The Angel of Jewish History: The Image of the Jewish Past in the Twentieth Century

The Angel of Jewish History: The Image of the Jewish Past in the Twentieth Century


Ronny Miron

Series: Emunot: Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah
ISBN: 9781618113481 (hardback)
Pages: 470 pp.
Publication Date: April 2014

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The Angel of Jewish History casts a philosophical gaze upon the relationship between the traditional Jewish past and the present through the metaphysical worldviews of five formative Jewish studies scholars: Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Amos Funkenstein, Gershom Scholem, Baruch Kurzweil, and Nathan Rotenstreich. Their hermeneutic worldviews and writings deal with the nature and formation of modern Judaism, the Wissenschaft des Judentums, historicism, the image of the Jewish past and tradition, secularization, and God’s status in present-day Jewish reality. In this volume, these issues are explored against the background of the tense discourse between the perception of modern Jewish reality as a break from the past and tradition and the argument for continuity despite the changes and developments of modernity.

Ronny Miron is professor of philosophy at Bar-Ilan University. Her research is focused on post-Kantian idealism, existentialism, phenomenology,and hermeneutics, as well as with current Jewish thought. She is the author of Karl Jaspers: From Selfhood to Being (Rodopi, 2012).

Ronny Miron’s brilliant new book is the first to address the philosophy of Jewish history as the interplay between immanence and transcendence, between what is exposed and what is hidden, between subjectivity and collective memory. In her close readings of Yerushalmi, Funkenstein, Scholem, Kurzweil, and Rotenstreich she explores the dialectics involved in their various attempts at coming to terms with the metaphysical dimensions of the Jewish past, whose transcendent elements cannot be made fully transparent by the subjective consciousness of the historian. Miron’s impressive work of synthesis will no doubt emerge as an indispensable addition to the fields of Jewish history and Jewish philosophy alike.
— Anthony Kauders, Keele University
Who is the Angel of Jewish History? God? Jews? Historian? Mystic? Poet? Practical Man? Doubtlessly all of them, including a philosopher like Ronny Miron, who seeks to interpret the views of Jewish thinkers in the hermeneutical way and discloses unavoidable tensions and bridges between immanence and transcendence, past and future, secularism and religion. This is a book not exclusively for the Jews who try to understand the enigma of their history, but it provides also the unique opportunity to grasp that Jewish history is a pattern of the history of any nation.
— Alfred Marek Wierzbicki, The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin

Table of Contents


Part One:
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi and Amos Funkenstein: Transcendence, Immanence, and Jewish History in an Era of Secularization
1. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi (1932–2009): Transcendence and Break
A. “God” 
B. Jewish Collective Memory and Modern Jewish Historiography
C. Wissenschaft des Judentums and the Inevitable Break
D. The Individual and the Jewish Collective Memory: Passivity and Restraint
2. Amos Funkenstein (1937–1995): Historical Consciousness and Continuity
A. “Remove the reference to God” 
B. Collective Memory and “Historical Consciousness” 
C. The Historical Continuity Thesis
D. The Secularization and the Static Nature of Jewish History
E. Subject, Subjectivism, and Relativism
F. The Wissenschaft des Judentums and the Historian’s Power
3. History Between Transcendence and Immanence
Part Two:
Gerschom Scholem (1897–1982): History, Continuity, and Secret
1. History and Metaphysics
A. Historical Observation
B. Metaphysical Observation
2. Methodical Motifs: Contradiction, Dialectic, and Demystification
A. Distance, Identification, and Tension
B. Metaphysical Contradictions and Contents Contradictions
C. Dialectics and Demystification
3. The Historical Continuity Thesis
A. Intuition, A priori Affirmation, and Substance
B. The Metaphysical View of Continuity
C. The Historical View of Continuity
D. The Historian, the Chronicler, and the Individual’s Status in History
E. Dialectical Conservatism and Daring
F. Vitality, Paradox, and the Presence of the Nothingess
4. Jewish Reality in the Present: Anarchy, Secularization, and Utopia
A. Secularization and Transcendence
B. Anarchy, “Torah from Heaven,” and Historical Continuity
C. The Temporariness of Secularization and the Religious Horizon of Anarchism
D. “The Utopian Hope for the Affirmative” 
E. “The Dual Way”: The Possibility of Mysticism in a Secular Reality
5. Mysticism, Messianism, and Secret
6. The Final Stage: The Relations between Immanence and Transcendence
7. In Praise of Dualism
Part Three:
Baruch Kurzweil (1907–1972): Break, Poetics, and Continuity
1. Yearning for Transcendence
2. Methodological Motifs: Biography, Transcending, and Hermeneutics
3. The Metaphysical Perception of Literature: Realism and Transcendence
A. The Advantage of Literature over History
B. Literary Realism and Its Boundaries
C. Dualism in Transcendence: Overt and Concealed
D. The Reality in the Hebrew Language
E. Reality, Absence, and Certainty
F. “The Non-Literary Attitude to Literature”: Fiction, Style, and Aesthetics
G. Withdrawing the Author from the Work
4. The Ahistorical Element in Jewish History
A. Metaphysics and History
B. Sacred History, Presence, and Depth
C. “Living Myth,” Demythologization, and Remythologization
D. Archetypes, Uniformity, and “Synoptic Vision” 
5. Secularization, History, and Historiography
A. “Autonomous Secularism” and Transcendent Presence
B. Wissenschaft des Judentums, Jewish Studies, and “Biased Subjectivity” 
6. Break and Continuity
A. “Does it exist or not?” 
B. “Three Approaches to Shaping Time” 
C. Continuity, Tension, and Polarity
7. The Subjective Disposition toward the Transcendent Entity: Passivity and Activity
A. The Passive Subject
B. The Active Subject
8. Literary Realism and Metaphysical Historicism
Part Four:
Nathan Rotenstreich (1914–1993): Philosophy, History, and Reality
1. Philosophy and History
2. Past and Present: The Philosophy of History
A. Realistic Ontology of the Past
B. Constituting Epistemology in the Present: Historical Consciousness
C. Ontology and Epistemology
3. From Beliefs and Opinions to Reality: The Primacy of the Present
4. The Historization of Judaism and Wissenschaft des Judentums
5. Tradition and Historical Consciousness
A. Judaism as a Religion of Tradition
B. Tradition and Revelation
C. The Seriousness Regarding Time
D. Contemporary Historical Consciousness
E. “The Subjective Jew” 
F. Content and Time
6. Secularization and Historical Continuity
A. The Reality in Secularization
B. The Present Reality as Transcendence
C. Real Continuity
D. Radicalism of Immanence
E. “The Eclectic Jew
7. Zionism Between History and Reality
A. Zionism: Spirit and Action
B. The Past of Zionism: Epistemology and Passivity
C. The Present of Zionism: Ontology and Activism
D. From Passivity to Activity
E. “An Archimedes Point that is not Useful” 
8. Summary: “Real Contents” 
Epilogue: The Old Angel

Works Cited