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May 25, 1990 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-05-25

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Editor Emeritus

New Exodus: Persecutors Defied Peoplehood


n the endless struggle
against persecutions, in
the centuries of defiance
of persecutors, there were few
instances of solidarity mat-
ching the present. It is
because the unity of the
Jewish people is more pro-
nounced in the present in-
stance. We are under the
guidance of two generations
of identifying elements and
their inspired leadership.
Two generations of
dedicated leaderships share
the privilege of rescuing
fellow Jews from oppression.
The elder witnessed the
Nazis' outrages that led to
death camps and remembered

the guilt of procrastinations.
The younger, the children,
now hear threats of pogroms
in the land where they were
engineered for more than a
century commencing with
czarism. Now they are heard
Now there is renewed call to
action and we can take pride
in the promptness with which
the rescue effort is being
There is a contrast in rescue
procedure today with what
was almost impossible half a
century ago. Then all doors
were closed to Jewish
escapees from persecution.
Even the U.S. was shut to

them. Clandestine means
were resorted to for escape to
the Jewish national home in
what was Palestine, in de-
fiance of British warfare
against Jewish immigrants.
It is a different story now.
Today there is Israel and the
Jewish autonomy over
emigration and an open door
for whoever seeks a share in
Israel — unobstructedly
Jewish citizenship.
There will surely be some
Christians who will seek a
share in the sanctity of rescu-
ing oppressed people. Yet
there is already the sign of
some Christian repetition of
the prejudices of the

Holocaust time. It becomes
part of the ideal inherent in
the New Exodus never to con-
done interference with rescue
There is the added in-
humanity of the Arabs in
their warfare against Russian
Jewish settlement in Israel
and it is confronted with our
contempt that greeted all ef-
forts to prevent the settling of
Jews in their homeland. We
have not ignored the
reminder that even when one
Jew was on his way to Israel,
Arabs were already bran-
dishing knives. The Jewish
rescue movement put them to
shame before and is doing it

again, and the mass move-
ment of the rescued will con-
tinue to become more massive
by the day — by the hour.
In all Jewish communities,
from village to metropolis,
there is the unity that warns
persecutors and those in-
terfering with rescue
movements, that there will
never be submission to tyran-
ny and anti-Semitism.
Our community is in the
rescue movement full force,
with every Jew counted as
participant. Our peoplehood
and our leadership are ONE
in this task. Let us share
pride in triumph for the New
Exodus. ❑

Spinoza In Limelight With A Memory Of Ben-Gurion


aruch Benedictus
Spinoza, the 17th
century philosopher
and author of theological
essays, for centuries defiled
for accused heresy, is in the
limelight again with admira-
tion from many lands. Always
continually studied, and
revered in his native Holland,
he now gains interest in
Israel where he previously
was an anathema especially
among the Orthodox.
In Israel, the two-volume
Spinoza and Other Heretics
by Hebrew University Pro-
fessor Yirmiyahu Yovel has
become a best seller and has
already sold out the fourth
In this country, the Yovel
work is popularized in a
Princeton University Press
edition subtitled The Mar-
rano of Reason and The
Adventures of Immanence.
Professor Yovel, who is also
the director of Jerusalem's
Spinoza Institute, applied a
Spinoza-ism to the recent
discussion about who and
what is a Jew. He has made
this interesting comment in
relation to his book as it ap-
plies to the present when he

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stated in the appearance of
his book:
Spinoza wants to do
away with the concept of
sacred history, history con-
trolled by God, as if God
wrote the script for history
and now He directs it .. .
wants to secularize history
. . . In history, there are on-
ly natural causes. Natural
causes means sociological,
historical — all causes of
this world, no super-
natural causes.
They wrongly called him
an atheist. He certainly
was a heretic in terms of
the established religion .. .
For him, God was the
natural universe and the
laws of God were the laws
of nature, but still the
universe was Divine; there
was a sense of divinity, of
salvation, of piety, of ethics
in accepting and behaving
according to its laws .. .
And yet he was a vir-
tuous man and that was
scandalous to public opi-
nion: A virtuous atheist,
how was this possible? If
you are an atheist — that is
to say, if you are a heretic
against established
religion — you must be so-
meone very villainous,
very cruel, very vicious,
and here you have a tzadik
and he is an 'atheist'
tzadik. It was in-
conceivable and yet it was
true. It was a scandal. This
kind of a scandal made up
part of the attraction of
Israel Prime Minister
David Ben-Gurion, who had
himself turned to philosophic
and religious studies
although he was never an
observant Jew, advocated the
erasing of the excom-

municative regulations
against Spinoza.
Perhaps Ben-Gurion was in-
fluenced towards Spinoza
because the excommunicated
philosopher at one time ex-
pressed belief in a
reconstructed Jewish state.
Spinoza explains the origin of
the Jewish state, that is, of
Judaism, in the following

"When the Israelites, after
deliverance from slavery in
Egypt, were free from all
political bondage, and
restored to their natural
rights, they willingly chose
God as their Lord, and
transferred their rights to
Him along by formal contract
and alliance. That there be no
appearance of fraud on the
divine side, God permitted
them to recognize His
marvelous power, by virtue of
which He had hitherto
preserved, and promised in
future to preserve them, that
is, He revealed Himself to
them in His glory on Sinai;
thus God became King of
Israel and the state a
As for David Ben-Gurion,
might he have become a
Spinozist? In the time of
Moses Mendelssohn his close
friend Gotthold Ephraim
Lessing was accused by the
Christian theologian
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi of
being a Spinozist. It was then
considered adherence to
heresy. Mendelssohn strongly
defended his close associate
against the charge. Ben-
Gurion needed no defense. He
affirmed belief in God. He
wrote in March 1972:
I have not the slightest
shadow of doubt that God
exists. He is not a body and
He is free from all the ac-



cidents of matter. We can
neither see Him nor hear
Him. He has no lineness
but He exists and without
Him nothing can exist in
the universe. This is a pro-
found and correct belief
and no science can speak
a greater truth than it. This
is conviction.
Nevertheless, as I say, I
do believe that there must
be a being, intangible, in-
definable, even unimagin-
able, but something in-
finitely superior to all we
know and are capable of
conceiving. Without such a
being, there are certain
phenomena which just
cannot be explained.
What is it, for example,
that enables man to think?
His brain is matter, just like
a table. But a table does not
think. The brain is part of
a living organism, like my
finger-nail, but my finger-
nail cannot think. Nor can
the brain think when
removed from the body.
But the whole of the living
body taken together
becomes a thinking being.

I once talked about this
to Einstein. Even he, with
his great formula about
energy and mass, agreed
that there must be
something behind the
energy. And when I spoke
of this to Niels Bohr, he too
agreed, and thought it was
probably true of the entire
cosmos, that behind it
there must be some
superior being. This is also
what Spinoza may have
If I believe that the world
was created by the Lord, I
believe that He has more
sense than all of us put
together, and He instituted
specific laws in accor-
dance with which nature
exists. Flinging a staff and
turning it into a snake, as
Moses is said to have done
in Pharoah's court, is
against the laws of nature;
therefore, I cannot accept
that God would deviate
from His carefully conceiv-
ed laws governing nature.
But I respect those who do
accept it, just as I respect

Continued on Page 50

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