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Theodor Herzl and the Enlightenment

30 Dec
Theodor Herzl leaning over the balcony of the ...

Theodor Herzl leaning over the balcony of the Hotel Les Trois Rois (Three King’s hotel / Hotel drei Könige) in Basel, Switzerland, possibly during the Sixth Zionist conference there (see here) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Theodor Herzl’s influence looms large in the history of modern Zionism. Few Jews have not been affected by it, whether they are aware of it or not. In my life, besides this influence, which I am writing about now, there is also the fact that my first and last schools were Herzlia Junior School (while at the Cape Jewish Orphanage) and Herzlia High School, which I wrote about here.

There is a very strong connection between Herzl’s cultural and political backgound, France and the Enlightenment. All of these played a significant role in my intellectual and spiritual development.

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. On May 2 of that year, Theodor was born in Budapest, a major city and also the geographical center of the Austro-Hungarian Empire under the Hapsburgs. His family had assimilated into the German and Christian culture of the Empire. The Herzls  celebrated Christmas like many other good assimilated Jews.

The Danube divides Budapest into two parts, the undulating Buda and the flatter prosaic Pest. Theodor was born in Pest, in a building next to a synagogue. In that same year, the first international Jewish organization “Alliance Israelite Universelle” met in Paris. The “Alliance” was founded to protect the rights of world Jewry. Why was the first international congress of world Jewry held in France? After the French Revolution (1789 – 1799), and the slicing off of heads, France became much more liberal towards the Jews. Those grateful to keep their heads were now, in theory, equal, brothers and free – Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

In 1791, the Jews were granted full civil rights and were soon integrated into French society. Of course, the society was not high society owing to the brute fact that high society had already been radically cut down to democratic size. It was the era of the European “Enlightenment”, which was spearheaded by France. The French Enlightenment was embodied in Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778) and Voltaire (1694 – 1778). As in many human endeavours, what often begins with a hand holding a spear aloft ends with a head in a bucket; the head of the man with the spear; Robespierre. This is especially true when the clarion call is for human freedom and human reason.

The Enlightenment had already been kindled in Germany by Emmanuel Kant. In his “What is Enlightenment?”, Kant describes the Enlightenment as “man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage”, where “tutelage” is (Kant continues) “man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another”.

The “Enlightenment” has profound relevance not only for understanding modern man and the modern Jew; not only for understanding Theodor Herzl and the non-religious inspiration of the Zionist movement, but also for shedding light on much of modern Judaism and modern Christianity, where the focal point is man’s happiness, not God’s glory. God saw that the light was good, but man saw that enlightenment was better – much better.

Seventy years after the French Revolution, the Austro-Hungarian Empire heeded the call of liberty, equality, fraternity. A year after Theodor entered primary school (1867), Austria-Hungary created a new Constitution under which Austrian Jews received full civil and religious rights. Meanwhile, in London, Karl Marx, another Jew, was publishing the first volume of his major work, “Das Kapital.”

A portrait of Karl Marx.

A portrait of Karl Marx. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the age of sixteen, Theodor attended the Protestant High School “Evangelische Gymnasium.” Why was he studying at a Christian school? In my case, most Jews of my generation would not have raised an eyebrow at me attending a Christian school in Wellington (South Africa). What about the Jews of the 19th century like Theodor? In the 19th century, Jews were permitted to attend Jewish primary schools. Subsequent education, however, had to be completed at state schools. For example, Theodor’s first school was the “Pester Israelitische Normalhauptschule”, which was one of the primary schools run by the Jewish community of Pest.

All institutions – government, courts, and education – except for a few primary schools – were German. It was only natural for the Hapsburg Empire to pursue a policy of Germanisation. Even family names had to be German. Herz in German – as well as Yiddish – means “heart”. The German herz and Theodor’s family name Herzl is similar in spelling and pronunciation; Herzl has two possible meanings: 1. the Germanised name for the Yiddish Herschel (“deer” – Yiddish “hirsh”; the Old English word “hart” as in the King James Version of Psalm 42:1 “As the hart panteth for the water brooks…”) and 2. the diminutive of herz (heart) in Austrian German.

Here is another example of a Germanised Jewish name: Mord(e)chai becomes Marcus. Karl Marx is an interesting example. How did he get his very German name? His rabbi grandfather, Marc Levy , dropped the Levy, and exchanged Marc for the Germanic name, Marx. Karl’s father’s first name was Heshel, which is a variation of Herschel. Heshel Marx changed his name to Heinrich Marx, which is not a good name for a Jew but a very good name for a Lutheran, whose religion Heinrich Marx adopted and into which his son Karl was baptized. Heinrich became a Lutheran because it opened the higher echelons of the legal profession to him, which were closed to Jews. Heinrich saw the light. Enlightened Germans (who thought they knew what light was) began chipping away at the Scriptures: the enlightened German Jews at the Tanakh, the enlightened German Christians at the “Bible”, and processed it into mangle of academic incoherence. They became lost not for words, but in words: “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).

When Herzl was 17 years old, the Empire was divided into the German speaking Greater Austria (the red section in the map) and the Hungarian speaking Greater Hungary (the green section of the map). Budapest is at its geographical center.

Austro-Hungarian Empire 1814-1914

Austro-Hungarian Empire 1814-1914

In Moral Dust appears a photo of pre-WWII rabbis; most, if not all, were killed in the holocaust. All of them were against the Zionist ideal of a Jewish state. They believed that the scriptures had clearly forbidden the Jews to attempt to establish a political state. This was not only the belief of the rabbis but of most Jews. There were, however, some rabbis who believed otherwise. Herzl’s grandfather, Simon Loeb Herzl, was one of these. Simon Loeb Herzl was a disciple of Rabbi Judah Alkalai of Semlin, near Belgrade. Rabbi Alkalai published a book in which he stated that the redemption of the Jewish people could only occur if there were a Jewish state in the Holy Land. He expected wealthy Western Jews to play a key role in the establishment of the Jewish state. Theodor’s grandfather, who seemed to have had a large influence on Theodor, shared this view.

Hans Herzl (3): Catholicism, liberal Judaism and death

7 Feb

This is a follow-on from two earlier pieces on Hans Herzl – Hans (1) and Hans (2). I discuss Hans’ involvement with Christianity and liberal Judaism, his death and final burial on Mt Herzl.

Matt at the Roshpinaproject (RPP – a Messianic Jewish site) expressed a common Jewish view of Jews who convert to Christianity: “Most Jewish converts to Christianity who claim any orthodox background are very fishy (they claim they grew up “conservadox”, or that their parents were orthodox).” And Bubby also at the Roshpinaproject, who told me – a convert to Christianity – that she suspected that “you never had the opportunity to find out the truth about Judaism and Torah so you feel like an outcast and you are angry and hostile.” I was a bit hostile in some of my comments on RPP but not because I felt a Jewish outcast. The reason for my hostility was that Bubby and other Jewish comments at the Roshpinaproject stressed that it was tragic that a Jew would give up his Jewish soul (neshamos) for the worship of the “man” Jesus. I kept on and on stressing – and stressing out; yes, that’s what it was, and not hostility – that what ultimately matters to me was Christ in me. Contrary to Hans, I had a thorough Jewish upbringing in my early childhood – from the age of 3-4 to 9, which was spent in a Jewish orphanage. (I wrote about the Orphanage years here).

Earlier, I examined the life of Theodor Herzl for whom Zionism was purely a political movement. Whereas Theodor Herzl’s struggle, was political, his son’s struggle was social and ethical 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. 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.

Of course, Hans said, 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).

Between the ages of 26 (1917) and his suicide aged 39 (1930), Hans searched for an answer to the Jewish ethical and political problems. He studied Zionism but found it inadequate. He believed that the Jewish question would never be solved unless the Jews united with Christians in seeking a universal solution for humanity. If Judaism and Christianity were united in the worship of the One God, as Hans claimed, where would one look for an institution that embodied universal brotherhood (see Hans Herzl (1): The World-Church and Unification of the Human family). In the Roman Catholic Church, perhaps. But before, Hans flirted with the Roman Catholic Church, he became a Baptist for a while. After he left the Roman Catholic Church he tried various other denominations. I focus on Hans’ sojourn in the Roman Catholic Church not only because I belonged to that church for more than two decades but also because it is the church that is the most universal (“catholic”) of all the other Christian denominations – and that was what Hans was looking for: a “universal” movement.

