On the Greatness of the Jewish People
The list of contributions that the Jewish people have given to the Western civilization and thence the whole world is truly enormous. So much so that it would probably be a futile exercise to once stop and jot them down. Indeed, its merger with the culture of classical Greece probably consists of the two great, main pillars that formed the entire Western culture.
In spite of and, as I’d like to argue, precisely because of their griefladen history (the most that any people have had in the history of this Earth) they have produced some extraordinary geniuses: Moses, the cornerstone of the most efficacious moral code in the world; Christ, the noblest human being; Spinoza, the prince of philosophy; Kafka one of the deepest and clearest writers there have ever been; Noether the a-la-Euler-level genius mathematician whose as little as one theorem proved focal in the development of modern physics; Von Neuman, who would probably be at the top of anyone’s list if the question “is there a higher genius than Einstein?” was asked; Kubrick perhaps the greatest filmmaker in cinematic history and finally to finish up with Chomsky, one of the most lucid minds of our modern times.
Their higher energy and intelligence — accumulated from generation to generation during this longest school of suffering — which was the cause of much torment, envy, and hatred to the European nations of a briefer and less profound experience — causing them to turn the Jews into the mainstream scapegoats for a stupendously long amount of time — has always prevailed, and this is also shown in more modest accomplishments that the afore-mentioned ones. Thus it was the typical Jewish doctor and sage who continued to hold high the banner of reason during the darkest periods of the Middle ages and ensured the link with the Graeco-Roman glorious antiquity remained unbroken. Perhaps the best exemplification would here be Maimonides, who is not only regarded as the greatest physician and Torah scholar of his age but also a philosopher, and astronomer of great merit.
But down to even more modest achievements: perhaps the most cliche statistic that is cited in pop culture today is that 20% of all noble laureates are Jewish or of Jewish heritage at a time when the Jewish population consists only of 0.25% of the global one. A truly insane disproportion.
It goes without saying that the production of genius is one of the great unsolved mysteries of modern neuroscience and perhaps we will gain much more insight into it in the not-so-distant future. Nevertheless, this essay offers a theory.
TLDR: Judaism served as a way to keep the Jews and their identity intact. As is to be expected, the first prerequisite to achieving greatness is, of course, staying into existence, which is by no means an easy task.
For our purposes here we are not so much interested in the tremendous sublimity and influence of Judaism in Western culture but simply in the fact that it acted as a mighty adhesive for the Jewish people. A people usually go through a cycle: it is created in a couple of centuries' time due to pressure by similar forces that shape it (e.g. climate), it might or might not flourish for another couple of centuries but sure enough, it follows the natural order of things and at some point exits world history, that is it to rather say that it is transformed into some other entity.
The main reason the Jews didn’t suffer this fate — the fate in store for all the peoples of antiquity — and similar to their archenemies the philistines, for instance, is to be sure related to Judaism and the continuous reminder to its people of the uniqueness of God’s chosen people. That the Jewish people are not just any people but rather ‘the people’ and that it is up to them to continue doing the great work that matches the standard set by God when he created man and the Earth after his own image. Judaism has always stressed the importance of Jewish identity both as an ethnicity and a spiritual discourse.
The ten northern tribes of Israel perhaps served as an eternal reminder to the Jews of what would happen were they to abandon their one God: after they got conquered and dispersed into the Neo-Assyrian empire, eventually they were assimilated and lost to history, and this because they had lost their way. In fact, the same fate was probably in store for the two remaining tiny southern tribes as well during their exile in Babylonia, was it not for the only non-Jew messiah, Cyrus the Great, who in an unprecedented move in the world history up to that time, allowed the Jews to return back to Israel and rebuild their temple.
To pursue this train of thought a bit further, the most dangerous moments for the Jews were probably not the Shoah, nor the Khmelnytsky uprising, nor the madness of the middle ages in Europe, perhaps not even the third Roman revolt but the three most delicate points when Judaism was most threatened:
- The siege of Jerusalem in 701 BC by the Neo-Assyrian empire shortly after the north fell.
- The above-mentioned Babylonian exile.
- The Maccabean Revolt.
In all these points Judaism was seriously challenged and hence the continuum of the Jewish people with it. It was only due to the banalest of occurrences (which is, of course, part of the game, perhaps the second most important one. Indeed evolution itself is a very inefficient and not-optimal process, in other words, ‘the banalest occurrences’ are the natural course of things, they are nature itself) that the Jewish people made it out of all of them: In the first case, technical difficulties that befell the attacking neo-Assyrian army, perhaps something as innocuously looking as rats, in the second the capriciousness and suspicion of a new ideology as yet to have proved itself in the world, and finally in the third a series of events that tied up the resources of the mighty Seleucid empire elsewhere.
