One morning early in February, 1917, Gerhard Scholem, a tall, jug-eared, acutely bookish young man of nineteen, sat at breakfast with his parents in their comfortable Berlin apartment. It was an hour of family crisis. Gerhard, the youngest of four sons, was the only one still living at home. The three others had all been conscripted for the Kaiser's war. Reinhold and Erich were sold German patriots like their father; Reinhold went so far as to call himself, in right-wing lingo, a Deutschnationaler—a German nationalist. Werner, Gerhard's senior by two years, was a hothead and a leftist—he later became a committed Communist. He had been wounded in the foot in the Serbian campaign and was recuperating in an Army hospital. Limping, wearing his uniform, he abandoned his bed and made his way to an antiwar demonstration. He was arrested and charged with treason.
Over the uneaten pastries, yet another brand of treason was brewing. Gerhard had declared himself to be a Zionist, and was openly preparing for emigration to Palestine. Two years earlier, exposed as the author of an antiwar flyer circulated by a Zionist youth group, he had been expelled from high school. Arthur Scholem, the paterfamilias of this opinionated crew (half of them mutinous), could do nothing about Werner, who was in the hands of the military. But Gerhard was near enough to feel his father's rage, and Arthur Scholem had devised a punishment of Prussian thoroughness. A businessman, he was demanding, authoritarian, uncompromising, practical above all; he presided over a successful printing enterprise and a household that could keep both a cook and a maid. At Christmas, there was an elaborately decorated tree, surrounded by heaps of presents. When Gerhard was fourteen, he found under the tree a framed portrait of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism. “We selected this picture for you because you are so interested in Zionism,” his mother explained. (“From then on,” Scholem commented decades later, “I left the house at Christmastime.”)
|Young Gershom, 1920s|
All this was too much for the elder Scholem, who paid dues, after all, to the vehemently anti-Zionist Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith. The faith might be tepidly Jewish; the primary allegiance—the unquestioned identity, both social and personal—was German. Arthur Scholem believed himself to be an established and accepted member of a stable society. No wonder “the discussions at our family table became heated,” as Scholem wryly points out in “From Berlin to Jerusalem,” his concise little memoir of 1977. But by then Gerhard had long since been transmuted into Gershom.
On that February morning in 1917, the family table was less heated than quietly tense. Arthur Scholem had made his preparations; he waited. The doorbell rang, heralding the arrival of a registered letter. It had been composed two nights earlier, and was addressed to Gerhard:
I have decided to cut off all support to you. Bear in mind the following: you have until the first of March to leave my house, and you will be forbidden to enter it again without my permission. On March first, I will transfer 100 marks to your account so that you will not be left without means. Anything more than this you cannot expect from me. . . . Whether I will agree to finance your further studies after the war depends upon your future behavior.The father could not fathom a young man opposed to a patriotic war. Having a prodigy on his hands bewildered him—a rebellious prodigy given to devouring Plato and Kant, uncommonly gifted in higher mathematics, and determined to add to this conceptual stew an unfashionable, unpredictable, altogether obstinate dedication to Jewish history and thought. And, beyond these perplexities, Arthur Scholem scarcely recognized what Gerhard, in choosing to become Gershom (the name of a son of the Biblical Moses), was crucially repudiating—and would continue to repudiate for the rest of his life. Despite the younger Scholem's ardent mastery of European culture, it was Europe, and Germany in particular, that he meant to renounce. His father's loyalties—the passionate love of the Vaterland that the majority of German Jews plainly felt—he could see only as self-deception. The Jews might be in love with Germany, but Germany was not in love with the Jews. To a Jewish friend who had professed “boundless adoration for German art, Goethe, and our contemporary Rudolf Borchardt,” and who provocatively added, “I hate Martin Buber with all my heart,” the nineteen-year-old Scholem responded with what he called “a tremendous intuition” for Judaism:
Your father, Arthur Scholem
I confess that I've never had such a central relationship with any other thing; it has commanded my full attention from the time I began to work and think for myself (to wit, from the age of fourteen). The confrontation with German culture which presents so many Jews with such painful dilemmas has never been a problem for me. Nor has the absolutely un-Jewish atmosphere in my home been able to change this. I have never found or sought out values whose legitimacy was rooted in the German essence. Even the German language, which I speak, disappears for me completely when compared to Hebrew.To another correspondent, a few days before, he had announced, “We [Jews] have had a relationship with Europe only to the degree that Europe has acted upon us as a destructive stimulation.” Both these assertions were made from a bed in a military hospital, where, he reported, “the heavy footsteps of anti-Semitism are always thumping behind my back.” Like his older brothers before him, he had been inducted into the military; unlike Werner, he had not been wounded in battle. He was, instead, in a mental ward, suffering from a kind of nervous disorder—and then again it was an invention, “a colossal fabrication,” as he put it, to get himself out of the Army. In fact, it was partly one and partly the other, and it succeeded in freeing him. “I'll be able to work once again,” he crowed. “I won't be squandering my youth in these odious circumstances, and I can celebrate my twentieth birthday wearing civilian clothes.”
