Page 180 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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1 7 2
the second period, between the 6th-century B.C.E. re tu rn to
Zion and the destruction o f the Second Temple. T hen , in the
struggle to define itself against pagan Hellenism, Judaism be­
comes a religion in the common theological sense, as indicated
by the doctrines o f the resurrec tion o f the dead and o f the
World to Come given official stamp by the Pharisees. When
the Jewish commonwealth was destroyed in 70 C.E., the mes­
sianic principle maintained the unity o f the political and reli­
gious dimensions o f Judaism and offered hope o f ultimate na­
tional revival.
It fell to medieval Judaism to attain philosophical clarity
th rough encoun tering refined and rigorous metaphysical sys­
tems. It was the task o f modern Judaism , since the late 18th
century, to master the rational implications o f its praxis — its
halakhic and ritual practice — and o f its millennial historical
development. T h e last lines o f Graetz’s youthful essay h inted
that in a renewed Jewish commonwealth all the dimensions o f
Judaism would achieve actualization.
This scheme provided the backbone for the
Geschichte der
that b rough t to life the panoram ic jou rney o f the people
th rough time. T h e ancient period has its dram a o f alternating
high and low points, victories and defeats, heroes and villains,
but Graetz’s
tour de force
was to presen t a narrative o f the me­
dieval era o f Jewish history, century by century, full o f d ram a
and passion (ra ther than area by area, as Dubnow was to do).
Jewish history in the Middle Ages was a two-fold epic unlike
that o f any o the r people: it was an ennobling
“a history o f suffering to a degree and over a length o f time
such as no o the r people has experienced ,” and a comprehensive
“a literary history o f religious knowledge,
which yet remains open to all the cu rren ts o f science, absorbing
and assimilating them .” History demonstrated the intensity o f
Jewish devotion to learning and rational though t and the pe­
riodic testing o f Jewish faith to the point o f martyrdom . “In ­
qu iring and wandering, thinking and endu r ing , studying and
suffering — these fill the long stretches o f this e ra .”2 T h rough
2. From the introd. to Vol. 4 as cited in Michael A. Meyer (ed.),
Ideas o fJewish
(New York: Behrman House, 1974), pp. 229-230.