This work of Graetz was the first comprehensive attempt to write the history of the Jews as the history of a living people and from a Jewish point of view. With deep feeling, he describes the struggle of Jews and of Judaism for survival, their uniqueness, the sufferings of the Exile, and the courage of the martyrs, and in contrast, the cruelty of the enemies of Israel and its persecutors throughout the ages. The writing of such a Jewish history in German for a public which in its vast majority identified itself with German nationalism and Christian culture was a heroic achievement.
English readers, to whom the forefathers of the Jews of today—the patriarchs, heroes, and men of God—are familiar characters, will the better understand the miracle which is exhibited in the history of the Jews during three thousand years. The continuance of the Jewish race until the present day is a marvel not to be overlooked even by those who deny the existence of miracles, and who only see in the most astounding events, both natural and preternatural, the logical results of cause and effect. Here we observe a phenomenon, which has developed and asserted itself in spite of all laws of nature, and we behold a culture which, notwithstanding unspeakable hostility against its exponents, has nevertheless profoundly modified the organism of nations.
It is the heartfelt aspiration of the author that “The History of the Jews, from the Earliest Times to the Present Day,” in its English garb, may attain its object by putting an end to the hostile bearing against the Jewish race, so that it may no longer be begrudged the peculiar sphere whereto it has been predestined through the events and sorrows of thousands of years, and that it may be permitted to fulfill its appointed mission without molestation.
This translation, in five volumes, is not a mere excerpt of the “Geschichte der Juden” (like the author's “Volksthümliche Geschichte der Juden”), but a condensed reproduction of the entire eleven volumes. But the foot-notes have been omitted, so as to render the present work less voluminous for the general reader. Historical students are usually acquainted with the German language, and can read the notes in the original.
In this English edition the “History of the Present Day” is brought down to 1870, while the original only goes as far as the memorable events of 1848. The last volume will contain a survey of the entire history of the Jewish nation, together with a comprehensive index of names and events.
The sixth volume contains a memoir of the author by Dr. Philipp Bloch, a chronological table of Jewish history, an index to the whole work, and four maps.
Jewish historian and Bible scholar. Graetz was born in Xions (Ksiaz), Poznan, the son of a butcher. From 1831 to 1836 he pursued rabbinic studies in Wolstein (now Wolsztyn) near Poznan. There Graetz taught himself French and Latin and avidly read general literature. This brought him to a spiritual crisis, but reading S. R. Hirsch`s "Nineteen Letters on Judaism" in 1836 restored his faith. He accepted Hirsch`s invitation to continue his studies in the latter`s home and under his guidance. Eventually their relationship cooled; he left Oldenburg in 1840 and worked as a private tutor in Ostrow. In 1842 he obtained special permission to study at Breslau University. As no Jew could obtain a Ph.D. at Breslau, Graetz presented his thesis to the University of Jena. This work was later published under the title Gnostizismus und Judentum (1846). By then Graetz had come under the influence of Z. Frankel, and it was he who initiated a letter of congratulations to Frankel for leaving the second Rabbinical Conference (Frankfort, 1845) in protest, after the majority had decided against prayers in Hebrew. Graetz now became a contributor to Frankel`s Zeitschrift fuer die religioesen Interessen des Judentums, in which, among others, he published his programmatic "Konstruktion der juedischen Geschichte" (1846).
Graetz failed to obtain a position as rabbi and preacher because of his lack of talent as an orator. After obtaining a teaching diploma, he was appointed head teacher of the orthodox religious school of the Breslau community, and in 1850, at Hirsch`s recommendation, of the Jewish school of Lundenburg, Moravia. As a result of intrigues within the local community, he left Lundenburg in 1852 for Berlin, where during the following winter he lectured on Jewish history to theological students. He then began to contribute to the Monatsschrift fuer Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums, which Frankel had founded in 1851 and which he later edited himself (1869–88). He also completed the fourth volume (dealing with the talmudic period and the first to be published) of his Geschichte der Juden von den aeltesten Zeiten bis zur Gegenwart ("History of the Jews...," 1853). In 1853 Graetz was appointed lecturer in Jewish history and Bible at the newly founded Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau, and in 1869 was made honorary professor at the University of Breslau.
