The return home - Jewish women - The source of the historical religion - Family love - Mater dolorosa.
After an estrangement of twenty years, I am back with my people. I have come to be one of them again, to participate in the celebration of the holy days, to share the memories and hopes of the nation, to take part in the spiritual and intellectual warfare going on within the House of Israel, on the one hand, and between our people and the surrounding civilized nations, on the other; for though the Jews have lived among the nations for almost two thousand years, they cannot, after all, become a mere part of the organic whole.
A thought which I believed to be forever buried in my heart, has been revived in me anew. It is the thought of my nationality, which is inseparably connected with the ancestral heritage and the memories of the Holy Land, the Eternal City, the birthplace of the belief in the divine unity of life, as well as the hope in the future brotherhood of men.
For a number of years this half-strangled thought stirred within my breast and clamored for expression. I lacked the strength to swerve suddenly from my beaten track, which seemed to be so far from the road of Judaism, to a new path which had unfolded itself before me in the hazy distance, in vague and dim outline.
Is it mere chance, that whenever I stand at a new turn in my life, there appears in my path an unhappy woman, who imparts to me daring and courage to travel the unknown road?
Oh, how stupid are those who minimize the value of woman's influence upon the development of Judaism! Was it not said of the Jews, that they were redeemed from Egypt because of the merit of the pious women, and that the future redemption will be brought about through them?
It was only when I saw you in anguish and sorrow that my heart opened and the cover of my slumbering, national feeling was thrown off. I have discovered the fountain whence flows your belief in the eternity of the spirit.
Your infinite soul-sorrow, expressed on the death of one dear to you, brought about my decision to step forth as a champion of the national renaissance of our people. Such love which, like maternal love, flows out of the very life-blood and yet is as pure as the divine spirit; such infinite love for family can have its seat only in a Jewish heart. And this love is the natural source whence springs the higher, intellectual love of God which, according to Spinola, is the highest point to which the spirit can rise. Out of this inexhaustible fountain of family love have the redeemers of humanity drawn their inspiration.
"In thee," says the divine genius of the Jewish family, "shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Every Jew has within him the potentiality of a Messiah and every Jewess that of a Mater dolorosa.
Thoughts on death and resurrection - Family tombs - Kindred souls - Jewish and Hindu saints - Schopenhauer - The end of days - The Sabbath of History.
Both sorrow and joy are contagious. You, my friend, have imbued me with your thoughts on death and resurrection. Heretofore, I have never visited a cemetery, but now the place holds an attraction for me. For the first time, since the untimely death of my mother, I visited the place where she lies buried and where later, during my absence from home, they laid my father to rest. I had forgotten the prayer usually read by Jews over the graves of their departed, and in ignorance my lips murmured the passage from the second of the eighteen benedictions: "Thou, O Lord, art mighty forever, thou restorest the dead to life..." when suddenly I noticed a lone tower on a nearby grave. Mechanically I picked it, carried it home with me and put it among my papers. Only later, I learned whose earthly remains rest beneath that mound. I knew then that the treasure, as you named the flower, belongs to you alone.
There are mystic relations between the living and the dead, though the nature and character of the communion will forever remain an unsolved riddle. More than your wonderful dreams, do my experiences in the waking state confirm the influence that the departed exert on the fate of those who remain behind.
"The departed souls continue to live in spirit."
And therefore do I love also death. But must I then hate life? Nay, I love life as well, only I love it in the sense the greatest thinker of the centuries, Spinoza, loved it. The more humanitarian, the holier, the more divine life is, the more does it appear that life and death are of equal value and equal worth.
The Jews alone were able to rise to that spiritual height, where life and death appear to be of equal value; and yet they never renounced life, but clung to it tenaciously. Already eighteen hundred years ago, a Jew, who has since become a redeemer among the gentiles, found an extra-mundane point of support, from which he wished to lift the world from its poles.
The great teachers of the knowledge of God were always Jews. Our people not only created the noblest religion of the ancient world, a religion which is destined to become the common property of the entire civilized world, but continued to develop it, keeping pace with the progress of the human spirit. And this mission will remain with the Jews until the end of days, i.e., until the time when, according to the promise of our Prophets, the world will be filled with the knowledge of God. The "end of days," so often spoken of by the Prophets, is not to be understood to mean, as some misinterpret it, the end of the world, but it denotes the period when the development and education of humanity will reach their highest point.
We are on the eve of the Sabbath of History and should prepare for our last mission through a thorough understanding of our historical religion.