In particular, the Maccabean revolt consists of a profound clash for the Jewish people. On the one hand, you have the aforementioned idea of the uniqueness of the Jewish people, their ethnicity, and spirituality alike, on the other hand, there is the Hellenistic viewpoint that everybody can be on the same side if only they subdue themselves to the Greek culture and ideals.
This retarded movement by the rural, poorer, and stiffer population of Judea that emphasized orthodox Judaism versus the degenerate influences of Hellenism, might also offer a truly important lesson for our times, where change, indeed climbing higher-and-higher so to speak, is regarded as the only constant and has reached unprecedented degrees: it was only through the triumph of this ‘backward movement’ that the Jewish people did not become just another people in the long list of peoples assimilated by a superior Hellenistic culture.
Especially during the first part of the 1st millennium BCE, the Israelites are constantly slipping, veering off from their one true Yahweh and debasing themselves into worshiping various other Gods. Were it not for the numerous spiritually inclined geniuses of this period such as the noblest Isaiah, again, the mighty adhesive which we called Judaism, would have been broken and the Jewish people eventually assimilated and probably even lost to history.
Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker
Incidentally, a true sign of mastery of one’s domain is the ability to formulate (provided that the understanding is not hurt all too much) important ‘laws’ or rather ideas into a few lucid words. Thus a good chunk of Nietzsche’s philosophy can be summed up into his famous rule from the military school of life: That which does not kill me makes me stronger.
Now, provided that a continuum in a people has been established, viz-a-viz Judaism, development has to somehow be inoculated into this very people. And the best way —indeed perhaps the only way — to do this is nothing other than necessity, suffering, and strife. As the man put it:
One must realize that war is common, and strife justice, and that all things come to be through strife and are so ordained.
From all accounts (biblical, archaeological, and all else), the history of the Jewish people is one long succession of strife and necessity. Indeed, the creation of the first Jewish state, the united monarchy of Israel at ca. 1000BC is through such necessity, namely and mainly, the philistines. Samuel anoints Saul as king with the quest of delivering the Israelites from their archenemies, a task at which he spectacularly fails but David finally delivers. The point here is: If it were not for this most dangerous of bugs, the philistines, there would have been no united monarchy at that particular time, which means no great development for the Jewish people considering the indispensability of this hierarchical, higher form of organization in spurrings humanity’s overdevelopment. Indeed, it is to be asked altogether, would the Jews have had a temple were it not for the Philistines? In a finer and deeper analysis, we are to conclude that this follows the pattern of development of every people: they have to expand onto or resist something should they want to make anything out of themselves. One now understands that even a literal interpretation of Heraclitus’ statement does correspond to reality.
The Egyptian galut (exodus), the Neo-Assyrian vicious attack, the first destruction of the temple, the Babylonian galut, the second destruction of the temple, the roman galut, the massacre of the Rhine by the first crusaders, the dissolution of the Golden Jewish Age of Spain out of pure senselessness, the 1290 expulsion from England, the 1492 expulsion from Spain, the long chain of arbitrary taxations, book burnings, forced conversions, executions, massacres, and all kinds of other persecutions during the middle ages, moral contempt in particular and incredibly much more, every single bit of this strife and suffering, in the end, sure enough, made the Jewish people as a whole only stronger.
One is simply left with jaw-dropping awe at this.
Do you want to know what it takes to achieve greatness? It takes everything, every single thing, every piece of furniture in one’s house down to the last leg of the last chair must be pushed in the stove for the enamel to come into existence.
As Nietzsche explains it to us:
The psychological and spiritual resources of the Jews today are extraordinary. Every Jew possesses in the history of his fathers and grandfathers a great fund of examples of the coldest self-possession and endurance in fearful situations, of the subtlest outwitting and explotation of chance and misfortune; their courage beneath the cloak of miserable submission, their heroism in spernere se sperni, surpasses the virtues of all the saints.
They have never ceased to believe themselves called to the highest things, and the virtues which pertain to all who suffer, have likewise never ceased to adorn them. They possess the liberality, including liberality of soul, to which frequent changes of residence, of climate, of the customs of one’s neighbours and oppressors educates men; they possess by far the greatest experience of human society, and even in their passions they practice the caution taught by this experience.