MEMOIR OF HEINRICH GRAETZ
TABLES OF JEWISH HISTORY.
Table of the Kings of Judah and Israel
Table of the High Priests (from the Captivity to the Dispersion)
Genealogical Table of the HasmonÔan Dynasty
Genealogical Table of the Herodian Dynasty
Index to the Maps
MAPS (in the pocket).
. Semitic World.
2. Palestine at the Time of the Judges.
3. Palestine at the Time of Herod.
4. Jewish-Mahometan World.
Excerpt from the Book -- History of the Jews, Vol. 6: A Memoir of the Author by Dr. Philipp Bloch, A Chronological Table of Jewish History, An Index to the Whole Work, and Four Maps THE APPRENTICE
Graetz left Wollstein in April, 1836, and went to Zerkow to acquaint his parents with his intentions and consult with them. Letters of recommendation to families in Prague were obtained, and his parents and other relatives made up a small purse for him. Graetz secured a passport, packed his modest belongings in a handbag, and set out on his journey in high spirits. Partly afoot, partly by stage when the fare was not forbidding, he made his way to Breslau, and thence through the Silesian mountains to the Austrian boundary, which he reached not far from Reinerz. Here, though he was fortified with a passport, the frontier inspector, like a cherub with a flaming sword, opposed his entrance into Austria. He was unable to produce ten florins ($5) cash, the possession of which had to be demonstrated by the traveler who would gain admission to the land of the double eagle, unless he came as a passenger in the mail-coach. Dismayed our young wanderer resorted to parleying, and appealed to his letters of recommendation. In vain; the official would hear of no compromise. Too proud and inflexible to have recourse to entreaty or trickery, Graetz grimly faced about, and much disheartened journeyed as he had come, over the same road, back to Zerkow. His parents were not a little astonished at his return, and equally rejoiced to have their son with them for some time longer. The adventure may be taken as typical of the curious mishaps that befell him in practical life, particularly at the beginning of his career. They often cut him to the quick, but never shook his belief in his lucky star. His originative and impressionable nature carried with it the power of discerning important points of view and valid aims, but he seems to have been too far-sighted and impetuous to lay due stress upon the means and levers necessary for the attainment of ends.
For the moment he sought to drown remembrance of his abortive journey in study. He became absorbed in Latin works; he read Livy, Cicero▓s de natura deorum, which compelled his reverential admiration, Virgil▓s ôneid, and the comedies of Terence. Besides, he busied himself with SchrÆkh▓s universal history and with his Wieland, whose ⌠Sympathies,■ ⌠Golden Mirror,■ and other works ⌠delighted, refreshed, and fascinated■ him ⌠inexpressibly.■ The Talmud and Hebrew studies claimed no less attention; he was especially zealous about the exegesis of the Earlier Prophets. Downcast by reason of the uncertainty of his future, and his scorn piqued by the pettiness and narrow-mindedness of his provincial surroundings, he found an outlet for his restlessness in all sorts of wanton pranks, such as high-spirited youths are apt to perpetrate in their ⌠storm and stress■ period. He ridiculed the rabbi, played tricks on the directors of the congregation, annoyed the burgomaster, always escaping unpunished, and even horrified his parents by accesses of latitudinarianism, such as the following. On the day before the eve of the Atonement Day, it is a well-known custom for men to swing a living rooster and for women to swing a living hen several times about their heads. At the same time a short prayer is recited, pleading that the punishment due for the sins committed by the petitioner be transferred to the devoted fowl. At the approach of the holy season, Graetz announced that he would certainly not comply with the Kapores custom, but his words were taken to be idle boastfulness. The fateful evening came, and the seriocomic celebration was long delayed by the non-appearance of the eldest son. The father▓s wrath was kindled, and he threatened to burn all books other than Hebrew found in the possession of his heretic offspring. The mother set out to search everywhere for her erring son. When she finally found him, he went home with her in affectionate obedience, but nothing could induce him to manipulate the rooster in the customary way. Unswung and uncursed the bird had to be carried to the butcher, and only on the following day a touching reconciliation was effected.