The (Roman Catholic) Church’s main tenet, writes Abraham Coralnik, is a spiritual authority that unites peoples and nations into a universal unity, with one sole center – Rome. This is Catholicism’s eternal dream. This is what has strongly attracted romantics and people with imagination, from Dante to Cardinal Newman…One can well imagine how a man like Hans Herzl came to embrace Catholicism. Just because he was a Herzl, just because he was an “orphan of Zionism,” as it were, an orphan of the Jewish people, he felt perhaps more sharply than the rest of us, the chasm that lies between Judaism as a religion and Judaism as a political, national institution. What meaning did Judaism have for him? What did he know about it? In his father’s house, he heard talk of a Juden Staat, a state to be build with old crumbling material” (Reflections on Jewish Civiliation (Across the Great Divide Series: The Selected Essays of Abraham Coralnik, Vol I, p. 130). Coralnik’s “old crumbling material” refers to Herzl’s political foundations contrasted with the solid foundations of Judaism.

Coralnik’s “orphan of Zionism” seems to allude to the fact that Hans and his sisters were left orphans after the death of their parents:  “…the founder of Zionism spent his life fighting for a home for his people. His orphaned children spent their lives searching for a home of their own” (David Zax; see “The fall and the fall of the Herzl Dynasty (1): The clouds open.” If Coralnik means by “orphan” the fact that Hans lost his parents at a young age, I don’t see how that relates to Coralnik’s description that “he (Hans) felt perhaps (italics added) more sharply than the rest of us, the chasm that lies between Judaism as a religion and Judaism as a political, national institution.” Coralnik’s “perhaps” indicates that he is only surmising that Hans’ orphan status had any direct bearing on Hans’ – very real – conflict between religious and political Judaism. But even such a suggestion is not warranted because a (Jewish) orphan may choose to become an orthodox Jew or an assimilated Jew, without the conflicts that did actually occur in his life influencing such a decision.

The Roman Catholic Church was nothing like Hans envisioned it. He was perhaps deceived by the name catholic “universal.” If, however, if he was living after Vatican II, especially during John Paul II’s reign he would have felt much more at home. The papal encyclical Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”) states:

(Nostra Aetate is the Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, October, 1965)

The Church therefore has this exhortation for her sons: prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life, acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture” (Nostra Aetate 2). (See Buddhism, Judaism and Catholic Nostra Aetate and Universalism and the Mystical Desertion of the Gospel.

And Pope Paul II wanted to do tshuva (prayer of repentance). Rabbi Blech relates that Pope John Paul II’s favourite teachers at Acting School were Jews. The Pope described how the Nazis shot his Jewish teachers in front of his eyes. “This (Rabbi Blech relates) changed his whole perception. He said we have to go to the Kotel [wailing wall] to do tshuva”, he used the Jewish word tshuva. (Blech addressing his audience) [You say it] can’t be because he is a goy. Goyim can change.” (See Rabbis, “evangelicals” and Messianic Jews of Maozisrael

, ostensibly, also thought so – that goyim can change. According to the majority modern Jewish view of Isaiah 53, the following words emanate not from the Messiah but from the repentant mouths of the goyim:

Isaiah 53:8b

For he (the Jewish people) was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people (the goyim) he (the Jewish people) was stricken.”

Here is the prevalent rabbinic opinion of Isaiah 53:

Isaiah 53 contains a deeply moving narrative which world leaders will cry aloud in the messianic age.  The humbled kings of nations (52:15) will confess that Jewish suffering occurred as a direct result of “our own iniquity,” (53:5) i.e., depraved Jew-hatred, rather than, as they previously thought, the stubborn blindness of the Jews.” (See Isaiah 53: The grammar of modern rabbinical interpretation).

Hans would probably have found in Mother Teresa the missing piece of the puzzle; not only because of her good works, but also because of her universalist theology – she tried to reconcile the dying to their gods. But, Hans died long before Vatican II, and so did not have the opportunity to savour a church that was becoming catholic (“universalist”) in ways that that would have shocked the Catholic Church of pre-Vatican !!; for example, the video “Catholicism: Crisis of Faith” has film footage of an ecumenical gathering of the Dalai Lama chanting, African shamans calling on their gods, and Muslims chanting from the Koran. The altar that was used for the service had a statue of Buddha on top of the Tabernacle (an ornate container for consecrated bread). Catholics believe that consecrated bread is literally the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. Putting a statue of Buddha on top of the Tabernacle is, in effect, elevating Buddha above Jesus Christ. A sedevecantist’s (a minority of traditional Catholics) worst nightmare, and, perhaps, Hans’ dream of universal brotherhood come true. (A sedevecantist is a Catholic who believes that the changes of Vatican II such as the one I have described are heretical; therefore, the popes from the beginning of Vatican II (1962) onwards are heretics. This means that the Chair of Peter is now vacant (empty – sede vacante – “empty seat”) because it is not longer “Peter” who sits on the papal throne but a impostor

After a brief sojourn, Hans left the Roman Catholic Church,which merited him instant excommunication. But then, all that “excommunication” meant to Hans, and to many others who leave the Roman Catholic Church, is that they no longer have any communion with that church. Hans tried various other Christian denominations and dropped those too. Protestant denominations don’t excommunicate you from the church for leaving, because they have a different definition of “church,” (to the definition of the Roman Catholic Church), which refers to “children of God,” that is, sinners who have been born again. I don’t know whether Hans was familiar with these distinctions or took any interest in them. His next “religious” move was to a liberal synagogue in London, which suggests that he was not searching for God – God as Creator of the universe, who is also personal – because liberal Judaism, of all the different kinds of Judaism, is the furthest removed from traditional Judaism (of whom Moses Maimonides is a prime example).

In Judaism (and other religions), one of the main issues is the degree of importance of the Law. For ultra-Orthodox Jews, all 613 laws (mitzvot) are essential. In contrast, Conservative and Reform Jews are selective. Then there is a vast swathe of Jews who don’t believe in the Torah at all or in the God of the Torah. These are the Reconstructionist Jews and to the right of them (believing less) are the liberal Jews. (See The Torah: shared myths and other stories in Reconstructionist Judaism and The Eternal, History and Reform Judaism.

The Liberal Judaism website says:

Liberal Judaism arose in early nineteenth century Germany as an attempt to reconcile the basic principles of Judaism with the Enlightenment values of rational thought and scientific evidence. As the Jew emerged into Western society, Liberal Judaism affirmed the possibility and desirability of making compatible the practice of Judaism and a Jew’s participation in modern society. Liberal Judaism’s main departure from traditional Judaism concerns revelation. Liberal Judaism believes that the Hebrew Scriptures including the Torah are a human attempt to understand the Divine Will, and therefore uses Scripture as the starting point for Jewish decision making, conscious of the fallibility of scripture and of the value of knowledge outside of Scripture. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, there are over thirty Liberal and Progressive Jewish congregations, large and small.”

I don’t see any significant difference between “Reconstructionist Judaism” and the above description of “Liberal Judaism.” There is hardly anything in these two modern products of the Enlightenment that represents the Judaism that has existed for more than 3000 years, and continues to exist among those who have been set apart (for God) from the myriads of Jews that make up the bulk of everyday Jews. The Torah is set apart from the world; it is in the world, but not of the world.

The irony is that modern Conservative and Reform Jews, and Jews who don’t believe in the God of Israel at all, are Zionists, whereas Ultra-Orthodox Jews are anti-Zionists. Ultra-Orthodox Jews reject “Zionism” because it is a human, not a divine, creation; it gainsays the Torah. Ultra-Orthodox Jews believe with Rambam that every word of the Tanakh is breathed out by God.

I believe in the words of the prophets. They are the truth.
I believe that the Bible was given to Moses.
I believe that the Bible cannot be changed.”

(Rambam – Moses Maimonides)

For Hans, religion was probably nothing more than a ritual of the senses whose function was to make sense of the rigmarole of life. Church was to Hans what nature was to Baudelaire:

Nature (church) is a temple whose living pillars from time to time
Utter confused and confusing words;
Man enters, passing through a forest of symbols
Gazing on him with familiar eyes.1

(Charles Baudelaire, “Les Correspondences,” my translation).

