Page 100 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

Basic HTML Version

THE CONTRIBUTION OF
SAMSON RAPHAEL HIRSCH TO JEWISH
THOUGHT AND LITERATURE
On the 75th Anniversary of His Death
By
I
s a i a h
I
s id o r
G
r u n f e l d
T
her e
ha s
always been a strangely compelling attraction
towards Samson Raphael Hirsch, drawing people of the
most diverse and even of opposite outlooks on life and Judaism
to his unique personality and writings. Orthodox and Reform
Jews, Hasidim and Mitnagdim, Jewish nationalists and Jewish
universalists, non-Jewish theologians and even crowned heads
have come under the spell of Hirsch’s imperial spirit. The Gerer
Rebbe called him a “living
Mussar Sefer”;
other Hasidic leaders
saw in him the
Ko te l Maaravi,
the “Western Wall” upholding
Jewish tradition against the onslaught of modernism. Rabbi
Yizchak Elchanan Spector, the renowned Gaon of Kovno, wrote
an enthusiastic preface to the Hebrew edition of Hirsch’s
Horeb ,
while Reform B. H. Fassel declared that the underlying ideas
of Jewish observances expounded in the
Horeb
must be con-
sidered far superior to those presented by Maimonides in his
More Nebuchim.
The historian Graetz called Hirsch the “Ezra
of our spiritual Galut.” Abraham Geiger, Hirsch’s former friend
and later opponent, spoke of “the sublime and noble personality
of Hirsch and the moral loftiness of his presentation of Juda-
ism.” Solomon Schechter admired Hirsch’s “saintliness and sub-
limity” and, as far back as 1909, expressed the view “it was high
time that a knowledge of this great man in Israel should find its
way to America.”
The Protestant theologian Jacob Kroekers in his work
Israel,
the Miracle of His tory
speaks of Hirsch as a constant source of
inspiration for the biblical scholars of all denominations. Three
generations of German-Jewish orthodox intelligentsia have seen
in Hirsch their guide and religious philosopher. Dr. Bernard
Drachman, of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York,
wrote in his first English translation of Hirsch’s
Nine teen Let ters
that this work marked an epoch in the history of Judaism in
Germany and indeed in the world. The extreme Reform Dr.
Kaufmann Kohler, the late President of the Hebrew Union
9 4