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.
with R. Yehudah in interpreting the laws of the king, it later served as a primary resource for anarchistically inclined Jewish theologians wishing to side with R. Nehorai instead. Like Kropotkin, who began as a prince and became an anarchist, Abravanel may have filled the role of a ‘Jewish aristocrat,’ but his heart was filled with ‘the deepest Jewish anarchism (Bick 1940 , 74).’ Abravanel represents, for pre-modern Jewish thought, the epitome of the anti-authoritarianism that moved Jotham to tell the parable of ‘the trees went forth to anoint a