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HOME > Classical Novels > On the Eve of Redemption > THE TRANSVALUATION OF VALUES
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 Even a language is subject to the force of fate. Its value in life and its meaning for the life of a people change constantly with the great changes of life. Only one hundred and twenty years ago there were those who believed in the possibility of the of the medieval idea that a day would come when all the peoples of the earth would speak one language and all barriers would soon disappear. Today language stands next to the state as the most important factor in the life of a nation; in many cases it is as strong a factor as the economical and political forces. This is especially true of the so-called nationality states where the various peoples can show their line of national demarcation chiefly by the language they use. Today language is not only one of the strongest factors in the national life of a people, but is also of great weight in universal politics. The future historians, in describing the ups and downs of the present war, will not fail to observe that one of the causes that threatened, for a time, the existence of the Hapsburg Empire was the unimportant fact that the people in Germany and Bohemia could not come to terms about the linguistic barrier. The language quarrels in Bohemia were the cause of so many political that they shook the very foundations of Austria; they have influenced, to a large extent, the international crisis during the last three years.  
Since language has developed into such a tremendous force, all the and calculations of the philosophers of the eighteenth century about the possibility of one language for the entire human race have proven to be empty visions—soap bubbles of and dreamers. If the living languages of small peoples, the Bohemians, Lithuanians, Armenians, and so , have become important political factors in the lives of the nations, and, in consequence thereof, an important in international life, the so-called dead languages, such as Hebrew, Gaelic, Welsh and many others, have become driving forces in the lives of their peoples and may even decide their fate and future. The development of these dead[72] languages during the nineteenth century is as interesting and fascinating as the growth in political importance of such living, provincial languages as Bohemian, Lithuanian, and so forth. Most of all is the development of the importance of Hebrew during the nineteenth century.
One hundred years ago, Hebrew was a and theological proposition. The knowledge of Hebrew had quite a different value from what it has today. To the Eastern Jew, Hebrew had the meaning of a holy tongue only; to the Western Jew, Hebrew was a sort of a cultural luxury which was very much appreciated as such, but had no national value. The love for Hebrew in the West, which, by the way, was stronger than we today imagine, smelled faintly of a museum. These conditions prevailed in the West for several centuries. In the East, however, conditions changed with rapidity. With the spread of the Haskalah , Hebrew achieved another value altogether; it had a different function to perform. The of the Haskalah used Hebrew not as a holy tongue, as did the orthodox, nor as a theological proposition, as did many of the Western Jews, but as a medium to spread culture among the Jews and to introduce European ideas in the . The Hebrew writer of the middle of the nineteenth century considered himself a sort of cultural . The best means to enlighten the people and to was, at that time, Hebrew literature. By the end of the Seventies and the beginning of the Eighties, Hebrew experienced another transvaluation, chiefly because of the failure of the Haskalah and the of the national spirit among the Jews. The writers of that time considered Hebrew no longer a means to an end—that is to say, an agency to spread culture among the Jews—but an objec............
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