1790 AD to 1810 AD, Psalm 136: Emancipation.

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This generation of the 1790s and 1800s.

According to our count, this generation is the 136th generation associated with Psalm 136. It is in this Psalm 136 that we therefore find an illustration of the facts of this generation.

This generation is that of the French Revolution and the Declaration of Human Rights.

This gives rise to the first emancipation of the Jews in Europe, that of the Jews of France.


The French Revolution

France has taken the capture of the Bastille, July 14, 1789, as the date of commemoration of the revolution. This led in fact in 1791 on the one hand the promulgation of the constitution (constitutional monarchy) on 14 September and the declaration of human rights on 26 August. At the revolution succeeds the Terror, it ends in July 1794 at the death of Robespierre. The war that France declared in 1792 to Austria, Hungary and Bohemia, allows General Bonaparte, haloed by his military victories, to accede to power in 1799 by the « coup d’état » of 18 Brumaire and to put end to the revolution.

On the strength of his military success, Napoleon was named Emperor in 1804. To this generation France dominates Europe. Napoleon tries to continue his conquests, the naval defeat of Trafalgar gives the supremacy of the seas to England for the next generations. On land, the victory of Austerlitz in 1805 allowed France to integrate German territories into the Empire as well as some Italian territories like Venice. The Empire of Napoleon at the end of this generation is comparable to that of Charlemagne.

First emancipation of the Jews in Europe.

The French Revolution, which is the result of the Age of Enlightenment, is the starting point for the emancipation of Jews within nations.

The French Revolution makes France the first country granted emancipation to Jews:

  • When [1], in 1789, the great French Revolution broke out in Paris, fifty thousand Jews of France were waiting for their liberty; forty thousand Achkenazim in Alsace and ten thousand Sefardim in the South.
  • As soon as the National Assembly adopted the « Declaration of Human Rights », the liberal deputies demanded the immediate abolition of all the limitations suffered by Jewish citizens. The Abbé Grégoire exclaimed: « Fifty thousand Frenchmen fall asleep tonight as serfs, make sure that they wake up tomorrow free citizens! « . But it was still some time before the Assembly took this step.
  • In the first place, civil rights were granted to the Sefardim of Bordeaux and other cities of the South of France, because their number was limited and they had already begun to assimilate to the French. As for the dense Jewish population of Alsace and Lorraine, who spoke Judeo-German and harbored national Jewish sentiments, the question was still debated at length in the Constituent Assembly, because the Christian deputies of Alsace were hostile to it. Finally, in September 1791, the Assembly passed a law stipulating that all Jews in France would enjoy civil rights, just as Christians do. This was the first act of emancipation in Europe; in at least one country, it freed the Jews from a millennial enslavement.

The Abbé Grégoire [2] who took the side of the Jews during the revolution and who will continue to take courageous positions many times thereafter under the Empire and the Restoration until the July Revolution in 1830 is not an enlightened He created the Conservatory of Arts and Crafts, the Longitudes Office, and the Agricultural Scientific Services. He developed new methods for public education, for the unification of the patois. He propagated ideas that would not be realized until much later: a national center for scientific research, international symposia, a canal crossing the Isthmus of Panama.

Behind the Jews and their defense, are already gathered the men of progress. After obtaining equal rights for the Jews, Father Grégoire will fight, without the same success, to improve the lot of the blacks. For the Jews, he does not limit his fight to the Jews of France, he will defend the other Jews of Europe as in 1818 for the Jews of Poland.

The law of 13 November 1791 is the starting point for the emancipation of Jews in France and subsequently in the rest of the Western world. The Jew goes from a pariah to a free man:

  • Henceforth [3] of pariah that he was, the Jew reaches equality with the Christian citizens of France. « Free and Equal »: it is the pride of the Jews of France to have been the first in Europe to be able to boast officially of these adjectives. They will be deeply grateful to France. For Jews around the world, France, which emancipated the Jews in 1791, is a kind of lighthouse that gives hope.

This emancipation after long generations of exile where the Jew was an outcast like his slave position in Egypt is comparable to the exit from Egypt. This Exodus from Egypt allowed the Jews to break free from the Egyptian yoke and begin the desert crossing before entering the promised land. This generation is comparable, the Jews will gradually learn freedom and discover its limits. This freedom will not bring them peace of mind because, unfortunately, new events, the Holocaust of which will demonstrate that this freedom in exile is illusory, will then have to enter the promised land again.

When Moses came out of Egypt, he praised the divine action:

  • Moses [4] said to the people, « Remember this day, when you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, for with a mighty hand, the Lord took you out of here, and [therefore] no leaven shall be eaten.

On leaving Egypt and after the Egyptians in pursuit of the Hebrews were drowned, Moses and the people of Israel sang these praises:

  • Then Moses  [5] and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and they spoke, saying, I will sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea.
  • The Eternal’s strength and His vengeance were my salvation; this is my God, and I will make Him a habitation, the God of my father, and I will ascribe to Him exaltation.
  • The Lord is a Master of war; the Lord is His Name.
  • Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He cast into the sea, and the elite of his officers sank in the Red Sea.
  • The depths covered them; they descended into the depths like a stone.
  • Your right hand, O Lord, is most powerful; Your right hand, O Lord, crushes the foe.
  • And with Your great pride You tear down those who rise up against You; You send forth Your burning wrath; it devours them like straw.
  • And with the breath of Your nostrils the waters were heaped up; the running water stood erect like a wall; the depths congealed in the heart of the sea.
  • (…)
  • Who is like You among the powerful, O Lord? Who is like You, powerful in the holy place? Too awesome for praises, performing wonders!
  • You inclined Your right hand; the earth swallowed them up.
  • With Your loving kindness You led the people You redeemed; You led [them] with Your might to Your holy abode.

These are the praises that are repeated in the beginning of the psalm of this generation, because slavery in Egypt has failed to overcome the people of Israel, it has gone through the throes of exile in there. survivor. In the same way, that by crossing the sea of rushes, the Jews had regained their freedom, they become free again from this generation or at least a first part of them. It remains for them like their ancestors to find the way to the Promised Land.

It is therefore the same divine glory as that expressed in Egypt which the psalmist praises, eternal glory, for it is reproduced through time:

  1. Give thanks to the Lord because He is good, for His kindness is eternal.
  2. Give thanks to the God of the angels, for His kindness is eternal.
  3. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His kindness is eternal.
  4. To Him Who performs great wonders alone, for His kindness is eternal.
  5. To Him Who made the heavens with understanding, for His kindness is eternal.
  6. To Him Who spread out the earth over the water, for His kindness is eternal.
  7. To Him Who made great luminaries, for His kindness is eternal.
  8. The sun to rule by day, for His kindness is eternal.
  9. The moon and stars to rule at night, for His kindness is eternal.
  10. To Him Who smote the Egyptians with their firstborn, for His kindness is eternal.
  11. And He took Israel from their midst, for His kindness is eternal.
  12. With a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, for His kindness is eternal.
  13. To Him Who cut the Sea of Reeds asunder, for His kindness is eternal.
  14. And caused Israel to cross in its midst, for His kindness is eternal.
  15. And He threw Pharaoh and his host into the Sea of Reeds, for His kindness is eternal.
  16. To Him Who led His people in the desert, for His kindness is eternal.

The revolution brought down the French monarchy, one of the most prestigious in the world, King Louis XVI, renamed Louis Capet for its execution on January 21, 1793.

This illustrates the continuation of the psalm of this generation:

  1. To Him Who smote great kings, for His kindness is eternal.
  2. And slew mighty kings, for His kindness is eternal.

The end of the King of France marks the end of the old regime and the initialisation of the modern world, where the Jews acquire their freedom and which will end, despite the events of the last generations to take back possession of their land. Napoleon takes power for a few years.

