Page 98 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
subject titles attest to the fundamental otherness o f Jewish
thought in this period when contrasted with that of the middle
ages. Thought systems are examined with meticulous attention to
historic detail, corroborative sources and bio-bibliographic refer­
ences. This work can be described as a cumulative record o f the
search for self-identity by the Jewish people in the post­
emancipation era, a valuable instrument for comprehending the
ramifications of Jewish discourse in our times.
The second volume of this
History,
currently being readied for
publication, will offer expositions of Jewish thought in the 20th
century, including materials previously published in connection
with the author’s views on the evolving culture of Israel.
ON SCHOLEM
Schweid’s incisive critique o f Gershom Scholem’s studies
regarding Jewish mysticism is of considerable interest. To be
sure, he acknowledges Scholem’s seminal achievements in
researching the subject as a creative expression of religiosity.
However, he questions the conclusion that mysticism is a neces­
sary stage in the development of every religion, allegedly endeav­
oring to retain the consciousness of Divine-human unity. In Jud a ­
ism, according to Scholem, mysticism functions to elaborate the
meaning of the mitzvot, and to interpret history as reflecting
Divine providence, thus constituting the basic manifestation of
Jewish spirituality. O ther aspects o f creativity in Judaism —
halakhah, medieval and modern Jewish thought, even Zionism
— Scholem considers “inferior” as expressions of religious vital­
ity. Schweid disagrees regarding the above interpretations. He
points out that the original flowering of religiosity in Judaism —
prophetic religion as set forth in the Bible — does not incline
towards mysticism, although some biblical texts are couched in
the language of the mystics. Observance of the mitzvot, not mys­
tical experience, constitutes the primary expression o f religiosity,
as well as its reservoir of vitality, in the Torah and in rabbinic
Judaism.
Schweid further questions Scholem’sjudgment as to the role of
Sabbateanism in Jewish history. He criticizes also Scholem’s pro­
nounced tendency to underestimate the positive function of the
“Wissenschaft des Juden tum s” (Scientific Study of Judaism) and