There is a world of difference between “ritual” and “spiritual.” Here is Charles Spurgeon:

“… much of the religion which is abroad in the world is a vain thing. The religion of ceremonies is vain. If a man shall trust in the gorgeous pomp of uncommanded mysteries, if he shall consider that there resides some mystic efficacy in a priest, and that by uttering certain words a blessing is infallibly received, we tell him that his religion is a vain thing. You might as well go to the Witch of Endor for grace as to a priest; and if you rely upon words, the “Abracadabra” of a magician will as certainly raise you to heaven, or rather sink you to hell, as the performances of the best ordained minister under heaven. Ceremonies in themselves are vain, futile, empty. There are but two of God’s ordaining, they are most simple, and neither of them pretend to have any efficacy in themselves. They only set forth an inward and spiritual grace, not necessarily tied to them, but only given to those who by faith perceive their teachings. All ceremonial religion, no matter how sincere, if it consist in relying upon forms and observances, is a vain thing. So with creed-religion—by which I mean not to speak against creeds, for I love “the form of sound words,” but that religion which lies in believing with the intellect a set of dogmas, without partaking of the life of God; all this is a vain thing (Charles Spurgeon’s “Religion – A Reality“). (See My conversion to Roman Catholicism and why I left).

 


Soon after his move to a liberal Judaism, Hans began to lose total control of his miserable life. Judith Rice writes:

In time he found himself attending the liberal synagogue in London. His life had spiralled into spiritual, emotional and personal hopelessness. Word came to him of his beloved sister Pauline’s death in Bordeaux. His depression and self-absorption, his failure in protecting his sister and saving himself (hence his people the Jews) became manic.”

So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 2:12-17).

In Bordeaux, the day after his sister Pauline’s death, he wrote the following letter:

If a ritual can really calm our spirits and give us the illusion of being in the company of our beloved dead once more I can’t think of anything better than a visit to the Temple: there I can pray for my parents, ask their forgiveness [Hans' father hated religion] and repent my apostasy before God. I am destitute and sick, unhappy and bitter. I have no home. Nobody pays any attention to the words of a convert. I cannot suddenly turn my back on a community which offered me its friendship.”

Without prejudice, even if all my physical and moral impulses urge me to: I have burned all my bridges… What good is the penance which the Church has ordained for my “spiritual healing”! I torture my body in vain: my conscience is torturing me far worse. My life is ruined… Nobody would regret it if I were to put a bullet through my head. Could I undo my errors that way? I realize how right my father had been when he once said: “Only the withered branches fall off a tree – the healthy ones flourish.” 2

Withered branches” refers to Theodor Herzl’s “The Jewish State,” in which he wrote, “Branches of the Jewish people may perish. Its tree will live.” Herzl’s “branches” reminds me of Chaim Weizmann, one of the key founders of Zionism, who when asked before WWII:

Can you bring six million Jews to Palestine?” I replied, “No.” … From the depths of the tragedy I want to save … young people [for Palestine] “The old ones will pass. They will bear their fate or they will not. They are dust, economic and moral dust in a cruel world … Only the branch of the young shall survive. They have to accept it.” (Chaim Weizmann reporting to the Zionist Congress in 1937 on his testimony before the Peel Commission in London). (See Moral Dust).

Hans was 39 years old (1891- 1930) – not too old for Weizmann – but didn’t wish to survive. The day after the death of his sister Pauline in Bordeaux and thirty-five years after Theodor, his father’s dream about crowning him King of Israel, Hans wrote a short note to the hotel manager, in which he apologised for the mayhem he was about to unleash. Then “with a single gunshot, pierced the head his father had dreamed would wear the crown of Israel.”

His wished to be buried with his sister Pauline, but the Jewish Orthodox community refused. They reluctantly agreed after pressure from the caretakers of Herzl legacy, and Hans was buried – secretly – next to his sister in the Jewish cemetery of Bordeaux. If only I knew in 1962 what I know and interests me greatly now, for I visited Bordeaux on several occasions. It took many more years for Israel to agree to having Hans remains buried in Israel. In 2006 the remains of the once future King of Israel and Pauline were removed to Israel, where they were buried on Mount Herzl next to their father.

The procession which starts at the doge’s palace will be opened by Herzl-Cuirassiers. Then come the artillery and infantry… while all are marching in gold-studded gala uniforms, the high priests under canopies, the doge himself will wear the garb of shame of a medieval ghetto Jew: the pointed hat, the yellow badge… When I thought that someday I might crown Hans as doge… I had tears in my eyes” (Herzl’s diary, 1895, when Hans was four years old).

1Here is the original French:

La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers.

2 Here is some of the original German – “Ich bin eine einsame, verzweifelte, traurige und bittere Gestalt”.Niemand hört auf einen Konvertiten. Ich habe alle meine Brücken verbrannt. Mein Leben ist ruiniert. Niemand würde es bedauern, wenn ich eine Kugel durch meinen Kopf jagte. Ich kann so nicht weiterleben.”

“… much of the religion which is abroad in the world is a vain thing. The religion of ceremonies is vain. If a man shall trust in the gorgeous pomp of uncommanded mysteries, if he shall consider that there resides some mystic efficacy in a priest, and that by uttering certain words a blessing is infallibly received, we tell him that his religion is a vain thing. You might as well go to the Witch of Endor for grace as to a priest; and if you rely upon words, the “Abracadabra” of a magician will as certainly raise you to heaven, or rather sink you to hell, as the performances of the best ordained minister under heaven. Ceremonies in themselves are vain, futile, empty. There are but two of God’s ordaining, they are most simple, and neither of them pretend to have any efficacy in themselves. They only set forth an inward and spiritual grace, not necessarily tied to them, but only given to those who by faith perceive their teachings. All ceremonial religion, no matter how sincere, if it consist in relying upon forms and observances, is a vain thing. So with creed-religion—by which I mean not to speak against creeds, for I love “the form of sound words,” but that religion which lies in believing with the intellect a set of dogmas, without partaking of the life of God; all this is a vain thing (Charles Spurgeon’s “Religion – A Reality“).

Hans Herzl (2): He was always a Jew?

15 Jan

(The is a follow-on from Hans Herzl (1): The World-Church and Unification of the Human family)

When Hans Herzl was four years old, Theodor, his father, pictured Hans in the grubby regalia of a medieval ghetto Jew and crowning him, King (“doge”) of the Jewish State:

The procession which starts at the doge’s palace will be opened by Herzl-Cuirassiers. Then come the artillery and infantry… while all are marching in gold-studded gala uniforms, the high priests under canopies, the doge himself will wear the garb of shame of a medieval ghetto Jew: the pointed hat, the yellow badge… When I thought that someday I might crown Hans as doge… I had tears in my eyes” (Herzl’s diary, 1895).

Thirty-five years later, the day after the death of his sister Pauline in Bordeaux, Hans wrote a short note to the hotel manager, in which he apologised for the mayhem he was about to unleash. Then“with a single gunshot, pierced the head his father had dreamed would wear the crown of Israel.”

Over the last few months, I can’t get Hans out of mind. It is true that like him, I am a Jew who belonged to various Christian denominations, one of which, Roman Catholicism, played a dominant role in my life (but no longer does). But there’s more to my preoccupation with Hans:

Firstly, it’s the contradiction between his utterly wretched family life and death (and indeed his father’s wretched family life as well), on the one hand, and the “Messianic” hopes his father, Theodor, had dreamed up for him. And secondly, it’s the mystery of salvation itself, of Christian salvation, which Hans obviously didn’t understand, because he wasn’t – it seems – looking for it.

I only touch on this second issue here, which I will deal with in greater detail in the last part of my thoughts on Hans Herzl.

Hans’ parents, Theodor and Julie, were products of the “Enlightenment.” The “Enlightenment” has profound relevance not only for understanding modern man and the modern Jew; not only for understanding Theodor Herzl and the non-religious inspiration of the Zionist movement, but also for shedding light on much of modern Judaism and modern Christianity, where the focal point is man’s happiness, not God’s glory. God saw that the light was good, but man saw that enlightenment was better – much better. In the Herzl family, there was nothing Judaic. Hans was not even circumcised. Theodor Herzl, like most of the older Zionists, like Chaim Weizmann (see his autobiography “Trial and error”, 1949) and Nordau and Jabotinsky were not interested in their Judaic heritage. As Achad Ha’am remarked, Herzl knew much about the Newland but nothing about the Oldland, nothing about the “ancient paths” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Judith Rice describes the Vienna of the Herzls and the Herzls” family life:

Vienna, in the 1890′s, was viewed as the cultural center of the world. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a shining example of cross cultural amalgamation and hope for the disparate groups of peoples living under the Emperor. The Herzl family fully accepted and adopted the principles of Jewish liberation, acceptance and normalization through assimilation, modernization and national identification. After two thousand years of the Jewish Diaspora, European liberalism and an enlightened, educated public would finally bring an end to Jewish isolation, rejection and irrational anti-Semitism.”

