THE Christian world has alternately hated and idealized the Jew; it has never understood him. Consider, for example, that mythical figure, the Wandering Jew. The fact that he is only a legend must not lead us to dismiss him summarily, for the existence of a myth is always valid testimony to the presence of a mystery; it affords an unscientific hypothesis to explain the logically inexplicable. Now, to mediæval Christendom the Jew was a fantastic enigma. His folk ways, compounded of strange customs and unreasonable ceremonials, smacked suspiciously of black magic and the sorcerer’s craft; his books, written in illegible characters, suggested the wizard’s talisman; his ubiquity bespoke alliance with the Devil, and his reticence argued a dark secret. The Jew was strange, he was different, he was incomprehensible, and, most bewildering of all, he could not be persuaded to die.
The Church, the State, and the mob had conspired against him. They had individually and collectively persecuted and massacred, suppressed and harried him. They had put a badge of shame on his garment, confined him to ghettos, refused him the right to till the soil, denied him membership in the guilds; they had burned him and his books in public bonfires. By every rule of reason, his very memory should have been successfully obliterated. No people should have desired life under such circumstances, and yet with uncanny stubbornness he persisted and survived. Like truth crushed to earth, he rose again at the first relaxation of pressure. He not only survived, but lived joyously, contentedly, and, within his own culture, creatively. What could mere logic make of such a phenomenon — a people that lived unreasonably, whose very survival was a contradiction in terms? Whereupon, the mediæval mind hypostatized its bewilderment in a legend in which the irrational immortality of the Wandering Jew mirrored the more baffling deathlessness of the Jew of flesh and blood.
The myth is gone, but the mystery persists. The world still does not understand how the Jewish people contrived to maintain itself and its highly individual culture. Deprived of easy recourse to a fable, the Gentile world has gone to no great pains in making sociological analyses of the Jewish group. It has preferred to take the Jew for granted as an irritating reality. The problem of his persistence has been relegated to the limbo of unsolved problems which are so old that no one even hopes for a solution. As a matter of fact, the typical modern Jew is no more intelligently informed than his Gentile neighbor about the mechanics of his own survival, for Jews are either resentful of their Jewish descent or incorrigibly sentimental about it. If the first, there is naturally no inclination to inquire into the causes of Jewish persistence. If the second, it need only be indicated that a romantic glow is scarcely the best light for the pursuit of anatomy.
It is truly astounding, then, that so bizarre a phenomenon as the incredible survival of the Jewish group should have escaped critical analysis. Indeed, if Jewish history be but one long anomaly, then the world’s attitude toward it must be another. For, normally, men are attracted by the biologic sport and fascinated by the socially unique. Israel is one freak concerning which men seem to feel no curiosity. No one has so much as ventured to take the wheels of Israel apart to discover what made them go. There is still no scholarly doctoral thesis entitled Prolegomena to the Ætiology of Jewish Survival. In the absence of such impressive erudition, it may be of distinct advantage to consider the more commonplace and, it is to be hoped, more intelligible question: ‘How did the Jew do it?’
Israel has not always been a prodigy among the nations of the earth. Time was when its existence was as normal as that of any other people. It occupied its own land, lived its own life, and suffered vicissitudes of fortune such as inevitably befall any nation. It was unique only in that it developed an individual culture and created and subscribed to an unusual theology and a most extraordinary ethic. The catastrophic crisis in its career, the rapid transference from normality to eccentricity, began in 70 C.E., when, after the fall of Jerusalem, large bodies of Jews were translated to all parts of the Roman Empire. Even then, a substantial residue remained in Palestine. But the process of expulsion proceeded inexorably. Violent persecutions under Trajan and Hadrian, the failure of the desperate Bar-Cochba rebellion, the Christianization of the Holy Land with its consequent repressive measures against Jewish residents, all united to accelerate and complete the process of the dejudaization of Palestine. By the fifth century of the Common Era the ancestral soil was virtually denuded of its children. The sceptre had departed from Judea and had gone forth into homeless exile.