And whither shall this assembled abundance of grand impressions which for every Jewish family constitutes Jewish history, this abundance of passions, virtues, decisions, renunciations, struggles, victories of every kind — whither shall it stream out if not at last into great men and great works!
The third probable cause for the greatness of the Jewish people is their rationality in their marriages. And this is a bi-directional relationship. From man to woman as well as from woman to man.
On the former front, it was Ezra, the introducer of the Torah to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, who emphasizes and brings to life that old Jewish tradition, which states that Jewish men must only marry Jewish women. And this is a focal point in the attempt to ensure the continuum of a people. It can probably be studied on different levels but consider the fact that perhaps the most important part of having a certain ethnicity is the genetic and epigenetic inheritance from one’s forefathers and surrounding environment. This inheritance is of course shared with other people of this same ethnicity. Consider further that the Jews were in one form or another on a galut for most of their history, consider indeed how inevitable it would have been for the intermarriage of the Jewish people with the local ones to have caused a diversification of this genetic inheritance until they were finally assimilated into the particular European people, where they happened to be lodging at the time. Extrapolating this would, to be sure, lead to the assimilation of the whole of the Jewish people just like it once happened with the ten lost tribes.
But I should also want to mention in passing that, there is something in the marriage customs of the Indian caste system or the old European aristocracy marriages for that matter, and that is: it might be important not only to marry within your people but what is more, roughly within your rank so to speak.
At any rate, by mandating that his people must only marry within each other, Ezra fulfills the second prerequisite of guaranteeing the continuum of his people.
And again, having guaranteed the continuum of the people by mandating intra-marriages, we now turn to the woman → man function, which essentially inoculated development into this equation: it mandates that intellectual prestige is the single most important trait when choosing one’s partner: not physical prowess, not an earthly fortune (a lower exemplification of will to power) but rather wiseness, the studying of the Torah (the highest exemplification of will to power).
Thus: the man → woman function establishes the prerequisite which is stability, but it is the woman → man function the one that actively encourages over-development. Stability and then development. A good rule of thumb. Incidentally, this is the reason why that “exporting democracy to other countries” — which is in a finer analysis, just a causis belli for expansion for expansions’ sake — experiment was doomed to failure from the start: it substituted hardly earned stability in the countries it preyed upon with a weaker system, i.e. democracy, which was unable to guarantee this stability. Indeed, Macchiavelies’ lessons seem to be remarkably accurate to this day in these types of countries.
So, when choosing their partner, Jewish women did not look so much to the material wealth or political status as they did to their partner's capacity to grapple with the Torah, which was the main intellectual pursuit of the Jews during, pretty much, all of their history. The best exemplification here would to be sure be Rabbi Akiva. Having once been discovered by a shrew woman, the daughter of the man he was shepherding for, a challenge was laid for him: a 40 years old, illiterate Akiva had to become a master of the Torah if he wanted this marriage intact. Thus he went into reclusion and 24 years later emerged to become the de-facto rabi of his age. At a time when women were man’s subordinates, Jewish women were demanding extremely high standards from their husbands. The Torah is, rather infamously so, quite difficult and cryptic to grapple with after all.
And thus evolution must have, perhaps in some epigenetic sense, primed the Jewish people towards increased intellectualism since you are selecting for people of higher intelligence. Incidentally, one of the hypotheses as to why our particular hominoid ancestors diverged in the intelligence area from our great-ape cousins is because the male part of the species was competing with each other for females by the number of resources that they could gather. The one with the better amount of resources at his disposal would be the one to get to procreate and spread his genes (i.e. the highest expression of the will to power originally). This means that evolution primed males at being ingenious for extracting resources from the environment and this, in turn, led to the development of more neuron-packed brains.
Once a non-falsifiable hypothesis only circulating in philosophical circles, this has now probably become a falsifiable one and we will probably have some tangible results in the future. The same goes for the following aspect below.
The study of the Torah
The word “philosophy” comes from ancient Greek and simply means “love of knowledge”. In distinction from today, when the fields of human inquiry have greatly diverged on account of going deeper and deeper, until very recently in our history, the study of philosophy basically meant what the words originally meant: the study of everything. Philosophy was science itself. Newton actually named his most famous and influential work Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.