The three-month interval between his father's throwing him out of the house and his enforced Army stint had turned out to be remarkably fruitful. He went to live at the Pension Struck, a boarding house in an unfashionable neighborhood of Berlin catering to a group of Russian Jewish intellectuals who held perfervid, if conflicting, Zionist views. Among the polyglot and fiercely literary boarders was a future President of Israel, and it was here that Scholem undertook a translation from the Yiddish (a language new to him) of a volume of memorial essays devoted to Jewish victims of Arab rioters in Palestine: his first full-length publication. During this same period, he began his enduring friendship with the Hebrew novelist S. Y. Agnon, who would one day be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and whose stories Scholem rendered into pellucid German. Scholem had already encountered Walter Benjamin at a Jewish discussion club for young people—”an utterly original mind,” he marvelled. He was then seventeen; Benjamin was five years older. Not long afterward, they met again, as university students. (Despite Scholem's expulsion from high school, he was permitted to take his graduation exams and managed to gain university entrance through an academic loophole intended for Junkers.) The two talked of phenomenology and philology; they talked of socialism and historiography; they talked of Chinese philosophy and of Baudelaire, Pindar, and Hölderlin; they argued over Brecht and Zola and Zionism; they were mutually immersed in Kafka. These astonishing exchanges—the bulk of them through a decades-long correspondence indefatigably pledged to ideas, experimental, often playful, and on Benjamin's part somewhat elusive—continued until Benjamin's suicide, in 1940, in flight from the Germans. Scholem was frequently the first reader of Benjamin's newest work, and Benjamin was briefly inspired by Scholem's example to study Hebrew, though he never progressed much beyond the alphabet. Both these extraordinary young men were beguiled by the transcendent nature of language. Both were out to re-create intellectual history—Benjamin with the uncertainty of his genius, wavering from subject to subject, Scholem with the certainty of his, leaping with scholarly ferocity into the hitherto untouchable cauldron of Jewish mysticism.
It was untouchable because it was far out of the mainstream of Judaism, excluded by rabbinic consensus. Normative Judaism saw itself as given over to moral rationalism: to codes of ethics, including the primacy of charity, and a coherent set of personal and societal practices; to the illuminations of midrash, the charms of ethical lore—but mythologies and esoteric mysteries were cast out. The Zohar, a mystical treatise, was grudgingly admitted for study, but only in maturity, lest it dazzle the student into irrationality. For normative Judaism, ripe sobriety was all; or, if not all, then a significant social ideal.
Scholem saw something else, and he saw it from an early age. Unlike Freud, who dismissed religion as illusion, Scholem more ambitiously believed it to be as crucial for the structure of the human mind as language itself. At twenty, he wrote to Escha Burchhardt (whom he later married and divorced), “Philology is truly a secret science and the only legitimate form of historical science that has existed until now. It is the greatest confirmation of my view of the central importance of Tradition, though of course in a new sense of the word.” He named his idea “the philosophy of the Hebrew language” and exclaimed, prophetically, “Oh, if only someday these things could be the focus of my worthy labors!”