From that time until the present, the study of Jewish history resembles the charting of an insane Cook’s tour. The itinerary moves from Palestine to Babylonia, thence to North Africa, thence to Spain. Simultaneously, it traverses Italy into the Rhineland. Then excursions in the fourteenth century penetrate from Germany to Slavic Europe, and, a hundred years later, from Spain to Holland and the Levant. Only yesterday the trek turned westward to America, and today a footpath leads back to Palestine and an old-new hope. The map is crisscrossed bewilderingly even by these major movements. When one fills in the retracings of steps and unimportant side trips and excursions, it comes to resemble a geography defaced by a childish scrawl. And yet, for all its appearance of purposelessness, each line represents the logical consequence of definite factors. One movement is the projection of a forced expulsion, another of economic adversity, a third has been shot out in release from intolerable repression. Each zigzag is a cold intellectualized abstraction of the sufferings of human beings, their hungers, their tears, and often their blood.
The Semitic nomads moved along these threads. At each linear terminus they pitched their tents, refreshed their bodies, set up their shrines, founded schools, wrote books, produced scholars and saints, learned to love the place of their abode, and then — moved on, trailing a new line across the map. If the physical survival of the Jew and his group solidarity under these circumstances suggest a miracle, then the nature and hardiness of his cultural life pass all understanding.
Like all ostensible miracles, this one on examination proves to be no miracle at all. It represents the inevitable consequence of perfectly intelligible though unusual factors. An analysis of the determining motifs and influences renders reasonable a phenomenon which at first glance seems to transcend comprehension. And if the enumeration of these factors serves to make Jewish history more prosaic and mundane, it will, it is hoped, not make it appear any the less heroic.
What, then, are the factors which enabled a people and its culture to survive despite expulsions, repressive legislation, ghettos, intolerable financial extortion, the denial of civic rights, and all the other devices, devious and direct, of His Satanic Majesty?
History, as has been suggested, has played many a cruel trick on the Jew. It did him only one favor — it allowed him to prepare for his homelessness. By the time the eviction from Palestine was under way, the Jew had already evolved a technique of living as an unwelcome guest in other men’s homes. Early in his history he had become a skilled and inveterate alien. From the sixth century before the Common Era, Babylonia had a large and influential Jewish settlement. Egypt had renewed an old acquaintance with Jews in the days of Jeremiah — a contact that became more intimate when large numbers of Jews settled in the newly established metropolis of Alexandria. The bustling commercial life of the Hellenistic world scattered Jewish settlements far and wide, and the closely knit unity of the Roman Empire encouraged a voluntary dispersion.
About this process of settlement there was nothing peculiar to the Jews. It must be remembered that the Hellenistic world was essentially cosmopolitan. National lines had been largely obliterated. Syrians had settled in Rome, Greeks in Palestine, and Macedonians in Egypt. Jewish settlements throughout the Empire presented no unusual phenomenon. None the less, these colonies in Babylonia, Egypt, Asia Minor, Italy, Spain, and Germany served as experimental stations against an unborn emergency. Within them the Diaspora built synagogues, evolved forms of communal structure, developed philanthropic institutions, and created schools for the education of youth. Traditional Jewish customs and ceremonies were adjusted to the demands of strange lands. In brief, a pattern of group life was created, adapted to the needs of a minority living amid a hostile or indifferent majority. This saved the Jewish people when Palestinian Jewry suddenly disappeared. Broken refugees rarely have the strength to build a new society ab initio. The Jew deported by Titus or Hadrian found a ready-made Jewish world already prepared in the land of his exile. He slipped naturally and without serious difficulty into the new scheme of things. Unbeknown to him, he had built himself a bridge by which he might make safe passage from Palestine to the world. He had never been forewarned — he was accidentally forearmed.
