Excerpt from “G*D, Jews, and History”

by faithgibson on February 16, 2015

Jews, God, and History (50th Anniversary Edition). Dimont, Max I. (2004-06-01).

Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition, location # beginning on 7016 (hard copy -page# 416).

I’ve always found Max Dimont (the author) ‘s concluding words on the last 4 pages (416 to 419) of the 1962 hard-copy publication to be exciting, encouraging and very revenant to our contemporary time.

He ends with a most extraordinary and thought-provoking rhetorical question:

Will the world in the next two thousand years embrace the morality of the Torah, the social justice of the Prophets, the ethics of the Jewish patriarchs?

His answer is in the affirmative is the “pearl of great price”.

This extraordinary passage is the very end of original (1962) book. However the 50th year anniversary (available in Kindle or e-reader edition) has several additional chapter of new material about the history of Israel from 1962 to 2012.

Max Isaac Dimont was working on an updated version when in died in 1992, so his wife Ethel Dimont, and daughter Gail Goldey, finished the 50th year anniversary edition.

I have broken paragraphs into new lines for new or important ideas so that it reads more like an on-line blog than the usual dense paragraphs of a scholarly work.

I also highlighted passages via bold or italic that i experienced as the author’s most essential elements.

 Dimont’s most extraordinary concluding statement:

….. according to de Riencourt’s definition, culture corresponds to Spengler’s spring, summer, and autumn phases. The winter phase represents, in de Riencourt’s terms, the civilization which feeds off its parent culture.

The Jews began their historic existence in the full Spenglerian sense— with a spring ushered in by a new religion and a new way of abstract thinking, which formed the nucleus for an emerging Judaic culture.

In Toynbeean terms, they then responded to the challenges of nomadic existence, to the conquest of Canaan, to the establishment of a state. They responded to the challenge of survival in Babylonian captivity, and returned to Palestine, there to evolve into the autumn phase of their emerging civilization.

But they never “progressed” to the decline of their winter phase— that is, they never made the transition from “culture” to “civilization.” They remained suspended, so to speak, at the height of their culture, between their autumn and winter phases.

What had freed them? As Spengler himself so perceptively observed, “Vespasian’s war, directed against Judea, was a liberation of Jewry.” The wars with Rome freed the Jews from the fate awaiting them as a civilization, by dispersing them into the Diaspora. The Jews were exiled to freedom.

Into the Diaspora they carried with them a highly developed culture, packaged for export by prophets, saints, and scholars. The Diaspora took them to many lands, to many civilizations. If a civilization went under, as the Islamic one did, the Jews went under with it.

But even as one civilization was swallowed by history, another one always emerged, and the Diaspora Jews within the emerging civilization rose with it. The Jews could set up shop in any land and unfold their culture in any civilization.

Their firm belief that they were God’s Chosen People gave them the will to survive, the Torah nourished that will to survive, and their men of learning designed the tools for their survival— but it was the Diaspora itself that freed the Jews from time, from history, and from death as a civilization. They had stumbled on the secret of eternal cultural youth.

With the Diaspora, the Jews became the civilization hoppers of history. The existence of a Diaspora, then, has been the one essential condition for the cultural survival of the Jews beyond the normal life span of a civilization.

Had they not been exiled, had they remained in Palestine, they probably would be no more of a cultural force in world history today than the remnants of the Karaites. Today, as once before, we have both an independent State of Israel and the Diaspora. But, as in the past, the State of Israel today is a citadel of Judaism, a haven of refuge, the center of Jewish nationalism where dwell only 3,750,000 of the world’s 17,500,000 Jews.

The Diaspora, although it has shifted its center through the ages with the rise and fall of civilizations, still remains the universal soul of Judaism. Will the Jews continue to survive?

If they maintain their will to survive as Jews, if they continue to fashion new tools for survival in response to new challenges, and if the Diaspora continues to be a constant factor in their history, then the Jews will continue to survive as a culture-producing people.

But the will to survive and the ability to respond to challenges will not be enough without a permanent Diaspora. The Diaspora must be an ingredient in their history. Where will be the next center of Diaspora Judaism? That will depend upon the historic forces that continually rearrange the patterns of Jewish dispersion. The United States could continue to be that center for the next two or three centuries, but the American citadel too may prove to be transitory.

