Kingdom of Priests

I’ve belatedly discovered a soul brother in the person of “Spengler,” the incredibly widely read and formerly masked columnist for the Asia Times Online. He reveals his true identity now as David P. Goldman, in the act of taking up a new and exciting post at the always fascinating ecumenical journal First Things. What a coup for FT, which is bounding back admirably from its loss of founding editor Richard John Neuhaus.

I of course knew of and admired Splengler’s essays but it hadn’t quite crystalized with me how much we have in common. He wrote a piece for FT, for example, called “Zionism for Christians,” which may recall my blog posts about a related angle on the same subject, “How Christians Invented Zionism.”
In a farewell essay to his Asia Times audience, he notes: “The Hebrew Bible and its commentaries over the centuries are the core of Jewish culture, with a handful of odd adjuncts, such as the novels of S Y Agnon or the last, devotional poems of Heine.” Exactly.

He writes of his spiritual journey back to Jewish tradition:

Exile among the fleshpots of Wall Street had its benefits, but I had other ambitions. My commitment to Judaism came relatively late in life, in my mid-thirties, but was all the more passionate for its tardiness. The things I had been raised to love were disappearing from the world, or changing beyond recognition. The language of Goethe and Heine would die out, along with the languages of Dante and Pushkin….

As a returning religious Jew, I had less and less to discuss with the secular Zionists who shared my passion and partisanship for Israel, but could not see a divine dimension in Jewish nationhood. So-called cultural Judaism repelled me; most of what passes for Jewish culture comes down to the mud that stuck to our boots as we fled one country after another…..

I was in, but not of, the world of rabbinical Judaism, of classical music, of cultural history, of conservative economics, of practical finance, of cultural history — I belonged everywhere and nowhere.

Notwithstanding his far deeper learning in music, economics, and more besides, this all rings numerous bells with me.

Over Shabbat, I’ll be reading his essay “Christian, Muslim, Jew” from First Things, which I had missed. I know he’s more of a pessimist than I am about Islam, orienting myself, as I do, in the light of Biblical tradition as I understand it (the link takes you to a Forward column I wrote on the subject) which portrays Islam, in the person of Ishmael, as destined in the end to repent of its, shall we say, excesses.

I’m not sure whether to commend either essays to my Beliefnet colleague Aziz Poonawalla over at City of Brass.

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