The previously unexplored legacy of religious anarchism in traditional Jewish theology is examined for the first time in this book. Probing the life and thought of figures whose writings have gone largely unread since they were first published, Hayyim Rothman makes, in the first place, a case for the existence of this heritage. He shows that there existed, from the late nineteenth though the mid-twentieth century, a loosely connected group of rabbis and traditionalist thinkers who explicitly appealed to anarchist ideas in articulating the meaning of the Torah, of traditional practice, of Jewish life, and the mission of modern Jewry. Supported by close readings of the Yiddish and Hebrew writings of Yaakov Meir Zalkind, Yitshak Nahman Steinberg, Yehuda Leyb Don-Yahiya, Avraham Yehudah Hen, Natah Hofshi, Shmuel Alexandrov, and Yehudah Ashlag this book traces a complicated story about the intersection, not only of religion and anarchism, but also of pacifism and Zionism, prophetic anti-authoritarianism, and mystical antinomianism. Bringing to light, not merely fresh source material, but uncovering a train of modern Jewish political thought that has scarcely been imagined, much less studied, No masters but God is a groundbreaking contribution.
notoriously anti-religious and militantly atheist. Their Jewish followers, men like Joseph Boshover, characterized anarchism as ‘a world in which churches and synagogues become stables … a world of knowledge and not of faith (Boshover 1925 , 94–95);’ beyond neglecting tradition, they gleefully trampled it underfoot by hosting sacrilegious ‘Yom Kippur Balls (Margolis 2004 ).’ Therefore, the true wonder is that Rabbi Singer could have ambled over to Tlomackie Street and encountered what Hirschauge describes: a circle not simply of Jewish, but religious Jewish
the central point of that person's thought in which its roots burrow and from which its fundamental stem grows … [His thought] had no such point. Rather, it had many centers at once … He was a man of contradictions who breached every boundary … or so it appeared to us; he himself saw no contradiction at all. For him, everything grew from a single stalk … He passed not from camp to camp, from Zionism to Socialism and Anarchism, from Hebraism to Yiddishism, from faith to heresy, from piety to libertinism … rather, he inhabited all these camps at once, he thought every
people’ via the Jewish people (Kiel 1970 ; Bar-Yosef 1996 ; Tsirkin-Sadan 2012 ). More so than among their secular counterparts, the religious nationalists at Valozyn understood this calling in the religious terms that it was originally conceived (Golovic 2020 ).
The thread that leads from the Russian narodniks to Eastern European Jewish nationalism, especially its religious variety as developed at Valozyn, is crucial for explaining its latent anarchistic tendencies. Russian anarchism had deep narodnik roots that it never thoroughly cut
with those of Russian anarchism (Gamblin 2000 ) — at the turn of the twentieth century (Reisen 1926b , 604–608; Schapiro 1961 ; Kiel 1970 ).
Steinberg subsequently entered the University of Moscow as a student of jurisprudence and became highly active in student politics. This brought him to the attention of the authorities; before Passover he was arrested, imprisoned, and threatened with Siberian exile — a sentence that was fortunately reduced to two-year exile in any destination. Officially freed two months later, on Shavuot, Steinberg
-pacifism that governed the remainder of his work. This chapter observes how Heyn's belief — that the absolute sanctity of the individual constitutes the essential message of Judaism — frames his pacifism, his socialism, and his anarchism while complicating his relationship with Zionism.
The absolute sanctity of human life as the essence of Judaism
If Don-Yahiya began with the idea of God as Creator, Heyn's thought began with the sixth commandment. Against the grain of rabbinic consensus, Heyn interpreted it as a prohibition against
) appear in works like ‘ Esh-Da’at we-Ruah Le’umi (1891), Tel Tehiyah ( 1896 ), Resisei Tal ( 1900 ), and especially his three-volume Mikhtavei Mehkar u-Bikoret (1907–31). This chapter draws on these texts and others to examine the continuity between Alexandrov's Schellingian ontology, his account of the historical dialectic of the empirical and Absolute I, his cosmopolitan nationalism, and his anarchism. We shall then conclude by reflecting on how all of this impacted his Zionism.
Three frames for interpreting the abolition of the law in
At the outset, I indicated the growing body of research in the field of Jewish anarchism. Paul Avrich's groundbreaking work placed Jews at the center of anarchist activity in Russia (Avrich 2015 , 15–18, 44) and in the United States (Avrich 2005, 1990
). Other historians followed, notably more recent book-length publications like Kenyon Zimmer's ( 2015 ) Immigrants Against the State: Yiddish and Italian Anarchism in America . These studies and others like them operate largely on the macro-scale, are historically oriented, and are mainly
, and practical anarchism (Hofshi 1964a , 29; Epstein 1998 ; Feldman 2004 , 306; Ratzabi 2011 ). This connection is essential to understanding the ideological parity between Hofshi and other members of the anarchist minyan , some thirty years his senior. Hofshi came of age in a different time, but his mentor belonged to the intellectual world of Hibbat Zion and carried anarcho-narodnik and Tolstoyan influences to a new generation. While ‘Gordon's subversive ideas’ would be largely forgotten in the ‘process of Zionist myth-making’ that reduced him to an example of