Studying the Torah, the Mishnah, the Talmud, and the numerous commentaries and codifications that followed should not be thought of as simply the study of religious, spiritual, and daily affairs, as a matter of fact, such scholars can be best described as philosophers given that the study of the above-mentioned works, as a rule, includes, no matter how superficial that might be, the study of everything that is related to human affairs. Saadia Gaon for example had to become a master of greek philosophy to defend Judaism from intruding Neo-Platonis ideas, but then even of Islamic philosophy in order to really properly defend it from the Islamic thinker's objections of the time (e.g. that while Allah is an abstract entity, the old Jahweh was a corporal one with eyes, legs, and everything else).
So, for two millennia the foundations were laid — and were laid good — for the production of the extreme geniuses (on account of which they do not belong to the Jews anymore but rather to the whole world) that in particular, the Ashkenazi Jewelry produced. As already mentioned, we are at a loss explaining the production of genius when it comes to a neuroscience point of view at least, but it seems that even a small and incidental training in mathematics (for example by means of dealing with usury) might lead to epigenetic influences and the likes, which given numerous other suitable conditions, might bring about a mathematically gifted great-grandson at some point. We now know for a fact, for example, that our brain structure is constantly on the change, that is, new neuron pathways are constantly coming and going out of existence. Indeed, although it remains to be definitely proven, what one’s vocation is in life perhaps as far as what one eats, defines the lives of one’s children in a very concrete way.
The idea is that this long study of the Torah and the Talmud, mostly everyday rules and spiritual matters, but as already said, really, holding the study of all human domains inside of them, is sublimated into a natural inclination to the study of a particular domain, a.k.a geniuses, at some point in the future.
What is more, Jewish children themselves were nudged into such studies from a very young age. Mandatory schooling, which in the rest of the world started but very recently, has been a mandate for the Jews for the last two millennia. At a time when the illiteracy rate of the Roman empire was roughly 90%, for the Jews it was more or less 0%. Indeed, you had children at 13 capable of complex philosophical discourse, when such a thing is but the exception even today. This is not to be taken lightly. Its role and influence have been tremendous.
As a matter of fact, this is artificial selection gone berserk (I say “berserk” because no people were selecting for such qualities at that time): an entire culture working at producing increasingly more intellectual discourse, by mandating the study of the Torah at an early age, by selecting one’s partners based on their capacity to study such works.
The production of genius and postmodernism
Needless to say, the prevailing theme, perhaps the very first condition to the production of genius is the existence of sound and healthy hierarchies. Incidentally, this and not Socrate’s reasoning as to the retardedness of the masses is the main argument against democracy: it seeks to flatten out the indispensable hierarchies for human development. At least that is our conclusion in loss of better instruments to examine the human mind.
How strange must all this sound to the ears of a new type of species: the modern social justice warrior and their likes. A child of debased and degenerate postmodern philosophy, whose history does not even extend to their grandparents or their parents for that matter. Indeed it starts, revolves, and ends with them themselves. This supposed highest product of human history has thrown every Western value into the trash bin and now claims to be the only truth that ever existed. Here are a bunch of folks, who know nothing of the history of humanity, nothing of human psychology, nothing of the values of Western culture, nothing of the great ebb and flow of human uncertainty, a worthy representation of the last man who in their blatant stupidity think they have invented happiness and want to have a say in everything. They have already penetrated (or rather originated from) the universities in the US and spread their influence from thence. Fortunately, however, their influence pales in Europe and we must strive to keep it so.
While many have observed the terrible problems that partly this is causing to the modern-day US, it is nonetheless questionable, whether such influences can further extend and bring about, in the short term, a crumbling of the system merely for resentment’s sake (which seems to be the ultimate goal of this philosophy). Indeed the higher intellectual elites in the US will duly serve as a shield to this and stop in traction any further developments. This elite seems to the current day to be healthy enough and one must strive to keep it so. The way forward for the US now is a deep reflection on their politics, economy, and cultural values. Either that or…
It should always be kept in mind that civilization rarely ends with a bang but rather with the drawn-out influence of the despicable last man.
Finally, does that idea of the history of the world being but the biography of great men make sense in the light of a deterministic universe? A universe where all determines all? A universe where all things are entangled, ensnared, enamored?
Taken in the deepest sense, it does not but taken on a more error-prone, lower-level sense it does and we can say that similar to the magnificence of the ancient Greeks, the Jews have had an enormous influence in the creation of the Western culture, a culture to be cherished, preserved, and furthered labored upon.
What is to happen to the Jewish people now that they finally redeemed themselves and came back to the promised land? What is to happen to them as Judaism’s influence is bound to decrease? Fate does love irony.
Thanks for reading.
As always, constructive criticism and discussion of any kind are highly appreciated.
Remember what physics teaches us: One’s goal is to be less wrong about everything.