Daria Boniecka-Stępień


Achad Ha-am’s conception of religion – an attempt to define.


Asher Ginsberg, better known as Achad Ha-am, was one of the leading Zionist thinkers. He is considered the founder of the spiritual Zionism movement. Achad Ha-am redefined Jewish identity in national-secular terms. Spiritual Zionism, in contrast to Herzl's political Zionism, sought to maintain a spiritual center, not a political state, in Palestine. This spiritual center had to be the heart of the Jewish people nation, the basis of which was the national spirit. And this national spirit is essential in understanding the Achad Ha-am’s concept of religion.


This article tries to define the relation of Achad Ha-am to religion. What is the role given to religion, how did he define it? In his writings, as a secular thinker, Achad Ha-am did not resign to refer to religion. In his philosophy, religion is one of the components of modern Jewish identity, but not the only one, and not the most important. Achad Ha-am refers to religion in a new, open and innovative way. According to the definition, religion means faith and the laws of faith and it’s commandments. It is important to emphasize that for Achad Ha-am religion is not a belief in God but tradition, culture, ethics, lifestyle, history of the Jewish people. In accordance with Achad Ha-am’s thought, all these components characterize and define a person who belongs to the modern Jewish nation.


Achad Ha-am, in his definition of Jewish identity, shifted religious terms into secular – national terms. Religious faith in the God of Israel no longer determined belonging to the Jewish nation. The real national Jew is defined by the spirit of Judaism – the national Jewish spirit. In this spirit, there reveal the history, tradition and culture of the Jewish people. All these derive from Judaism as the historical power. Religion was a part of Achad Ha-am’s identity, therefore he could not have rejected it.