Simon Dubnow - National Values

National Values

Spiritual values were highly esteemed by Dubnow, who viewed the Jewish people as leaders in their advancement. In his Weltgeschichte he discusses the ancient rivalry between Sadducee and Pharisee, as a contest between the ideal of a political nation versus a spiritual nation. He favored the latter, and mounted a critique of the warlike policies of Alexander Jannaeus (r. 103-76 BCE), a king of the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty (167-63 BCE), which was founded by the Maccabees:

"This was not the kind of state dreamed of by their predecessors, the hasidim, when the independence of Judea was attained and when the star of the Hasmoneans first began to gleam. Had Judea battled against the Syrian yoke, sacrificed for a quarter of a century its material goods and the blood of its best sons, only in order to become, after attaining independence, a 'despotism' or warrior state after the fashion of its pagan neighbors? The Pharisees believed that the Jewish nation was created for something better; that in its political life it was not to strive for the ideal of brute force but rather for the lofty ideal of inner social and spiritual progress."

Not only is there the issue of inner purpose and drive of the communal life of a nation, but also of the ethics of nationalism, relations between nations. Dubnow writes: "There is absolutely no doubt that Jewish nationalism in its very essence has nothing in common with any tendency toward violence." Because of the diaspora experience, "as a Jew, I utter the word 'national' with pride and conviction, because I know my people... is not able to aspire anywhere to primacy and dominance. My nationalism can be only a pure form...." The prophets "called Israel a 'light to the nations' the spiritual mission of the people of Israel... to bring other peoples, that is, all 'mankind,' to spiritual perfection." Thus, the nation inspired by Judaism, "the descendants of the Prophets," will promote and inspire the social ethics of humanity, and will come to harmonize with its realization: "the equal worth of all nations in the family of mankind." The "Jewish national idea, which can never become aggressive and warlike" will raise aloft its flag, which symbolizes the joining of the prophetic vision of "truth and justice with the noble dream of the unity of mankind."

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