Two years on, he was a doctoral student who described his dissertation as “a vast foundational philological-philosophical monograph on an early kabbalistic text from around the year 1230. . . . Nothing worthwhile that's any longer than four pages has been written about it.” His work on the text, “Sefer ha-Bahir,” was pioneering scholarship, but it was far more than that. In the framework of conventional Jewish historiography, it signalled a revolution. Scholem was divulging a tradition hidden underneath, and parallel to, normative Jewish religious expression. Below the ocean of interpretive commentary lay another ocean, also of interpretive commentary, but in imagistic and esoteric guise. Scholem's encyclopedic research took him through the centuries; no one before him had ever systematically ordered and investigated the manifold varieties of Jewish mysticism. The position of classical Judaism was that the essence of God is unknowable: “Thou canst not see My Face.” The Kabbalists sought not only to define and characterize the Godhead—through a kind of spiritualized cosmogonic physics—but to experience it. Kabbalah had been shunned for its claims of ecstatic ascent to the hidden sublime; it had been scorned for its connection to folk religion and magic.
Scholem was determined to uncover the more exalted strata of a suppressed tradition, partly to complete and clarify the historical record, and partly to disclose arcane and majestic imaginative constructs, themselves marvels of the human intellect. It was a kind of literary archeology. His chief excavating tool was philology—the study of texts and their origins. Scholem has been compared to one of the greatest of the grand exegetes and codifiers of Jewish tradition: Maimonides, the twelfth-century physician and polymath, who read Torah with an Aristotelian eye. But Maimonides was a proponent of rationalism. Scholem was in pursuit of the opposite. He looked to theosophy, as manifested in Kabbalah: “those religious streams within Judaism,” he explained, “which strive to arrive at a religious consciousness beyond intellectual apprehension, and which may be attained by man's delving into himself by means of contemplation, and the inner illumination which results from this contemplation.”
This is almost too general a definition, given the complexities of the many generations and branches of Kabbalah (a word that means tradition, literally “what is received”) in its luxuriant fecundity from the first millennium to its latest expression in the eighteenth century. The most influential of all these movements came to fruition in the town of Safed, in Galilee, in the sixteenth century, when a community of initiates gathered around Rabbi Isaac Luria and began to compose the astonishing works that make up what is called the Lurianic Kabbalah. Not all the Lurianic ideas were new, but they expanded in an original direction under the pressure of one of the most catastrophic upheavals in Jewish history: the Inquisitorial persecutions of the Jews of Spain, and their expulsion after a golden age of high creativity. Here was yet another historic exile (the destruction of the Second Temple, in the year 70, inaugurating the dispersion, was primal), and its thunderous effects had their echo in a cataclysmic symbolism.
In the beginning—indeed, before the beginning—God's luminous essence filled the pleroma, the stuff of nothingness that was everywhere. Then God performed an act of tzimtzum, self-limitation, contracting in order to make room for Creation. “Without contraction there is no creation, as everything is Godhead,” Scholem writes. “Therefore, already in its earliest origins, the creation is a kind of exile, in that it involves God removing Himself from the center of His essence to His secret places.” But certain lights, or sparks, or brilliant emanations of God trickled out nevertheless. These were the sefiroth, God's qualities or potentialities—the vital ten arteries, so to speak, of His Being. They can be listed as Primeval Will; Wisdom; Intuition; Grace; Judgment; Compassion; Eternity; Splendor; All Fructifying Forces; and, last, the Shekhinah, “the hidden radiance of the totality of the hidden divine life which dwells in every created and existing being.” These powerful divine lights flowed into the vessels that are the material of the created world; too fragile to contain such magnitudes, they broke apart, scattering the godly sparks. Some fell among the shards of the sundered vessels and were held captive, themselves damaged and given over to darkness. Because of this rupture, called shevirah, the ideal processes of Creation have been thwarted, and, ever since, nothing has been in its right place; all is exile. In Safed there arose, finally, the concept of tikkun, the reintegration of what has been fragmented, the correction of confusion, the return of harmony. In this way, the Kabbalists of Galilee, through a cosmological myth of exile and redemption, were able to map a people's shattered experience and adumbrate a vision of restoration.
It may have been in the early nineteen-forties (there are no living witnesses, and no one of the current generation is certain just when) that Scholem was invited to New York to deliver a lecture on Kabbalah at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He was introduced by Saul Lieberman, a leading Talmudic eminence, and thereby an adherent of Jewish rationalism. “Nonsense is nonsense,” Professor Lieberman pronounced, “but the history of nonsense is scholarship.” Whether Scholem responded to this now legendary maxim is not known. But the immensity, and the passion, of his scholarship intimates that he did not include visionary symbolism among the artifacts of nonsense.
