Paradox

All These reflections and analyses and remedial measures have one single purpose: the creation of a people from a mob in order to save and preserve it and the strengthening of the inner forces of cohesion in order that that people may face and bear its destiny affirmatively and proudly and by so doing change the moral character of that very destiny.

This is a mere re-statement, of course, of the permanent paradox of our history and therefore of our character. We strive so passionately toward oneness in the metaphysical sphere because we are so deeply tempted by two-ness and division; we give our hearts away to Babylonian and Greek, to Spaniard and German and suffuse their cultures with the peculiar coloring of our genius, so that the works and ways of our nobler assimilationists from Philo Judaeus to Jacob Wassermann have this in common, that they re-mold the pagan substance in the crucible of the uniqueness of the Jewish consciousness.

But we are not immediately aware of the character of the process and seem to ourselves to be no longer a people but to have exchanged not only Jewish content of the soul for pagan content but the Jewish soul itself for a pagan soul. This, however, we are fated never to be able to do. The contents change, The crucible of adamant remains. And on the recurring historic days of reckoning it remains empty and must be re-filled from our own half-forgotten and half-obliterated store.

We must cease to give our hearts away and to bring and to be vain oblations; we must recapture our own substance and once more recognize our instincts and our forms as ineradicably and eternally our own. And it is this re-cognition and the necessary acts that spring therefrom that constitute our re-integration with what we are and are destined permanently to remain.

He who has grasped this central fact of our character and fate will no longer be troubled by the shallow objections of those who seeing the rampant barbarian nationalisms of the pagan fill the world with cruelty and oppression and war accuse the Jew of desiring to enter that monstrous and disastrous game. We are not pagans. We are morally unique. Our nationalism is a nationalism minus paganism. And all nationalisms minus their pagan barbarisms are not only good; they are the fundamentals of humanity.

A herd of beasts of the same species in Siberia or Kansas is indistinguishable one from the other. Man is unthinkable as man without those culture-groups that have characters and physiognomies as unique and recognizable as those that differentiate individual from individual. We want neither robot individual men nor robot groups of men. Culture as nationalism is the form in which human life appears on this planet.

I do not wish to be thought a mere Achad Ha-mist, highly as I esteem that thinker. A national culture in order to be rendered stable and to be finally saved from that periodical frittering away which has been the fate of ours, needs its own earth with farms and cities and institutions and folk-ways and needs a reasonably strong and permanent folk-control over these; we need to be self-directing and self-determining in Eretz Israel.

But since we are not pagan this self-direction and self-determination means what the words say. It does not mean the oppression of others nor even the vaunting of ourselves at the expense of others nor aggression nor war nor alliances for power or for dominance. But indeed the objectors to Jewish nationalism always give themselves away by asking: Do you want another Rumania or Hungary in the world? The question is a trick because it denies as an inherent assumption the fact of our non-pagan character. It would be fairer to ask: Do you want another Denmark? To which, of course, all civilized men would answer in the affirmative. And even that comparison would not be wholly just.

In order to achieve re-integration and re-birth by welding a mob once more into a people we must understand fully the eternal paradox of our history and seek in this late age at last to transcend it. We fail so often to grasp it because misled either by mere theology or by a shallow rationalism we forget those enduring myths which are the permanent expressions of the character and fate of Israel even as a great work of art is the permanent expression projected into the world of the character and mind of the poet who wrought it.

An ancient Midrash tells us that not all the Jews were enslaved in Egypt. There were those who took Egyptian names and married Egyptians and lived by splashing fountains amid painted walls. But they too fled with that mob of slaves into the desert where Moshe had to weld that varied mob into a people. We are once more a mob in the desert. But the eternal symbol-myth of Israel fore-knew and foretold. Lo eth avothenu kharath Adonai Eth ##-brith ha-soth—not with our fathers did the Eternal make that covenant, but with us even with us who are here and alive upon this day.

The renewal of that covenant in the terms of our age and our minds is our complete re-integration with Israel. The same undying voice calls us and we must answer: We are here.

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