Page 184 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
destiny o f Jewry to exhibit intellectual discipline and spiritual
integrity, at the periodic cost o f martyrdom . Thus , Jewish his­
tory demonstrated tha t a people could maintain a national iden ­
tity without a land and a state by means o f its social and in­
tellectual life alone, “the people as thinker, stoic, and su ffe re r”
endu r ing in conditions which no o the r nation had been able
to confron t and yet survive.
Dubnow’s conception in this essay was notably influenced by
Graetz, but there are distinctive Dubnovian notes to be heard .
In the section entitled “a philosophical-historical synthesis,”
Dubnow summarized his views o f the dynamic processes at work
in Jewish history. In biblical days, the people was diverted by
its leaders from a natural inclination to assimilate to the behav­
ior, attitudes, and standards o f neighboring peoples. Made con­
scious o f its collective task by the prophets, encoun te r with alien
civilizations fu r th e r sharpened the moral sensibility o f Judaism
and its universal worldview. T h e essence o f Judaism was uni-
versalist, but universal concerns must sometimes be de fe rred
for the sake o f the nation’s survival. The ceremonial law was
one tested means o f national self-preservation, as was the “cap­
italization o f the accumulated treasuries o f the sages” in the
redacted Talmud . T h e people may have had to re trea t to an
intense inward-directed life in o rd e r to preserve the founda ­
tions o f its unity, bu t in more felicitous periods it was able to
engage in general philosophy and science without self-betrayal.
Suggestively, whereas Graetz’s conception o f the spiritual re ­
tained a sense o f absolute divine Providence, Dubnow restricted
the spiritual to the hum an will as manifested in h istory .10 T h e
historical longevity o f the Jewish people was due to the streng th
o f its national will-to-live, not to any transcenden t divine force
o r mission. For Graetz, the practices o f Judaism were pa r t o f
its essence along with its beliefs; for Dubnow, the beliefs and
practices o f Judaism (including the mysticism tha t Graetz
10. On the development o f Graetz’s views on Judaism and the Jews, see Samuel
Ettinger, “Judaism and the History o f the Jews according to Graetz” [in
Hebrew], in Heinrich Graetz,
Darkei ha-Historiyah ha-Yehud.it [Essays, Memoirs,
Letters]
(Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1969), pp. 7-36; especially on the concept
o f Providence, pp. 10, 15. Dubnow’s concept o f will is reflected in his re­
mark, “The flames issuing from the funeral pile on which martyrs die a
heroic death for their ideas, are, in their way, as awe-inspiring as the flame
from Sinai’s height” (
Voskhod
, October-November 1892), p. 123.