Page 106 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
tianity, as a rationalistic religion, a religion befitting the age o f
En ligh tenm en t. Some o f the H aska lah writings seem to be
apologetic, to be sure; others, however, were motivated by deep
pride in the Jewish heritage.
Internally, the Hebrew
maskilim
desired to create a dialogue
with the traditionalist rabbis in o rd e r to in troduce certain changes
into Judaism in o rd e r to make it viable. They sought to shield
Juda ism and Jews from the social and cultural trends tha t were
cu rren t in Eu rope in the period o f Enlightenment. T he end o f
passivity which characterized the ideology o f Haskalah stemmed
not only from the belief o f the
maskilim
in the urgency o f social
emancipation fo r the Jew in Europe , bu t more im po rtan tly
perhaps from the ir striving for cultural emancipation as well.
It appears as though the
maskilim
rejected
not
the exclusiveness
o f the Jews o f the ir time bu t the ir seclusiveness. They wanted to
create a modern synthesis o f Jewish and Western cu lture, while
retaining the ir un ique Jewish identity. This by no means implied
assimilation, as advocated by some o f the more ex treme German
Jewish enlighteners. T h e Hebrew
maskilim
desired to free the
Jews from the ir ghetto mentality, and to in troduce them to the
mainstream o f European society and culture.
T he Hebrew Haskalah envisioned a new social o rd e r in which
the Jews were to be equal partners in European society, sharing
actively in its affairs. T he
maskilim
rejected the notion o f Jewish
anomaly resu lting from a
galut
cond ition . They advoca ted
broadening the horizons o f the Jews, and removing the shackles
o f
galut
mentality, thus reawakening in the people a yearn ing for
the glories o f the past.
Consequently, it appears tha t the
maskilim
began to view the
idea o f
ge’ulah,
or redemp tion , in a more practical fashion. While
not denying messianic hopes, the
maskilim
advocated an end to
passivity in this rega rd as well. They channelled the Jews’ yea rn ­
ing for redemp tion into the spheres o f humanism. T he hope o f
national redem p tion outside of the Eu ropean continent, namely,
the re tu rn o f the Jews to Erez Yisrael, was an idea tha t was yet to
come. The
maskilim
still endeavored to solve the Jewish problem
within the Eu ropean context.
T h e sum total o f this change o f attitude and dem and fo r action
was a self-scrutiny, a self-assessment on the p a r t o f th
emaskilim.
It
implied a critical app roach to the heritage o f the past coupled