We cannot understand a single word of the Holy Scriptures, so long as we do not possess the point of view of the genius of the Jewish nation which produced these writing. Nothing is more foreign .to the spirit of Judaism than the idea of the salvation of the individual which, according to the modern conception, is the corner-stone of religion. Judaism has never drawn any line of separation between and the family, the family and the nation, the nation and humanity as a whole, humanity and the cosmos, nor between creation and creator. Judaism has no other dogma but the teaching of the unity. But this dogma is with Judaism, not a mere fossilized and therefore barren belief, but a living, continually recreating principle of knowledge. Judaism is rooted in the love of the family; patriotism and nationalism are the flowers of its spirit, and the coming regenerated state of human Society will be its ripe fruit. Judaism would have shared the fate of other religions which were fossilized through their dogmas and which will finally disappear through the conflict with science, had it not been for the fact that religious teachings are the product of life. Judaism is not a passive religion, but an active life factor which has coalesced with the national consciousness into one organic whole. It is primarily the expression of a nationality whose history for thousands of years coincides with the history of the development of a humanity and the Jews are a nation which, having once acted as the leaven of the social world, is destined to be resurrected with the rest of civilized nations.
Immortality - Rabbi Jochanan - Nachmanides - Messianic travails - Pater noster - Solidarity - The call of France and the rumbling of the reactionaries.
You wonder why it is that there is no mention of the doctrine of immortality in the Old Testament. The Aggadic interpretations of verses, as well as the manipulations of certain Biblical passages by modern Jewish and Christian exegetes, which tend to infer from these verses and passages the belief in immortality, do not satisfy you, and rightly so. You argue that, if Moses and the Prophets had believed in a life beyond the grave, in the Christian sense, they would have stated the fact as explicitly as did the writers of the New Testament, and would not have limited reward and punishment to the life of this world alone. I do not deny the fact that there is no mention of immortality in the Old Testament. But if you reproach our Holy Scriptures for passing over such an important doctrine in silence, you forget the viewpoint of the genius of the Jewish nation which produced these Scriptures. You overlook the point of view of our sacred history, namely, the genetic conception which never separated the individual from the race, the nation from humanity, and the created world from the Creator. You forget that the part of the Sacred Scriptures wherein there is no mention of immortality was written at a time when the Jewish nation was still in existence, and therefore there was no need of a belief in a resurrection. The Jewish belief in immortality is inseparable from the national-humanitarian Messianic idea. "It is only with the coming of the Messiah and the establishing of the Messianic kingdom that the purpose of creation will be accomplished," says R. Jochanan, one of the leading Amoraim. In another statement, he adds, that "all the beautiful visions of the Prophets refer only to the Messianic reign; but as regards the world to come, its character and nature is known to God alone." Even in later Rabbinic Judaism, the Rabbis never separated the idea of a future world from the conception of the Messianic reign. Nachmanides insists; in contradiction to Maimonides; upon the identity of Olam Habba, "the world to come," with the Messianic reign.
There was no necessity for Judaism to emphasize the eternity and indestructibility of the spirit, for its own history is nothing but the embodiment of this idea. It was only when Judaism was threatened with the possibility of national destruction, as early as the end of the period of the first Temple that along with the idea of national destruction and the hope of a national rebirth, there arose also the idea of the immortality of the individual. The Prophet Isaiah already draws a sharp line of distinction between those nations which are doomed to eternal death and Israel who is destined to be resurrected. The momentary death of Israel, the people of the spirit, is only the preliminary stage for a future eternal life. (Isa. xxvi, 14-19.)
Even in primitive Christianity, as long as it did not separate itself completely from Judaism and the historical cult, the Jewish conception still survived, according to which resurrection, the "Kingdom of Heaven," and the "world to come," are identical with the Messianic age, the rebirth of the Jewish nation. The coming of the reign of the spirit is heralded in the Gospels, and also in the famous prayer of Jewish origin, "Pater Noster," "Our Father," as a definite event in the history of the Jews.
Even the latest expression of the Jewish genius concerning life and death, namely, the teaching of Spinola, has nothing in common with the sickly atomistic conception of immortality, a conception which dissolves the unity of life either in a spiritualistic way or in a materialistic manner, and whose highest religious and moral principle is the egoistic maxim, "everyone for himself." No nation was ever so far from this egoistic principle as was the Jewish people. With the Jews, solidarity and social responsibility were always the fundamental principles of life and conduct.