After the Fast, a book-dealer at Wollstein, a friend of his, who usually kept him informed about new books on Jewish subjects, sent Graetz the ⌠Nineteen Letters by Ben Usiel,■ which he had longed to possess. The book again electrified him, and he conceived the idea of offering himself as a disciple to its author, whose identity had meantime been revealed. Samson Raphael Hirsch appeared to him to be the ideal of a Jewish theologian of the time and of the confidence-inspiring teacher for whom he had yearned, to obtain from him guidance and, if possible, a solution of the manifold problems occupying his mind. Accordingly, Graetz wrote to the District Rabbi (Landesrabbiner) of Oldenburg. He did not conceal his views, but clearly and frankly laid bare the state of his feelings and the course of his intellectual development. He was successful. After a short time, Hirsch addressed the following letter to him:
To this letter Graetz replied, that he did say ⌠yes■ from the bottom of his heart; that it was his dearest ambition to devote himself to genuine Judaism and its doctrines; that he especially desired to learn the methods of Talmud study, particularly of the Halakha, pursued by a man whom he admired profoundly; that as for his livelihood, the satisfaction of the most elementary needs sufficed for him; and that his parents would give him a small allowance.
In answer thereto, the formal invitation to come to Oldenburg was extended by Hirsch on February 1, 1837. He offered Graetz board and lodging in his own house, with the understanding that his parents would provide for other needs, and he expected his disciple after Passover (in May). Wishing to visit relatives on the way and see the sights of Berlin and Leipsic, Graetz set out as early as the beginning of April. In Berlin the museum and the picture-gallery made a deep impression upon him. That he was a remarkably sharp observer is shown in the following accurate characterization of the preacher Solomon Plessner, with whom he became acquainted in Berlin:
In Leipsic he visited his countryman FÝrst, concerning whom he reports:
In order not to fritter away all his time while traveling, Graetz began to study Greek, and the Greek conjugations served to beguile dreary hours, banishing remembrance of the mishaps that could not fail to befall one with straitened means on so long a journey, and counteracting the despondency which in consequence often seized upon him. In a miserable village, in which he was forced to spend a whole day on account of the Sabbath, he found a copy of the New Testament, and read it for the first time. He describes the impression made upon him by this first reading in the following words:
On May 8, finally, he arrived in Oldenburg, where a new world opened before him.
In Samson Raphael Hirsch he met a man whose spiritual elevation and noble character compelled his profound reverence, and who fully realized all the expectations that he had harbored concerning him. Hirsch was a man of modern culture, and his manner was distinguished, even aristocratic, although he kept aloof from all social intercourse. He was short of stature, yet those who came in contact with him were strongly impressed by his external appearance, on account of his grave, dignified demeanor, forbidding familiarity. With great intellectual gifts and rare qualities of the heart, he combined varied theological attainments and an excellent classical education. Comprehensive or deep ideas cannot be said to have been at his disposal, but he scintillated with original observations and suggestive sallies, which put his new pupil into a fever of enthusiasm. He was the only teacher from whom Graetz▓s self-centered being received scientific stimulation; perhaps the only man to exercise, so far as the stubborn peculiarity of Graetz▓s nature permitted it, permanent influence upon his reserved, independent character.