Hans Herzl was the middle child, of three, born to Theodor and Julie Herzl. The Herzl children were raised in a highly assimilated, visciously dysfunctional pseudo aristocratic Jewish household. The parents despised each other. The children, isolated from other children, ostensibly for health reasons, were virtually raised by governesses and strangers. By the time of Theodor Herzl’s death in 1904, Hans had little background in Jewish social, cultural or religious education. It was only in the relatively few years before his father’s death that Hans was episodically and superficially introduced to Judaism.”

Uraya Shavit (in her “Doomed Dynasty”) writes:

[Theodor Herzl's] children, Pauline, Hans and Trude, were raised like royalty, isolated from their peers, aware from early childhood of the burden of responsibility imposed on them by their surname. But in stark contrast to his political vision, Herzl’s dream of a family dynasty was not realized. All three children suffered from various forms of mental instability that marked them for life. Alienated from society, unable to support themselves, they were an embarrassment to the Zionist movement and a drain on its financial resources. They died, tormented and solitary, without witnessing the realization of their father’s vision.”

Hans had little regard for his father’s vision of a Jewish State. Hans was an internationalist; his homeland was, as he said, the “entire world.” Here is Hans in 1929, one year before his death:

My father was a great man, whom I loved… But I’ve come to see that he made a great historical error in his attempt to rebuild the Jewish State…. My father did not realize the true mission of the Jewish people, which has proven that the living and fertilizing spirit does not need territorial boundaries, and that a people can live and exist even when fortifications and borders have disappeared. I would ask them not to attempt to add to the decadent civilizations but to remember their true identity and work for the cultural reconstruction of their homeland – and this homeland is the entire world.” (Hans Herzl to Marcel Steinberger in “Princes Without a Home, Modern Zionism and the Strange Fate of Theodor Herzl’s Children 1900-1945.” Ilse Steinberger, International Scholars Publications, San Francisco 1994).

Hans’ spiritual struggle was unrelated to psychology, politics and religion. Hans reasoned that if God was universal, it would follow that 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. This view is prominent in much liberal Christian theology such as Karl Barth: to put it perhaps crudely, what is important to many modern Christians – and Jews (see here, here, and here) – is not the historicity of the Bible but its positive impact on universal brotherhood. I would add that anyone who makes a significant contribution to this ideal, will most certainly be up for the Nobel Peace prize.

For Hans, the problem, in the earlier period of his spiritual search, lay in the ethical realm of good and evil. Hans believed that ethics proved the existence of a moral law giver. Indeed, the Bible is shot through with the struggle between good and evil; so much so that it is easy to fall into the error of thinking that the main focus of the Bible is about man’s (in)humanity to man. The main focus of the Bible is the revelation of those facets of God’s character and his purposes that he desires to reveal to us. One thing the Bible makes clear: God’s purposes are not man’s purposes.

Did Hans come to realise that the Bible was more than a handbook on ethics. Does such a realisation explain his connection (conversion?) to various Christian movements. One writer (Free Library) describes his links to various religious as “cycling through” different denominations. Gil Hoffman believes that the reason why Hans became involved with Christianity was not because he was searching for a level of truth deeper than ethics, deeper than human relationships, but because he saw in Christianity, and later in liberal Judaism, a possible way to unite humanity. Gil Hoffman writes:

Hans’ search for ‘the universal truth’ which could unite disparate nations drew him away from his limited links with Judaism and towards the Baptists, the Catholic Church, the Hebrew-Christians, the Quakers, and finally to liberal Judaism, in spite of its clearly anti-Zionist bias at the time.”

Judith Rice expresses a similar view to Gil Hoffman:

The Baptists did not provide the structure and answer for the better world that Hans envisioned. He saw that they could not deliver a world-wide improvement to humanity through a central fiat the way a head of state could. In short order Hans converted again and was baptized a Catholic. Hans soon left the Catholic Church and was excommunicated. He tried different forms of Christianity but found no solace in any. In time he found himself attending the liberal synagogue in London. His life had spiraled into spiritual, emotional and personal hopelessness. Word came to him of his beloved sister Pauline’s death in Bordeaux. His depression and self-absorption, his failure in protecting his sister and saving himself (hence his people the Jews) became manic.”

Hans was with his sister the day she died. The next day he wrote (my italicised comments appear within the text in square brackets):

If a ritual can really calm our spirits and give us the illusion of being in the company of our beloved dead once more I can’t think of anything better than a visit to the Temple: there I can pray for my parents, ask their forgiveness [Hans had a miserable childhood; his parents were continually at each other's throats] and repent my apostasy before God [Apostasy from what? Not from Judaism, because he never believed in the God of the Torah. He was a “liberal” Jew, like his father]. I am destitute and sick, unhappy and bitter. I have no home. Nobody pays any attention to the words of a convert. [“Nobody” refers to Jews. The immediate disciples of Christ were all Jews. Imagine if their fellow Jews didn't listen to them because they were “converts”]. I cannot suddenly turn my back on a community [Jewish community] which offered me its friendship.”

Without prejudice, even if all my physical and moral impulses urge me to: I have burned all my bridges… What good is the penance which the Church has ordained for my “spiritual healing”! [It becomes obvious that Hans was not interested in the deep truths of Christianity but only in their social significance].I torture my body in vain: my conscience is torturing me far worse. I am destitute and bitter. I have no home. My life is ruined… Nobody would regret it if I were to put a bullet through my head. Could I undo my errors that way? I realize how right my father had been when he once said: “Only the withered branches fall off a tree – the healthy ones flourish.” [Theodor Herzl had written in The Jewish State: "The branches of the Jewish people may perish. Its tree will live."1

Hans was at his sister Pauline's bedside in Bordeaux when she died. On September 15, 1930, a day after Pauline's death, Hans shot himself in the head. He wanted to be buried with his sister. The orthodox Jewish community of Bordeaux, however, were very much against the idea that an apostate should be given a Jewish funeral. After much pressure, and the realisation that he, like the rest of his family, suffered from mental illness, they relented and buried Hans - hush hush, - in the same Jewish cemetery as his sister.

Judith Rice writes:

Prof. Dawnd an old friend of Hans wrote to Trude (Herzl) Neumann in Vienna: 'I first met dear Hans at the British Legation in Bern, in August 1914… I loved has as a (dear) brother, and his tragic death was a great shock to me and my family. He had changed his views: he was a true Jew, and until a few days before his death he was studying the Bible with me, and praying for the peace of Jerusalem…' September of 2006 the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel provided the final respectful honor to Theodor Herzl. The modest ceremonies returned the remains from France to be reburied on Mt. Herzl. The final act was done.”

Hans ended up a Jew. Once a Jew always a Jew? The Jew says yes. Once a Catholic always a Catholic? The Catholic says yes. If both the Jew and the Catholic are right, doesn't it follow that once a Jewish Catholic always a Jewish Catholic. But more seriously, there are Jews who believe that the soul God puts into Jews is far superior – indeed of a different genus – to the Gentile soul. This superiority, they nobly argue, exists to serve inferior souls and bring them to God and show them how to obey his commands (mitzvot). (See “The book of Jewish belief” by Louis Jacobs, p. 40).

Here is a recent example of the superiority of the Jewish soul from Bubby, a Jew, at the RoshPinaProject:

"The truth is that every Jew has a Jewish Soul, you were not created by mistake as a Jew, it wasn’t an afterthought; Jews were not created to believe in christianity, and believing in jesus involves being a christian. Yes, I am well aware that there are Jews who believe in Jesus; there are Jews who do a lot of things, it doesn’t mean that Jews should believe in jesus. The Jews are not just a religion, we are a people. Christians are not born christians, but Jews are born Jews with g-d given Jewish Souls….its abnormal for a Jew to believe in a christian god; this is why so many Jews wake up and fly off the windowsill.”

Bubby had once become involved in Messianic Judaism. She was one of those who woke up but instead of “flying off the windowsill” managed to jump back inside safely into the arms of “the truth [that] every Jew has a Jewish soul” (Bubby).

The Rambam’s view (Moses Maimonides) is that the difference between a Jewish and a Gentile soul is purely theological. This seems to be the majority Jewish view. If Maimonides is right, then the only kind of apostasy is theological. Now, as Hans Herzl had no Judaic believe to apostatize from, he can’t be regarded as a Jewish apostate, but rather as a Catholic apostate.