In the Sayings of the Fathers, the rule of bourgeois morality-"everyone for himself"-is severely condemned, and is declared to be a wicked rule of conduct. In the teaching of Spinola, as in the teaching of the Jewish saints, the individual is not treated as a separate entity, but as a part of a whole. According to Spinola, eternity does not begin with our death, but always exists, is always present even as God himself.
Very few, indeed, possess the noble spirit which animated the Jewish saints. Most people are anxious to secure as much immortality as possible for themselves, and for themselves alone. True it is that the "end of days," when the knowledge of God will fill the earth, is still far off; yet we firmly believe that the time will come when the holy spirit of our nation will become the property of humanity and the earth will become a grand temple wherein the spirit of God will dwell. In the Bible, the reign of the spirit is declared to be a future event, and even long afterward people relegated these prophetic visions to the realm of the world to come-"Olam Habba"-and did not connect them with the present life. Spinoza was the first to conceive the reign of the spirit as an existing thing, as a factor in the present life. It is true, the reign of the spirit exists already, but only as a germ of spiritual light. To develop this germ to its fullest possibilities, so that it will create social values, there labor, along with the Jewish people, the most intellectual, moral and creative of modern nations, namely Germany, France and England. These three nations have contributed greatly to the store of civilization, each its distinctive share. Germany has built the road to philosophy France has thrown open to all nations the way to social and political changes and improvements, and has also blazed the path of progress for the natural sciences. England, like Germany, has followed, slowly but surely, her own lead, namely, that of the progress and development of industry.
The Jews felt long ago that the struggle for regeneration waged by the nations, together with France, is their own cause, and have therefore everywhere joined, enthusiastically and voluntarily, the ranks of the followers of the political-social movements. "The time has arrived," says a well-known French democrat to the Jews, "when you should think less of others and more of yourselves, and commence to work for your own regeneration. The latter, however, does not exclude the former. When I labor for the regeneration of my own nation, I do not thereby renounce my humanistic aspiration. The national movement of the present day is only another step on the road of progress which began with the French Revolution. The French nation has, since the great Revolution, been calling to the other nations for help. But the nations have turned a deaf ear to the voice from the distance and have lent a not unwilling ear to the tumult of reaction in their own midst. To-day, this roar deafens only the people in certain parts of Germany, those who, by dint of political trickery, are aroused to the pitch of enthusiasm for the kings and war lords. But the other nations hear and follow the call of France. The call has reached also our ancient nation, and I would unite my voice with that of France, that I may at least warn my racial brothers in Germany against listening to the loud noise of the reactionaries.
German Anti-Semitism - Patriotic romanticists and philosophic book-dealers - Otto Wigand - Berthold Auerbach - Moleschott - Dr. Gallavardin - Reform and Jewish noses - A Photographic picture - Hebrew prayers - Patriotism - My grandfather - Our Mother Rachel - National sorrow - The Black Sabbath
It seems that German education is not compatible with our Jewish national aspirations. Had I not once lived in France, it would never have entered my mind to interest myself with the revival of Jewish nationality. Our views and strivings are determined by the social environment which surrounds us. Every Living, acting people, like every active individual, has its special field. .Indeed, every man, every member of the historical nations, is a. political, or as we say at present, a social animal; yet within this sphere of the common social world, there are special places reserved by Nature for individuals according to their particular calling. The specialty of the German of the higher class, of course, is his interest in abstract thought; and because he is too much of a universal philosopher, it is difficult for him to be inspired by national tendencies. "Its whole tendency," my former publisher, Otto Wigand, once wrote to me, when I showed him an outline of a work on Jewish national aspirations, "is contrary to my pure human nature."
The "pure human nature" of the Germans is, in reality, the character of the pure German race, which rises to the conception of humanity in theory only, but in practice it has not succeeded in overcoming the natural sympathies and antipathies of the race. German antagonism to Jewish national aspiration has a double origin, though the motives are really contrary to each other. The duplicity and contrariety of the human personality, such as we can see in the union of the spiritual and the natural, the theoretical and the practical sides, are in no other nation so sharply marked in their points of opposition as in the German. Jewish national aspirations are antagonistic to the theoretical cosmopolitan tendencies of the German. But in addition to this, the German opposes Jewish national aspirations because of his racial antipathy, from which even the noblest Germans have not as yet emancipated themselves. The publisher, whose "pure human" conscience revolted against publishing a book advocating the revival of Jewish nationality, published books preaching hatred to Jews and Judaism without the slightest remorse, in spite of the fact that the motive of such works is essentially opposed to the "pure human conscience." This contradictory action was due to inborn racial antagonism to the Jews! But the German, it seems, has no clear conception of his racial prejudices; he sees in his egoistic as well as in his spiritual endeavors, not German or Teutonic, but "humanitarian tendencies"; and he does not know that he follows the latter only in theory, while in practice he clings to his egoistic ideas.