On his arrival in Oldenburg, the new-comer was most kindly received by Hirsch, and was at once installed in his house, of which thenceforth he was an inmate. Instruction was begun on the very next day. The forenoons were devoted to the Talmud, the late afternoons to the Psalms. The disciple was singularly attracted and stimulated, fairly elevated by the brilliant, penetrating method applied to the exegesis of these works. Plan, order, and coherence were now imposed upon his scientific acquirements. Hirsch took true fatherly interest in his protÈgÈ; he exerted himself to discipline his mind and fix his moral and religious standards. At the same time, as though even then a suspicion of the unusual force and talent of this youth panting for knowledge and instruction had dawned upon him, he guarded against assuming the airs of a domineering pedagogue. Despite the difference in age between them he treated him as an equal. He was endowed with truly marvelous power to stir his disciple▓s soul-life to its depths. Every chord of Graetz▓s being was set in vibration, and he solemnly vowed to remain a true son and an honest adherent of Judaism under all circumstances. Added years may have contributed to the result; but at all events it is certain that Graetz developed visibly under this master▓s guidance.
The services required of him in the house of his teacher were mainly those of an assistant. He accompanied the District Rabbi on his tours of inspection, the tedium of their journeys being relieved with discussions on Talmudic and Biblical subjects. He revised with Hirsch the last part of the latter▓s ⌠Horeb,■ helped him read the proof of the last sheets of the book, which delighted and thrilled the young man, and assisted him in various similar ways. How flattering an opinion the punctilious rabbi must have held of his assistant is proved by the fact, that when he had to go to a resort for the restoration of his undermined health, he authorized him to render decisions on questions of religious law during his absence. The assistant fulfilled his duties so conscientiously that the responsibility oppressed him. He confessed that he had imagined the rendering of correct decisions much easier. His enthusiasm burst into flame when he received the following affectionate letter from Hirsch:
Such friendly and tactful admonitions, permitting the pupil to follow out his own bent, were always employed by Hirsch, and they but served to enkindle Graetz▓s enthusiasm anew. In spite of the young man▓s critical propensities combined with a sanguine temperament, his devoted attachment to his master by no means waned under the strain of daily intimate intercourse, not even when he could no longer doubt his ideal▓s lack of historic depth and scientific, or rather philosophic insight. Graetz▓s nature strongly impelled him to form friendships, and his attachments were fervent. He always felt a lively interest in what went on about him, and even at that early time he was fond of taking an active part in shaping the occurrences of the day, whenever he thought, that by assuming the role of Providence he might be useful to his friends in the ordering of their affairs≈a disposition that redounded later to the benefit of many of his pupils. In January, 1837, for instance, the belated news reached him from his home, with which he kept up a steady correspondence, that the Chief Rabbi Akiba Eger had died in Posen. Without being commissioned to do so, he wrote to the directors of the Posen congregation, and brought Hirsch, whose yearning for a wide sphere of activity he knew, to their notice. When the directors entered into negotiations with Hirsch he broke out into jubilation. In fact, a party favoring the pretensions of the Oldenburg District Rabbi formed in Posen, but nothing more resulted. The procedure was repeated when the Wollstein rabbinate fell vacant in 1840, except that Hirsch, to his disciple▓s great disappointment, would not share Graetz▓s enthusiasm for Wollstein. From this it appears that Graetz was not a recluse nor a bookworm. In Oldenburg, as everywhere, he sought to meet people and cultivate friendly intercourse with them, and his joyous nature readily yielded to the innocent gayety of social pleasures.
At the same time he neglected neither his duties nor his studies. While with Hirsch he acquired the English language, and finding some Syriac books in the rabbi▓s library, he began to devote himself to Syriac. The study of the former language his master seems to have encouraged, but not of the latter. Hirsch met his disciple with uniform kindness, and returned his enthusiastic devotion with fatherly benevolence. Graetz was treated as a member of his family. In the third year of his Oldenburg sojourn, his relations with the mistress of the house were disturbed by slight discords, such as cannot fail to arise in long-continued, familiar intercourse, and tend now to strengthen, now to abridge intimacy. With Graetz▓s proud sense of independence they finally sufficed to ruffle the tranquility of a soul wholly absorbed by the present. Anxiety about his future began to disquiet him. The desire to decide definitely upon a career and the longing to see his parents, who in the meantime had removed from Zerkow to Kosten near Posen, a somewhat larger town, united to make his departure from Oldenburg seem advisable.
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