Page 107 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

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phenomenon” and the application of the word religion renders
it very difficult to understand the essence of the Torah. The
same applies to the term “theology.” The known systems of
religion and theology contain man’s thoughts on God and on
things Divine; therefore, they must constantly change in ac-
cordance with the development of the human mind. But the
Torah, containing the thoughts of God on man and things
human, is as unique, eternal and unchangeable as God Himself.
Everyone who has followed the history of religion and theology
since the days of Hirsch cannot fail to recognize the cogency
of his conclusions. For it has become evident that instead of
accepting the thesis that God created man in His image, modern
man tries to reverse the position by creating a conception of
God in accordance with the image of his own mind. A great
corpus of modern theological literature throws light on Hirsch’s
view that human speculation on metaphysical problems can
never replace the historical fact of the revelation at Sinai; at
best it can only be an attempt of the human mind in a state
of permanent uncertainty to grope towards the infinite. Another
incisive essay published in the
Jeschurun,
“Outlines of Jewish
Symbolism” covering over 235 pages, is a classical presentation
of the role symbolism plays in the explanation of Jewish laws
and in their underlying ideas (this essay was partly printed in
English translation in
Timeless Torah
edited by Jacob Breuer,
New York, 1957).
In 1867 Samson Raphael Hirsch began the publication of his
magnum opus, the
Commentary on the Pentateuch
in five vol-
umes. It was completed in 1878 and carried his fame far and
wide. I t is a unique presentation of both the Written and Oral
Law, embodying the contents of Mishnah, Talmud and the
halachic Midrashim, and welding our oral tradition into an
organic unity with the written word of the Torah. On the firm
basis of the Pentateuch, Hirsch’s commentary constructs an im-
posing edifice of the Jewish religious philosophy and outlook
on life, and its influence on the moral development of mankind.
In 1882 Hirsch published his
Commentary on the Psalms
which
excels by virtue of its unique insight into religious psychology
and its masterly application of the psalmist’s wisdom to the
vicissitudes of human life. Each psalm is presented as an essay
in religious thought based on a central idea—an attempt by man
to draw near to the Divine and to make the presence of the
Shechinah
the aim of all human endeavour. The commentaries
on the Pentateuch and on the Psalms are now available in
English. Hirsch’s commentary on Proverbs and the “Ethics of
the Fathers” appeared in the volumes of the new edition of the
Jeschurun
published by his son, Isaac, in Hanover from 1883
to 1887.
G r u n f e l d — S a m s o n R a p h a e l H i r s c h
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