Progressive German Jews, also, seem to think that they have sufficient reason for turning away from the Jewish national movement. My dear old friend, Berthold Auerbach, is disappointed with me, just as much as my former publisher, though not on the ground of "pure human conscience." He complains bitterly about my attitude and finally exclaims: "Who appointed you as a prince and judge over us?" It seems that on account of the hatred which surrounds him on all sides, the German Jew is determined to estrange himself from Judaism as far as possible, and endeavors even to deny his race. No reform of the Jewish religion, however extreme, is radical enough for the educated German Jew. But the endeavors are vain. Even conversion itself does not relieve the Jew from the enormous pressure of German Anti-Semitism. The German hates the Jewish religion less than the race; he objects less to the Jews' peculiar beliefs than to their peculiar noses. Neither reform, nor conversion, nor emancipation throw open to the Jew the gates of social life, hence their anxiety to deny their racial descent. Moleschott, in his Physiological Sketches (p. 251), tells how the son of a converted Jew used to spend hours every morning at the looking-glass, comb in hand, endeavoring to straighten his curly hair, so as to give it a more Teutonic appearance. But as little as the "radical" Reform movement-an appellation which characterizes it so well, inasmuch as it lays the ax at the root of Judaism and its national historical cult-accomplished its aim, so little will the tendency of some Jews to deny their racial descent fulfill their purpose. Jewish noses cannot be reformed, and the black, wavy hair of the Jews will not change through conversion into blond, nor can its curves be straightened out by constant combing. The Jewish race- is one of the primary races of mankind that has retained its integrity, in spite of the continual change of its climatic environment, and the Jewish type has conserved its purity through the centuries.
On the western mountain slope which encloses the City of the Dead, at Thebes, in Egypt, there still exists the tomb of one of the ancient architects, who supervised the construction of the king's buildings, on which are depicted reliefs of all the works constructed under his direction. Here we can see how the obelisks were erected, the sphinxes hewn out of the rock, the palaces built, as well as how all the preliminary labor was performed. Here are scenes representing white Asiatic slaves making bricks, many of which are piled up near the building, while other slaves are carrying stones away. At a little distance from the group of laboring slaves stands the overseer with raised whip in his hand. The tomb was built, according to the inscription, about the time of Moses, and in the reliefs of the Asiatic slaves there is a resemblance to the present Jewish type. Later Egyptian monuments, likewise, show Jewish reliefs which strikingly resemble our modern Jews.
The Jewish race, which was so hard pressed and almost destroyed by many nations of antiquity, would have disappeared long ago, in the sea of the Indo-Germanic nations, had it not been endowed with the gift of retaining its peculiar type under all circumstances and of reproducing it. If Judaism owes its immortality to the remarkable religious productivity of the Jewish genius, this genius owes its existence to the fertility of the Jewish race. The words of the Bible, "But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad and the land was filled with them," which were written of the Jews in Egypt, are true of them also during the third exile.
Of the predominance of the Jewish type in cases of intermarriage with members of the Indo-Germanic race, I can quote an example from my own experience. It is a well-known fact, that in unions between members of the Mongolian, with those of the Indo-Germanic race, the Mongolian type predominates; for example, the Russian nobles, who have little Mongolian blood in their veins, yet display in their physiognomy Mongolian features even to the present day! Among my friends there is a Russian nobleman who, like all the Russian boyars; betrays his mixed descent, the Mongolian, by his features, and the Indo-Germanic, by his fine intellect. This friend married a Polish Jewess, by whom he had a number of sons, who all possess Jewish features in marked degree. As you see, my esteemed friend, Jews and Jewesses endeavor, in vain, to obliterate their descent through conversion or intermarriage with the Indo-Germanic and Mongolian races, for the Jewish type is indestructible. Nay more, the type is undeniable, even in its most beautiful representatives, where it approaches the ancient Greek type, and even surpasses it with its peculiar soul expression. Hence I was not surprised, when traveling through Antwerp, I showed an artist the beautiful picture known to you, that he, enthusiastically admiring the image that would have done credit to a Phidias, exclaimed: "I will wager that it is the picture of a Jewess."
