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Hastening Redemption: Messianism and the Resettlement of the Land of Israel

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Overview

Accounts of the history of Zionism usually trace its origins to the late nineteenth century. In this groundbreaking book, Arie Morgenstern argues that its roots go back even further.
Morgenstern argues compellingly that the Jewish community in Israel may be traced back to a large-scale wave of immigration during the first half of the nineteenth century. Inspired by an expectation for the coming of the Messiah in the year 1840, thousands of Jews from throughout the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, and Eastern Europe relocated to Jerusalem. Morgenstern describes the messianic awakening in all these lands but focuses primarily on the concept of redemption through messianic activism that prevailed among the disciples of Rabbi Elijah, the Ga'on of Vilna. These immigrants believed that the Messiah's arrival would bring about the redemption of the Jews, but also that, in order for this redemption to come about, they needed to prepare the way for the Messiah by fulfilling the commandment to dwell in the land of Israel. Morgenstern offers a dramatic account of their relocation, their efforts to renew rabbinic ordination, their reestablishment of the Ashkenazi community, and the building of Jerusalem. He also explores the crisis of faith that followed the Messiah's failure to appear as expected, and its effects on the community.
Drawing on a wealth of previously untapped sources, Morgenstern sheds important new light on the history of messianic Judaism and on the ideological trends that preceded, and eventually gave birth to, modern political Zionism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The book breaks fresh ground in exploring the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel during the 19th century. Drawing on a wealth of sources, the author offers a revolutionary perception according to which specific messianic expectations for the year of 1840 motivated thousands of Jews to settle down in the land of Israel. This study serves as a basic guide to everything that touches upon the issue of messianism and the resettlement in the land of Israel beginning with the 19th century. As such, it must be seriously taken into account in any future research."—Prof. Moshe Hallamish, Professor Emeritus of Jewish Philosophy and Mysticism, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

"Morgenstern's work makes a significant contribution to understanding the millenarian world of Lithuanian Jewry and their messianic visions for the land of Israel. No reader will ever again be able to avoid associating nineteenth century Lithuanian Jewry with messianism...A work that will be debated for years to come." -Alan Brill, author of Thinking God: The Mysticism of R. Zadok HaKohen

"This book is a major contribution to both the history of Jewish messianism and the history of pre-Zionist Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. Its dramatic, lucid, and learned account of those who, believing that the redemption would begin in 1840, undertook to facilitate this redemption through their actions has fascinating parallels with the nexus between messianic hope and settlement policy in our own time."—Marc Saperstein, Editor of Essential Papers on Messianic Movements and Personalities in Jewish History

"The book breaks fresh ground in exploring the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel during the 19th century. Drawing on a wealth of sources, the author offers a revolutionary perception according to which specific messianic expectations for the year of 1840 motivated thousands of Jews to settle down in the land of Israel. This study serves as a basic guide to everything that touches upon the issue of messianism and the resettlement in the land of Israel beginning with the 19th century. As such, it must be seriously taken into account in any future research."—Prof. Moshe Hallamish, Professor Emeritus of Jewish Philosophy and Mysticism, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

"Morgenstern's work makes a significant contribution to understanding the millenarian world of Lithuanian Jewry and their messianic visions for the land of Israel. No reader will ever again be able to avoid associating nineteenth century Lithuanian Jewry with messianism...A work that will be debated for years to come." -Alan Brill, author of Thinking God: The Mysticism of R. Zadok HaKohen

"This book is a major contribution to both the history of Jewish messianism and the history of pre-Zionist Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. Its dramatic, lucid, and learned account of those who, believing that the redemption would begin in 1840, undertook to facilitate this redemption through their actions has fascinating parallels with the nexus between messianic hope and settlement policy in our own time."—Marc Saperstein, Editor of Essential Papers on Messianic Movements and Personalities in Jewish History

"Very original (and convincing)... This book is a very valuable addition to teh literature on Jewish settlement in the Holy Land and Zionism. It is essential reading for an understanding of modern Jewish thought." —Religious Studies Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195305784
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 6/22/2006
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Arie Morgenstern served 20 years as an advisor for the teaching of History at the Ministry of Education in Israel. During this time, he received his Ph.D. in Modern Jewish History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research specialties include Messianic movements in the 18th and 19th centuries. He is the author of five books (in Hebrew) as well as many scholarly articles. He is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

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Table of Contents

1 Background of the early-nineteenth-century messianic awakening 3
2 Belief in 5600 (1840) as the year of redemption 23
3 Immigration to the land of Israel, 1808-1840 51
4 Process of redemption envisioned by the Vilna Ga'on's disciples 77
5 Attempt to renew rabbinic ordination in Safed 95
6 "Raising the Shekhinah from the dust" by rebuilding Jerusalem 111
7 Expanding and solidifying Jewish settlement in the land of Israel 135
8 Crisis of faith in the wake of unfulfilled expectations 165
9 Retreat from the idea of "redemption through return to Zion" 181
Epilogue : emergence of a Jewish majority in Jerusalem 201
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