And he was prepared in another, and no less important, respect: his way of life had taken on definite authoritative form. For centuries the Jewish people had been evolving patterns of individual and group conduct. By the time of the dispersion the process had almost reached completion. The Jew carried from Palestine a body of civil law, a sharply fixed ritual for synagogue and home, a clearly defined morality, and definitive forms regulating every phase of life. Emanating from Palestine, this scheme of conduct was regarded with reverence and scrupulously obeyed. It gave assurance that Judaism would remain uniform in all the lands of its dispersion, that it would be catholic and not parochial. It meant that, from Babylonia to Spain, Jews obeyed a sacred tradition which made them all eat, pray, marry, die, and be buried according to universal fixed rules. To be sure, this system of behavior was not given final form until early in the third century, but the editing of the Mishna by Judah the Prince was merely a recognition of a reality, giving de jure approval to a status de facto.
Therefore, when the lightning struck, it charred but could not consume this prearranged fabric within which all Jews lived. The ideas and ideals of a people may give it significance, but its group habits give it life. For naked ideas are frail things that often die upon being transplanted to a new climate. The mortality risk of an idea clothed in habit is much lower. Habits have been known to outlive empires. A people in exile, fortified only with concepts, would have lost both its concepts and its own life. A people bound by common habitual practices might conceivably save its habits, its ideas, and even itself. Or, as a great Jewish thinker once put it, ‘More than Israel observed its Sabbath did the Sabbath preserve Israel.’
‘The world is my idea,’ said Schopenhauer. ‘My ideas have preserved my world,’ said the Jew. For the Jew was not only prepared for his dispersion by self-perpetuating social forms; he was further equipped with a set of values, concepts, and beliefs that proved media of continuity.
For example, the Jew believed literally and vividly that he was a member of a chosen people. Had not the Creator of the Universe elected his ancestors, the Patriarchs? Had He not revealed His will to his forefathers at Sinai? Did the Jew not possess that revelation in the Law of Moses — the eternal inheritance of the congregation of Jacob? And was there not in that Law a divinely ordained scheme of life? In the cosmic organism Israel was, as a mediæval Jewish theologian once put it, the heart. As the drama of mankind unfolded itself, the Jew was revealed in the rôle of protagonist — a rôle that could be successfully enacted only if each Jew obeyed the dictates of the Sinaitic revelation. To desert the Jewish people and Judaism was tantamount to treason against God, to defeat of the divine purpose for man. If Israel, God’s instrument, failed Him, how could His eternal programme be fulfilled? Nay, more, what purpose in life was so worthy as the service of the Almighty and His Law? Who would minister to chambermaids and hostlers when one might serve the King Himself? Especially since the King had made it perfectly clear exactly how He wished to be served.
From this loyalty to his God and His Law, the Jew derived a sense of importance and dignity which more than atoned for his social insecurity and insignificance. But he derived more than that — he was assured of a real reward. For he believed that his God would repay him for his sufferings in this world with the glory of a blissful immortality. Jewish tradition taught that, while one must not serve God in the hope of reward, the reward was there none the less. Let the nations rage against Israel because it obeyed its divine revelation, let massacres and persecutions roll over it! What significance could be ascribed to a few brief decades of humiliation and pain when one considered eternities of the happiness treasured up for the righteous?
It is curious to note that, while the Jew claimed a monopoly of God’s revelation, he did not claim exclusive possession of its reward. He never asserted that the non-Jew could not attain to it. As a matter of fact, he insisted that ‘the righteous of all peoples have their share in the world to come.’ But, for himself, his way to bliss lay only in his loyalty. If he adhered to his mission, he was assured of the reward. If he deserted it, he had thrown away his opportunity. The records of the massacres by Crusaders in 1096 reveal the power of this appeal. Confronted with a choice of baptism or death, whole Jewish communities voted to die, secure in the conviction that the God whom they served would not fail them.