In my third and last part on Hans, I discuss the religious implications of his life and relate them to my religious journey.

1I include here part of Hans’ letter in the original German, which – for me – is much more poignant. If you know Yiddish (my parents spoke Yiddish), the German will not be much of a problem. There are many German words that are similar to “Afrikaans,” which I can speak, being a South African. “Ich bin eine einsame, verzweifelte, traurige und bittere Gestalt”, schrieb Hans Herzl ein Jahr vor seinem Selbstmord an seinen Freund Marcel Sternberger. “Niemand hört auf einen Konvertiten. Ich habe alle meine Brücken verbrannt. Mein Leben ist ruiniert. Niemand würde es bedauern, wenn ich eine Kugel durch meinen Kopf jagte. Ich kann so nicht weiterleben.” German – einsame; Afrikaans eensaam; German – traurige; Afrikaans – treurig, and many more.

Hans Herzl (1): The World-Church and Unification of the Human family

11 Jan

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.

[The Beatitudes]

[2] And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

[3] “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

[4] “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

[5] “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

[6] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

[7] “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

[8] “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

[9] “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

[10] “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.

[11] “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. [12] 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.

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 is plucked from the reeds of his mind, as 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.

 

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 haven. Herzl’s “heaven” is the Jewish State, which, his son, Hans, in contrast to his father, thought, to be a wild wounded bird that 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 meant 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.

[The Beatitudes]

[2] And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

[3] “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

[4] “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

[5] “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

[6] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

[7] “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

[8] “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

[9] “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

[10] “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

The next two verses would have meant nothing to Hans because it is about, as Hans said, “the outdated dogma of the historical Messiah” (See full quote below)

[11] “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. [12] 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 next part on Hans Herzl, I will write about his involvement with Christianity.

Herzl, Jeremiah and Nietzsche: the Old and the New Paths

26 Dec

Theodor Herzl and the Prophet Jeremiah had, as I wrote elsewhere, this in common: Theodor had  a fire shut up in his bones that consumed him, perhaps similar to the intensity of the fire that consumed the prophet Jeremiah:

Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name. But His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” Jeremiah 20:9).

The zeal of Jeremiah and Herzl may have been similar in intensity, but was the fire the same? If the fire the Levitical priests offered to the Lord was a holy fire,  then the fire that Herzl offered was a “strange” fire – an estranged fire, a profane fire, an alien fire that alienated him from the Holy One of Israel. Why would this be so? because Herzl had forsaken the Holy One of Israel for the  Zeitgeist (World Spirit). Herzl had forsaken the “ancient paths.”

Jeremiah 6:

[16] Thus says the LORD: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

[17] I set watchmen over you, saying, Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’

[18] Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.

[19] Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people, the fruit of their devices, because they have not paid attention to my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it.

Achad Ha’am said of Herzl that he knew much about the Newland Neuland but nothing about the Oldland Altland. Achad Ha’am is alluding to Herzl’s novel Altneuland “Oldnewland,” which describes the future Zionist development of the Jewish State Judenstaat.

Abraham Coralnik compares Herzl with Friedrich Nietzsche.

Herzl looked at Judaism and at the historic evolvement of the Jewish people the way Nietzsche had looked at present day mankind, as a step, as a condition one must overcome. Herzl gave no thought to things as they were, only to the way they ought to be.”

So, according to Coralnik, both Nietzsche and Herzl regarded the present as an obstacle that ought to be overcome. The human condition is heavily burdened with this conflict between “is” and “ought.” The more one strives for what one thinks life ought to be, the sharper and heavier “what is” becomes. So, it would not be correct to say that (Theodore) Herzl – or Nietszche – gave no thought to the way things were. On the contrary, I suggest that they thought much about the way things were,  but didn’t like things the way they were. Theodor Herzl took a deep interest in what went on around him; after all, he was a newspaper reporter – a very busy, and very good, one. Perhaps what Coralnik means by “gave no thought to things as they were” is that Herzl and Nietzsche “gave little value to things as they were” because they didn’t satisfy. Now where have I heard that before? Oh yes, in Ecclesiastes, whose Hebrew title is Koheleth “the collecter (of sentences),” “the preacher.” Herzl and Nietzsche hated preachers. I do think, though, that both Herzl and Nietzsche would’ve made of Koheleth an honorary exception.

Koheleth 1

[2] Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. [3] What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?

[4] A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.

[5] The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.

[6] The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns.

[7] All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.

[8] All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

[9] What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

(Ecclesiastes 1:2-9 ESV)


Theodor Herzl and the Prophet Jeremiah had, as I wrote elsewhere, this in common: Theodor had  a fire shut up in his bones that consumed him, perhaps similar to the intensity of the fire that consumed the prophet Jeremiah:

Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name. But His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” Jeremiah 20:9).

The zeal of Jeremiah and Herzl may have been similar in intensity, but was the fire the same? If the fire the Levitical priests offered to the Lord was a holy fire,  then the fire that Herzl offered was a “strange” fire – an estranged fire, a profane fire, an alien fire that alienated him from the Holy One of Israel. Why would this be so? because Herzl had forsaken the Holy One of Israel for the  Zeitgeist (World Spirit). Herzl had forsaken the “ancient paths.”

Jeremiah 6:

[16] Thus says the LORD:

Stand by the roads, and look,

and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it,

and find rest for your souls.

But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

[17] I set watchmen over you, saying,

Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’

But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’

[18] Therefore hear, O nations,

and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.

[19] Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people,

the fruit of their devices,

because they have not paid attention to my words;

and as for my law, they have rejected it.

Abraham Coralnik compares Herzl with Friedrich Nietzsche.

Herzl, Coralnik continues, looked at Judaism and at the historic evolvement of the Jewish people the way Nietzsche had looked at present day mankind, as a step, as a condition one must overcome. Herzl gave no thought to things as they were, only to the way they ought to be.”

So, according to Coralnik, both Nietzsche and Herzl regarded the present as an obstacle that ought to be overcome. The human condition is heavily burdened with this conflict between “is” and “ought.” The more one strives for what one thinks life ought to be, the clearer, and heavier, “what is” becomes. So, it would not be correct to say that (Theodore) Herzl – or Nietszche – gave no thought to the way things were. On the contrary, I suggest that they thought much about the way things were. The point is they didn’t like things the way they were. Theodor Herzl took a deep interest in what went on around him; after all, he was a newspaper reporter – a very busy, and very good, one. Perhaps what Coralnik means by “gave no thought to things as they were” is that Herzl and Nietzsche “gave little value to things as they were” because they didn’t satisfy. Now where have I heard that before? Oh yes, in Ecclesiastes, whose Hebrew title is Koheleth “the collecter (of sentences),” “the preacher.”

Herzl and Nietzsche hated preachers. I do think, though, that both Herzl and Nietzsche would’ve made of Koheleth an honorary exception.

[2] Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,

vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

[3] What does man gain by all the toil

at which he toils under the sun?

[4] A generation goes, and a generation comes,

but the earth remains forever.

[5] The sun rises, and the sun goes down,

and hastens to the place where it rises.

[6] The wind blows to the south

and goes around to the north;

around and around goes the wind,

and on its circuits the wind returns.

[7] All streams run to the sea,

but the sea is not full;

to the place where the streams flow,

there they flow again.

[8] All things are full of weariness;

a man cannot utter it;

the eye is not satisfied with seeing,

nor the ear filled with hearing.

[9] What has been is what will be,

and what has been done is what will be done,

and there is nothing new under the sun.

(Ecclesiastes 1:2-9 ESV)

Outstanding and Standing out Jewish believers in Yeshua: the Anima of Hans Herzl

22 Dec

One of the topics on my site is “Theodor Herzl and his tragic family.” In Herzl, King of the Jews,” I described Theodor dreaming about fitting out his son, Hans, his lowly tormented son, in the grubby regalia of a medieval ghetto Jew and crowning him, Duke, Doge, Doxe, Prince, King,  of the Most Serene Judenstaat.

Frank Yulish lists 52 Jews who became believers in Yeshua. He says: “I could list many more, but these 52 are outstanding.” Hans, the son of Theodor Herzl, is one of them. Here is the entry on Hans:

“Hans Herzl, son of Theodore Herzl (founder of modern Zionism), commits suicide after growing up at an Orthodox Jewish boarding school, coming to faith in Messiah, undergoing tremendous abuse, and then retreating to liberal Judaism. The Baltimore Jewish Times honestly reports that “when Herzl’s son became a convert to Christianity – not for material gain, but because he believed that if the idea of Jewish nationalism is thought to its final conclusion one can be a Christian Jew – he was read out of Jewry. The death of … Herzl reminds us that in many instances “we are ruthless fanatics.”

