web analytics
April 28, 2015 / 9 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Humanity, Liberty, Rationality: A Review of the Collected Writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch: Volume IX


book-hirsh-writings

Rav Hirsch did not regard the ghetto as an ideal. In an essay printed elsewhere in the Collected Writings, Rav Hirsch writes: “If in recent centuries German Jews remained more or less aloof from European civilization the fault lay not in their religion but in the tyranny which confined them by force within the walls of their ghettoes and denied them intercourse with the outside world.” Yes, freedom comes with risks, but, as Rav Hirsch writes in another essay, where “religion is truly present, it will find expression, especially in the sunshine of freedom.”

The speeches on Schiller and liberty alone would make this volume a worthwhile buy, but perhaps even more important than both of these items are two letters by Rav Hirsch on the nature of aggadata. In them, Rav Hirsch declares unequivocally that “aggadic statements do not have Sinaitic origin,” that “they reflect the independent views of individual Sages,” and that “it is not mandatory for a Jew” to accept them.

These assertions should not raise eyebrows. The Rambam already declared 850 years ago that Chazal’s scientific knowledge did not stem from Sinai and can often be incorrect. The same Rambam also argues that many midrashim are allegorical – not historical – while the Ibn Ezra famously rejects midrashim that he finds ridiculous. Perhaps the most succinct formulation of this school of thought is that of Rav Shmuel Hanagid (11th century): “Aggadah comprises any comment occurring in the Talmud on any topic which is not a commandment, and one should not derive from it more than what is reasonable.”

And yet, this view – held by so many Torah authorities throughout Jewish history – is considered semi-heretical nowadays. Indeed, it led to the banning of Rabbi Nosson Slifkin’s books in 2005. Rav Hirsch, however, not only declares this position perfectly acceptable; he even states that teaching it is essential. “[W]e have a duty to inform [our pupils] of this [view], lest they come to think that it is part of Jewish doctrine to believe literally every exaggerated statement found in the aggadic literature and that whoever does not believe this is a heretic, God forbid.”

I cannot say enough about the importance of these two letters. Comprising 17 pages, they are a veritable treasure, and a model of rationality and reason.

No doubt, even with the appearance of this volume, many right-wing Jews will continue to claim Rav Hirsch was essentially a typical black-hat rabbi who only pretended to embrace culture and modernity so that German Jews would remain Orthodox. No doubt, they will continue to argue that Rav Hirsch only propagated his Torah im Derech Eretz ideal as an emergency measure to salvage Judaism in Germany.

Alas, to quote Rav Hirsch, “Nothing is more clever, nothing can deny better or is more all-knowing than ignorance.”

Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and holds a Masters degree from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Humanity, Liberty, Rationality: A Review of the Collected Writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch: Volume IX”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
UNRWA Rocket Logo
UNRWA Chutzpa
Latest Sections Stories
Teens-Twenties-logo

The poetry slam required entrants to compose original poetry with powerful imagery and energetic rhythm bringing their poems to life – making it palpable to the audience.

Teens-Twenties-logo

“I was so inspired by the beautiful lessons I learned and by the holiness around me that I just couldn’t stop writing songs!” she says.

Schonfeld-logo1

But Pi Day is worst of all
I want the extra credit bad
But trying to remember many numbers
makes me sad.

Several thousand Eastern European Jews had escaped Nazi death and Soviet persecution by fleeing to Shanghai, China.

Now that we’re back to chometz, it’s just the right time to give thought to our wellbeing. Who doesn’t want to lose a few bulky matzah-and-potato pounds? Who wouldn’t like to eat smarter and feel better? If you’re like most people I know, these are probably the first things you’d like to address. It’s time […]

My mother-in-law and I have had our problems since the beginning of my marriage.

It was Lia van Leer who changed the image of filmmaking in Israel so that it is now seen as an expression of culture and not mere entertainment.

“People who never buy cookbooks are getting this one,” said Victoria. “They read it cover to cover and find it so interesting.”

We have recently witnessed how other minorities deal with even perceived danger aimed at their brothers and sisters. They respond in great numbers.

The Hebrew Academy students took part in all categories and used successful and innovative techniques to achieve their goals.

“The objective behind establishing small communities as places for relocation was a remedy for the excessive cost of housing and education in the large New York metropolitan market,” Mr. Savitsky explained.

Jewish Democrats did not entirely trust the son of Joseph Kennedy, a man broadly considered to be both anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi.

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Dr. Mitchell Bard

Mitchell Bard is nothing if not prolific. He has written and edited 23 books, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East” and “The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East.” Bard, who has a Ph.D. in political science from UCLA, is also the executive director of both the […]

Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich

You have to understand that Ukraine was really a very, very Jewish place for many years.

What I think is going on here is the Midrash is making a comment about Rut’s love for Naomi being some sort of reflection of how we have to love God.

HarperCollins’s omission was especially egregious because it is a major general and educational publisher.

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

I was very pro-Israel, I was very proud of being Jewish, and I was living in New York at the time as a single man in my 20s and I was just looking for a little bit more.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/book-reviews/humanity-liberty-rationality-a-review-of-the-collected-writings-of-rabbi-samson-raphael-hirsch-volume-ix/2012/06/07/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: