Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia
"This Sabbatai Zevi," whispered the girl, "was a false messiah who appeared in Turkey in the seventeenth century. He succeeded in creating a large movement among the Oriental Jews, but in the end he himself became a renegade from Judaism and ended ignominiously."
Kingscourt nodded his understanding of the story. "I see. A wretched fellow. Of course that would make a good theme for an opera."
A group of opposition rabbis stood near the synagogue in the public square, singing angry choruses after the pseudo-messiah and his friends had left the stage. A young girl devoted to the prophet rebuked the belligerent mob in a long aria. The anger of the people then turned against this rash defender; and, had not Sabbatai opportunely returned, it would have gone ill with her. Even his enemies were overawed by the personality of the leader of the masses. They withdrew before him timidly. The maiden threw herself at his feet. He lifted her gently and sang a duet with her after the operatic custom. The act was brought to an effective close by the proclamation of a rabbinical ban against Sabbatai, who declared that he and his friends would leave Smyrna the girl implored him to take her with him. She would follow and serve him wherever he went...The curtain fell...
During the entr'ante they discussed the florid hero of the opera. "That swindler will go far," commented Kingscourt. "I can imagine that."
"He seems to have been a dreamer originally," said Sarah. "He became dishonest only after he had a following."
Miriam smilingly quoted Goethe's saying: "Crucify every visionary in his thirtieth year. For, once he knows the world, the deceived will turn deceiver."
"But it is strange," said Friedrich, "how such adventurers are always able to win the people's confidence."
"There seems to be a profound reason for that," remarked David. "It was not that the people believed what they said, but rather that they said what the people believed. They soothed a yearning. Or, perhaps it would be more correct to say, they sprang from the yearning. That's it. The longing creates the Messiah.
"You must remember what dark days those were when a Sabbatai and his like appeared. Our people was not yet able to take account of its own situation, and therefore yielded to the spell of such persons. It was only at the end of the nineteenth century, when the other civilized nations had already attained to self-consciousness and given evidence thereof, that our own people-the pariah-realized that its salvation lay within itself, that nothing was to be expected from fantastic miracle-workers. They realized then that the way of deliverance must be paved not by a single individual, but by a conscious and alert folk-personality. The Orthodox, too, realized that there was nothing blasphemous in such a view. Gesta Dei per Franco the French used to say. 'God works through the Jews,' said our truly pious ones who did not permit intriguing rabbis to stir them up. God Himself, in His inscrutable wisdom, decides what instruments will serve His ends. Such was the sensible reasoning of our pious Jews when they threw themselves enthusiastically into the national enterprise of restoration. And so the Jewish nation once more raised itself to nationhood."
"Bravo!" roared Kingscourt.
Someone knocked at the door of the box. In response to David's summons, a gray-bearded man (he whom Friedrich had noticed at the embankment) sidled in with a servile smile. Schiffmann of the Cafe Birkenreis!
"I have ventured to come," he said, excusing himself to David, "because I recognized someone I used to know. I doubt whether Dr. Loewenberg still remembers me."
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