All this and more—lectures, teaching, travel abroad, a second marriage, to Fanya Freud—Scholem accomplished during times of tumult and violence. In Germany, the crisis of postwar currency inflation was followed by the rise of Nazism. Scholem's brother Werner, against whom the earlier charge of treason had been ameliorated, was again arrested, both as a former Communist and as a Jew; he was finally murdered in Buchenwald in 1940. In the late nineteen-thirties, Scholem's widowed mother and his brothers Reinhold and Erich escaped to Australia. During these same years, Palestine was troubled by periodic Arab rioting, notably in 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936, and 1939. “For the past three months, we in Jerusalem have been living under a state of siege,” Scholem wrote to Benjamin in August, 1936. “There's a considerable amount of terrorism. . . . A few days ago a colleague of mine who teaches Arabic literature was murdered in his study while reading the Bible. . . . No one knows whether someone will toss a bomb his way or around the next corner.” In June, 1939, he again told Benjamin, “We live in terror,” and spoke of the “capitulation of the English”—the Mandate power—”in the face of violence.” And in 1948 there was outright war when the surrounding Arab nations, rejecting the United Nations plan for the partition of Palestine, sent five invading armies to converge on the newborn Jewish state. Whole sections of Jerusalem were destroyed or overrun. Before Scholem's death, in 1982, he had lived through the terror incursions of 1956, the Six-Day War of 1967, and the Yom Kippur attacks of 1973.
Scholem defined his Zionism as metaphysically and historically rooted rather than political. “I don't give a rap about the problem of the state,” he said, and styled himself an anarchist. Nevertheless, he joined colleagues at the Hebrew University in the formation, in 1925, of Brit Shalom (Peace Covenant), a political group favoring a binational state, which was to include both Arabs and Jews on equal terms—but, since few Arabs were attracted to the idea, and, of these, some were assassinated by other Arabs, it failed. He had once affirmed that by leaving Europe behind he was stepping out of world history in order to reënter Jewish history; yet world history, it seemed, had an uncanny habit of following the Jews wherever they were. Scholem was compelled to endure intermittent chaos even as he probed into Kabbalistic theories of exile and redemption.
His correspondents who were fleeing Germany were not so sure. Scholem repeatedly offered refuge to Benjamin, holding out the hope of a post at the Hebrew University; Benjamin repeatedly vacillated, finally admitting to a procrastination “which is second nature to me when it comes to the most important situations in my life.” To Scholem's exasperation, Benjamin was contemplating the feasibility of an island off Spain. “You could, of course, do your literary work here,” Scholem countered. “Jerusalem offers more than Ibiza: first of all, there are people like us here; second, there are books. . . . But it seems to us doubtful that you'd feel comfortable in a land in which you took no direct part. . . . The only people who can survive all of the difficulties here are those who are fully devoted to this land and to Judaism.” Benjamin, Scholem had come to recognize long before, had refused any such devotion. It was Hannah Arendt (then Hannah Stern), writing as a refugee in the South of France, who informed Scholem of Benjamin's suicide.
But for Scholem the most commanding chronicler of the growing Nazi harassment of Jews was Betty Scholem, his despairing mother. In a flood of anguished letters from Berlin (reminiscent of Victor Klemperer's diaries of gradual engulfment), she was recording a week-by-week tightening of the German noose. “I cannot digest what is happening,” she wailed. “I'm completely speechless. I simply can't imagine that there are not 10,000 or 1,000 upright Christians who refuse to go along by raising their voice in protest.” Her accounts of her futile trips to the offices of the Nazi police to appeal for information about the imprisoned Werner have the resonance of an atrocity foretold. In March, 1933, commenting on the Jewish lawyers, teachers, and physicians who were being barred from their professions, she wrote:
It's a real stroke of luck that you're out of harm's way! Now, suddenly, I want to see everyone in Palestine!! When I only think of the outcry heard among German Jews when Zionism began! Your father and grandfather Hermann L. and the entire Central Verein beat themselves on the breast and said with absolute conviction, “We are Germans!” And now we're being told that we are not Germans after all!Despite intervals of relative quiet, the Jewish population of Palestine was never entirely out of harm's way; but his mother's terrified response to the danger in Germany, years after his own prescient repudiations, left a bitter imprint on many of his later exchanges. Scholem declined to meet with Heidegger (as Buber had done), because Heidegger had been an unabashed Nazi. He was impatient with tendentious distortions of Jewish history. When an editor of The New York Review of Books asked him to review Arthur Koestler's “The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage,” Scholem's reply—”sensationalist humbug”—was scathing:
