Messianism, Zionism, and Jewish Religious Radicalism By Aviezer Ravitzky. Translated by Michael Swirsky and Jonathan Chipman (University of Chicago Press, 303 pp., $17.95) When it emerged as a political program for the Jews at the end of the nineteenth century, Zionism was a phenomenon for which traditional Jewish life was completely unequipped. It was new and it was perplexing, a movement that eluded categorization in the religious terms and the religious images of the past. It promised a political solution that was neither redemption nor exile.
More than any other Jewish thinker, Maimonides, who lived in the twelfth century, still has sway over the modern mind and not just the modern mind of Jews. He was also a physician, and wrote widely on medicine. Among his voluminous writings--on drugs, asthma, sex, poisons, almost everything but managed competition--is this short prayer: "Supreme God in Heaven: Give me the merit to regard every suffering person ... as a human being, without any distinction between rich and poor, friend and foe, good person and bad.