What would be the normal understanding of an “outstanding” doctor, an “outstanding” speaker, an “outstanding” actor, and so on? The obvious answer is that the doctor, speaker, actor, and so on, excel at what they do. We would, therefore, assume that an “outstanding Jewish believer in Yeshua” would definitely not mean a Jewish believer in Yeshua who abandons his belief in Yeshua. But, not only did Hans abandon his belief in Yeshua, he, unlike all of the other 52 “outstanding” believers in Yeshua mentioned on the list, committed the ultimate act of despair, by taking his own life. Hans should, arguably, not appear on the list of 52, because the term “outstanding” applied to him is a misnomer. The more appropriate description for Hans is not “outstanding” but “standing out.” He not only stands out from most Jewish believers in Yeshua worldwide, but he also stands out from the 52 “outstanding” ones on the list.

We previouslly read (above) that when Hans converted to Christianity…he was read out of Jewry.” Most of Jewry will not bat an eyelid at a Hare Krishna Jew or an atheist Jew. On thing it will not tolerate is a baptised Jew – having done so willingly, of course.

 

Frank Yulish lists 52 Jews who became believers in Yeshua. He says: “I could list many more, but these 52 are outstanding.” Hans, the son of Theodor Herzl, is one of them. Here is the entry on Hans:

1930 – Hans Herzl, son of Theodore Herzl (founder of modern Zionism)
Hans Herzl, son of Theodore Herzl (founder of modern Zionism), commits
suicide after growing up at an Orthodox Jewish boarding school, coming
to faith in Messiah, undergoing tremendous abuse, and then retreating to
liberal Judaism. The Baltimore Jewish Times honestly reports that “when
Herzl’s son became a convert to Christianity – not for material gain,
but because he believed that if the idea of Jewish nationalism is
thought to its final conclusion one can be a Christian Jew – he was read
out of Jewry. The death of … Herzl reminds us that in many instances
we are ruthless fanatics.”

What would be the normal understanding of an “outstanding” doctor, an “outstanding” speaker, an “outstanding” actor, and so on? The obvious answer is that the doctor, speaker, actor, and so on, excel at what they do. We would, therefore, assume that an “outstanding Jewish believer in Yeshua” would definitely not mean a Jewish believer in Yeshua who abandons his belief in Yeshua. But, not only did Hans abandon his belief in Yeshua, he, unlike all of the other 52 “outstanding” believers in Yeshua mentioned on the list, also committed the ultimate act of despair, by taking his own life. Hans should, arguably, not appear on the list of 52, because the term “outstanding” applied to him is a misnomer. The more appropriate description for Hans is not “outstanding” but “standing out.” He not only stands out from most Jewish believers in Yeshua worldwide, but he also stands out from the 52 “outstanding” ones on the list.

Yulish might have been totally unaware that Hans stood out like a wounded anima among the other 51 “outstanding” believers in Yeshua. I would, however, be Fulish to put my head on a block over the matter.

The fall and the fall of the Herzl Dynasty (2): Lamentations of the Daughters of Zion

2 Nov

Theodor and Julie, his wife, had a very unhappy marriage. Julie suffered from mental illness and drug addiction She died in 1907 at the aged of 39, three years after her husband’s death. Hans her son was 16, her daughters, Pauline and Trude, were 17 and 14. Julie was cremated. After the cremation, Hans took the urn containing her ashes, and caught the train home. He was so upset after the funeral that he forgot the urn on the train. He spent a few months in a sanatorium to recover from the loss of his mother.

Trude, Herzl’s youngest daughter, also suffered from mental illness, much of it the result of a long frustrating courtship with Richard Neumann, 27 years her senior, whom she eventually married. They had a son, Stephen, and separated a few months later. Like her mother and her sister Pauline, Trude was also in and out of sanatoria. Six years later, Richard, her husband, took her to Paris. This fulfilment of her lifelong dream did not improve their relationship. They went back to Vienna. In the late 1930s, she was back in a mental institution. She wrote letters to the Pope, Churchill and Hitler admonishing them to do something about the approaching war. When the Nazis occupied Austria, they ordered that all Jewish hospital patients be transferred to Jewish hospitals. A year later, the Nazis closed these Jewish hospitals, and Trude was transferred to Steinhof, a public hospital. In 1942, she was put on a train to Theresenstadt, a Nazi concentration camp, where she died at the age of 50. The cause of death is not certain – disease, execution or gas chamber. According to reliable accounts she was one among a pile of corpses consigned to the ovens.

Julie’s elder daughter, Paulina, like her mother, was addicted to drugs and suffered from mental illness. She was in and out of mental institutions. She died in Bordeaux in 1930. She apparently died of a drug overdose. It is not clear whether she committed suicide. Like Paulina, my daughter Karenina was also a drug addict and died of a drug overdose. She was in her thirties and unmarried. As with Paulina, it is not clear whether she committed suicide. When a person dies from a strong addiction, there is a thin line between the conscious decision to put an end to one’s life and a sliding down the slope to self destruction.

In an earlier post, I related how Herzl dreamed about making Hans, his son, Prince (doge, doxa) of the future Jewish State. When they were young, Theodor’s three children asked this question: “When father is king, will we still have to go to school?” King of what? Of Zion.   His son, Hans Herzl, is to be the Prince of Zion, his daughters, the “daughters of Zion.”  The House of Herzl, once great, lies wasted and abandoned. Its gates are desolate. There is bitter weeping in the night.They won’t be comforted (Lamentations 1).

All her majesty
Has departed from the daughter of Zion;
Her princes have become like deer
That have found no pasture

(Lamentations 1:6)

I will say more about Hans later on.

The fall and the fall of the Herzl Dynasty (1): The clouds open

30 Oct

Theodor Herzl,  “the founder of Zionism spent his life fighting for a home for his people. His orphaned children spent their lives searching for a home of their own.”

(David Zax)

There was the “Rise of the Roman Empire” (Polyibus), and there was the “Decline and fall of the Roman Empire” (Edward Gibbon) in which Gibbon says:

“It is scarcely possible that the eyes of contemporaries should discover in the public felicity the latent causes of decay and corruption. This long peace, and the uniform government of the Romans, introduced a slow and secret poison into the vitals of the empire. The minds of men were gradually reduced to the same level, the fire of genius was extinguished, and even the military spirit evaporated” (Chapter 2).

When the bed gets too cozy, it’s hard to get up in the morning. What begins and continues in ease and comfort often ends in decay and extinction. One  of the reasons for the decline and fall of Rome was too much comfort, too much pleasure, too much peace. The sensuous become senseless,  and the fire is extinguished.

Rome rose, it declined, it fell. And the Herzl Dynasty? It did not rise, and so could not decline. But it did fall  – and fall. But in the conflagration, the fire continued to burn. Uraya Shavit (in her “Doomed Dynasty”) writes:

“His children, Pauline, Hans and Trude, were raised like royalty, isolated from their peers, aware from early childhood of the burden of responsibility imposed on them by their surname. But in stark contrast to his political vision, Herzl’s dream of a family dynasty was not realized. All three children suffered from various forms of mental instability that marked them for life. Alienated from society, unable to support themselves, they were an embarrassment to the Zionist movement and a drain on its financial resources. They died, tormented and solitary, without witnessing the realization of their father’s vision.”

Theodor had  a fire shut up in his bones that consumed him, perhaps similar to the intensity of the fire that consumed the prophet Jeremiah:

“Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name. But His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” Jeremiah 20:9).

The zeal of Jeremiah and Herzl may have been similar in intensity, but was the fire the same? Most Jews would balk – and bark – at the insinuation, and protest : “Herzl we know, but who is Jeremiah?” If the fire the Levitical priests offered to the Lord was a holy fire,  then the fire that Herzl offered was a “strange” fire – an estranged fire, a profane fire, an alien fire that alienated him from the Holy One of Israel. Why would this be so? because Herzl had forsaken the Holy One of israel for the  Zeitgeist (World Spirit):

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered  strange (forbidden) fire – aish zara – before the Lord, which he had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1).

vayakrivu lifnay Adonai aish zara asher law zavah otem וַיַּקְרִבוּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֵשׁ זָרָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוָּה אֹתָֽם׃

It is difficult to judge what role Herzl played in his wife’s drug addiction and insanity, and in the calamities that befell his children.What one can say is that such self-inflicted calamities are rare in a family that has a loving husband and father.

