What was the breaking point of historical Zionism?

On February 14, 1896, Herzl published The Jewish state, a book that he understood would transform Judaism. But two months after publication, it only had a limited impact.

That was fine, since Herzl believed that the road to success runs through the Jewish establishment. He wrote it with the Rothschilds in mind and had high hopes for Baron Hirsch. Now that the book was out, Herzl was waiting for the optimal moment to send a copy to Hirsch and attract him.

Meanwhile, Herzl gathered some unusual supporters, like an anti-Semitic fan. Then a reverend appeared at Herzl’s door, “with the long gray beard of a prophet.” Reverend Hechler showed Herzl his calculations based on biblical prophecies that the Jews were about to return to Zion.

When Herzl told Hechler about his aspiration to meet German royalty, a game changer that would give his nascent movement enormous credibility and open doors, Hechler claimed he could fix it. Herzl, who referred to Hechler as “a peculiar person,” was skeptical of the reverend’s ability to offer an audience, but agreed to sponsor Hechler’s trip to Karlsruhe, home of the Grand Duke of Baden. After a few days of Hechler being in Karlsruhe and not giving birth, Herzl concluded that Hechler was in “illusions”.

Bulgarian Jews give religious credibility to Zionism

While the general scope of Herzl’s book was limited at the time, there was one place where The Jewish State was enthusiastically received: Bulgaria! Chief Rabbi Bierer of Sofia, along with 600 parishioners, gathered to pray for Herzl’s success and passed a resolution of support, giving religious validation to Herzl’s movement. On April 17 (Iyar 4), while awaiting the response from Hechler of Karlsruhe, Herzl received a letter from Rabbi Bierer saying that they were praying to God for the success of their endeavor.

Encouraged, Herzl finally set off on the path to such success: Hirsch! He asked his friend Max Nordau to test the water with the Baron, before sending the book to Hirsch. After two days of drafting specific instructions, on the morning of April 21 (Iyar 8), a day that would become monumental, Herzl sent the letter to Nordau.

An hour after sending the letter, Herzl received shocking news: Hirsch died last night. “What a strange coincidence,” he wrote in his diaries. “The pamphlet was finished months ago. I gave it to everyone except Hirsch. The moment I decide to do it, it dies. “

Herzl acknowledges the brutal setback to his life project: “Your participation could have helped our cause succeed tremendously quickly.”

At this low point, Herzl decided to leave Vienna for Budapest, the home of his childhood (and where Hirsch died). “Perhaps I should have written that letter to Nordau two weeks ago,” he wrote. “It seems to me that our cause has been impoverished this day.”

Defeated, Herzl was about to go to sleep, planning to take the 7 a.m. boat to Budapest the next morning, but then a telegram came from Karlsruhe in the middle of the night: Hechler caught the audience!

In the morning, instead of heading east to Budapest on a slow boat, Herzl headed west to Karlsruhe on the fast Orient Express train.

“Now begins a new book of the Jewish cause,” he wrote as he began a new diary on the train. By stating that he is now approaching the shift “from dream to reality,” Herzl knows what to attribute this unexpected success to.

Still unsure if the reunion will actually happen, Herzl writes a seemingly benign statement in his journal that has been ignored by Herzl researchers: “If true, it will hit the world like thunder and it will be the ‘success’ Bierer stands for. praying in Sofia “.

Herzl relating his success to God is reminiscent of Jacob linking his own dream to God: “And Jacob woke up from his dream and said: Indeed, there is a God in this place; and I didn’t know ”

Both Herzl and Jacob do not explicitly attribute their efforts to God at first. For Jacob, this is the first time he mentions God, except indirectly when he pretends to be Esau. Then his father Isaac asks him how he found prey so quickly, and Jacob replies, “Your God” sent it to me.

Herzl is warned early on that he could be perceived as Shabtai Zvi, the false Messiah of the seventeenth century, so he is extraordinarily cautious in making pious and messianic references, except in an opaque way or in code.

The Miracle of Iyar by Herzl

Herzl proceeded to meet the Grand Duke of Baden. Receiving a prolonged audience of two and a half hours, Herzl enchanted the German duke to Zionism. The “coincidences” of that day in Iyar triggered the rapid rise of Herzl and Zionism (which would peak two years later on Herzl’s visit to Jerusalem). The meeting with the grand duke eventually led to an audience with the kaiser, who agreed to pressure the Ottoman sultan to establish a statute for a Jewish state.

Hirsch’s death, coupled with Rothschild’s rejection, led Herzl to take his message directly to the Jewish masses: convene the Zionist Congress and build the Zionist institutions. “The Jews have lost Hirsch, but they have me,” he wrote. “And after me they will have someone else.”

In fact, 52 years later, Herzl’s prayers for success were answered: the Jewish state was established, a new book of Judaism begins!

Deciphering Isaac’s mistake in choosing Esau

Avimelech, the king of Gerar, twice uses success as an indicator that God is with Abraham and Isaac. They both arrived as refugees: Abraham apparently due to the spillage of the Sodom carnage and Isaac due to famine. Once the two become enormously successful, the Kking concludes that God is with them and therefore asks for a pact.

When Rebecca is pregnant, God privately tells her that Jacob is the chosen one. But Isaac is unaware of that, and therefore has to resort to Avimelech’s “success test” to determine which of his children God is with. After all, Isaac grew up in Gerar and probably observed the ruling practices of Avimelech.

Esau is a successful hunter. He specifically stated that this is why Isaac likes him. Thus, when the “false Esau” explains the surprisingly quick delivery of the prey as an act of “your God,” he only reaffirms Isaac’s original conclusion that Esau is the one to be blessed. But when the real Esau shows up later, delivering the prey in a slower “normal” time frame, it inevitably raises a question: maybe God is not with Esau?

Somewhere, Isaac changes his mind. It is possible that Rebecca will later reveal her previous prophecy to him or that he will come to the conclusion through the above logic. Isaac then doubles his blessing on Jacob, before dismissing him. Once he receives the blessing, Jacob, for the first time, recognizes God.

The writer is the author of an upcoming book. Judaism 3.0: the transformation from Judaism to Zionism, available to pre-order at the end of November. Watch: Judaism- Zionism.com.


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