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HOME > Classical Novels > On the Eve of Redemption > DRIVING FORCES: NATIONAL OR SPIRITUAL?
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 The days of religious wars have gone. The Inquisition is dead and is dying even at Tibet. The modern man, be he Gentile or Jew, no longer thinks more theologico as in the Middle Ages, but rather more sociologico. The time when a given religious dogma, a categorical principle, or some definite spiritual force was the driving power in history is far gone. Law and order in our political and social life are not from books and principles, but from life itself. Any attempt to return to the status quo ante 1789, is an assault on modern civilization, an attempt to re-establish theocracy in its various forms.  
In the life of our own people the process of is going on with the same rapidity as in the life of any other nation. Within five decades we have created a literature in Hebrew as well as in the other languages spoken by Jews, and all the forms of our modes of life, public as well as private, have gone through the process of secularization. Even the modern orthodox Jew, who observes all laws and rituals, differs quite in his of mind from the orthodox Jew of the seventeenth or eighteenth century. In worldly affairs he is a man of his time and thinks in the terms of his time. To the credit of our people be it said that they have understood how to adapt themselves to the conditions of the time.
It often happened that during the process of adaptation, Jews lost their way and became separated from their people, but the bulk of the nation has passed through the crisis caused by the process of transition and made itself at home in the new conditions without .
Though have the tombstone of Maimonides by writing on it: "Infidel and Heretic," Judaism the peace which Maimonides concluded in its behalf with Aristotelianism. All the and cry against Maimonides was in the end of no avail, because at that time the deed of Maimonides was a step forward towards progress. At a time when the Roman Cath[42]olic Church fought Copernicus and Galileo no representatives of Judaism participated in this fight, though the Synagogue had an older historic reason to oppose Copernicus than had the Roman Catholic Church.
In short, Judaism has never resisted real progress and has always known how to make peace with the tendencies and currents of the time without weakening its own position. As it has reconciled itself to new conditions in the past so today it is making peace with the tendencies of our own time. Separation of state from church and the of theocracy and secularization of life are strong currents in our contemporaneous history. In the life of our people, these tendencies of the time have taken the form of nationalism and Zionism. Neither mean from the religion of our ancestors, as many misled rabbis argue, but only imply that the Jewish religion has a definite place in Jewish life, but cannot and should not rule our lives altogether.
This is a general human tendency which we should not and ought not oppose; unfortunately, there are leading Jews who deem it their duty to resist the forces of progress and to display medievalism at the expense of our people and its prestige, and to the of all modern and intellectual forces. This resistance we find represented in two schools of thought, in the school of old-fashioned Reform and in that of the semi-nationalistic spiritualism. The representatives of the one school argue that we are only a spiritual people and that we are violating the spirit of Judaism if we strive to become a secular people. The others do not go so far, but they also maintain that Jewish nationalism is above all spiritual in nature and that, if Jewish nationalism has a duty to perform, this duty consists in establishing a Jewish spiritual centre in Palestine. Both schools of thought may be characterized as , because they imply that we should stand still, where humanity stood two or three hundred years ago; that we should continue to submit to the law of the book instead of submitting to the law of life, and that we should continue to live as a spiritual people and give spiritualism the first place, while the basis of present day civilization is secular in nature.
With regard to the philosophy of Judaism as represented by old-fashioned Reform, it[44] suffices to remember that every people on earth had a period in its history when it considered itself a spiritual people. And to the present day every people firmly and sincerely believes that it has a special mission to perform. The author of "Oraisons Funèbres" such a spiritual mission for the French, Fichte did it for the Germans, and Katkov for the Russians. But neither the French nor the Germans nor the Russian people clung to their mission-theory. While appreciating these spiritual values, they have spiritualism as the all embracing guide of the nation's life and have settled down to work out their in a very and way. Either the Jewish people are subject to the laws of historic progress, and then we have to keep pace with that historical progress, or else we form an exception to the rule and laws of history—we are an island in the ocean of life—and then we ought to be today what we were two, three, five or twelve hundred years ago.
Reform Judaism of today is surely not the Judaism of the year 1700 or 1500. It is a modern Judaism adapted to modern life. The same Jews, who are arguing that we cannot give up spiritualism as the prime factor of Jewish life and that we cannot stick to the old conception of Judaism, have deemed it advisable to introduce reforms into a field of Judaism that was considered the very stronghold of spiritualism in the Jewish religion. That is where the contradiction and confusion come in. So far as religion is concerned, these reformers conform to the requirements of the time, but on the other hand they still cling to the spiritualistic in Jewish life, to the theory of Israel's mission, as if they were Jews of the seventeenth century.
Either Judaism cannot undergo a change and must remain what it always was—and then reform is unjustifiable—or Judaism can adapt itself to modern life and make peace with the tendencies of the time—and then why stick to the supremacy of the spiritual side of Judaism?
No less and confusing is the philosophy of the other school of thought that preaches spiritual nationalism as the only solution of the Jewish question. If spiritualism is no longer the prime factor in life, and if it is no longer in a position to maintain its hold on the peoples of the earth as it did in the days gone by when men thought more theologico, how can it hold its grip on the Jewish people? And how can a spiritual centre even in Palestine answer the Jewish question?
Did Mecca, the centre of Mohamedan spiritualism, prevent the conquest of Egypt, Morocco, Tunis and Tripoli by the nations? (And Mecca is the spiritual centre not of a people of fourteen but of a religious community of two hundred millions.)
Despite Mecca and despite the pan-Islamic movement, the holy war proclaimed by the Caliph two years ago was a failure. Instead of a united Islam we have today an independent Mecca, an Egypt that is loyal to England, and an Algeria and a Morocco that are loyal to France. If Mecca could not contain Islam politically and could not save the Islamitic nations from being conquered, how could a much smaller Jewish spiritual centre in Palestine save the Jewish people politically and nationally? This is the question which we would like to submit to these "spiritual" nationalists.
These Neo-Ahad-Ha'amists are by no means better than the of old-fashioned Reform; both cling to the spiritualistic supremacy in Jewish life, and both oppose the necessary gradual secularization of Judaism. Both would have us stand still, or, if possible, draw us back to a medievalism that has no room in modern life, and both are in the full meaning of the term. They are our "dark forces" and the time seems very near when we will have to rise against both and overcome them. There is reason to fear that in the hour of fate they will put obstacles in the way of our redemption.

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