AN EPISTLE TO THE CHRISTIANS
BY SHOLEM ASCH
BY THE WILL OF GOD
In the young manhood of our people, when it was imbued with lusty shepherd strength, our fathers, rocking in the humps of their camels across the desert, saw the stars in the sky. The stars became transparent windows, and they saw the Almighty of all the universe, and they fell on their faces before Him, stretched out their hands and cried, “Thou art our God!”
From that time on, my people holds fast to the vision of one living God over all the worlds and over the whole of humanity, Who alone is worthy of being praised, and sanctified, Who alone is capable of giving salvation. The vision of an omnipotent God for all people was steadily before Abraham’s eyes from the beginning. The Jewish faith did not develop from a family to a tribal one, from a tribal to a world faith, but had pretended from its earliest beginnings to be the only and all-encompassing one. That is why the Jewish God is such a jealous God. He does not tolerate and will not admit any other deities besides Himself. He is the One and Only, the Sole-Existing, and everything else is idolatry, impurity, and vice.
A little less than two thousand years ago, there came into our world among the Jewish people and to it a personage who gave substance to the illusion perceived by our fathers in their dream. Just as water fills up the hollowness of the ocean, so did he fill the empty world with the spirit of the one living God. No one before him and no one after him has bound our world with fetters of law, of justice, and of love, and brought it to the feet of the one living Almighty God as effectively as did this personage who came to an Israelite house in Nazareth in Galilee--and this he did, not by the might of the sword, of fire and steel, like the lawgivers of other nations, but by the power of his mighty spirit and of his teachings. He, as no one else before him, raised our world from “the void and nothingness” in which it kept losing its way and bound it with strong ties of faith to the known goal, the predetermined commandment of an almighty throne so as to become a part of the great, complete, everlasting scheme of things. He, as no other, raised man from his dumb, blind, and senseless existence, gave him a goal and a purpose and made him part of the divine. He, as no other, works in the human consciousness like a second, higher nature and leaves man no rest in his animal state, wakens him, calls him, raises him, and inspires him to the noblest deeds and sacrifices. He, as no other, stands before our eyes as an example and a warning, and demands of us, harries us, prods us to follow his example and carry out his teachings. Through his heroic life, he casts us down like dust before his feet. No one but he sheds about himself such an aura of moral power, which has molded our world and our character; and no one’s strength but his own has reached into our time, being the most potent influence in our everyday lives, inspiring us to goodness and exalted things, being the measure and scale for our deeds at every hour and minute.
Many of us who, for one reason or another, are unable to believe in--or whose religious nature cannot conceive of--the physical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth on the third day after his crucifixion, must nevertheless admit, that in a moral and spiritual sense the Nazarene rises from the dead every day, every hour, and every minute in the hearts of millions of his believers.
If Jesus was not actually restored to life three days after his burial, then he was resurrected every day, every hour, and every minute in the first three hundred years after his death. What must remain an eternal mystery to those who are blind and deaf enough not to believe in miracles is the spread of Christianity during the first three hundred years. There was not enough reason for the pagan world to violate its own nature and to stifle its Zeitgeist with what was--for it--so foreign, so unrecognizable, so antagonistic, so Asiatic a faith. If the Nazarene was revolutionary in blazing a new path for the Jewish spirit, then his teachings, his essence, were not only incomprehensible to the Graeco-Roman spirit but were the opposite of everything which it considered to be the mission and the purpose of humankind. If the pagan peoples suffered from the need of a change in religion, they could have found enough material for it within their own spiritual realm. It was possible, within the framework of their own customs, thoughts, and conduct to work out a religious ethic through the teachings of the Neo-Platonists and the Stoics. And surely it is childish and naive to explain the phenomenon by the fact that the apostles of the new faith made its acceptance easier for the pagans through making compromise with the old Jewish law. In the face of the danger in which the pagan placed his very existence, what effect could it have had if he imbibed the new believe with milk, as the apostle expresses it, or with vinegar? What attraction could the compromise with Jewish law have had for him when acceptance of the belief--with or without compromises--made the newly converted Christian a candidate for the distinction of being thrown to the beasts in the arena?
I, as a Jew, whose every move is bound up with the God of Israel, want to know nothing of any historical wonder, of any faith, save only the wonder and the faith which radiate from the God of Israel. The wonder is revealed to me in two ways: first, the miracle of the preservation of Israel; second, the miracle of the spread of the Judaeo-Christian idea in the pagan world. The whole thing to me represents a single, divine event. I see in both phenomena the single will of the God of Israel. Not only because I consider my Christian brothers as the spiritual children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but also because I see in pure Christianity an entirely justified share of faith in the God of Israel--through the Messianic idea--equal to my own Jewish faith. The preservation of Israel and the preservation of the Nazarene are one phenomenon. They depend on each other. The stream must run dry when the spring becomes clogged, and Christianity would become petrified if the Jews, God forbid, should cease to exist. And just as the spring loses its value, becomes spoiled and moldy when it has lost its mission and does not water the stream, so would Jewry itself become petrified, barren, and dry if there were no Christendom to fructify it. Without Christendom, Jews would become a second tribe of Samaritans. The two are one. And notwithstanding the heritage of blood and fire which passionate enmity has brought between them, they are two parts of a single whole, two poles of the world which are always drawn to each other, and no deliverance, no peace, and no salvation can come until the two halves are joined together and become one part of God.
