Cultural Zionist leaders, both pre and post WW1, struggled with assimilation. Their view of Yiddishkeit, almost totally overshadowed by Xtian theological narishkeit. The latter, compares to an Indian summer, a dying religion, gasping in the throes of death, which attempted a kind of brief restoration of ‘spiritual health’, something comparable to the ‘Battle of the Bulge’. Nazi barbarism exposed the foundation of Xtian cruelty and lies, humanity now strives to cast this bloody rag upon the dunk heaps of history, together with the mythical Gods of Mt. Olympus.
Franz Rosenzweig, author of the philosophical work: “The Star of Redemption”, himself almost converted to that detestable faith. After the Great War, despite poor health, he worked together with Martin Buber to write a German translation of the T’NaCH. Poor scholarship assumes that translations of T’NaCH into Bibles serve Jewish interests. Translations compare to information gleaned; poor folk who search for food, after workers harvest the ripe crops from the fields; they compare to undergraduate students who learn particular subjects, based solely upon translations of original works written in other languages.
The root problem of translations, they simply cannot define any abstract “foreign” term. Translating abstruse, recondite, esoteric, and concealed terms into other languages, only further clouds understanding of these translated abstruse, recondite, esoteric and concealed terms. An example being the translation of ברית unto the alien term “covenant”. Had any translators of the Xtian Bibles understood the concealed depths of the Torah, they would have never introduced the Spirit Name of HaShem as a word. Cutting a brit most essentially requires swearing an oath through the Spirit Name of HaShem. The translation of brit into covenant fails to communicate this absolute and fundamental requirement.
Hence Xtians throughout the Ages have viewed the T’NaCH, comparable to post Ghetto reform Jewish rabbis who declared the T’NaCH and Talmud as archaic, they called the T’NaCH, their ‘Old Testament’. But neither T’NaCH nor Talmud teach history, both reveal the Cohen spirituality of faith. And neither Xtian theologians nor assimilated cultural Zionist philosophers, possessed an education, not in T”NaCH, nor in Talmud, nor in Midrash, nor in Siddur. Neither Xtian priest or assimilated Jew possessed the basic education required to enable them to distinguish and discern tefilla from prayer.
Worlds separate talking [about] a subject, as opposed to talking [through] that same subject. Both this and that – theological declarations of Creed and faith and assimilated Jewry – compare to a poor man, standing outside a Jewish window on shabbot, begging for food – as discussed in the opening Mishna of Shabbat. Words talk about Human shapes & forms of Man; but spirits breath the life force substance through Man. A basic yet fundamental distinction which forever separates reactionary newspapers knowledge rhetoric, from depth analysis research which learns based upon a disciplined employment, a comparison\contrast logic format.
Both Rosenzweig and Buber serve as prime examples of the secular Haskalah movement of the late 19th Century. Haskalah favored and promoted an environment of civic responsibility, it promoted the cultivation of literature and arts, worshiped by the dominant German culture of Bismarck’s empire. Torah observance of commandments, mitzvot, and halachot ceased to stir the soul of these assimilated Jews. Rosenzweig, like Marx before him, pursued the study of Hegel’s philosophical and political ideas. As his thoughts matured, Rosenzweig rejected German Idealism, Hegel’s notions of the supremacy of the nation state history, over the destiny of individuals who lived within a larger national society.
These group-think, belief system theologies vs. artistic creative mentalities, they have divided theological Creeds from mussar revelation of awareness, throughout the Ages. This gulf of separation between 2 fundamentally opposing ideas, most probably prevented Rosenzweig from embracing and converting to Xtianity. Nonetheless, recreating the wheel – what a waste of time. The genius of Rosenzweig could not independently duplicate the T’NaCH/Talmud wisdom, passed down through the Ages from Rabbis to talmidim who study together the sealed masoret. Rosenzweig’s philosophy turned and leaned toward the lines of the existentialist philosophers of Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Sartre, and Nietzsche, while still striving to maintain a Jewish identity.
As his philosophy matured he examined the Neo-Kantian school in philosophy, as promoted by the German-Jewish thinker Hermann Cohen, which emphasized “pure” thought and ethics rather than metaphysics. Cohen in his latter years would reduce the level of importance which the secular philosophical ethic of Kant emphasized. His last work, published after his death: Die Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums (1919; Religion of Reason: Out of the Sources of Judaism), Cohen shifted emphasis from a man-centered to God-centered concept of priority.
Both men as they aged struggled with a profound Jewish identity crisis. This Jewish identity crisis, perhaps it defines the mental hoops which all three of these Jewish philosophers attempted to jump through. Assimilated Jewry living today too struggles with our own identity crisis. We too strive to jump through hoops which define our relationships and society with and among our own people.