Freud, Bismarck,Theodor Herzl – and who knows how many others? – looked in the mirror and saw Moses. Shortly before Herzl died, he told a friend a dream he had at the age of twelve. The King-Messiah appeared to him and carried him off on the wings of heaven. “On one of the iridescent clouds we met…Moses…The Messiah called out to Moses. ‘For this child I have prayed!’ To me said, ‘Go and announce to the Jews that I shall soon come and perform great and wondrous deeds for my people and for all of man kind’” (Amos Elon, Herzl. New York. Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1975, p.16. Quoted in William J. McGrath, Freud’s Discovery of Psychoanalysis. Cornell University Press, 1986, p. 313).
When Freud was in his eighties and a Moses look-a-like, he wrote his last book, “Moses and Monotheism” (1939). Freud maintained that Moses was an Egyptian. Freud got the Egyptian name right, Moses, but much else in the book he plucked from the reeds of his mind, as in so many novels on the theme of Moses. For Freud, the original biblical story was dressed up in myth, and his job, as a psychoanalyst, was to peel away the myth to uncover the prosaic reality, for it is the wont of man – Freud would agree – to spike his trauma with the prozac of make-believe. (See Mark Edmundson’s article “Defender of the faith?”).
Freud believed that Theodor Herzl was a modern-day (Egyptian) Moses. Herzl had appeared to Freud in one of his dreams, a dream that resonated with Freud’s ambivalence about Zionism and assimilation:
“Herzl appeared to me, a majestic figure with a pale, darkly toned face adorned by a raven-black beard and with infinitely sad eyes. This apparition forced me to do something at once to clarify to myself what I must do should the Jewish people be saved. These words surprised me by their fierce logic and intense accompanying feeling” (William J. McGrath, Freud’s Discovery of Psychoanalysis. Cornell University Press, 1986, p. 314).
Where can the Jew find salvation; in Zionism or assimilation? Which was myth and which reality? Earlier, I described Herzl’s dream in which the King-Messiah appeared to him and carried him off on the wings of heaven. Herzl’s “heaven” is the Jewish State, which, his son, Hans, in contrast to his father, belived must sooner or later come crashing to the ground. “I’ve been brought down to earth with a duty to search, and to grapple with rough rugged reality (“Je suis rendu au sol, avec un devoir à chercher, et la réalité rugueuse à étreindre !” Arthur Rimbaud’s poem Adieu).
What is the main feature of this struggle with rough rugged reality. For Freud this struggle consisted of a clash between the reality principle and the pleasure principle, between the reasonableness of the maturing ego coming to grips with the id’s desire for immediate gratification. For Theodor Herzl, the struggle, was not psychological, as it was for Freud, but political. For Hans, his son, this struggle transcended psychological and political solutions. The problem, for Hans, lay in the ethical realm of good and evil. Contrary to the brilliant atheistic minds of modern times, Hans believed that ethics proved God. His interest transcended Zionism and Judaism. If God was universal, he reasoned, then He must be God for all mankind, a universal God. For this reason, Hans did not believe in a historical Messiah. What was important was not the historical but the ethical. In Barthian terminology, Hans was interested in Geschichte, not Historie. In the dictionary meaning, both these words mean “history,” but Geschichte has a wider meaning that includes “story,” “tale” as in “A Tale of two cities” Eine Geschichte aus zwei Städten. Barth restricts Geschichte to mean an immediate apprehension, an internal testimony, of the living word; what the word means to “us” in contrast to the (objective) inspiration of scripture. “God and His Word, Barth says, are not presented to us in the way in which natural and historical entities are presented to us. We can never by retrospect, and so by anticipation, fix what God is or what His Word is: He must always repeat it, and always repeat it afresh.”
Hans was only interested in the ethical implications and not theological doctrines such as the resurrection from the dead and the coming of the Messiah. The ethical teachings of Christ could, then become, Hans said, the basis for the creation of a World-Church, which would subsume Christianity and Judaism. For Hans, the ethical teachings of Jesus were in complete harmony with Judaism, both of which could be summed up in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
The Sermon on the Mount
[5:1] Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The next two verses, at one time, would have meant nothing to Hans because it is about, as Hans said, “the outdated dogma of the historical Messiah” (See full quote below). But later, he seems to change his mind, because he ostensibly converted to (different forms of) Christianity.
 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:1-12 ESV)
Here is Hans:
“Of course there is a precondition: by giving up the outdated dogma of the historical Messiah, the Synagogue would become a constituent member of the World-Church, and the unification of the human family would be completed by the inclusion of the Jews. Then the ethical content of Judaism could attain its fullest development, and renew national “Christianity” from within. This is how I see the Jewish mission, and Jewish nationalism: a Christian Theocracy of Jewish faith… I am a Christian – but in the spirit of the apostle Paul, in whom Judaism and Christianity were united in the worship of One God… Don’t you see that the New Testament is only a continuation of the Old, just as the teachings of Jesus are but a continuation of the Ten Commandments?” (Hans to Marcel Sternberger).
For Hans, as for most Jews, the heart of religion is ethics, which Rabbi Hillel, an elder contemporary of Jesus described as, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn” (Talmud, Shabbat 31a). This is called the “negative golden rule,” which exists across all religions and philosophies. Jesus expressed the “positive golden rule,” namely, “… as ye would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise (Luke 6:31).
Hans (in the quote above) mentioned that in the apostle Paul, Judaism and Christianity were united in the worship of the One God. A Jew would say: “Stop right there! Hans Herzl either knows very little Jewish and Christian theology or theology is of no interest to him.” Anyone familiar with the basics of Judaism and Christianity would know that in Judaism, God cannot be(come) a man, nor can God be a trinity of persons. Paul, the Jew converted to Christ, was not only and not mainly concerned about ethical behaviour, because for Paul, and Jesus, the heart of the Gospel is about faith, not ethics/morals. The precedence of faith over works doesn’t mean that if you have faith you can be immoral, which is the accusation of many Catholics and Jews against Christian Reform theology.
For many Jews and Catholics, and, for that matter, most of mankind, if one had to choose between creed and deed, the deed wins hands down. For the Jew, the duty of lending a hand to your fellow man far outweighs the desire to rest in the arms of God. After all, the reasoning goes, didn’t God work (six times longer) than He rested (on the seventh day)? That’s how man thinks. Not all Jews, though, think that the main duty of man is supplying his another’s needs. For Rabbi Tuvia Bolton (in a comment to me), “the Chassidic Jew is mainly interested in supplying G-d’s needs (Nachat Ruach l’mala).” Nachat Ruach l’mala can be roughly translated as “resting in the Almighty.” God’s great desire is that we rest in Him. Now, if someone counters that God’s greatest need is to supply man’s needs, I would reply that this is not what the Tenach (Old Testament) and the New Testament say. (See here for further discussion).
In the second part on Hans Herzl, I write about his involvement with Christianity.