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-modernJewishthought, the epitome of the anti-authoritarianism that moved Jotham to tell the parable of ‘the trees went forth to anoint a
Jewish culture so that
it would be comprehensible and politically acceptable to
enlightened Protestants in existing and emerging central
European nation-states. On this subject, see Laora Batnitzky,
Judaism became a religion: an introduction to modernJewishthought (Princeton: Princeton University
Wislicki, who had arrived in Manchester as a
refugee from Breslau in November 1938 and who had rapidly become active
in local Zionism.73 Conditions on the farm, approached from the main road
by means of a mud track, impressed one sympathetic observer as involving
In compliance with Bachad ideals, Thornham Fold Farm was characterised
not only by agricultural training, but by intensive educational programmes
which embraced modern Hebrew, Judaism, Jewish history, modernJewishthought, current affairs and Zionist propaganda, and by a simple
Ruderman, Jewish Enlightenment in an English Key: Anglo-Jewry’s Construction of ModernJewishThought, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2000.
15 Michael Frayn, letter of 9 March 1975, Jack Rosenthal Drama Scripts Collection,
16 Carol Allen, ‘Another enjoyable piece of nostalgia’, Jack Rosenthal Drama Scripts
17 Fenwick, ‘The war that Jack relived’, p. 17.
18 Robert Wilson, ‘On the day war broke out’, Daily Express 4 September 1974.
19 Rosenthal, By Jack Rosenthal, p. 215.
20 Allen, ‘Another enjoyable piece of nostalgia