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HOME > Classical Novels > On the Eve of Redemption > THE FUTURE OF THE JEWISH RELIGION IN THE DIASPORA
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 Preceding and during the religious crisis in France, which resulted in the Separation Law, a great number of books on the future of religion appeared in Paris. The largest number of writers denied that there was a future for religion, maintaining that modern economic conditions are undermining the spiritual and religious basis of the life of the masses. A minority, upholding Clericalism, foresaw a future for religion.  
A similar discussion on the future of the Jewish religion arose with the of Zionism. In the first decade of our century scores of books appeared in Europe, with the nature and future of the Jewish religion. As in France, during the crisis, so in European Jewry, during the of Zionism, two distinct views were held as to the future of the Jewish religion. One view saw that Judaism could hope for no future in the Diaspora and that, if only to the destruction of the Jewish religion, a homeland in Palestine was needed. The other view was that Judaism, being non-political in nature, would continue to exist indefinitely and that, as a matter of fact, it was created for a Diaspora existence.
Today, when the Jewish people is once more at the parting of the ways, the same question comes up again. Those who oppose Zionism hastily affirm that the Jewish religion not only does not need a homeland in Palestine, as a source of new inspiration, but that the very idea of this homeland is with the Jewish religion. The spokesmen of Zionism who, as a rule, do not worry much over questions of theology and religion, have so far failed to take a definite attitude towards the rabbis who oppose Zionism on religious grounds.
We think it high time to approach this question and to try to answer it from a objective point of view.
Before we ask whether the Jewish religion has any future in the Diaspora, let us see whether it has had any development in the past.
It is known to every intelligent Jew that since the appearance of Maimonides, with the exception of the pathological phenomenon of "Sabbathai Zevi" and of Hassidism, the Jewish religion has not developed in the least. The rabbinic literature of the last 800 years consists mainly of legal responses to which nobody will attribute religious significance, because religion and legalism are two different things. The rabinnic Jew has the same views on God, on the relations between God and man, and on , as prevailed among Jews 800 years ago. Even the synagogue and the Jewish ritual have undergone few changes in this period. Many attribute this fact of religious to the predominant legal element in the Jewish religion, while others maintain that, even without this element, the Jewish religion would not have undergone changes because of its existence in the Diaspora. Religion, like any other phase of spiritual life, must draw from life itself and if the source is polluted stagnation must set in.
Many people seek to prove that the Jewish religion is capable of development in the Diaspora, and as proof they point to Hassidism. But even they must agree that Hassidism itself failed to develop and that it resulted finally in a form of Judaism which is objectionable even on æsthetic grounds. Hassidism, which claims to have a greater freedom of movement than Mithnagdism, is today even more than Mithnagdism. In addition, it is whether the pantheistic element in Hassidism is altogether compatible with the traditional Jewish conception of God. All in all, Hassidism affords no proof that the Jewish religion has developed in the last 800 years. It would be no exaggeration to say that ever since Jewish religious philosophy chose the path of Aristotelianism, it has been favored only with the slightest development.
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