David Sax writes of Herzl: “Like other artists he longed for immortality, whether attained through work or descendents.” Shortly after his marriage to Julie Naschauer in 1889, she fell pregnant. In his short story “Der Sohn” (The Son), Herzl describes his “tangible sensuous love of life” for his anticipated son, who will be “my never-ending continuation, the guarantee that I shall forever inherit the earth.”

In 1894, Herzl attended the Dreyfus trial in Paris (which I described earlier). After his return to Vienna, the Judenstaat (The Jewish State) frothed forth from his frenzied soul:

“The clouds open. The thunder rolls. The lightning flashes about him. A thousand impressions beat upon him at the same time—a gigantic vision. He cannot think; he is unable to move; he can only write; breathless, unreflecting, unable to control himself or to exercise his critical faculties lest he dam the eruption, he dashes down his thoughts on scraps of paper—walking, standing, lying down, on the street, at the table, in the night—as if under unceasing command. So furiously did the cataract of his thoughts rush through him, that he thought he was going out of his mind. He was not working out the idea. The idea was working him out. It would have been an hallucination had it not been so informed by reason from first to last” (Herzl’s diary).

Herzl took two years to write “The Jewish State”, which was published two years later (1896).

Swept along by the vision, Herzl thinks he’s hallucinating, going mad; but he’s mistaken, for even though he can’t think, can’t breathe, can’t control his critical faculties, there is no doubt in his mind; the Judenstat is “informed by reason from first to last.” Where’s the proof? Here, perhaps:

“The land of our forefathers still exists… The ancient land renews its youth under the touch of diligent hands. Again it bears flowers, again it bears fruit, and, one day, one fine day, it may yet bear the happiness and dignity of the Jews,” (Speech to the members of the Maccabeans Club, a few weeks before the First Zionist Congress in 1897).

After the First Zionist Congress, Theodor wrote in his diary: “Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word- which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly- it would be this: ‘At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in 5 years, certainly in 50, everyone will know it.’”

Herzl had not lost his mind; he had found his prophetic voice, and the world was listening. And if the prophecy were to fail, there was still “the guarantee that I shall forever inherit the earth.” That guarantee was Der Sohn,  JoHANneS.

Herzl, King of the Jews

22 Oct

In August, 1897, Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basel. In the entry for September 3, 1897 of his diary, Herzl sums up what he considers to be the defining moment of the Congress:

“If I were to sum up the Basel Congress in one word–which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly–it would be this: at Basel I have founded the Jewish state. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years and certainly in fifty, everyone would recognize this.”

If the slogan  “Herzl founder of the Jewish State” appeared laughable on September 3, 1897 (Herzl’s “today” in his diary entry above), what of Theodor fitting out Hans, his lowly tormented son, in the grubby regalia of a medieval ghetto Jew and crowning him, Duke, Doge, Doxe, Prince – King(?)  of the Most Serene Jewish Republic?[1] Enough to bring a flood of tears to Herzl’s proud eyes?:

“The procession which starts at the doge’s palace will be opened by Herzl-Cuirassiers. Then come the artillery and infantry… while all are marching in gold-studded gala uniforms, the high priests under canopies, the doge himself will wear the garb of shame of a medieval ghetto Jew: the pointed hat, the yellow badge… When I thought that someday I might crown Hans as doge… I had tears in my eyes” Herzl’s diary, 1895). Hans was four years old.

In his “The Jewish State”, Herzl said: “The Ghetto continues though its walls are broken down (P.96); and “We shall give up using those miserable stunted jargons, those Ghetto languages which we still employ, for these were the stealthy tongues of  prisoners. Our national teachers will give due attention to this matter; and the language which proves itself to be of greatest utility for general intercourse will be adopted without compulsion as our national tongue. Our community of race is peculiar and unique, for we are bound together only by the faith of our fathers”  (p.113).

In the Jewish State, the supreme ruler is dressed up in the mock up of a Ghetto Jew; to remind him from whence he sprung, perhaps. The coronation ceremony, though, will not be celebrated in Yiddish, that “miserable stunted jargon” of the Ghetto.”

And the religion of the Jewish State? The religion of “our fathers”? Yes, “we are bound together only by the faith of our fathers”, said Herzl? That is the “only” thing that binds us.  Which faith is this? Not the faith in ADONAI[2] of the Torah:

“I believe, says Herzl, in the ascent of man to higher and yet higher grades of civilization; but I consider this ascent to be desperately slow. Were we to wait till average humanity had become as charitably inclined as was Lessing when he wrote “Nathan the Wise,” we should wait beyond our day, beyond the days of our children, of our grandchildren, and of our great-grandchildren. But the world’s spirit comes to our aid in another way…This century has given the world a wonderful renaissance by means of its technical achievements; but at the same time its miraculous improvements have not been employed in the service of humanity” (pp. 53-54).

Herzl’s “faith of our fathers” is faith in man, faith in the gentle gentile “world’s spirit”. The religion of the future Jewish State will bear  the marks of a true religion: rebirth (“renaissance”) and miracles (machines). Machines will be the new servants of Humanity. Darwin (1809 – 1882), Hegel (1770 – 1831) and Marx (1818 – 1883),  the three feet of the prophetic tripod (dreifus) will hold up an edifice that not even Samson – and his God – has the power to topple.

Of the three feet of the tripod – Darwin, Hegel and Marx, Hegel was the one with the golden fus (foot) . (Marx, himself, was a devotee of Hegel). Herzl, like so many Jews of the Enlightenment, was a convert to Hegel. It was Hegel’s “World Spirit”, Herzl believed, that  infused purpose and meaning into history, animating the human spirit, planting in the human heart the awareness of his right to freedom, peace and joy – and of inevitable – if very slow – progress. For Hegel, religion is consciousness revealing itself to itself as spirit. What is enlightened religion? It is a consciousness of the unity of Being and Thought, of Spirit and Mind. Where’s the sin in having such a religion? The sin lies in the absence sin, in the absence of the consciousness of sin -  an aberration of the true “faith of our fathers” where sin against a Holy God is written large on every page of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). Flinging”sin” in the bin cannot expunge the abcess in the soul. Of all peoples, Jews  are the most mental and sentimental; the most rational and the most schmaltzy. The issue of the Jew is that truth can only be grounded on a holy, pure God. Pure reason won’t cut it, nor will sentimental puree. God chose the Jews for something better.

“[Herzl] had once understood Jewish identity and Judaism as part of a past, an anachronism that had brought only misery, oppression and illusionary hope to the chosen people. Being chosen had not brought anything better to the Jews. Their refusal to accept the dominant culture in which they lived, adopt their values, worship their Gods, had only brought millennia of repeated misery and oppression.”

Jerry Klinger, the author of the above passage says that Herzl “once understood Jewish identity and Judaism as part of a past, an anachronism…” implyimg that Herzl had changed his mind in that Herzl later returned to the “faith of out fathers”(Herzl’s words). Klinger bases his view on Herzl’s words in one of the last entries in his diaries:

“I truly believe that even after we possess our land, Zionism will not cease to be an ideal. For Zionism includes not only the yearning for a plot of promised land legally acquired for our weary people, but also the yearning for ethical and spiritual fulfilment.”

There is nothing distinctively Judaic (biblical) about this “yearning for ethical and spiritual fulfilment.” It is the yearning of every kind of Jew in the world: an Enlightened Jew, a Buddhist Jew, a Marxian Jew, a Hegelian Jew, an Atheist Jew, a Pantheist Jew, a Zionist Jew, an anti-Zionist Jew, a Christian Jew, an ex-Jew, and the myriads of other kinds of Jew. A yawning abyss separates the ethical and spiritual yearning of the modern “enlightened” Jew – Herzl is a prime example – and the yearning of a Moses, a Davis, an Isaiah, a Paul.

What was Hans, Herzl’s son, the homeless Prince, thinking when he wrote the following lines? Was he thinking that the “Jewish State” was no more than an edifice, a front? Was he thinking how absurd it would be to imprison the universal world spirit in another Ghetto – but on a grander scale: the Jewish State?

