Cover image for Holocaust and return to Zion : a study in Jewish philosophy of history
Holocaust and return to Zion : a study in Jewish philosophy of history
Spero, Shubert.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Hoboken, NJ : KTAV, [2000]

Physical Description:
xviii, 398 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS115.5 .S64 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In Holocaust and Return to Zion Shubert Spero traces the efforts of medieval and modern Jewish thinkers to account for the major events of their times in theological but also historical terms, and then presents his own innovative attempt to explain the recurrent upheavals of Jewish history--the destructions of the Temples, the expulsion from Spain, and the Holocaust--in terms of both Jewish and world history. In Spero's view, the long exile of the Jewish people should be viewed not as a punishment, but as reflecting the slow, progressive development of three elements: the physical location and demographic increase of the Jewish people; Torah literature as both philosophical worldview and code of conduct, and the development of international structure based on law and order, the spread of democracy, and the doctrine of human rights. All these reflect providential guidance in making possible the reestablishment of the Jewish State of Israel.

Author Notes

Shubert Spero is Irving Stone Professor of Basic Jewish Thought at Bar Ilan University.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Spero, a professor at Bar Ilan University, outlines the efforts of medieval and modern Jewish philosophers--Judah Halevi, Moses Maimonides, Martin Buber, Moses Nahmanides, and Gershom Scholem, among others--to account for the events of their times in both theological and historical terms. Spero examines the upheavals in Jewish history: the destruction of both temples in Jerusalem, the Jews' expulsion from Spain in 1492, and the Holocaust. He expounds on such related themes as the Bible in history, exile, messianism and redemption, and the chain of tradition in Jewish historical writing. He explores the basic conceptual elements that bind Judaism to history, the Holocaust in the context of a history of anti-Semitism, and the return to Zion in the form of the state of Israel. This profound, erudite, and meditative work is indispensable for students, scholars, and general readers. --George Cohen

Choice Review

Calling his book "in a sense a personal testimony of faith in the Lord of History and in the Jewish tradition," Spero seeks to harmonize the discordant events of Jewish history and arrive at a cogent Jewish philosophy of history. The view that Israel's exile has been a divine chastisement--an opinion voiced through the ages--is refuted by the author, who sees the exile as possessing special characteristics that allowed a slow, progressive development of certain fundamental factors in Jewish and general history: a sizeable Jewish population in 19th-century Europe--seen as the progeny of biblical Israel--that possessed a Torah perfected into a credible philosophical worldview and a total way of life. The temporal conjunction of this population and other factors--the rise and spread of liberal democracy, the growth and proliferation of human rights, the maturation of various sciences and technologies, and efforts toward international cooperation--assisted in the 1948 reestablishment of the prophetically promised Jewish State of Israel within its historic boundaries. The book may aid in answering pressing questions about Israel's present and future. Undergraduate collections. ; University of Memphis

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
1. History, Historical Knowledge, and Explanationp. 1
History as Chronicle and as Inquiry
A Sense of History and Its Value
Can We Have Knowledge of the Past?
Does History Have Meaning?
History as Knowledge from Within
Historical Explanation as Pattern Analysis
2. The Bible as Historyp. 20
The Story-Line
Universalism and the Peoplehood of Israel
Israel as the People of God
Interest in History as Such
The Two Versions of the Tokhahah
Writing Prophetic History
Divine Providence and the Principle of Desert
The Literary Prophets and the Decline after Solomon
Redemption as Ultimate and Final
The Prophets and Foreign Policy
3. Exile, Redemption, and the Messiah: Rabbinic Formulationsp. 61
The Rabbis and the Bible
The Role of the Leader and the Character of the People
Mere Change or Significant Progress?
Israel as the Chosen People
Messianism and Redemption
How Did the Rabbis View Their Own Times?
The Rabbis and the Bar Kokhba Rebellion
Components of the Rabbinic Concept of Redemption
Signs of the Redemption
The Exile: Punishment or Opportunity?
God Accompanies Israel into Exile
Rabbinic Schema and Periodization
Did the Rabbis Lose Interest in History?
4. Was Medieval Jewish Thought Ahistorical?p. 121
A Deepended Sense of Galut
The Book Called Yosippon
The Chain of Tradition
In the Aftermath of the Crusades
Absorbing the Old and Fitting-in the New
History in the Thought of Judah Halevi
Maimonides and the Sense of History
5. The Impact of the Spanish Expulsion on Jewish Historiographyp. 163
The Resumption of Historical Writing
The Role of the Expulsion
"The Rod of Judah"
"The Consolation of Samuel"
"The Sprouting of David"
Isaac Abarbanel: Messianism as Seen by a Statesman
Maharal of Prague: The Unity of Israel and Redemption
6. The Modern Periodp. 186
A Change in the Concept of History
Individuals in a Secular Society
The Modern Historians: Isaac Marcus Jost
Nachman Krochmal
Heinrich Graetz
Facing New Options: The Orthodox Approach
Reading the Times: S. R. Hirsch, Z. H. Kalischer, Y. Alkalai
Moses Hess: The Herald of Nationalism
7. History, Its Purpose and Dynamicp. 222
Who or What Moves History, and in Which Direction?
Knowing God by a Process of Elimination
History as the Process of Divine Actualization
The Highest Good According to Kant
If History Is Not Governed by Laws or Forces, How Does It Proceed?
How Powerful Is the Good?
Is God Active in History?
The Doctrine of Double-Causation
How Does Israel, as Witness, Testify?
The History Book That Makes History
8. Anti-Semitism and the Holocaustp. 264
The Holocaust in the Context of a History of Anti-Semitism
The Beginnings of Anti-Semitism
Christian and Moslem Anti-Semitism
The Effects of Anti-Semitism on the Jew
The Causes of Anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism from the Perspective of Judaism
Is Anti-Semitism Inevitable?
Destructions, Massacres, and Expulsions: Their Significance
Israel's Servitude in Ancient Egypt
The Second Temple Period and the Development of the Oral Law
Criteria for National Upheavals in Jewish History
The Spanish Expulsion
The Destruction of European Jewry, 1933-1945
The Holocaust and the State of Israel
A Blow to Secular Humanism
The Holocaust and Jewish Consciousness Today
The Silence of God
9. Return to Zion: Prophecy Come Truep. 309
The Incomplete Nature of Traditional Historiography
A Closer Look at the Condition Called Galut
Can History Decide Issues?
The Desire to Return
The Literature that Kindled Historic Consciousness
Going Home
Would the Land Receive Them?
10. Patterns in Historyp. 333
The Larger Picture of Jewish Migrations
Jewish Demography
Democracy as a Necessary Condition for Redemption
Torah, Ready for Immediate Consumption
Torah and Philosophy
Conclusionp. 371
Personal Postscriptp. 380
Subject and Author Indexp. 383