Page 104 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

Basic HTML Version

e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
like the whole of Hirsch’s philosophical system, was not the out-
come of personal speculations; it was based squarely on Jewish
law, the Halachah, which was to Hirsch the starting point of
all his meditations on Judaism. The Jewish task must not be
conceived as something alien to and divorced from the human
task. The Jew cannot fulfil his calling in isolation but only
within human society. The Jewish component in us presupposes
the human condition, builds on it, ennobles and brings it to
perfection. Thus pure Judaism always returns to pure humanism,
because it is humanism lifted to a higher plane by the exalting
influence of Jewish laws which are God’s message to man in
his totality.
The Concept of Torah im Derech Eretz
This outlook of religious humanism also explains Hirsch’s
attitude to secular knowledge which again is based on the
Halachah (Sifra on Leviticus, 18.4; Ethics of the Fathers 11.2;
b. Talmud, Kiddushin 29; Berachot 35; Megillah 9), and has
found its expression in the rubric
Torah im Derech Eretz.
has been written and spoken about Hirsch’s conception of
im Derech Eretz,
but few have understood what he meant by it.
Its usual connotation as a combination of Torah and secular
education touches only the surface of the problem. Samson
Raphael Hirsch really meant, as has been pointed out by the
late Dr. Isaac Breuer, the relationship between Torah and the
civilization of a given epoch. The application of the Torah
values to a given
Derech Eretz—i.e., a
given civilization—has ever
been the historic Jewish task. “Judaism rouses in us an endeavour
to understand the world, man, human history and God’s plan
operating in it. In this effort, personal study and thought, uni-
versal human experience and the Torah are to be utilized, for
the latter is as real and actual a source of instruction as the
former two . . . true speculation takes nature, man and history
as facts, as valid bases for knowledge, and seeks in them instruc-
tion and wisdom; to these Judaism adds the Torah, as genuine
a reality as heaven or earth” (
Nineteen Let ters,
letter 15).
When Hirsch had completed the
and submitted it to
his publisher, the latter hesitated to risk the expense of such
an extensive work by an unknown author. He therefore sug-
gested that Hirsch first write a resume of his larger work in
order to test the reaction of the public. To the publisher’s
hesitation we owe Hirsch’s
Nineteen Let ters
on Judaism, which
carried his fame throughout the Jewish world. I t contains
Hirsch’s views on the fundamentals of Judaism and the outlines
of his classification of the laws of the Torah which he later
elaborated in his
The laws of the Torah are divided
Toro t ,
i.e. the historically revealed doctrines concerning