This is what Hans wrote:

“My father was a great man, whom I loved… But I’ve come to see that he made a great historical error in his attempt to rebuild the Jewish State…. My father did not realize the true mission of the Jewish people, which has proven that the living and fertilizing spirit does not need territorial boundaries, and that a people can live and exist even when fortifications and borders have disappeared. I would ask them not to attempt to add to the decadent civilizations but to remember their true identity and work for the cultural reconstruction of their homeland – and this homeland is the entire world.” (Hans Herzl to Marcel Steinberger in Princes Without A Home (1929).

Spoken like a true-blood Reform Jew of the Haskalah (Jewish enlightenment): “We are the light of the world. All who come to us will have life, and have it more abundantly.” The modern Jew.

There’s the doxe in doge, and there’s the dox in “paradox.” Doxe is Venetian for “duke”, while dox in “paradox” is the Greek for “belief.”[3] “Paradox” is derived from para “against” and dox “belief”. One kind of paradox is when something appears so against truth that it is absurd. Is it true that Herzl nursed such absurd fantasies? Herzl must have known – and probably hoped – that his diaries would see the light of day. His fantasies make a mockery not only of “The Jewish State” but, also, and perhaps worse, a mockery of Hans, his only begotten son.  There is paradox here, of the tragic kind: Hans, in the grubby garb – with pointed hat and yellow star -  of a ghetto Jew, crowned King of the Jews. Or was Hans only to be a Prince, and Theodor – God’s gift – King? It beggars belief – but no more so than another King of the Jews – crowned with thorns, hanging naked on a bloody cross – at whose foot the journey begins; the journey of the Wandering Jew.


[1] The doges, or doxes (a variation of “doge”) were the heads of the state of Venice. Doge/doxe originates from  Latin  “duke”. The Venetian doges of the  “The Most Serene Republic of Venice” reigned for 1000 years. Would it be presuming too much to surmise that Herzl was also thinking along millennial lines for his Jewish State?

 

[2] From the Hebrew adon “lord, master”. The Hebrew Bible distinguishes between adoni “my lord, master”, which refers to human beings, and Adonai which refers to the  LORD, to God only.

[3] “Orthodox” comes from the two Greek words ortho “right” and dox “belief”. Orthodox Jews believe that they have the right belief, and thus call themselves “Right Belief” Jews.

, “I truly believe that even after we possess our land, Zionism will not cease to be an ideal. For Zionism includes not only the yearning for a plot of promised land legally acquired for our weary people, but also the yearning for ethical and spiritual fulfillment.”

Herzl and the Dreyfus Affair: French poetic justice

15 Oct

In 1894, Dreyfus, a young Jewish Captain in the French army, was wrongfully found guilty of passing on French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris. After a humiliating trial – publicised over all of Europe – he was condemned to spend the rest of his life on Devil’s Island, Île du Diable, which was one of the French penal colonies off the coast of French Guiana.  Devil’s Island was the smallest (35 acres) of the three Îles du Salut (Islands of Salvation) of the penal colony.

Herzl, a journalist and a Jew, took a great interest in the Dreyfus trial.  On his return from Paris to Vienna in June 1895, he began to take a great interest in Die Judensache the “Jewish cause”. I have created the impression that there is a cause-effect connection between the Dreyfus case (the cause) and Herzl’s decision to take up the “Jewish cause” (the effect) soon after his return to Vienna from the Dreyfus trial in Paris. The common belief is that the connection between these two events is logical (cause-effect) and not merely chronological. In other words, it is commonly believed that if there were no Dreyfus trial, Herzl might not have gone on to make any significant impact on Jewish history. Lotta Levensohn’s summation is a typical example:

“In the ordinary course of his duties as a correspondent he witnessed the degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus of the French General Staff, who had been sentenced on a cooked up charge of high treason and exiled to a living death on Devil’s Island solely because he was a Jew. That such a thing could happen in republican France, whichhad been the first country to confer civic rights on the Jews, was frightful enough in itself; but that the trial could have made all France – from the highest circles to the lowest – seethe with anti-Semitism, made him take stock of the whole Jewish position. The Jewish problem was still unsolved a hundred years after emanicipation. All Herzl’s manhood was up in arms. A solution must be found; he must find it; he had it: a Jewish State, the Jews a nation among the nations, with a country of their own” (pp. 28-29).[1]

This belief, however, cannot be verified, for nowhere in the many pages of his diaries does Herzl hint that the Dreyfus affair was the thorn in the flesh that spurred him on to fight for the Jewish cause, and to later become, what he believed, the founder of the Jewish state. it may be true, as Lotta Levensohn stated that “all herzl’s manhood was up in arms.” The question is: was it is his Jewish-hood as well that was up in arms?  Shlomo Avineri cautions:

“Contrary to the conventionally accepted notion that it was the Dreyfus Affair which brought him to the idea that only a political solution could solve the ‘Jewish problem,’ there is no indication of this in the diaries. True, as the Neue Freie Presse Paris correspondent, Herzl followed closely the first stages of the Affair (he had already left Paris when the later, and politically much more significant, phases of the Affair unfolded, including Emile Zola’s involvement). He witnessed the first trial and verdict, followed by the public degradation of Dreyfus. But in many of Herzl’s despatches from Paris, Dreyfus’s Jewish background is hardly mentioned; what comes through very strongly is Herzl’s scathing critique of the failure of the French judicial system, the evident miscarriage of justice, his disgust with the intrigues in which the political, military, and ecclesiastical elites were enmeshed, his alarm at the chauvinistic, anti-German nationalistic hysteria that engulfed most of the republican parties in France, and the corruption of parliamentary and journalistic life in Paris.”

Herzl believed that the Jews could only find salvation in a separate homeland. At first, Herzl was not sure about the location of this homeland. The Holy Land was of no particular interest to him. For Herzl, the term “holy” had no religious significance. What was important was a separate, independent Land, Jewish land; an Island of Salvation, far way from Devil’s Island, which for Herzl, and for many Jews of the time, symbolized hatred of the Jew.

Dreyfus was convicted in 1894. Herzl began to write his “The Jewish State”, which was published two years later (1896), in the same year that the real culprit was identified: Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, a Major in the French army. The evidence was ignored, and so was Dreyfus. I mentioned earlier that in his diaries, Herzl does not say whether the Dreyfus was the motivation or part of the motivation for embarking on his “The Jewish State”. It, however, seems very plausible that Dreyfus did have a significant influence on Herzl’s subsequent writing. Strange that Herzl’s diary is mum on Dreyfus.

Eventually, in 1906, Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated. The French justice system of the time worked like this. A non-Jewish French Major commits treason. He remains at large. They plant false evidence on a Jewish French Captain. He’s found guilty and sentenced to life on Devil’s Island. Two years later, new evidence – real evidence this time – proves that the non-Jewish Major is the real culprit. They ignore the evidence. The Jewish Captain remains on the Île du Diable.  After 10 years of international pressure, they release him. The non-Jewish French Major remains off the hook. They promote the Jewish French Captain to Major. There is no record of Major Dreyfus meeting Major Esterhazy Walsin down the street. If Dreyfus had, he would’ve had one small satisfaction. He wouldn’t need to salute a superior officer. A just reward – and poetic justice; French poetic justice.


[1] Levensohn, Lotta. 1941. Outline of Zionist history. Scopus publishing company.

 

“If you will it, it’s no dream.” – Theodor Herzl

29 Sep

I have been pondering and reading much about Theodor Herzl’s tragic family. They are roiling in me. I don’t use the word “tragic” lightly. In the next few posts I shall try and give a fair and empathetic assessment of the terribly sad saga. The irony is that he is also the greatest hero of Zionism.

I read the following piece today:

“There is no more famous quote from the Zionist movement, which brought the Jewish Nation back to life, than that of Binyamin Zeev Herzl: ‘If you will it, it is no dream.

I posted the following comment on the writer’s blog. There is a little more that you will need to read if you are to fully understand my reply to the writer, which appears below . If you click on the above link, you’ll get the whole post of that writer. Here is my reply:

Hi thanks for an interesting piece. You quoted Herzl, “If you will it, it is no dream” and the Tehillim. You said at the end of your post: “…that our dream finally becomes a reality through the expression of our true will!”

Both the Tehillim and you, however, don’t mention God’s will – Sovereign Will – which is the main thread running through the Tanakh. As you probably know, if our will does not flow from God’s will, it cannot be a true will, in which case the dream is destined to end in a nightmare, which the 3000-year history of our people clearly shows.

I’d like to know your thoughts.

bogRaphy Gamaroff