The Jewish race, throughout the world, possesses the ability to acclimatize itself more than all other races. Just as in the native land of the Jews, Palestine, there grow plants of the southern and of the northern zones, so does this people, of the temperate clime, thrive in all zones. A French physician, Dr. Gallavardin, has demonstrated this physiological phenomenon by many statistical data, in his well-known work, The Position of the Jews in the World.
And just as it is impossible for me to entertain any prejudice against my own race, which has played such an important role in universal history and which is destined for a still greater one in the future, so it is impossible for me to show against the holy language of our fathers the antipathy of those who endeavor to eliminate Hebrew from Jewish life, and even supersede it by German inscriptions in the cemetery. I was always exalted by the Hebrew prayers. I seem to hear in them an echo of fervent pleadings and passionate entreaties, issuing from suffering hearts of a thousand generations. Seldom do these heart-stirring prayers fail to impress those who are able to understand their meaning. The most touching point about these Hebrew prayers is, that they are really an expression of the collective Jewish spirit; they do not plead for the individual, but for the entire Jewish race. The pious Jew is above all a Jewish patriot. The "new" Jew, who denies the existence of the Jewish nationality, is not only a deserter in the religious sense, but is also a traitor to his people, his race and even to his family. If it were true that Jewish emancipation in exile is incompatible with Jewish nationality, then it were the duty of the Jews to sacrifice the former for the sake of the latter. This point, however, may need a more elaborate explanation, but that the Jew must be above all a Jewish patriot, needs no proof to those who have received a Jewish education. Jewish patriotism is not a cloudy Germanic abstraction, which dissolves itself in discussions about being and appearance, realism and idealism, but a true, natural feeling, the tangibility and simplicity of which require no demonstration, nor can it be disposed of by a demonstration to the contrary.
My grandfather once showed me some olives and dates, and remarked, with beaming eyes, "These were raised in Eretz Yisroel." Everything that reminds the pious Jew of Palestine is as dear to him as the sacred relics of his ancestral house. It is customary that a bag containing earth from the Holy Land is put into the grave of every pious Jew. In this practice, however, as well as in the ritualistic use of the citron and palm branch which, like the bag of earth, are imported from Palestine at great expense, there is something more than the mere carrying out of a religious precept or the prompting of superstitious belief. All feast and fast days of the Jews, their deep piety and reverence for tradition, which almost apotheosizes everything Hebraic, nay even the entire Jewish cult, all have their origin in the patriotism of the Jewish nation. The Jewish "reformers," who have emancipated themselves from Jewish nationality, understand this quite well; they are therefore very careful in expressing their heartfelt opinions. They find it more comfortable to take refuge in the falsehood of the dualistic theory, which sees in every natural and simple feeling, as well as in patriotism, a double essence-an ideal and a real. This dualistic theory is very useful, as it can be adjusted at well, either to the one point of view or to the other.
This false theory is of recent German invention and need not be taken seriously. Spinola conceived Judaism to be grounded in Nationalism, and held that the restoration of the Jewish kingdom depends entirely upon the will and courage of the Jewish people. Even the rationalistic Mendelssohn did not know of a cosmopolitan Judaism. It is only in modern times that, for the purposes of obtaining equal rights, some German Jews denied the existence of Jewish nationality. Moreover, they have convinced themselves, contrary to the fact that the further existence of Judaism will not at all be threatened by the elimination of its innermost essence.
True, my dear friend, it is a fact which may even come to the attention of our German Jewish reformers, that the Jewish religion is, above all, Jewish patriotism. I always recall, with deep emotion, the scenes that I lived through when a child, at the house of my grandfather at Bonn, on the fast-day commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem. On the first day of the month of Ab, which is the first of the nine days preceding the eventful day, the sorrow which had been manifested since the beginning of the "three weeks," assumed a more perceptible form. Even the Sabbath day lost its festive character during these days of national mourning, and was named "the black Sabbath." My pious grandfather was one of those revered scholars who, though not using the Torah as a means of subsistence, yet possessed the title and knowledge of a rabbi. Every evening, at the close of his business day, he spent several hours in studying the Talmud and its commentaries. But in the "nine days" this study was interrupted, and instead be read with his grandchildren the stories and legends concerning the exile of the Jews from Jerusalem. The tears fell upon the snow-white beard of the stern old man as he read those stories, and we children, too, would cry and sob. I remember, especially, one particular passage which impressed us both deeply. It runs as follows:
"When the children of Israel were led into captivity by the soldiers of Nebuchadnezzar, their road lay past the grave of our Mother Rachel. As they approached the grave, a bitter wailing was heard. It was the voice of Rachel, weeping at the fate of her unhappy children."