—– discontinuity in original text ——

There still remains the question, “Have the Jews been divinely chosen to fulfill a mission, or have they chosen themselves to fulfill a divine mission”?

Do we have a hint of the nature of this mission in Isaiah, who prophesies the brotherhood of man in the days to come?

Will it be the function of the Jews to establish such a brotherhood of man and, having fulfilled such a predestined role, to disappear? Has Spinoza prepared us for this with his pantheistic theology for universal man? We cannot know. We can only speculate.

Let us view Jewish history as the unfolding of a vast Kabalistic drama in three acts, each act two thousand years long.

In the first act— the tzimtzum, or “thesis”— a succession of Jews, like heroes in a Greek tragedy, are cast by a Divine Director in predestined roles. Without a firm conviction in his preordained role as the progenitor of the Chosen People, Abraham would have been a tragic figure. His faith makes him heroic.

In this first act, God continues to assign roles— to Moses, to lead the Jews out of Egyptian bondage and to give them the Law; to Joshua, to take them to the Promised Land; to the Prophets, to enlarge the Jewish concept of God into a universal Deity; to Ezra and Nehemiah, to make sure that the Jews are not swallowed up in this new universality.

Within the external strife of Jewish history develops the thesis of a Jewish destiny, binding the Jews together into a people. This internal unity is then shattered with the appearance of a Christian sect that claims Jesus as the messiah. Just before the curtain descends, the Christians boldly declare that the role of the Jews as God’s Chosen People is over.

When the curtain rises on the second act of our Kabalistic drama— the shevirath ha-keilim, or “breaking of the vessels”— Jerusalem has been destroyed and the Jews scattered in the Diaspora. Having acted for two thousand years as God’s Chosen People, however, they are not prepared to relinquish their former roles.

We now observe a succession of rabbis, philosophers, and scholars fashioning new tools of Jewish survival— the Talmudism of the ivy-league yeshivas, the philosophy of Maimonides, the interpretations of Rashi, the poetry of Halevi, the codification of Caro, the mysticism of the Kabala, the humanism of the Haskala, and finally, near the end of the act, the nationalism of Zionism, which reunites a segment of the Diaspora Jews in Israel.

The “vessel,” broken for two thousand years, has been mended. The curtain has fallen on the twentieth century. The second act is over.

Has our drama ended, or is this only an intermission before the third act— the tikkun, or “restoration”— in the Kabalistic cycle? Are the Jews destined to survive another two thousand years to fulfill an as yet unrevealed role?

Throughout the centuries, the trinity of Jehovah, Torah, and Prophets, by accident or design, evolved two sets of laws, one to preserve the Jews as Jews, the other to preserve mankind.

In their first two thousand years, the Jews used that third of the Torah and Talmud which deals with priesthood and sacrifice to maintain themselves as a Jewish entity in a world of pagan civilizations.

In their second two thousand years, they used that third of Torah and Talmud which deals with ritual and dietary restrictions to maintain their ethnic unity even as they spread the universal aspects of Judaic humanism.

Left now of Torah and Talmud are the universal contents only— the third that deals with morality, justice, and ethics.

Does this progression suggest that Judaism is now prepared to proselytize its faith in a world ready to accept its prophetic message? Is this to be the destiny of the Jews in the third act?

If man views the Jewish achievement through materialistic eyes, seeing only an insignificant minority in possession of a little land and a few battalions, this will seem improbable. (But) It will not seem improbable if man discards the blinkers of prejudice and views the world not as a “thing” but as an “idea.”

Then he may see that two thirds of the civilized world is already governed by the ideas of Jews— the ideas of Moses, Jesus, Paul, Spinoza, Marx, Freud, Einstein.

Will the world in the next two thousand years embrace the morality of the Torah, the social justice of the Prophets, the ethics of the Jewish patriarchs?

If so, then in the words of Isaiah, there will be “Peace, peace, to him that is far off and to him that is near.”

Dimont, Max I. (2004-06-01). Jews, God, and History (50th Anniversary Edition) (Kindle Locations 7096-7101). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

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