Page 95 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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in a given situation will ultimately tend in the direction of “good­
ness.” Thus the patriarch Abraham chose to believe in the prom­
ise vouchsafed unto him in the vision of the “Covenant Between
the Parts” (Gen. 15:6), that he would become the father of a great
nation although at the moment he did not have any offspring!
Irrespective of whether the saga of the vision is comprehended as
myth or factual event, it conveys a new religious worldview with
which the founder ofJudaism entered the arena of world history.
In the pagan tradition that prevailed in Abraham’s cultural envi­
ronment, man could not make decisions on his own initiative. He
was considered shackled in all his actions and aspirations by pre­
determ ined and predeterm in ing fate. The text relating that
Abraham believed implies that he rejected paganism, opting
instead for freedom of thought, of conscience and of action. This
was a revolutionary milestone on man’s road towards ethical
progress. Schweid weaves this midrash of evolving faith into
other narratives in Genesis while making use of philosophic and
psychological insights not heretofore encountered in any of the
exegetical schools.
Prof. Schweid’s views on Zionism are recorded comprehen­
sively in his
Mi-Yahdut le-Zionut umi-Zionut le-Yahadut
Between Judaism and Zionism, Jerusalem, 1973), a collection of
essays published during the past decade. The very title reflects
the author’s point of view that Zionism should be understood as
an authentic manifestation o f Judaism and its regenerative
potential. Regrettably, according to the author’s evaluation, ideo­
logues of the movement prior to the establishment of the State
thought otherwise. They limited its scope to two major objectives:
1. political activity to promote the idea of Jewish national home­
land; and 2. reclamation of the land for Jewish settlement. Ques­
tions pertaining to the spiritual and cultural image of the home­
land were not seriously dealt with. Israel is now paying a heavy
price for this neglect, while the Zionist movement is at a loss to
define its role and establish a raison d ’etre for its continued exist­
ence. Schweid’s insightful contributions in this volume, based
upon his deep knowledge of Jewish history, revolve around the
concept of “Shelilat ha-Golah” (the negation of the Diaspora)
which questions the viability of Jewish creative survival anywhere