You can now discern clearly the source of the Jewish belief in immortality; it is the product of our remarkable family love. Our immortality extends back into the past as far as the Patriarchs, and in the future to Messiah's reign. It is the Jewish conception of the family which gave rise to the vivid belief in the continuity of the spirit in human history. This belief, which is one of the fairest blossoms of Judaism, the roots of which are to be found in Jewish family love and the trunk in Jewish patriotism, has, in the course of ages, shrunk to the belief in the atomistic immortality of the individual soul; and thus, torn from its roots and trunk, has withered and decayed. It is only in the Jewish conception of the family that the former living belief is still retained. When modern dualism of spirit and matter, the result of the separation of Christianity from Judaism, had found its highest expression in the works of the last Christian philosopher, Descartes, and had threatened to kill all unity of life, there arose again out .of Judaism the belief in the existence of one eternal force in Nature and history. This belief acted as a bulwark against spiritual egoism, on the one hand, and materialistic individualism on the other just as Christian dualism received its mortal blow from the teachings of Spinola, so does the existence of the ancient Jewish people, with its model family life, act as an antidote against this disease of dualism in practical life. Even today the wholesome influence of the Jewish family life is noticeable in literature, art and science. How much greater will that influence be when once again we create history and literature, when once more the Torah will go forth from Zion and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem?
Retrospect - The Damascus Affair - A cry of anguish - Mamserbilbul, i.e., Blood Accusation - Hep, Hep - The escape into France - Arnold Ruge - Napoleon - An honest German - Teutomaniacs - Jefferson - Fatherlands and Sovereigns - Ubi bene ibi Patria - The Jewish incognito - The religion of death - Raise your standard high, my people.
Do I seriously believe in the redemption from exile? You ask this question, and also remind me that I have already expressed myself in my two earlier works, The Sacred History of Humanity and The Triarchy of Europe as a believer in the fulfillment of the Messianic hope. You are certainly going far afield, esteemed friend, in holding me responsible not only for my present opinions, but also for those expressed long ago. Nevertheless, you are right, and I assume full -responsibility for my ideas. But in order not to stray too far from the thought nearest to my heart into my own personal history, I will relate only a few of the most characteristic episodes of my past, which will elucidate my present attitude toward the national question.
Twenty years ago, when an absurd and false accusation against the Jews was imported into Europe from Damascus it evoked in the hearts of the Jews a bitter feeling of agony. Then it dawned upon me for the first time, in the midst of my socialistic activities, that I belong to my unfortunate, slandered, despised and dispersed people. And already, then, though I was greatly estranged from Judaism, I wanted to express my Jewish patriotic sentiment in a cry of anguish, but it was unfortunately immediately stifled in my heart by a greater pain which the suffering of the European Proletariat evoked in me.
With other nations, there is strife only among the various parties, but the Germans clash even when they belong to the same party. The members of my own party have made me loathe the aspirations of the Germans, and by their actions caused me to go into exile several years before the triumphant reaction changed it from a voluntary act into an involuntary one. Only a short time after the February revolution, I went to France and there I learned to know the people which, in the present century, is the foremost champion of social liberty. If this people submits at present to the iron dictatorship of kinghood, it is because the Emperor is true to his revolutionary descent, not in word alone, but also in deed. The moment dynastic interests conflict with the aspirations and strivings of the French people, kinghood will disappear from the soil of France.
After the coup d'etat of the reaction, I withdrew from politics and devoted myself exclusively to natural sciences. Old Dr. Arnold Ruge, a follower of the Young Hegelians, was much shocked at my occupation, which he termed materialism; he could never forgive the "Communist Rabbi Moses" for his heresy in forsaking the "ideal." He hinted frequently, in his lectures at the German Museum, that this scientific materialism is in reality only Imperialism, but not of the German-Barbarossa types but only of the Romance-Bonapartistic stamp. What relation there is between the study of the natural sciences and Bonapartism, the old Ruge never explained clearly. Meanwhile, even since the beginning of the Italian War of Liberation, I discovered a real and strong relationship between my ethnological studies and the modern national movement, which received such a strong impetus since the war. I will, on a later occasion, relate to you some of the conclusions reached through these studies. Let it suffice for the present, to say that these studies convinced me of the inevitable ultimate disappearance of any particular race dominance and the necessary regeneration of all oppressed peoples. First of all, it was my own Jewish people who, since that time, began to interest me and enchant me more and more. Images of my unfortunately brethren who surrounded me in my youth haunted my thoughts, and the long-suppressed feelings burst forth with fresh vigor. The pain and agony which, during the Damascus affair, was only a transient feeling, became now a dominating trait of my character and a lasting mood of my soul. No more did I seek to suppress the voice of my Jewish consciousness, but on the contrary, I carefully followed up its traces and was pleasantly surprised when I found; in my old manuscripts, a passage anticipating my present-day Jewish aspirations.