But more potent than the sense of election and the confidence of reward was one other ideological factor, and that was the assurance of vindication. The Jew knew that his was the true cause, and that, at the end of days when history had run its course, a true Judge would give a true verdict. On that imminent day when God would intervene catastrophically in the affairs of men, the peoples who had mocked at and persecuted the Jew would behold and be ashamed. For then it would be made clear that through the weary centuries Israel alone had possessed the truth and upheld it.
The hope of final vindication is an incalculable power in human persistence. It is often detected as the consolation of disappointed idealism, the solace of the misunderstood and unrecognized genius. It is also the courage of martyrs.
Among these elements in the ideological factor, theology operated only negatively. The Jew was not theologically-minded. There was no reason why he should be. He had no official creed to rationalize or defend; the bond of his unity lay in a social pattern, an ethical attitude, and a historic loyalty. This does not mean that the Jew had no faith or religion. It merely states the fact that he preferred freedom in a nebulous ‘climate of belief’ to confinement by a fixed, exacting, and imperious system of dogma.
The negative impetus of theology toward Jewish survival reveals itself in this. The Jew maintained his loyalties, not so much because of passionate advocacy of his own creed, but because for him alternative religions and theologies were incredible. He remained Jewish because being anything else involved a radical impossibility. In the Roman Empire he could not eat the dead husks of Paganism; during the period of the primitive Church he could not enjoy the pipe-dream Schwärmerei of the Gnostics; in the Catholic Age he could not bring himself to say Credo quid absurdum est. The Trinity, the sacraments, the mysteries, the divinity of Christ, the authority of the Church — these were too much for him to swallow. Had the Jew known Latin, he might have revised the taunt of Horace and flung it back as Credat Christianus Apella.
The Jew may often have had difficulty in putting his hands on his own amorphous theology, but he knew that it was relatively credible; it was minimal and made few unnecessary demands on his capacity for faith; it was, by comparison, simplicity ilself. The Christian and Moslem themselves encouraged the Jew by granting the truth of the principles of his belief; they merely insisted on adorning them still further. These decorations the Jew found repugnant. Considering the Gothic façade or baroque interior of the church, he turned with relief to the whitewashed simplicity of the synagogue. What alternative had the Jew except loyalty? Reared on a simple diet of doctrine, he knew that, like his stomach, his mind would revolt at the elaborate concoctions the Gentiles feasted upon.
These are the ideological factors in Jewish survival. The Marxian will dismiss them on the ground that they can be reduced to economic motifs. The psychologist will see in them compensatory mechanisms. All of which may be perfectly true — and yet irrelevant. The thing that counts is that, regardless of their sources, they coöperated in the conspiracy of keeping the Jew alive.
The typical history of Europe generally makes no mention of the existence of Jews. It will describe with infinite patience the details of the political and social development of some land, but only a few scanty passing references are accorded to its Jewish residents. The notorious ‘Man from Mars,’ reading a serious historical account, might never dream of the presence on the scene of that peculiar group. The sensitive Jew tends to suspect a conspiracy of silence on the part of historians. He will not hesitate to accuse them of anti-Semitism and a malicious attempt to withhold recognition where it is due.
And yet the historian’s reticence is perfectly understandable. In selfdefense he can justifiably argue that Jews have lived in many lands, but, until modern times, were never part of them. They constituted an undigested mass in each body politic, occupying a disproportionately small place in the religious, cultural, and economic milieu. In brief, they were isolated from their environment. To live in a country and to participate in its life are two radically divergent things. Witness the gypsy, witness the Jew.
The very real isolation of the Jew during the Middle Ages was the result of common consent. The Jew was as eager to be segregated as the Gentile to segregate. Living in a cold, alien land, Jews tended naturally to huddle together for warmth. Long before ghettos were formally instituted, all the Jews of one community resided in a special neighborhood. They found it more comfortable, more congenial, and more secure. This inclination toward gregariousness the Gentile encouraged, violently in his rioting, peacefully by making it clear that he did not want a Jew as his next-door neighbor. Ghettos merely recognized and gave strengthening sanction to a fact.