Sigmund Freud told the Jews their religion was foisted upon them by an Egyptian, so that there was nothing for the Jews to be proud of. The Jews found it baseless but rather amusing. Some Gentiles loved it because it would [teach] those supercilious Jews a lesson. Arthur Koestler wants to give them the rest by telling them that they were not even Jews and that those damned Ashkenazim from Russia, Romania, and Hungary who had invented Zionism had not even the right to ask for Israel as their homeland—which their Khazaric forefathers had never seen. . . . There is nothing more to be said by me about Koestler's scholarship.In 1962, as part of a postwar, post-Holocaust effort toward official public remorse in Germany, Scholem was invited to contribute to a volume intended as homage to “the indestructible German-Jewish dialogue.” He answered with a trenchant polemic:
There is no question that Jews tried to enter into a dialogue with Germans, and from all possible perspectives and standpoints: now demanding, now pleading and imploring; now crawling on their hands and knees, now defiant; now with all possible compelling tones of dignity, now with a godforsaken lack of self-respect. . . . No one responded to this cry. . . . The boundless ecstasy of Jewish enthusiasm never earned a reply in any tone that could count as a productive response to Jews as Jews—that is, a tone that would have addressed what the Jews had to give and not only what they had to give up. To whom, then, did the Jews speak in this famous German-Jewish dialogue? They spoke only to themselves. . . . In the final analysis, it's true that Germans now acknowledge there was an enormous amount of Jewish creativity. This does not change the fact that you can't have a dialogue with the dead.This was not Scholem's most acerbic riposte, though it touched on one of the central passions of his historical thinking. A year later, in 1963, Hannah Arendt published “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,” an account of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the high-ranking S.S. officer who had ordered the deportation of Jews to the death camps, and whom Israeli agents had captured in his Argentine hideout. Scholem's rebuttal ignited an intellectual conflagration that tore beyond the boundaries of their private exchange into a ferocious public quarrel. Arendt and Scholem had been warm correspondents for two decades. But as early as 1946 a fault line—not yet a crevasse—opened in their friendship. Arendt had sent Scholem “Zionism Reconsidered,” an essay he dismissed as a “patently anti-Zionist, warmed-over version of Communist criticism” and “an act of political balderdash.” He accused her of attacking the Jews of Palestine “for maintaining an otherworldly separation from the rest of mankind, but,” he contended, “when these same Jews make efforts to fend for themselves, in a world whose evil you yourself never cease to emphasize, you react with a derision that itself stems from some otherworldly source.” He set out his credo, both personal and political:
I am a nationalist and am wholly unmoved by ostensibly “progressive” denunciations of a viewpoint that people repeatedly, even in my earliest youth, deemed obsolete. . . . I am a “sectarian” and have never been ashamed of expressing in print my conviction that sectarianism can offer us something decisive and positive. . . . I cannot blame the Jews if they ignore so-called progressive theories which no one else in the world has ever practiced. . . . The Arabs have not agreed to a single solution that includes Jewish immigration, whether it be federal, national, or binational. . . . [They] are primarily interested not in the morality of our political convictions but in whether or not we are here in Palestine at all. . . . I consider it abundantly obvious (and I hardly need emphasize this to you) that the political career of Zionism . . . has created a situation full of despair, doubt, and compromise—precisely because it takes place on earth, not on the moon. . . . The Zionist movement shares this dialectical experience of the Real (and all its catastrophic possibilities) with all other movements that have taken it upon themselves to change something in the real world.He concluded by charging Arendt with cynical rhetoric aimed “against something that is for the Jewish people of life-or-death importance.” Her view, he believed, was motivated by a fear of being classed as a reactionary, “one of the most depressing phenomena to be seen among clever Jews.” He knew this, he said, from reading Partisan Review.
