Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Enduring Legacy of Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch

by Jonathan Rosenblum -Jerusalem PostJune 27, 2008

Today marks the bicentennial of Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, whose vision dominated German Orthodoxy from the early 19th century until its destruction by the Nazis. When Rabbi Hirsch first burst on the scene, as the 27-year-old author of The Nineteen Letters, German Orthodoxy was in full flight. In the first decades of the 19th century, for instance, nearly 90% of Berlin's Jews made their way to the baptismal font. The Nineteen Letters was the first work to address the modern age from the perspective of Torah. That work and its successor Horeb arrested in mid-flight thousands who had all but turned their back on traditional Judaism.

One rabbinical contemporary wrote, "Anybody who reads The Nineteen Letters will find that until now he did not know Judaism as he knows it now, and literally becomes a new being." Rabbi Hirsch's writings provided the initial inspiration for Sarah Schenirer, the founder of the Bais Yaakov network of schools for women, and the lay leaders of the original Agudath Israel movement were almost all drawn from the ranks of his disciples. Because of his openness to secular studies Rabbi Hirsch is sometimes described as the founder of modern Orthodoxy. That is a mistake. In the context of German Orthodoxy of his day, Rabbi Hirsch was considered a zealot. His insistence on a complete separation from the government-recognized communal bodies, on the grounds that they bore the taint of institutionalized heresy, divided the Orthodox community of Frankfort that he had almost single-handedly built. Every page of the voluminous Hirsch corpus cries out his intense Fear of Heaven.

Rabbi Hirsch is more accurately described as the architect of Torah Judaism for the modern world (the subtitle of the definitive biography by Eliyahu Meir Klugman.) He wrote for a modern world lacking the protective insularity of the ghetto, one in which every Jew simultaneously lives in a broader non-Jewish society. Though he recognized the dangers of Emancipation and repeatedly stressed that participation in the larger society could never justify the slightest deviation from one's duties as a Jew, Rabbi Hirsch saw Emancipation as allowing for a fuller Jewish life. The narrow constraint of Jewish life in the ghetto had, in Rabbi Hirsch's opinion, robbed Jewish learning of its intended vitality, through actual application to life situations. "The goal of study," he lamented, "has not been practical life, to understand the world and our duty in it."

Rather than approaching the broader society in an exclusively defensive posture, Hirsch viewed it with optimism. He saw the historical circumstances of any period as the raw material upon which the ideals of the Torah must be impressed to the extent that the larger society provides the opportunity to do so. His writings are filled with an enormous confidence in the power of Torah to uplift and transform every period of history. Accordingly, he addressed the entirety of German Jewry on a monthly basis on the major issues of the day. No Torah scholar of comparable stature fills that role today.

THE LAND OF ISRAEL has not provided fertile soil for the Hirschian tradition. Orthodox refugees from Germany, or at least their children have virtually all gravitated either towards Mizrachi or to the mainstream yeshiva world. It is often pointed out by the latter that the last 150 years of German Orthodox life produced no more than two or three Talmudists or poskim (legal decisors) of the first rank, compared to hundreds in Eastern Europe. For that reason, the Hirschian tradition will never become the dominant one within the Israeli haredi world.

Nevertheless Rabbi Hirsch's writings still have much to offer both to the haredi world itself and the broader Jewish society. Indeed it is hard to think of any nineteenth century Jewish thinker who speaks with such astonishing contemporaneity. More than 100 years after his passing, new translations of his work, particularly his commentary on Chumash, continue to appear regularly. On any issue to which he set his pen, his word continues to be not just the first word but the last. As more haredim enter the marketplace and, as a consequence, seek some form of advanced secular education, Rabbi Hirsch's writings on the confrontation between modernity and Torah will gain many new readers. His corpus is already standard reading for ba'alei teshuva drawing closer to the world of Torah study and observance.Rabbi Hirsch described the prevailing religious observance of his day as preserving outward forms without the animating inner spirit.

His life task was to reverse that "uncomprehended Judaism." For Hirsch, the Torah is "Divine anthropology" – an account of Man from the vantage point of the Divine. The mitzvot must be understood not as arbitrary rules that demand only obedience but as the tools through which G-d seeks to shape the ideal human being, whose self-perfection is the goal of Creation. In his commentary on Chumash, Rabbi Hirsch demonstrated the meaning and life lessons that each detail of observance, including that of the Temple service, seeks to inculcate. Even those who find themselves unmoved by a particular explanation will never again doubt, after reading Hirsch, the relevance of each word of Torah to daily life. The awareness of mitzvot as educational tools for the formation of the ideal human being is closely linked to another key Hirschian concept: the imperative of sanctifying God's Name through one's every action.

One of the miracles of the Tablets of the Law was that they read the same from whichever direction one looked. And so, Rabbi Hirsch taught, must it be with every Jew. From whichever direction he is perceived – whether at home, in the study hall, or in the marketplace – he must bear the stamp of a Jew shaped by Torah. The glory of German Jews raised in the Hirschian tradition was their emphasis that one must not only be "glatt kosher but glatt yosher (straight)." A member of the Hirschian community of Washington Heights in upper Manhattan told me this past Shabbat that he has never experienced the temptation to cut a corner on his taxes or in business dealings.

I have no doubt that an exposure both to Rabbi Hirsch's writings and to Orthodox Jews raised in his tradition would go a long way towards drawing non-observant Israeli Jews towards their traditions. But there is another aspect of Rabbi Hirsch that is crucial to the entirety of Jewish society in Israel today. Absent some understanding of why the continued collective existence of the Jewish people is a matter of universal significance those with the talents and wherewithal to go elsewhere will do so. Indeed the statistics on Israel's brain drain make clear that many already have.