The isolation was not only residential; it was obviously and equally religious. Of social intercourse between the two groups there was virtually none. Only economics was stronger than the spirit of mutual antagonism; Jew and Christian did business with one another. But even here repressive legislation tended to drive the Jew into a few crafts and trades which he came to monopolize. And these, to confound confusion, were either the unwanted scraps of the world’s economy or those branches of it which were stigmatized by social disapproval. Until the French Revolution, then, the Jews constituted an imperium in imperio, a self-contained, vacuum-sealed world within, but not of, the larger whole. In the tumultuous flow of European history, Jewish communities were rock-bound little islands, buffeted but unmoved.
Now, though ostracism is never a pleasure to an individual, it is the very bread of life to a minority group. The Jew might languish in his confinement; Jewish life thrived. And the leaders in Israel were acutely aware of that fact. They sedulously and scrupulously avoided any movement that might relieve some part of their loneliness. In Jewish law there is to be found a juristic phrase hukath goyim, or ’institutions of the Gentiles.’ The purport of that phrase is essentially that the Jew must strive to be different from his neighbor. The very fact that an institution was Gentile was sufficient to make it suspect for Jews. The existence of such a legal principle may be deprecated, but it is valid testimony to the deliberate use of segregation for survival. How keenly the Jew appreciated his isolation can be seen in the fact that in the Napoleonic Age Jewish leaders in Holland objected to release from restrictive legislation and emancipation from confinement.
From the point of view of group survival, this attitude was pointedly sane. Isolation, voluntary and enforced, was a determinant in Jewish life. Consider its effects. It ensured the freedom of Jewish culture from alien, disturbing influences. Civilizations may crumble from inner decay; they fall also because new styles of thought and modes of conduct disturb their inertia. Greeks undermined Roman society, the Saracens and Byzantines administered the coup de grâce to feudal Christendom. From experiences analogous to these the Jewish organism was spared. Within an airtight compartment, no alien mode of thought could disturb its intellectual peace, no novel patterns of living could shake its inveterate habits. Lest anyone suspect that the extent of isolation has been overstated, it may be relevant to point out that even the Renaissance came and went in Western Europe, and, except in Italy, the Jew was serenely unaware of its explosive concussion.
Further, segregation guaranteed the integrity of Jewish social pressure. Every society tends to suppress the individual into conformity with its norms. Only when enough individuals escape does a society undergo a revolutionary transformation. On the Jewish ‘island within,’ social pressure was intact. Every Jew observed all of Jewish practice and, within narrow limits, followed prescribed intellectual paths. Each minute divergence in conduct or belief was immediately apparent and instantaneously suppressed. Not even in ancient Sparta had the weight of society’s will been as dominating as it was on the Judenstrasse.
Even economic factors conspired, under this regimen of isolation, to support survival. For, although business relations often took the Jew out of his shell, trade and commerce within the ghetto operated to maintain the status quo. Economic life had been tamed by tradition. It conducted itself according to laws administered by rabbinical courts, it observed ancestral sanctities, it was suspended for religious festivals, and was compelled to minister to communal needs. By subduing business, Jewish society obviated a conflict between economic interest and group conduct.
As a result, industry and trade enforced tradition. It was easy to observe the Sabbath and festivals when there was no business to be done in any event. There was no difficulty involved in reciting the prescribed afternoon prayer if customer and shopkeeper interrupted their negotiations automatically for that purpose. In a world where a culture has conquered its economics, economics will unconsciously support the culture.