Whoever works, strives, and desires that this may come to pass is on the side of God. Whoever does otherwise belongs to the other party.
This is my spiritual credo. On this foundation I have built my house. For this I have sacrificed everything. With it I stand and with it I fall.
That is why, as a Jew, as an “outsider”, I claim the right to call you my brothers, believers in the Messiah, and, as brothers, to talk with you openly and freely. As children who have the same parents, children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Christians, Jews, believers in the Messiah, give me your attention, because a brother speaks to you in the name of millions of your brothers.
IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH
In the dining car of the reserved train that runs from Berlin to Warsaw--a special train for high-ranking military men and government functionaries of the German Reich--there sat an extraordinarily high official whose sudden appearance in the car had evoked tense attention from the military men and dignitaries seated comfortably around the table that was being served. The official himself, whose modesty was well known, did everything both by his unobtrusive behavior and his amiable smiles (which were painstakingly forced from his nearsighted eyes and small mouth) to bring his companions back into the easy humor in which he had found them on entering the car. He did not succeed, however.
His position as chief of the Gestapo, his reputation as a pitiless, bloodthirsty, cruel man, his close ties with the Fuhrer--all this kept not only the military men but his retinue, his aides who accompanied him everywhere and formed a guard to protect him, in an attitude of alert watchfulness. Under the pressure of fear which his personality radiated from itself, the orderlies served the food with trembling hands, which communicated the nervous tension from the waiters to the guests.
On the second day, Gestapo Chief Himmler in the company of his official retinue rode through the crowded streets of the Warsaw ghetto to examine it before its destruction.
What did the Gestapo Chief see?
That which was called the Warsaw Ghetto was concentrated in the poorest, most overpopulated Jewish quarter. The population of the Ghetto contained now, according to official figures, upwards of five hundred and fifty thousand human beings. People who had spent their whole lives under civilized conditions, were driven out overnight from their homes, which they or their fathers had built, from the cities and countries to which they had belonged for hundreds of years and scores of generations; were transported under the most inhuman conditions to Poland and thrown into the Dantean hell which was called the Warsaw Ghetto.
At that time, in the Ghetto more than twenty souls lived in a single room which in normal times would have accommodated only one or two.
The Ghetto was cut off and isolated by a thick wall from the poorest streets of the city of Warsaw. German police and Gestapo men, armed with rifles and machine guns, guarded the wall. To leave the ghetto without permission meant to be shot without trial. A small portion, healthy young people whom the Germans used in their war industry, got skimpy rations--just enough to sustain the soul. The rest of the population--the old, the women, the children--were sentenced to a slow death of starvation.
All education for children and grownups was forbidden; all social life and its pastimes were strictly interdicted.
And yet the Ghetto went on, organized itself, and continued to spin the thread of life, which even the sharp German sword had not been able to cut. If one was unable to live in freedom, in God’s shining sun, then one crept under the earth. In the labyrinthine corridors of the old houses, work continued, a fruitful cultural activity which could only be carried out by a people that had survived the persecutions and the sufferings with which Jewish history is so amply filled, a people that is destined by the Almighty to live forever.
The Jewish student youth gathered the children together. In the courtyards, war gardens had been planted, and there, in spite of the Gestapo, regular classes for the children were conducted.
In the darkened rooms, cut off from electric light, evening courses were given for adults.
Musical concerts were held which ghetto artists gave for their ghetto brothers. Lectures by learned men and writers were read on scientific and literary themes. A regular technical school was conducted with advanced courses given by experienced teachers and savants.
In secret bakeries Jewish bakers baked bread out of the white flour smuggled into the ghetto; often the flour came from the Gestapo, which sold it dearly to the Jews. Jewish women stood in secret community kitchens, and with their accustomed skill, with family sorcery which they inherited from their mothers, cooked meals and soups composed of nonexistent materials. Other women and old men sat in attics or cellars and sewed and patched old clothes.
And meanwhile death did its work. There was a contest between the Angel of Death and the Gestapo as to which could surpass the other.
When Himmler and his retinue, in strongly armored cars, made their early morning inspection tour through the streets of the ghetto, they noticed, among the sick children who were playing there with the living corpses, also the dead corpses, which had been ejected, stark naked and covered only with papers, from the houses of the ghetto. But this was not enough for the German power--the Jews were not dying fast enough; so the Nazis overtook the Angel of Death and left him behind.
“Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani?”--”My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” That same cry was heard on the streets of Warsaw from hundreds of souls who, with their crosses, were being whipped on the way to Golgotha.
“Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani?”--with this difference, that the cry on Golgotha was heard in the company of the swords and spears of the Roman idolaters, while the cry on the Warsaw streets sounded among clubs and bayonets of people who had been converted, who called themselves Christian folk.
“Ropes of death have encompassed me, and toils of the pit have overtaken me. I meet with sorrow and trouble. I then called on the name of the Lord. I pray thee, Lord, release my soul.”
“My tears have become my bread by day and night as they say to the whole time, ‘Where is thy God?’”
And the answer which the Christian martyrs once made to themselves as they waited for death in the cellars of the Roman arenas, a death which they heard in the roaring of the lions--that same answer and consolation were now given by the Jews one to another as they joined hands together.
“Why art thou bowed down, my soul, and why must thou murmur within me? Trust in the Lord, for I will praise him, my supporter and my God.”