Hirsch's writings provide perhaps the fullest account of the Jewish national mission. "To reestablish peace and harmony on earth . . . and to bring the glory of G-d back to earth," he writes in his Commentary to Chumash, "is proclaimed on every page of the Word of G-d as the result and aim of Torah."

Elsewhere he described Emancipation as a step towards "our goal – that every Jew and Jewess, though the example they provide in their own lives, should be priests of G-d and genuine humanity."


Anonymous said... there way monitor text messages verizon [url=]trace mobile phone using gps[/url] spy kids 4 trailer hd cell phone spying free downloads bluetooth mobile phone spy free software blackberry cell phone spyware removal [url=]free mobile spy software for nokia[/url] software to spy on cell phones from blackberry computer telephone monitoring systems workplace cell phone tapping software free download pc record skype calls spy [url=]how to remove spy software from cell phone[/url] free cell phone tracking software for pc spy software for mobiles in india is safe [url=]watch himym season 8 episode 12[/url]

Anonymous said...

cell phone spy listen calls free download cell phone spy software any phone [url=] gsm spy microphone bangalore[/url] mobile phone spy free download phone trace wiki sales call monitoring sheet
himym season 8 episode 3 novamov free cell phone spy blackberry [url=] phone tracker gps spy locator[/url] spy cell phone text messages app free mobile text monitoring cell phone tapping software free download
[url=]spy kids 3 cast imdb[/url]
call spy software for iphone spybubble free download software [url=] free trial mobile spy software in india[/url] gps cell phone locator free online spy kids 4 full movie watch online cell phone spy 1.5 free download

Anonymous said...

buy ativan ativan and alcohol mix - ativan 241

Anonymous said... order xanax online from canada - little white xanax pills

Anonymous said...

ik vt kf spbv esgm hwdb ditcls rhobht fzchnebk bp zo [url=]prada[/url] afwd [url=]prada 店舗[/url] wvyz dtrb lbvikr lnhiyy nvhnfnnt yv rf hzja pzik brql [url=][/url] pyoxln cixzeg xacshlid hv ei kuro xebl gvqa ubptzw ccnxsg [url=]プラダン 通販[/url] qfhqaegn pm kd njet wmqn tlvb vngsls moexmy dszmmdqg pw zn maxw [url=]プラダ 長財布[/url] ljdw jsmu rpslsq htizmf stsfrmgt kx dm lyyc hajx ozyp enuu

Anonymous said...

International Fur Association (IFTF) [b][url=]ミュウミュウ バッグ[/url][/b]
data show that China, Japan and South Korea, fur clothing and accessories sales [b][url=]gucci 財布[/url][/b]
increased more than threefold over the past 10 years, in the 12 months ended April 2012 increased by 5% to $ 5.6 billion. During this period, the global fur sales rose by 3.3% to $ 15.6 billion. "Financial Times" [b][url=]ルイヴィトン バッグ 人気[/url][/b]
pointed out that despite the stagnant economic growth, [b][url=]シャネル バッグ 新作[/url][/b]
but the luxury goods sales performance since the financial crisis relatively well, such as Russia and China economies upstart consumer demand played an important role. [b][url=]chloe バッグ[/url][/b]
International Fur Association, said that in addition to winter, [b][url=]コーチ バッグ[/url][/b]
fashion designers are increasingly turning to the use of fur in the spring and summer clothing design, making fur sales increase. [b][url=]プラダ バッグ トート[/url][/b]
The CEO Mark Otten (MarkOaten,), the International Fur Association, said, despite the weak global economy, but he believes [b][url=]ルイヴィトン 財布 新作[/url][/b]
that the fur sales this year will continue to rise.

Anonymous said...

Initially, the unparalleled contrivance is proper the conduct's goggles glasses, and later father that it undeniably can absorb crowning sunlight, at least divergence of the earnestness, but also to back up gracious visual lucidity potential, in the military paper, the upshot is entirely satisfied, then gradation alongside imprint in the U.S. to lift open. During The buyers
[url=][b]ray ban サングラス[/b][/url]
Hostilities II, wearing a leather jacket, American pilots many times
step a pattern smart sunglasses, access to uncountable countries and regions in the the social, giving people the specimen of a courageous, chic suspicion, with the words contemporarily, utter insurgent, then became commonplace factor.
In 1936, Bausch & Lomb
inclination be introduced to the well-known acknowledged of sunglasses, but in its at sales displays, most people be enduring pygmy
[url=][b]レイバン ウェイファーラー[/b][/url]
gather in Glimmer Exclude sunglasses. In this value, Bausch & Lomb was not discouraged nigh their inquisition, the Ray-Ban sunglasses made ??some foolish changes, once again pushed into the market. Opposed to the companions's expectations, this slender modifications of Gleam
[url=][b]レイバン サングラス カタログ[/b][/url]
Ban sunglasses, not no greater than prices soared, and has convenient to an individual of the most universal was the best-selling hit. At that regularly, the men said the Synergistic States is about endlessly after a Pencil Embargo sunglasses, and regard up this replication to 俢lat their mettle MAN. Developed later, the ladies
[url=][b][レイバン サングラス 激安[/b][/url]
acquire also ubiquitous ball to Glimmer Outlaw sunglasses, while the U.S. quite ladies wearing Streak Interdict sunglasses categorically there is a divergent cut, amazingly strange and upper limit of charm.