Napoleon had an ambiguous attitude toward the Jews, he questioned some of the gains of the revolution against them, but tried to export their emancipation in the conquered territories. To echo the first part of the psalm of this generation, it is marked by the campaign of Egypt of Napoleon who follows the footsteps of the Jews three millennia after they were released:

  • Napoleon [6] is fascinated by the Jews and, at the same time, he feeds on them ambivalent feelings that push him to truly anti-Jewish measures with regard to Alsace. At the same time, he is taking liberalization measures against them wherever his armies enter Europe.
  • Bonaparte’s expedition to the Holy Land (1798-1799) was to provide a means of attacking England by interposed Turks, by bringing the eastern sector of the Mediterranean under French rule. This political pragmatism is coupled with a great dream: to gain glory in the East, like Alexander the Great, whom he greatly admires, and, at the same time, to be the one who, like Cyrus, another of his favorite heroes will be able to give back to the Jews their ancestral land.
  • (after a succession of victories and defeats in Egypt, Bonaparte goes to the Holy Land)
  • Bonaparte leaves Cairo on February 10, 1789 with 2000 camels and 300 donkeys and mules, and reaches El-Arish, which he seizes ten days later. This crossing of the desert towards the Holy Land is felt with the greatest emotion by the whole army. Some soldiers see Bonaparte as a new Moses and identify with the children of Israel en route to the Holy Land. In the evening, under Bonaparte’s tent, verses from the Bible are read aloud and with solemnity.

Napoleon fought the Turks at Jaffa and, despite the guarantees given, executed on the beach the 4000 Turkish prisoners who had surrendered to him. This event tarnishes the image of Bonaparte, who unlike his European campaigns that will win the accession of Jews in Europe, will not succeed in rallying to him the Jews of the Holy Land, who prefer to rank behind the Turkish troops in particular during of the seat of Acre by Bonaparte that this one will be obliged to give up.

In spite of this, Bonaparte makes a proclamation to the Jewish people, a proclamation that historians have more and more tendency to validate. While in the previous generation, General Potemkin with raised a Jewish battalion to liberate Jerusalem, Bonaparte addresses the Jews so that they join him to recover their ancestral land. Thus, the nations initiate Zionism well before the Jews themselves:

  • Six weeks after the victory of Mount Thabor (against the Turks who came to help Acre), a curious information is published in Paris in the « national gazette or the universal monitor », dated « 3 Prairial year VII of the French Republic, one and indivisible « (May 2, 1799). It comes from Constantinople and dates back five weeks after the victory of Mount Thabor. Here is the text:
    •  » Constantinople, the 28th of Germinal (April 17th). Bonaparte has published a proclamation in which he invites the Jews of Asia and Africa to come under his banner to restore the old Jerusalem. He has already armed many and their battalions threaten Aleppo. « 
  • The authenticity of this statement has long been disputed. It seems more likely today.

Simultaneously with the emancipation of the Jews, their definitive return to the promised land becomes a subject of current events that will be confirmed from generation to generation.

This is the object of the end of the psalm of this generation:

  1. To Him Who smote great kings, for His kindness is eternal.
  2. And slew mighty kings, for His kindness is eternal.
  3. Sihon the king of the Amorites, for His kindness is eternal.
  4. And Og the king of Bashan, for His kindness is eternal.
  5. And He gave their land as an inheritance, for His kindness is eternal.
  6. An inheritance to Israel His servant, for His kindness is eternal.
  7. Who remembered us in our humble state, for His kindness is eternal.
  8. And He rescued us from our adversaries, for His kindness is eternal.
  9. Who gives bread to all flesh, for His kindness is eternal.
  10. Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His kindness is eternal.

[1] Simon Dubnov: « Precis of Jewish history ». (French: « Précis d’histoire juive ». (p. 244/245) )

[2] From: Renée Neher-Bernheim: « Jewish History of the Revolution to the State of Israel ». (French: « Histoire juive de la Révolution à l’État d’Israël ». (p. 52 à 54) )

[3] Renée Neher-Bernheim: « Jewish History of the Revolution to the State of Israel ». (French: « Histoire juive de la Révolution à l’État d’Israël ». (p. 61) )

[4] Shemot – Exodus – Chapter 13, verse 3.

[5] Shemot – Exodus – Chapter 15, verses 1 to 8 and 11 to 13

[6] Renée Neher-Bernheim: « Jewish History of the Revolution to the State of Israel ». (French: « Histoire juive de la Révolution à l’État d’Israël ». (p. 81/82) )