Page 101 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

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r u n f e l d
— S
a m s o n
a ph a e l
ir s c h
College in Cincinnati, said of Hirsch: “He was un iqu e . . . I am
indebted to him for the very best part of my innermost life . . .
The spirit of his teachings electrified me and became a life-
long influence on me. Samson Raphael Hirsch was imbued with
the spirit of cultured humanity . . . he unfolded the deeper,
spiritual forces of Judaism by the power of a true religious
genius.” When in 1841 Hirsch defended the Bible in a famous
pamphlet against the attacks on its underlying morality by a
well-known German literary critic and man of letters, the Grand
Duke of Oldenburg sent a special messenger congratulating
Hirsch on having vindicated the honour of the Bible, which
was dear to Jew and Christian alike. In 1849, as Chief Rabbi of
Moravia and a member of its Parliament, Hirsch headed a Jew-
ish deputation to thank the Emperor Francis Joseph 1 for grant-
ing equal rights to his Jewish subjects. The Emperor was over-
come by emotion and thanked him for having been given a
glimpse into the spiritual world of Judaism.
How could Hirsch be so much to so many people of such
varied outlook and in quite different walks of life? It was cer-
tainly not due to any ambiguous insight into life, for nobody
could have had a clearer standpoint on life’s great issues and
Judaism’s attitude to them. The explanation lies rather in the
universality of Hirsch’s mind, in the range of his intellect and
knowledge, in the depth of his historic vision and the absolute-
ness of his religious convictions. It was from the vantage ground
of his broad human culture that he viewed the civilizations of
the world in their relationship to religion and their movements
round the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
To few men is the possibility given to work so mightily and
with such success for the great ideals of life as was the case
with S. R. Hirsch. This was due not only to the characteristics
and outstanding traits of his personality but also to a rare his-
toric combination of circumstances. He was a very prolific writer.
The bibliography of his published works covers nearly thirteen
pages (see
Judaism Eternal
edited by the present writer). It is
therefore impossible to present in a short essay an exhaustive
exposition of either Hirsch’s religious philosophy or his contribu-
tion to Jewish literature. Only a short sketch of his main works
and their significance for contemporary Jewish and general life
and thought can be undertaken in the present attempt.
Hirsch—A Leader of Men
Hirsch was more than a gifted author. He was a leader of
men destined to conduct our people over the bridge connecting
pre-emancipation and post-emancipation Jewry, and in this
precarious process of transition to become the guardian of our