History and Torah: Essays on Jewish Learning

History and Torah: Essays on Jewish Learning

History and Torah: Essays on Jewish Learning

History and Torah: Essays on Jewish Learning

Excerpt

These essays contain a statement of elements of Jewish faith as understood by a Jewish historian. With notable exceptions, historians in the recent past have refused to admit that they study for other than strictly historical motives. However, one may engage in research with objectivity, and yet affirm that the choice of subject and degree of passion in pursuing it emerge from one's own situation. My choice of subject and interest in it are the consequence of my situation as a Jew, which I therefore begin by describing.

The Jewish situation endows me, first of all, with a long and formidable perspective. It forces me to see myself as part of a continuum of time and of space, as heir of some of the most sublime and most foolish men that have ever lived, and as friend and brother of men who, in days past, lived almost everywhere men have been. I cannot therefore accept provinciality, either temporal or spatial, or see myself as rooted forever in one culture or in one age.

Thus the Jewish situation is international and cosmopolitan, and never wholly part of one place or time. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it assures me of ultimate detachment, of a capacity to contemplate from without, to think less fettered by rooted attachments than other men. It forces not only detachment, but to some measure, an act of selection and judgment also, for, not being fully committed anywhere or ever, I am forced to perceive what other men may stand too close to see, and in perception, to respond, to judge. I must therefore learn to love with open arms, to know that this land, this people are mine, yet not wholly so, for I belong to Another as well. Thus to be a Jew means in a historical and more than historical sense to be always homeless in space and in time . . .

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