…in the Zionist movement, three factors seem to have converged. First, most (though not all) of the men listed above were raised in traditional homes and received substantial Jewish educations. They were comfortable in the classic tradition, and the narrative of Jewish history was (to borrow Charles Taylor’s term) the “inescapable horizon” against which they measured and plotted their lives. Homeland, diaspora, exile, redemption—all key to the biblical, rabbinical, and post-rabbinic super-narratives of Jewish life—were notions with which they were deeply imbued. For people raised that way, questions of personal paths and goals were invariably plotted on a map of Jewish past, present, and future.
Second, while they possessed an intimate understanding of the richness of Jewish tradition and the chorus of voices emerging from its texts, most of these thinkers and writers were also deeply affected by the broader intellectual currents of their times. Their lives were lived at the intersection—or collision point—of Jewish tradition and European modernism. The cognitive dissonance and the new set of problems and possibilities created by being dedicated to both seem to have fueled their thinking and writing. And, finally, there was the palpable political urgency they all felt, to which Zion was, in some sense, the solution.
Daniel Gordis, “Tradition, Creativity, and Cognitive Dissonance”, The Jewish Review of Books, vol. 6, no. 3 (Fall 2015), 7.