The following passage was written by me in the year 1840, during the time of the above-mentioned Damascus affair:
"The way and manner in which the persecution of the Jews in Europe, even in enlightened Germany, is looked upon, must necessarily cause a new point of departure in the Jewish life. This tendency demonstrates quite clearly that in spite of the degree of education to which the Occidental Jews have attained, there still exists a barrier between them and the surrounding nations, almost as formidable as in the days of religious fanaticism. Those of our brethren who, for purposes of obtaining emancipation, endeavor to persuade themselves, as well as others, that modern Jews possess no trace of a national feeling, have really lost their heads.6 These men do not understand how it is possible that such a stupid, medieva l legend, which was only too well known to our forefathers under the name of Mamserbilbul, should be given credence, even for a moment, in Nineteenth Century Europe. To our educated German Jews, the feeling of hatred toward the Jews displayed by the Germans has always remained an unsolved puzzle. Was not the entire effort of the German Jews, since the days of Mendelssohn, directed toward becoming wholly Germanized, to thinking and feeling as Germans? Have they not striven carefully to eradicate every trace of their ancient nationality? Have they not fought in the War of Liberation? Were they not Teutomaniacs and French devourers? Did we not chant but yesterday with Nicolas Becker, "They shall not possess it, the free German Rhine"? Did I myself not commit the unpardonable stupidity of sending a musical composition of this "German Marseillaise" to the author of this song?
And yet I had to feel, in a personal way, the same disappointment that German Jewry in general experienced after it had given repeated demonstration of its patriotic enthusiasm. I also had to experience the sad fact that the German to whom I sent my manuscript, glowing with patriotic emotion, not only responded to it in an icy tone, but as if to fill the cup of bitterness to the brim, wrote on the other side of his letter, in a disguised script, the words: "You are a Jew." I forgot, then, that the Germans, after the War of Liberation, not only discriminated against the Jews, their erstwhile comrades in arms against the French, but even persecuted them with the frequent cries of ‘Hep, Hep’. I, on the other hand, took Becker's ‘Hep, Hep’, as a personal insult, and accordingly wrote him a letter, not in a disguised script, making a few unpleasant remarks, which this honest German, who most likely felt ashamed of his rudeness, passed over in silence. To-day I could have apologized to this German poet, for, as I see clearly now, it was by no means intended as a personal insult. It is impossible for any man to be at the same time a Teutomaniac and a friend of the Jews, just as it is impossible to love, simultaneously, the German military rule and German democracy. The real Teutomaniacs of the Arndt and Jahn type will always be honest, reactionary conservatives. The Teutomaniac, in his love of the Fatherland, loves not the State but the race dominance. How, then, can he conceive the granting of equal rights to other races than the dominant one, when equality is still a Utopia for the large masses of Germany? The sympathetic Frenchman assimilates with irresistible attraction every foreign race element. Even the Jew is here a Frenchman. Jefferson said long ago, at the time of the American Revolution, that every man has two fatherlands, first his own and then France. The German, on the other hand, is not at all anxious to assimilate any foreign elements, and would be perfectly happy if he could possess all his fatherlands and dominions for himself. He lacks the primary condition of every chemical assimilative process, namely, warmth.
As long as the Jew submitted in silence to persecution and disgrace, considering it as a punishment of God, all the time confidently hoping for the future restoration of his nation, his pride was not impaired. His only care was to enable his race to reach that glorious future which would amply recompense it for all the suffering it had undergone in the past, when God will mete out punishment to the persecutors and enemies of Israel. Our enlightened Jews, however, possess this strong belief and vigorous hope no more. What good is emancipation to them? Of what avail is it that here and there a Jew rises to high office, when to the name "Jew" there is attached a stigma which every obscure journalist, every stupid fellow, can safely turn to account?