“Whither shall I turn from Thy spirit? And where shall I escape from before Thy countenance?”
In the death trains which stretched from the streets of the Ghetto to the places of execution were all kinds of Jews. There were Jews who, from birth, had not known that they were Jews, whom Hitler instructed in the Judaism in which their parents had failed to instruct them. They did not know or understand the meaning of their life, still less the meaning of their death. There were Jews from Germany, Jews who had reckoned themselves Germans throughout their existence. Many of them considered themselves Aryan and campaigned within the very ghetto walls for the recognition of their Aryan status. They looked upon their Jewishness as a mistake, as an oversight on the part of authority. There were Jews from Amsterdam and Antwerp who thought themselves Hollanders and Belgians. Notwithstanding these differences, all of them were thrown into the same pot.
And suddenly everything becomes understandable, realizable, clear, and beautiful. Suffering acquires a reason, an explanation--it is the highest price exacted for one’s faith. The Jew from Paris, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Berlin, Frankfurt, becomes simply a Jew.The Jewish Aryans, the Jews who are half-Aryans but want to become whole ones, have disappeared. There are no longer nationalist or assimilated Jews, no longer Jewish Bundists or Zionists; no longer religious or irreligious Jews. There is only one kind of Jew--the plain, unadorned Jew, the son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who goes on his eternal way, the way of everlasting Zion, the way of the salvation of Israel.
We do not know what will become of the German people.
The German people will live again after the war, will even return someday perhaps to the moral standard set in the days of Goethe and Schiller. Certainly the German people will become again a portion of the civilized world, and we all hope and wish for that time to come quickly, when German genius--and who dares to deny it?--may become as productive for the welfare of humanity as it has been for its destruction. But whatever the fate of the German people as a whole, every German will bear the mark of Cain on his forehead forever. And as it was with Cain, so to every German for the remainder of his days on earth the question will be put, “Where is thy brother Abel?” Where are the European Jews? And as the Lord said to Cain, so to every German will be said these words, “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood cries up to Me from the dust.”
Because the earth will not cover up the spilt blood of Israel.
And for this desecration which Hitler made of the Jews, for this choice which he conferred upon them, for the freedom with which he could slaughter a whole people, for this crying sin, the guilt is carried, the accessory guilt if not the full one, by the whole Christian world.
THE POISONED WELL
I have hurled a terrible word. My deepest feelings rebel and protest against this horrible charge. My hands trembled in writing it down. Yet. . . whatever the pain and anguish it may bring me, I must let it stay. Because the sin which Hitler, the Nazis, and the whole German people have drawn upon themselves could never have been committed--at any rate, in the measure and form in which it was committed--if it were not inspired, if it were not sanctioned, or at the very least allowed by the criminal silence of a wicked world, shot through with Jew-hatred, with indifference to human wrongs.
Anti-Semitism is not a movement. It is a disease. He who is infected with it is unable to have an orientation, a judgment, or an opinion which is the result of logical thinking or of actual facts. The anti-Semite has no proof, no opinion, no consciousness even, because proof, opinion, and consciousness are attained through independent thought. He has no independent thought, he is imprisoned within the magic circle in which his sufferings have immured him. He has no will of his own. He is ruled by his disease, the name of which is anti-Semitic insanity.
No one has exposed so clearly the blindness, the lack of judgment, the disease of hatred as did Tertullian, who lived at the end of the second and the beginning of the third century, and who described in his Apology the blind hatred of the Romans for the first Christians.
According to Tertullian, Christians were hated to such an extent in those days that “a Christian, you would have believed, is a man guilty of every crime, a foe to the gods, to the emperor, to the law, to morality, a sinner against the laws of nature. . .
“It is not the man who is guilty of the specific crime; the guilt lies in the name alone. Since ‘Christian’ is the appellation of an offense, it is not absurd that the offense should lie within the name itself.” Are not these words well suited to the Jews today?
“There is such general hatred, blind hatred towards the name that everyone who has any mud to throw upon it is readily believed--’Caius Sextus is a good man; a pity that he’s a Christian’. Another says, ‘I’m surprised that Lucius Titus who’s so bright has suddenly turned Christian.’ “
How many times does it happen to every one of us to hear the same tune, with this difference only, that the word “Christian” is exchanged in the mouths of Christians for the word “Jew”? And to whom are the words of the Christian apologist of the second century better suited than to the Jews of today?
“Our triumph has both the glory of martyrdom and of eternal life. Though we are annihilated, yet we win the battle. When we are beaten, then we are victorious. In the very mouth of destruction, we are saved.
“Though we are damned by you, we are nevertheless raised and accepted by God.”
There was not a single slander invented by the lowest Greek and Roman pamphleteer against the first Christians which the Christians themselves did not later carry over against the Jews and the Jewish faith. How many victims fell, how much Jewish blood was spilled, how much trouble, pain, how many nights of fear, anxiety, terror, were caused by the false accusation repeated through century after century that the Jews required human blood for their rituals, an accusation which the Roman pamphleteers had made against the early Christians!