Last, of all, segregation obviated attrition; it guaranteed that there would be no gradual wearing-away of Jewish loyalties, habits, and ideas. No person breaks suddenly with his environment and background; a period of preparation, however unconscious, is a prerequisite. Had the Jew had intimate contact with the outer world, such a process would have been possible. He might gradually have sloughed off Jewish forms and adopted Gentile ones in their place; his ideas might slowly have been transformed and his loyalties imperceptibly transferred. When he had come to feel himself more closely identified with interests and attitudes other than Jewish, he could then have slipped easily into assimilation with another world. But the Jew did not have this contact; he had no opportunities, had he wished for them, for a period of preparation. He could leave the ghetto if he desired. The Church waited with eager arms and the baptismal font was always ready. But he had to do it in one leap. He must pass from within to without in a single step. Such a change was too violent to be attractive. It was more comfortable to stay put.
Even a Jew does not enjoy misery. If you attempt to follow Shylock’s advice, to tickle or prick him, he will avoid the feather or the pin, as the case may be. The combination of all the factors we have enumerated would not have sufficed to keep him set had he been fundamentally unhappy. He was not stupid; had his wretchedness been sufficient, he would have contrived a way of escape. The astounding fact is that, for all the cruel ingenuity of the world, he enjoyed his Judaism. Compelled to make a virtue of necessity, he found it to be a pleasant activity. That he derived joy from pain and extracted sweetness from gall is due to his intense cultural life. This it was which compensated him abundantly in satisfactions, intellectual, social, and æsthetic. For this he might count the world well lost.
Jews, surveying their own past, often express astonishment at the breadth and depth of the civilization which they have inherited. It seems unreasonable that such exquisite and variegated flowers should have grown on a sterile soil and in an unfriendly atmosphere. The amazement disappears when one considers the urgency which impelled Jewish cultural life. For, since the Jew would not die, he had his choice of only two alternatives. He must either construct a compensating culture to make existence tolerable, or go stark mad. This accounts for the passionate devotion of the Jew to his spiritual values, for his intense absorption in books, for his reverence for scholarship. With other peoples, culture is an afterthought, a by-product of normal living, an amusement for leisure hours. With the Jew it was a condition for sanity.
In part out of a sense of duty, but much more out of rigid necessity, the Jew concerned himself with education and instruction. He made it a life purpose for each individual to learn the tradition. The process of instruction began in early infancy; it was terminated only by death. Long before modem pedagogy, the Jew engaged in adult education. Everywhere the language of learning was heard and the aura of scholarship perceptible. The materials of instruction were the Bible, the vast Talmudic literature, Jewish jurisprudence or ethical disquisitions and homilies. They were often remote, unrelated to realities, and irrelevant to life. Certainly they were highly academic and inspired less by the desire for solution of contemporary problems than by a love of ingenuity for its own sake. Even the lay masses judged an address mainly by the criterion of subtlety. But they gave the Jew an interest, an escape from reality, and a sense of satisfaction and pleasure that made him forget the badge of shame on his breast. In the midst of some casuistic argument, the real world was obscured by a fictive structure of glittering logic. Nor must we forget that this intellectualism provided the Jew with a sense of purposefulness. There were no objectives for him among men, no worlds for him to conquer; he found them instead in the realm of books and ideas.
The conditions of Jewish living were further mitigated by an elaborate round of customs and observances. If the violent intellectualism of the ghetto spread a cold light into its darkness, ceremonialism contributed a diffusion of warm colors. The Jew observed numberless ceremonies, and feast days and fast days followed each other in close succession. By religious decree he was told that he must enjoy his religious rites, and he succeeded surprisingly. The attitude of the Jew toward his customs marks almost a unique instance of genuine pleasure by edict. On the Sabbath he rested with vigorous enthusiasm, on Passover he celebrated the exodus from Egypt with elaborate conviviality, and at Purim he rejoiced riotously in the fall of Haman. He even mourned and fasted on days of penance and memorial with a zest that smacked suspiciously of enjoyment. All hearts lifted at the anticipation of a holy day, and turned at its expiration to the next.
This pleasurable ritual penetrated into the home; candles were lit, dishes separated, spice boxes sniffed, and leaven cast forth in an atmosphere compounded of ritual dignity, pontifical pomp, and family festivity. From all this activity the Jew derived æsthetic satisfaction. It served him as the poetry of his life. Through ceremonials loyalties, unconsciously vitalized, ceased to appear as burdens.
