the “wise
son” deserves the following explanation, which pivots on two
verses from the Bible story of Egyptian servitude. He reads the
verse “For all shepherds are an abomination to the Egyptians” as a
stratagem
used by Joseph to convince Pharaoh to take in the
Israelites. Shepherding was a distasteful, yet necessary, activity.
What better solution for the ancient Eygptians (or for medieval
Gentile society in need of money-lending) than to bring in Jews to
perform the “abomination?” Once the Gentiles had learned their
various skills from the Jews, it was no surprise to find them
invoking the second verse, “Look, the Israelite people are much