He who would have become the hope of Israel; he who was called upon by God to become the redeemer, promised by God to their fathers; he whom the prophets had foretold as the consolation and reward of all their sufferings and troubles; he who was to have raised Israel to its greatest heights, to become the crown of all their strivings, the light of the world--became instead the source of death and destruction for Israel. “How can we believe that Jesus is the Messiah when he has become the origin of everything evil and wicked that has come over Israel, since his name appeared in the world?” is the painful cry heard in Jewish writings through the centuries. What wonder that the Jews have refused so stubbornly to drink from the well which has contained nothing but poison for them? The responsibility for this lies with those who have contaminated the spring of God with the poison of Satan and of death.
Is it not an irony, a piece of the devil’s wit, that a society which dared to clothe itself with the sacred name of him who is called “the king of the Jews” should set itself the task of becoming the chastening rod for the Jewish people?And the consequence of this was that the name which should have evoked joy and song in the Jewish heart evoked instead deadly anxiety and torturing fear. Jewish blood freezes in one’s veins when the blood and tears brought by that name to the Jews are remembered.
When Jesus the Nazarene appears to his disciples for the first time after his resurrection, the first question which they ask of the Messiah is, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” The restoration of the kingdom of Israel was so important a condition of the messianic faith that the apostles could think of nothing else as the first thing that the Messiah would do when he came back to life but to inaugurate the reign of Israel.
But of all this--the role of Israel in the new faith, of its honor, of its preparation for the advent of the Messiah, of its place in the messianic hierarchy--nothing whatever is said now, no hint of it is instilled into the hearts of believers. Of the twelve disciples, all Jews, all but one faithful followers of Jesus, only Judas, the unfaithful, became to Christians the symbol of the Jewish people. It would be more fitting to have chosen James, the faithful pius Jew, whose Epistle might well have been written by one of the Old Testament prophets.
Gradually the church began to rid itself of the entire burden of the heritage she had gotten from the Jews. Jewish holidays were neglected, as were also Jewish customs and Jewish ritual laws. The days were shifted--the Sabbath was removed from Saturday to Sunday.
If it was easy for the
Greek or the Roman to forswear idolatry in going over to the new belief in a
Messiah, it was not at all easy for the Jew to acknowledge a faith in his
Messiah, which brought nothing but suspicion to him and a mockery to the
beliefs of his fathers--because the church, in order to attract the Roman and
the Greek to the fold, not only made compromises with the Mosaic Code, but
became more and more estranged from Jewry, denied all connection with it,
debased and brought shame upon the Jews.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Messiah was the Messiah of the Jews, that the fulfillment of Jewish hopes and of Jewish prophecies were ascribed to him, that the Messiah carried all the blessings of Israel, he was nevertheless painted as the victim of Israel. No one but the cursed Jews was to blame for his sufferings and death, which were a necessary condition for his messianic mission.
In any case, the legend of the Jewish crucifixion of the savior became the source of limitless, torturing, and senseless hatred toward the Jews. The legend about the Jewish crucifixion of the Messiah has cost millions of Jewish lives. It carries a long streak of blood after it, right down to our own time. It has become the microbe of hate in the spiritual body of Christianity. It has caused and still causes daily trouble for the Jews. It brings tears to mothers, anxieties and terrors to children. I myself have suffered throughout my childhood from the accusation of blood guilt. Every Christian holiday was transformed by the legend into a day of fear and sorrow for the Jews.
But greater than the damage it did to Jews, greater even than the destruction of Jewish lives, was the damage and destruction it wrought upon spiritual lives.
The condition has been created that the church, on he one hand, has preached hatred toward the Jews, has poisoned the minds, the hearts, and the souls of its adherents with the most horrible legends concerning them, has attributed everything evil to the Jews, has mocked at his faith, derided his sufferings, laughed at his tears; and, on the other hand, has wondered why the Jew does not embrace Christianity which despises him, why he declines a faith which robs him of his dearly bought hopes, his reward for all the miseries he has gone through--the Messiah, in other words--and turns him over to his bloodiest enemies; a faith which has provided him with the role of a Judas and given him the position of the Wandering Jew. From one side, Christians have hounded Jews, and from the other side they have sought to make him accept their faith. He has been subjected to every penalty of the law, every kind of persecution and misery; his cries unto God have been interpreted as stubbornness, his self-immolation for his faith has been regarded as the work of Satan. They could do anything to the Jew--they could make his life one long chain of tortures, confine him in crowded ghettos. release him to the fury of the mob, which was constantly goaded into a rage against him, restrict his rights, degrade his dignity as a man, throw him into the bonfires lighted by the monks--but his trust in God could not be broken, because it was not against the weak, tortured Jew that the sword of the church struck--oh, the weak Jew could have been overcome easily enough by the sword--but it struck instead against the impregnable armor of the destiny of the eternal Israel, and therefore it had to break.
If you believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, then you must also believe that the fact of his being born among the despised and lowly Jews instead of among the mighty, victorious Romans--a circumstance which would no doubt have been much more convenient for Christianity--was no accident, no historical caprice, but that it was God’s will that the Messiah be born under these particular conditions and not under some other ones. The coming of the Messiah was something that had to be prepared: a whole line of patriarchs was necessary, all standing under the eye of a living God, promises, prophecies, merits, election both as to suffering and deliverance--in a word, the whole heritage of the Jewish people, which the church at the beginning had accepted as the unconditional necessity for the preparation, the creation, and the appearance of the Messiah.
