The Jewish Mystique (1969)

From Ernest Van Den Haag’s The Jewish Mystique (1969), pp. 25-26:

Just as their God is universal, yet peculiarly theirs, so are many other values. The Jews have clung to and insisted on reason as a universal criterion applicable to all situations. Irrationality has been their enemy. So has [Gentile] tradition… The Jews have been egalitarians — for inequality placed them in the inferior position. They have learned to identify with the oppressed, the humiliated, the suffering — for usually they have been among them.

And yet, no people is more traditional or clings more stubbornly to its customs… It is this combination of dogmatic traditionalism about Jewish customs and utter traditionless rationalism about everything else, that made it possible for these people to survive as Jews, to reject the traditions that might absorb them, and to retain their own.

A paradox? Yes, perhaps, and essential to the Jewish character, which is an incarnation of the problem inherent in rationalism… To admit that reason does not and cannot explain and, above all, replace the experience of the human career seems perilously near to abdicating and inviting unreason.

To pretend that reason can do what it cannot do is to deceive oneself and to refuse to perceive what one cannot understand; it is to deny experience. Such presumptuousness might invite worse dogma than the mysticism risked by acknowledging the limits of reason. Thus the Jews, ferociously rational, reserved one corner of the universe to tradition: theirs.

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