One last element in this complex of culture should be indicated. Both the world of the intellect and the cycle of ceremony were heavy with ethical connotations. A respect for life, a sense of the rights of others, an ideal of family unity, high standards of decency and honor, and a natural sympathy for the underdog — all these emanated from book and rite. The Jew was acutely aware of his moral values and standards. He felt that they contrasted favorably with those of the world about him. For all his social inferiority, he felt superior to the Gentile. He entertained a healthy contempt for the violent militarism of a feudal society. The armed chivalry of the Middle Ages was to him barbaric. The Christian world was bloodthirsty, it laid none of his emphasis on learning, it was less temperate than his, it did not have his standards of family life. This sense of moral superiority received occasional though forceful confirmation through a pogrom or massacre. It is easy to develop contempt for the man who, for no good reason except superior strength, plays the bully and wields a cudgel. Had there been no other restraining influence, the sensitive Jew would have found passage to the Gentile world difficult. It seemed to involve the painful exchange of a moral good for its ethical inferior.
Thus it came to pass that, while a world cast him out, the Jew found enough saving happiness in his intellectual, social, and moral activities to repudiate the world in return. Thus it came to pass that, amid poverty and persecution, he could recite with paradoxical enthusiasm in his daily prayers, ‘Happy are we; how goodly is our portion and how fair our lot.’ Granted sufficient imagination and will, even a prison, for all its confining walls and cruel bars, can by a mental tour de force be converted into a palatial residence.
These, then, are the factors of Jewish survival: a preliminary preparation, an ideological equipment, a social isolation, and a compensating culture. The wheels of the mechanism are now apart. Or, more aptly, the body has been dissected. For the life of a group resembles less a dead machine than a living organism. Its disparate aspects fuse and melt into each other in a unity that defies clean intellectual discrimination. But, when the lesson in anatomy is over, a haunting suspicion still remains. The brain, the heart, the liver, are revealed. But is there not in the body perhaps some vital force, some Bergsonian élan, which eludes the finest probe? And in the organism that was Israel might there not have been present some analogous power of persistence that no scalpel can uncover? Did the Jewish people perhaps possess a group will-to-live, a collective determination, a resolution to persist? Is it not possible that some such influence, half psychological, half metaphysical, must be postulated even after the most careful anatomical investigation?
There are moments when the observer inclines toward such an assumption, but ours is a rationalistic age when metaphysical ghosts and spectres are disreputable. We have all been trained to make liberal use of Occam’s razor: we will not make avoidable assumptions, we will not multiply entities beyond necessity. And yet, even the most disciplined biologist, in a moment of relaxation, toys at times with the idea of a life force and a vital principle.
This article really violates the Aristotelian canons. It has a beginning and a middle, but no logical end. It takes us up to the threshold of the French Revolution and stops abruptly. The rest, of Jewish experience is another story, a fascinating sequel.
This third act will have to be left for a subsequent article. It will tell a fantastic tale. It will describe how, during the eighteenth century, the Jew was suddenly emancipated. It will tell how ghetto walls collapsed, corroded by the acid of modern rationalism, undermined by the slogans of the French Revolution, and bombarded by a new economic order. One by one, we can watch the factors of survival cease to be effectively operative. We shall see the suddenly emancipated Jew, blinded by the light that streams in on him, step forth into a larger world. And we shall watch him stagger and grope bewilderedly as he strives to find his way, dazzled by the unwonted illumination and confused by the absence of ancient landmarks. How he conducts himself, his follies and stupidities, his heroisms and achievements — these, as we have said, form another story. Here it is sufficient that the logic of a myth be revealed, that a social mystery be laid bare.
We dare to hope that we have solved the riddle of ‘how the Jew did it.’ It still remains for us to answer the question, ‘What is the Jew doing?’
(Next month, ‘How the Jew Does It’)