Because of this, the existence of the Jews was postulated as a necessary condition for the origin of Christianity and the church. But though he was flesh of their flesh, soul of their soul, had come to them and for them, the Messiah from the very beginning was endowed by the church with attributes which it was unnatural for the Jewish spirit to accept. “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Bound up with the Torah, which had become second nature to him, the Jew correctly saw the Messiah not as the disrupter of the Mosaic Law but as one who would build upon it. The church, which accommodated itself to the habits and customs of the pagan peoples, offered the Jews a messianic idea which was entirely foreign and incomprehensible to the Jewish mind.
But the church needed the Jews to bear witness to its truth. It was impossible to win them over by means of kindness, then it was necessary to try outrage and murder.
And so the long Jewish martyrdom begins.
Christianity does not carry the sole responsibility for the Jewish tragedy. Mohammedanism did not distinguish itself any more nobly towards the Jews. Maimonides and his family had to suffer at the hands of the Musselmen all the persecutions, tortures, agonies, and wanderings which Abarbanel suffered from the Catholic Church at the time of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. We have only to read the letter of consolation from Maimonides to the Jews of Temen to get a small idea of what the believers in the prophet did to the Jews. But what do I have to do with Mohammedism? Did Mohammed pretend to be the Jewish Messiah? Is Mohammed a product of the Jewish spirit? Is Mohammed a fulfillment of the Lord’s promise? Did Mohammed assure anyone at any time of anything but the sword? Was it Mohammed who preached the Sermon on the Mount? did Mohammed create the culture and civilization of which I am a part, and in the realization of which I see the greatest good fortune of humanity? What have I to do with the desert tribe? The Christians are my brothers.
THE SON OF GOD
AND THE SON OF SATAN
Who will dare to assert that the fact that the Jews have survived every trial of their faith is a completely natural phenomenon--that it was due entirely to their own will and strength of character? He who dares to say this is either spiritually a cripple who is entirely incapable of comprehending a transcendental occurrence, or a godless cynic whose heart is a nest for the lowest passions. Go down on your knees, man, before the miracle in front of your eyes, the miracle of the preservation of Israel. If ever there has occurred in human history an event that frightens us with its incomprehensibleness and unrealizability, an event which is shrouded in a veil of profound mysticism, it is this miracle of the survival of the Jewish people.
Every living Jew is a part of that miracle.The Jew as an idea, the historical Jew, is a mystic phenomenon, a Lazarus risen from the grave, because we are ignorant of the powers that have withheld him from the death and disappearance which have threatened to engulf him right down to our own time.
No historian, no philosopher can explain it satisfactorily. We can see in it only the will of God. Jews have been forced to survive, through all their sufferings, not for the sake of themselves as individuals but for the sake of the group, for the sake of the whole of the world of which they are a part.
If this was accomplished through the strength of their own character, then the Jews are the most powerful, the most worthy, and the strongest people of the entire human race.
No, I do not ascribe these virtues to the Jews. Jews are just as weak, selfish, and comfort-seeking as any other people. They have survived in spite of themselves, because they were forced to do it by a superior power.
The survival of the Jews was not simply a caprice of their own or of history but a product of the fate marked out for them by God, a mission to which they are assigned, and which was kneaded into the very embryo of their existence, and forces them, against their will, to carry upon themselves the yoke of Jewry, to withstand every pain, sorrow, and persecution, to burn in every fire, to fall into every abyss--and yet to survive in spite of all. Not for themselves, not on their own behalf, but for a higher purpose, for the whole of humanity, as God had intended them.
The whole of Jewish history bears witness to it.
We are eternal. Evil may triumph for a space, but good is everlasting.
This is the blessing which God has bestowed upon us--the preservation of Israel.
According to Jewish sources, Armilos, a kind of anti-Christ, will gather around himself all the forces of evil and lead them into battle against the Messiah of God. The description given of Armilos is characteristic. Among other defects, he is deaf in one ear. Whenever the truth is being told, he turns his deaf ear toward it; but let someone tell a lie and he immediately turns his good ear in that direction.
What is the power of the anti-Christ? The power of God is love; the anti-Christ works through hate. Great powers have been yielded to the anti-Christ. He has access everywhere. He can be found everywhere. He does not stop at any boundaries. Sometimes he can be found in a den of thieves; sometimes he appears in the heart of a mob and incites it to kill innocent human beings; at still another time he appears even in the arena of the church and drives the people to wild deeds.
Whenever the anti-Christ appears, he sows hatred and envy among people and tears up by the roots the growth of love which Jesus of Nazareth has planted.
Anti-Semitism is one of the tried methods which the Anti-Christ uses to disrupt the work of Jesus of Nazareth. We see that anti-Semitism has not been strong enough to destroy the Jewish people. It could bring anguish and torture, sorrow and tears, burnings and murders of individuals, of whole communities, of entire countries. But if a Jewish settlement was torn up from one country, God had already planted the seeds of another in a different country. The anti-Christ has bent all of his energies to uproot not merely a single settlement but the whole of Israel, because it is Israel that is his greatest enemy, the barrier to his success, the disrupter of his work. But against Israel he has proved too weak. His sword strikes against its armor and is shattered.
For God has surrounded Israel with a ring of fire and does not permit the destroyer to come near it. He punishes and thrashes it, but he never destroys it.
God needed the remnant of Israel. He has saved it for a mission which it is to do in the world.
