The Spirit of Jewish Conservatism
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.—Moses Hess, Rome and Jerusalem (1862)
May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
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 [wherever things go well, there is one’s homeland] above our own great national memories.
Plant a Jewish people in a country that comes to a standstill on Yom Kippur; speaks the language of the Bible; moves to the rhythms of the Hebrew (lunar) calendar; builds cities with the stones of its ancestors; produces Hebrew poetry and literature, Jewish scholarship and learning unmatched anywhere in the world—and you have continuity.
[I]n procreation, love, mindful of mortality, overflows generously into creativity, the child unifying the parents as sex or romance alone never can; and the desire to give not only life but a good way of life to their children opens both man and woman toward a concern for the true, the good, and the holy. Parental love of children may be the beginning of the sanctification of life. Perhaps that is what God was thinking when He said that it is not good for the human being—neither for man nor for woman—to be alone. Perhaps this is why “male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27).
How beautifully the Torah tells us the story of a father [Abraham] whom God charged with the mission of forming a nation [but] who could not implement his assignment because Sarah, the choicest of all women, could not join him since she was barren. God had to resort to a miracle in order that a charismatic nation be formed. Sarah will be the mother of the nation. “I will bless her and give you a son through her. I will bless her that she shall give rise to nations; rulers of people shall issue from her” (Genesis 17:16). . . . The great historic task was entrusted to two people. They reflect the greatness of man in toto [emphasis added].
Among the nations believed to be dead and which, when they become conscious of their historic mission, will struggle for their national rights, is also Israel—the nation which for 2,000 years has defied the storms of time, and in spite of having been tossed by the currents of history to every part of the globe, has always cast yearning glances toward Jerusalem and is still directing its gaze thither. Fortified by its racial instinct and by its cultural and historical mission to unite all humanity in the name of the Eternal Creator, this people has conserved its nationality in the form of its religion, and united both inseparably with the memories of its ancestral land.
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. [By contrast, 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.
An established teacher could not object to a rival setting up in competition. The reason they gave for this ruling illustrates the general approach. They said simply, “Jealousy among scholars increases wisdom.”