Vitriol ebbed and affection resumed. In the long run, it was a friendship that could not be sustained, and with the appearance of “Eichmann in Jerusalem” Scholem's regard for Arendt dissolved; in old age he felt their dispute to have been “one of the most bitter controversies of my life.” He disposed of “the banality of evil” as no better than a slogan: it contradicted and undermined the “radical evil” Arendt had testified to in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” her earlier study. He argued against her merciless condemnation of the Jewish Councils whom the Germans had forced to run the ghettos: “I don't presume to judge. I wasn't there.” He disagreed that the prosecution had failed to prove its case, even while he asserted his opposition to hanging Eichmann: “We should not make it easier for the Germans to confront their past. . . . He now stands as a representative for everyone.” He did not altogether quarrel with Arendt's criticism of the weaker elements of a people in extremis, but, “to the degree that there really was weakness,” he protested, “your emphasis is, so far as I can tell, completely one-sided and leaves the reader with a feeling of rage and fury.” Rage and fury boiled up from a still deeper source:
It is the heartless, the downright malicious tone you employ in dealing with a topic that so profoundly concerns the center of our life. There is something in the Jewish language that is completely indefinable, yet fully concrete—what the Jews call ahavath Israel, or love for the Jewish people. With you, my dear Hannah, as with so many intellectuals coming from the German left, there is no trace of it. . . . In treating such a theme, isn't there a place for the humble German expression “tact of the heart”?Scholem's term for what is now commonly known as the Holocaust was “the Catastrophe.” In his scholarship the word hardly appears. But it is clear from the letters that the Catastrophe was one of the overriding preoccupations of his life, and a clandestine presence in his books. A number of his correspondents were refugees; a few, among them his most treasured friend, were suicides. At the close of the war, he roamed Europe, rescuing the surviving remnants of Judaica libraries and transporting them to Palestine. Together with Theodor Adorno, he succeeded in preserving another endangered archive: Walter Benjamin's papers, which he edited and guided into print. (Along the way, he was delighted to learn that Benjamin was a direct descendant of Heinrich Heine.)
In the public arena—exemplified by the obsessions evident in his private letters—he pursued two salient themes: the historical imperatives of modern Zionism; and German culpability and its subset, the delusions of German Jews in their unrequited love affair. As for the Germans themselves, “I can and would speak to individuals,” but he withdrew from addressing the nation collectively. “We should allow time to do its work,” he advised in 1952. World upheaval had buffeted his generation and cut down its most productive minds. “It's pointless to entertain any illusions,” he wrote. “We have suffered a loss of blood, whose effects on the spirit and on scholarly achievement are simply unimaginable.” Doubtless he had Benjamin in mind—but also the loss to intellectual history, especially in the form of advanced Jewish historiography. So it was left to Scholem to accomplish, single-handedly, the new historiography he envisioned, until the time when his students might take up his work and his legacy. In order to understand Kabbalah, he slyly told them, they must first read Kafka.
He formulated Kabbalah as myth—he was, after all, a modern. And, as a modern transfixed by the unorthodox and the symbolic, he cast a seductive influence over realms far from his own demanding skills. Over the years, the tincture of his mind colored the work of Harold Bloom, Jacques Derrida, Umberto Eco, Jorge Luis Borges, Patrick White. These vagrant literary spores bemused him—”It's a free country,” he once remarked—but he knew them to be distant from his powers and his mission. The uses of Kabbalah were not the enchantments of art or the ingenuities of criticism. For Scholem, Kabbalah was a fierce necessity, “the vengeance of myth against its conquerors.” To the élitism of classical Judaism, and its judgment of Kabbalah as heresy, he retorted:
From the start this resurgence of mythical conceptions in the thinking of the Jewish mystics provided a bond with certain impulses in the popular faith, fundamental impulses springing from the simple man's fear of life and death, to which Jewish philosophy had no satisfactory response. Jewish philosophy paid a heavy price for its disdain of the primitive levels of human life. It ignored the terrors of which myths are made. . . . Nothing so sharply distinguishes philosophers and Kabbalists as their attitude toward the problem of evil and the demonic.For centuries, through persecutions and expulsions, forced conversions and torchings, to the abyss of the Catastrophe, Jews had suffered terror. Responding to these recurring crises, the mystical imagination had devised a cosmogony that incorporated Jewish historical experience. In Kabbalistic symbolism, with its tragic intuition that the world is broken, that all things are not in their proper places, that God, too, is in exile, Scholem saw both a confirmation of the long travail of Jewish dispersion and its consolation: the hope of redemption. In short, he saw Zionism.