But the anti-Christ, wherever he has planted his seed of hate, has destroyed the work of Jesus, upset his garden for a time, poisoned the deeds of honest Christianity for many generations, and undermined the work of God. No matter through what channel it flows, the poison of anti-Semitism which they give out stems from but a single source, the same source: namely, from the origin of all corruption and pollution, the anti-Christ.
“By their fruits ye shall know them. . . Not everyone that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in thy name, and by thy name cast out devils, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
About whom were these words of Jesus spoken?
In every country, for hundreds of years, they broke into synagogues and Jewish seminaries of learning. They dragged out books and dumped them into blazing bonfires and autos-da-fe. They ripped out pages, sometimes whole sections of the Holy Scriptures. Very seldom has a Hebrew book come down to us from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which is not disfigured by the blood-red blots of the censorship. Jews bewailed in lamentations and took more to heart the martyrdom of a Jewish book than of a living Jew. With whom, do you think, was the redeemer and savior to be found when they burned those writings which, according to yourselves, bear witness to his coming?
That is how the bloody thread drawn by the anti-Christ through the whole length of Christian history reached into our own time, too. Why go back to the Middle Ages and to the Inquisition? What was the state of Christian morality a day before Hitler set the world aflame?
With whom was he to be found, who had said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake?” On which side, do you think, is the “son of God” and on which the son of Satan--the anti-Christ?
More than a thousand years have passed since the German people accepted Christianity and turned to the one living God and his Messiah.
But anti-Semitism has, little by little, eaten away at the roots by which you are planted in God’s earth, the roots through which flow the commandments, the blessings, the moral qualities of Jesus of Nazareth. In place of the blood of the son of God, anti-Semitism has injected into your veins the blood of the son of Satan, anti-Christ. Anti-Semitism has poisoned the seed, has undermined the tree--and just see the fruit which it has begun to give forth.
Hitler has spun a poisoned web of hatred and envy for you and involved you along with himself. He is the apostle of the anti-Christ, driving along the same furrow which his master has made in your souls. He got you into his power, and you became accomplices to human misery. You witnessed the destroyer as he arose to eradicate a whole people from the earth. It lay in your power to stop him, and yet you were silent. You saw how the destroyer lit fires upon Jewish business firms and dwellings, and you did not quench the flames--they spread across the national boundaries and ignited your own homes.
You tasted the bread you had helped to sow. Your eyes grew blind with the blindness of hatred, your ears were stopped with the noise of murder and violence. That is why you showed such tolerance towards the deeds of shame that Hitler carried on against the Jewish people. You might have c crushed the reptile when it made its first poisonous lunge. Instead of that, you fed the viper at your breast until it was strong enough to throw itself at your neck.
And now we stand in the very midst of the bath of blood which men have made upon each other. All of our talents, all of our skills, all of our thoughts and of our genius are expended upon one thing only--the destruction and uprooting of human lives. The wings of Death’s angel throw their shadow upon every house. We stand bewildered and amazed in the forest, where man used to be a wild beast.
There is nothing left of us but a single spark of a belief in God, smoldering in the heap of ashes, the ashes left by the conflagration of our spiritual estates.
Keep the flame of faith burning in your hearts, spread it, purify it--it can lead you out, you and ourselves, from the darkness and the night.
THE JUDAEO-CHRISTIAN IDEA
Forgive me, Christian, for the sharp-edged words which have fallen from my pen like drops of blood. Forgive me, Christian, that I, a stranger, a mere outsider, take the liberty of disturbing and awakening the Christian conscience within you. It is the reverence which I have for your faith, it is the love, the devotion, and the faithfulness which I feel toward the founder of your religion; it is my belief, my deep faith in the eternal, truthful religious and ethical values of the Judaeo-Christian ideal, which give me the courage and--I may permit myself to say also--the right to assume toward you the attitude of one brother talking to another.
It is the greatest mistake to believe that the messianic mystery had a small influence upon the Jewish faith. In spite of the rationalists who untiringly did their best to take from the Jewish religion its crown, to cut the wings from the divine idea, and to make it fit into the Procrustean bed of the Aristotelian universe, the messianic idea overcame every stumbling block which was placed in its path.
Maimonides’ rationalistic conception of the Messiah, a conception kept strictly within the framework of the natural order of things, did not gain much favor. With all due respect to the authority of Maimonides, the religious teachers rejected it, and some of them even decried it as atheism and fought against it bitterly. The Jewish people, for whom the messianic ideal became the sole recompense for its faith in God, did not wish to allow its Messiah to be divested of the divine and kingly robe which the prophets had woven for him. The Messiah was not only the heavenly personage whom the prophet Daniel had visioned coming with the clouds of the sky, but he was even endowed with the crown of martyrdom. The Messiah constructed by Maimonides and later rationalists of the reform epoch could not satisfy the Jewish masses’ thirst for faith in salvation. The people expected a Messiah who would come upon the clouds of the sky and be accompanied by the hosts of heaven. Such a Messiah seemed reasonable to them and far more natural than the Messiah whom Maimonides draws--a Messiah who will accomplish his great mission by quite ordinary means and in accordance with the laws of nature. The natural path of the Messiah in the concept of Maimonides is more fantastically unreal than the divine road of the Messiah of Chassidism.