As long as the Jew endeavors to deny his nationality, while at the same time he is unable to deny his own individual existence, as long as he is unwilling to acknowledge that he belongs to that unfortunate and persecuted people, his false position must daily become more intolerable. Wherefore the illusion? The European nations have always considered the existence of the Jews in their midst as an anomaly. We shall always remain strangers among the nations. They may tolerate us and even grant us emancipation, but they will never respect us as long as we place the principle ubi bene ibi patria above our own great national memories. Though religious fanaticism may cease to operate as a factor in the hatred against the Jews in civilized countries, yet in spite of enlightenment and emancipation, the Jew in exile who denies his nationality will never earn the respect of the nations among whom he dwells. He may become a naturalized citizen, but he will never be able to convince the gentiles of his total separation from his own nationality. It is not the old-type, pious Jew, who would rather suffer than deny his nationality, that is most despised, but the modern Jew who, like the German outcasts in foreign countries, denies his nationality, while the hand of fate presses heavily upon his own people. The beautiful phrases about humanity and enlightenment which he employs as a cloak to hide his treason, his fear of being identified with his unfortunate brethren, will ultimately not protect him from the judgment of public opinion. .In vain does the enlightened Jew hide behind his geographical and philosophical alibi. It is of no avail. Mask yourself a thousand times over, change your name, religion and character, travel throughout the world incognito, so that people may not recognize the Jew in you; yet every insult to the Jewish name will strike you, even more than the pious man who is permeated with the spirit of Jewish solidarity and who fights for the honor of the Jewish name.
Such, my friend, were my thoughts then, when I was actively engaged on behalf of the European Proletariat. My Messianic belief was, at that time, the same that I profess at present, namely, the belief in the regeneration of the historical civilized nations, which will be accomplished only by raising the oppressed nations to the level of the mighty and dominant ones. Now, as at the time I wrote my earlier works, I still believe that Christianity was a step forward on the road toward the goal of humanity, which the Jewish prophets termed the Messianic age. To-day, as ever, I still believe that the present great epoch in universal history had its first manifestation, at least in the history of the human spirit, in the teachings of Spinoza. However, I never believed, nor have I ever asserted, that Christianity is more than a mere episode in the sacred history of humanity, nor even that this epoch of sacredness closed with Spinoza. I have never doubted that we at present sigh and strive for a redemption which Christianity never dreamed of, nor could ever supply. It is true that Christianity shed a certain glow during the dark ages of history, after the sun of ancient civilization had set forever; but its light only revealed the graves of the nations of antiquity. Christianity is, after all, a religion of death, the function of which ceased the moment the nations reawakened into life. The history of the European nations for the last three hundred years amply illustrates the truth of this dictum; but I will restrict myself to calling your attention to the events transpiring at present in Italy. On the ruins of Christian Rome there rises the regenerated Italian people. An influence similar to that of Christianity is exerted by Islam in the East. Both religions teach resignation and submission, and Turkey follows the same policy in regard to Palestine that Austria exercises in Italy. Christianity and Islam are both only inscriptions on the tombstones which barbaric oppression erected upon the graves of weaker peoples. But the soldiers of civilization, the French, are gradually sweeping away the dominance of the barbarians and with their strong Herculean arms will roll off the tombstones from the graves of the supposedly dead peoples and the nations will reawaken once more.
In those countries which form a dividing line between the Occident and the Orient, namely, Russia, Poland, Prussia, Austria, and Turkey, there live millions of our brethren who earnestly believe in the restoration of the Jewish kingdom and pray for it fervently in their daily services. These Jews have preserved, by their belief in Jewish nationality, the very kernel of Judaism in a more faithful manner than have our Occidental Jews. The latter have endeavored to revive much of our religion, but not the great hope which created our faith and preserved it through all storms of time, namely, the hope of the restoration of Jewish nationality. To those millions of my brethren I turn and exclaim, "Carry thy standard high, oh my people!" The Jewish nation still preserves the fruitful seed of life, which, like the grains of corn found in the graves of Egyptian mummies, though buried for thousands of years, have never lost their power of productivity. The moment the rigid form in which it is enclosed is shattered, the seed, placed in the fertile soil of the present environment and given air and light, will strike root and prosper.
The rigid forms of orthodoxy, the existence of which was justified before the century of rebirth, will naturally, through the productive power of the national idea and the historical cult, relax and become fertile. It is only with the national rebirth that the religious genius of the Jews, like the giant of legend touching mother earth, will be endowed with new strength and again be reinspired with the prophetic spirit. No aspirant for enlightenment, not even a Mendelssohn, has so far succeeded in crushing the hard shell with which Rabbinism has encrusted Judaism without, at the same time, destroying the national ideal in its innermost essence.