Why We Remain Jews

"Why We Remain Jews: Can Jewish Faith and History Still Speak to Us?" Leo Strauss: Political Philosopher and Jewish Thinker, ed. Kenneth L. Deutsch and Walter Nicgorski, Rowman and Littlefield, 1994.


I take more serious cases; first, the anti-Judaism of late classical antiquity, when we (and incidentally also the Christians) were accused by the pagan Romans of standing convicted of hatred of the human race. I contend that it was a very high compliment. And I will try to prove it. This accusation reflects an undeniable fact. For the human race consists of many nations or tribes or, in Hebrew, goyim. A nation is a nation by virtue of what it looks up to. In antiquity, a nation was a nation by virtue of its looking up to its gods. They did not have ideologies at that time; they did not have even ideas at that time. At the top, there were the gods. And now, our ancestors asserted a priori — that is to say, without looking at any of these gods — that these gods were nothings and abominations, that the highest things of any nation were nothings and abominations. (I cannot develop this now; then we would have to go into broader considerations — into that metaphysical, science-fiction thing which I have tried to avoid — ^but I must make one remark.)’ In the light of the purity which Isaiah understood when he said of himself, “I am a man of unclean lips in the midst of a nation of unclean lips,”‘* the very Parthenon is impure. This is still alive in Judaism today; perhaps not among all Jews, but among some.

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