Even Maimonides himself made the messianic ideal and the whole mystery of messianism--the resurrection of the dead--one of the chief dogmas of the Jewish faith. And similarly, too, must the reformed rabbis correct the mistake of the rationalistic founder of “Reformed Judaism”. Whoever was raised in the pure spirit of Judaism knows the meaning and place which the messianic mysteries occupy in his religious life. The writer was brought up in a faith which made the Messiah the answer to all hopes and expectations and desires not only for a more just and better world but for a whole new arrangement of the world--an arrangement not based upon laws of an earthly nature but upon the laws of a higher nature, of a divine nature, which knows no limits, an arrangement of the world where the visions of the prophets, of Isaiah, and Ezekiel, become living realities.
The wealthy, educated Jew, perhaps, did not have to look forward to the messianic re-arrangement of the world; he was able to find comforts enough in the existing order and made it, naturally, the point of departure for the messianic world; he could easily subtract a vast amount from the messianic ideal and make it fit into the rationalistic, liberal age. The poor Jew, on the other hand, could not have survived a day, with the deprivations and worries which chased after him live wolves, except for his belief in the Messiah as a means of escape, a reward for all his sufferings, all the wrongs and persecutions loaded upon him by an unjust world. The Messiah for him is the one who will answer every question and will straighten out everything which is now awry.
The religious Jew waits every minute of the day for the coming of the Messiah, as the religious Christian awaits the Second Coming--not for a righteous ruler who will install a just order in the world, or a “liberal” order, but for a mysterious personage, half-God, half-man, who was with God before He created the world; a personage who will have the power to change not only our own nature but the nature of the animals as well--the lion shall lie down with the lamb, and a child will play together with both of them; a mysterious personage who will fulfill the vision of Ezekiel--the graves will open and the earth shall give up the dead; there will take place the resurrection of the dead, for which every religious Jew says prayers three times every day.
Only for such a Messiah was it worth while to have passed through all sorrows and to spin out the thread of Israel’s existence, which began to be woven in the hands of Abraham and has extended down to our own time. Rob the Jews of the messianic mystery and they must fall apart, as have so many other faiths which were built upon the sandy foundations of rationalism.
It is my firm conviction that the majority of the millions of Polish Jews whom Hitler threw into his fiery ovens while they were still alive--as they were dragging themselves to the ovens with their last ounces of strength, led by their rabbis--that these Jews saw the Messiah during their last moments as he reached out his hands to them from the tongues of flame and received their souls with mercy and pity. The messianic ideal with all of the mysteries which surround it--the resurrection of the dead, the beginning of an absolutely just arrangement of the world--remained the final hope which they took with them from the horrible, wicked world in which they found themselves to that other, better world into which they entered across the thresholds of the lime kilns Hitler had prepared for them.
I cannot see with what moral powers the remnant of Israel will begin anew its life upon an earth which has split open and swallowed the greatest number of them, if it is not to be with the strength of the hope which is given by the messianic idea.
And why the Jews alone?
The whole world finds itself more or less in the same situation as Israel--if not in a physical then in a spiritual sense.
It is not merely Hitler and his Nazis who are to be blamed for what took place in Germany; we are all accomplices in the German wickedness. The moral status of our generation between the wars had created the atmosphere that made the misdeeds of Germany possible. If a human being can descend to the point of skinning another human being with the purpose of making a lamp shade of the skin, what will stay him from using the stripped corpse for nourishment? The whole human race had fallen from its God-chosen heights to the state of a beast.
But who are those who will build the new world? What is their moral position? What powers will be working within them? From what source will they gather the moral strength which must surge up within the people if our new society is to be built upon the foundation of a more equitable arrangement of the world?
It cannot be claimed that they will draw these moral powers from the events of the war or from the state of the world before the war, from the moral condition which made it possible to bring mankind to the brink of the greatest catastrophe and the greatest danger to the existence of our established morality.
We often hear talk that the war puts Christian morality in danger and that we stand at the end of the Christian epoch.
Yes, I believe this too--that is to say, I believe it if our enemies, both those within and those without, should, may God forbid it, retain their satanic beliefs after the war. . . if the forces of darkness emerge uncowed from the struggle, or smuggle themselves into our society and become an important factor after they have been vanquished on the field of battle. They have wiped out the teachings, the morality, and the mystery of Christianity. They have put it to shame and laughed at it and labeled it an Asiatic weakness; on the other hand, in their own philosophy they have made cardinal principles of everything that Jesus and his apostles rejected and overcame. Instead of Christian pity, mercy, and love, which Jesus inculcated, the leading themes of their outlook became pagan cruelty, the power of the naked fist, and the strength of force that was purely physical. Particularly have the “Christians” among them sinned a thousand times more grievously and made themselves a thousandfold greater danger to the existence of the Christian religion than the idol-worshipping Nazi fascists.
We know exactly where we stand with the pagan fascists of Hitler’s school. They engaged in open war against us--as we did against them. The lines are sharply drawn. But what is to be done with a type of fascism which utilizes the sacred personage of the founder of the Christian religion as a weapon to bring torture and anguish upon innocent people, to implant enmity and race hatred in the hearts of its followers?
