In the course of a lecture on “Spain and the Jews,” delivered prior to the creation of the modern state of Israel, the Spanish writer Salvador de Madariaga set forth what he saw as the complementary cultural bases for a future symbiotic relationship between the Jewish and Spanish peoples. To underpin his argument, Madariaga offered the intriguing assessment that “the Jews have no roots in space. Their roots are in time; their soil is made up of twenty centuries of tradition. They differ from all the peoples of the earth in that their fatherland is history itself.” 1 One may take issue with Madariaga over this rather extreme formulation of his thesis regarding the spatial rootlessness of the Jewish people. Nonetheless, his remark, which was intended to draw a sharp contrast between the primarily historically-rooted Jews and what he described as the primarily geographically-rooted Iberians, reflects a profound insight into the essentially time-related or temporal character of that which distinguishes one as a Jew.
This same notion of a greater Jewish affinity for the temporal than for the spatial may also be seen in the assertion of political historian Hans Kohn that “the Jew lived more in the realm of time than in space. The world as time does not know of separation into a plurality of dimensions. It is one-dimensional: it points to the past, surges toward the future, and overcomes the tension of various directions in the forceful unity of its stream.” 2 Pursuing this notion a bit farther, I would suggest that monotheism might be viewed as a theological manifestation of the one-dimensionality of time, in contrast to polytheism, which draws its inspiration from the more easily perceived and more readily comprehended multidimensionality of space.