By David Janssens
Examines the early works of German-Jewish political thinker Leo Strauss (1899-1973).
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Additional info for Between Athens and Jerusalem: Philosophy, Prophecy, and Politics in Leo Strauss's Early Thought
Strauss’s dismissal is particularly scathing: “For the sake of such a ‘deeper’ meaning of the Law one swallows the dogmas whole, unchewed, like pills. ”31 As a result, it would be compelled to reaffirm in all clarity the traditional Jewish theological dogmas. In its turn, political Zionism would be able to express its fundamental objections and reservations regarding the dogmas. At the same time, it would be able to show its loyalty to the great heritage of the Jewish past. Thus, it would finally come to light that political Zionism does not conduct “a battle against the rule of the Torah of God,” as neoorthodoxy claims, but merely wants to maintain a critical distance with regard to religion, Strauss holds.
76 In developing their new theology, the advocates of t’shuvah wrongly assumed that a dismissal of the Hegelian synthesis necessarily entails the rejection of its constitutive parts. ’”77 In this sense, Buber and Rosenzweig were too hasty. The main obstacle to be overcome in order to return to Jewish religion in its original sense is not the idealist internalization but the Enlightenment critique, which had been aimed exclusively against religion in its rigorous, external sense. 78 Had he done so, Strauss implies, he would have found that the avowed victory of the former and the defeat of the latter must be reconsidered.
For all purposes, his initial enterprise seems to be a closed chapter. Whence this remarkable change? Why does Strauss abandon his project even before it has begun to get off the ground? The most important reason is that gradually its fundamental presupposition has become doubtful. This presupposition, it will be remembered, was that the “European critique,” the critique of religion, had effected a profound and irrevocable change in the situation of Judaism. Its success ushered in the end of galut and the beginning of emancipation and assimilation, initiating a process that eventually would lead to political Zionism on the one hand and the new theology on the other.