And our Semitic brethren in Palestine--how have they behaved towards us? When Rommel together with his barbarous hordes of Nazis stood at the gates of Alexandria and the danger was great that they might soil the Holy Land with their unclean fingers, the Arabs in Palestine came out of their burrows and openly began to sharpen their knives in preparation for the cutting of Jewish throats as soon as the Germans should have crossed the borders. They parceled out Jewish lands among themselves ahead of time--those lands which had been recovered by the Jews with the expenditure of so much sweat and toil, and which an Arab representative in Berlin, according to the terms of an agreement with Hitler, was to get in return for Arab aid to the Nazis. Impudently these Arabs appeared in Jewish settlements and marked with chalk the houses, stalls, gardens, and factories which they had betimes distributed among themselves.
They frankly sharpened their knives for Jewish throats, and as a reward for their loyal attitude to the enemy who was knocking on the doors of the Holy Land, Bible-loving and Christian England presented them with the gift of the “White Paper”. With stiff-necked British consistency, the Minister of Colonies in the Palestine administration allowed ships to sink that were carrying hundreds of human lives. After stormy experiences on the sea and after saving themselves from a thousand dangers, Jewish refugees finally reached the shores of Palestine. But the borders were sealed with seven seals against those who had fled before death and annihilation. Bible-loving and Christian England has reserved Palestine, the land that has produced the highest moral good for humanity, the Jewish-Christian ideal, for the Mohammedan faith.
It is my profound belief that only the Jewish-Christian idea contains in itself the possibility of salvation for our tortured world. The substantial fact that both you and we believe in the same God of Israel, that both of us have taken upon ourselves the yoke of heaven, that we believe in salvation, in redemption, in the promise, that we await the redeemer, the Messiah, each day, each hour, and each minute, that we expect him to come with the clouds of the sky, that we believe the world cannot become perfect without the redeemer--all this has given us, it might be said, a common faith, a common psychology, and common character traits. Our hope for a life after death has made us partners in a moral possession which is the sole consolation of our life; the expectation of the Messiah is our only reward. All of this together has created our civilization, which is founded upon the common elements of the Jewish-Christian idea.
The messianic faith is based on the conception that our order of things, our world, is not perfect and waits for a savior to redeem it. This conception has created in the souls of the believers in a Messiah a seeking, a longing, a sense of expectation which has given them a tragic quality and an everlasting restlessness. This characteristic is common only to believers in a messianic religion and is contrary to the conception of an aesthetic order such as Buddhism or Mohammedanism.
This searching after salvation, the hopeful expectation of a Redeemer, has created the prophets, the Psalms, the Epistles of Paul, the ethics and teachings of the rabbis, and of St. Augustine and St. Francis, the moving prayers of the Hebrew prayer book, the hymns of the Christian churches, and the different creeds of Christianity. In fact, the evolution of all our cultural achievement was inspired by the belief in the Messiah. The dynamic force of our faith is responsible for the dynamic force of our civilization.
Judaism in one form or another has come to rule the world because it contained within itself the potentiality of a world ideal imparted to it by divine inspiration. In this civilization, we Jews have an equal part. We are partners to it because it grew out of the foundation we laid, and its pure nature is the nature of the Jews; its virtues are those which our Bible, our prophets, and our Psalms have set as an example. Its highest ethical strivings were created through the messianic ideal.
It took us a long time to recognize this, to understand it clearly. The smoke from the auto-da-fe which the Inquisition lighted hid the truth from us with a veil. Rivers of blood placed barriers between us; but in the new sun which America created in the sky of faith, we saw the light. Our readiness for mutual recognition, the love and respect which we have for each other, are beginning to cover the bloody abyss that has separated us.
When Hitler came to power, he tried with all his might to uproot this nature from mankind and to implant a different one instead--the nature of the old beast-man. He accomplished this in his own country, among his own people, by raising a whole generation of Germans in his spirit. he forced upon the German the skin of an animal in the forest, he tore up by the root all the blessings and the whole great sum of spiritual values which faith in the Jewish-Christian ideal had created in the soul of European man, and the instilled into him the instincts of a beast by forced upbringing, by agitation and propaganda, and by awakening within him the lust to pillage, steal, and murder. He spread his influence over many peoples, scattered his idols over many lands, sowed the seed of evil in many hearts, until the evil matured and he was able to cut the full harvest of the seeds he had planted. The result was the catastrophe which he brought upon us, the fire which he turned against our homes, our cities, our countries, our whole world.
I can see no hope for our unhappy world save that which lies in the renewal of the moral and spiritual estates which our common ideal of faith has created--in our strengthening hold upon those possessions and in our turning to them with hearts full of faith, in fear of God, in love for Him, and in love for his creation--man.
That is the road for our tortured world. That is the reward which we can hold out for our children for their efforts, when they return, bloody, from the long night of fear and anxiety. It is the hope we can give those who have paid the highest price in the war. It is the means of rescue we can throw to our enemy, not to slay the sinner but to slay sin itself.
We must all together help each other in finding the way back to God. The world is becoming more shrunken each day with the development of new means of communication. We are all inhabitants of the same world, and the world must belong to God or to the devil. No division of authority exists any longer, because we all share in a single fate.
America, which is the healthiest country in a sick world, must take upon itself the mission of renewing the hopes of mankind--America, which was established with the purpose that she might understand all men. It is upon America, young and strong in her faith, that the mission has been placed of renewing the Jewish-Christian ideal as the only means of salvation for a world in flames. And that is the gift America will bring to the faith in God.
In our own time humanity has been brought to the level of the beasts. The dignity of the human being, that sacred position bestowed upon him by the Judaeo-Christian religion, can be restored only by acceptance and submission to its teachings.