Page 103 - 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
be like the other nations.” This evoked a tendency to equate the
Jewish religion with the dominant faith of the country in which
the Jews lived, and to eliminate those legal and national ele-
ments which separated the Jew from his neighbor and which
were therefore thought to endanger Emancipation considered by
many as their overriding aim. It was one of the great insights
of Hirsch’s genius that while recognizing the value and histori-
cal necessity of Jewish emancipation, he saw that it was not the
end of the Jewish Vocation in history but only a new context
for its mission (see
Nine teen Let ters,
letter 16).
The great task of Hirsch was, therefore, to come to grips with
the main manifestations of the new civilization which coincided
with Jewish emancipation in Europe, and to show their strength
and weakness in the eyes of the Torah, the eternal yardstick of
the Jew vis-a-vis any civilization. His first attempt was to publish
containing his philosophy of Jewish laws and ob-
servances, although he modestly describes its contents as mere
“essays” and meditations on the underlying ideas of our laws.
It is characteristic that Hirsch devoted this work to “Israel’s
thinking young men and women.” He wrote to his friend May
explaining the purpose of the
H o r e b
: “Our century wants to
think and that is its great merit; but one can only meditate on
things with which one is acquainted. Among Jews, however,
nothing is less known than Judaism itself. 1 see a younger gen-
eration aglow with noble enthusiasm for Judaism, or rather for
Jews . . . These young men do not know authentic Judaism, and
what they believe they know of it they consider as empty forms
without meaning . . . and thus the young generation is in danger
of undermining Judaism while striving for Jews.”
Hirsch explained in his
what Jewish laws really are.
The mitzvot are not mere “ceremonies” to be discarded at will,
but Divine rules of life for the people of God, eternal and in-
violable. The commandments are Divine thoughts implanted in
man by symbolic actions; they are religious power-stations which
generate the spirit of holiness within the people of Israel, “that
ye may remember and do all My commandments and be holy
unto your God” (Numbers 15.40). Any Jew, therefore, who
disobeys these Divine commandments destroys the force that
engenders the spirit of Judaism and moulds the collective holi-
ness of Israel’s character. In this connection it is important to
refer also to Hirsch’s essay on “The Ceremonial Laws” (re-
printed in English translation in the present writer’s
volume II).
It was in the
that Hirsch first introduced the term
“Mensch-Jissroel” (Israel-Man,
Homo Israelis
), used as a key
term throughout his writings. It was meant to express Hirsch’s
philosophy of religious humanism. This philosophy, however,