Introduction

The period dealt with in this volume represents the most important phase in our people's history: eight and a half centuries of life of a people on its own soil—our people Israel in the Land of Israel.

If the first volume gives an account of the birth of our people, this volume gives an account of its infancy and childhood. This was the decisive phase in the education and training of our people for its role of a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation."

Surrounded as we were at that time by nations and empires based on the despotism of power and wealth and where abominable practices of idol worship and immorality ruled supreme, our people were to build up a model commonwealth based on the idea of One G‑d and the Divine moral standards of the Torah.

The difficulties seemed insurmountable. The most important factor in preserving our national identity at that time was unity. Yet the very geography of the Land of Israel, "a land of hills and plains," divided into twelve tribal regions, was not conducive to unity. Indeed, the earlier inhabitants of Canaan did not constitute one people. The land was dominated by multiple princes and potentates, each one governing a "city-state" of his own. They united only in their resistance to the people who came to claim their Divinely promised inheritance. Thus Joshua conquered no less than 51 Canaanite kings.

Yet, the children of Israel were to constitute one people, governed by one G‑d and one Torah; one nation in one land.

Our history is so unique and so different from the histories of other peoples that it cannot be treated in the same way. It can be clearly understood in the light of one factor only: Divine Providence. In His infinite kindness and wisdom G‑d sent us, in the most crucial periods of our history, men of valor and vision, Divinely inspired Judges, and prophets, whose leadership and inspiration has never ceased to guide us through the ages. Without this providential guardianship our people would not have survived its infancy. Without proper understanding of this factor, our history is unintelligible.

The author has endeavored to give due emphasis to this basic principle of our history. The adult reader and student of this work will not fail to see it and, it is hoped, be inspired by it. As to the younger student of the Yeshivah, Talmud Torah and Hebrew School, it will be up to the teacher to properly underscore this viewpoint in dealing with every event or phase of our history.

April, 1948

Jacob Isaacs