Modernity

Does God work? This is a crucial question, for the denigration of work and the degradation of the worker in both antiquity and modernity are supported by the view that the gods do not have to work. That is what makes them gods.

The entire style of thought in Reform bears the imprint of Protestant theology and philosophy. Jewish Orthodoxy, on the other hand, clearly reflects the style of thought characteristic of Catholic theology. That may explain in party why Orthodoxy attained its greatest strength in the Catholic part of Germany. The reaction of the Orthodox Jews against the modernist emphasis upon reason and the spirit of the times was very similar to that displayed by the Catholics among whom they lived. The spokesmen of Orthodoxy maintained that to recognise the primacy of reason was to place oneself outside of Judaism. They maintained that the authoritative character of traditional Judaism should be sufficient to validate whatever demands it makes on the Jew. Those demands, they argued, are intrinsically meant to be a challenge to whatever happens to be be the spirit of the times, rather than a concession to it. For (Rabbi) Samson Raphael Hirsch, the essence of modernity is the humanist assumption that salvation consists in the achievement of happiness and self-perfection. That assumption, according to him, is morally and spiritually untrue.

I have frequently argued that “assimilation,” which has sinister connotations when used in conjunction with “Jews,” is not inherently evil. On the contrary, assimilation, as the law of life, is beneficial in its inevitability. However, there are two types of assimilation: active assimilation, which transforms the foreign into the indigenous, and passive assimilation, which transforms the indigenous into the foreign. While active assimilation, i.e. the taking “from” the outside and its digestion-and-adaptation to the assimilating body makes for growth and strength, passive assimilation, i.e. the slavish assimilation of the foreign and the compromising of the indigenous pave the road to the extinction of distinctiveness.

Historians today are priests of a cult of truth, called to the service of a god whose existence they are doomed to doubt.