Page 108 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

Basic HTML Version

J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
102
Israel’s Prayers,
a commentary on the Jewish prayer book, was
published posthumously in 1895. It defines prayer not so much
as a request to Deity for physical or spiritual well-being, but
as self-scrutiny in His presence (
tefillah
is derived from
hi tpal lel
which originally meant to deliver an opinion about oneself, to
judge oneself). A similarly original exposition is found in
Hirsch’s explanation of the benedictions (
berachot
). The word
Baruch
with which all our benedictions begin is, according to
Hirsch, not so much a eulogy of God as it is a declaration of
man’s readiness to cooperate with God in the construction of
the moral universe and in the realisation of His plan in history.
Among Hirsch’s many published Responsa, the one addressed
to the “Torah Association” in New Orleans, 1860, may be of
special interest for American-Jewish readers.
The Great Theme of Hirsch’s Writings
Throughout Hirsch’s writings we can observe one great theme:
the task of man as a servant of God and the unity of human
life as corresponding to the unity of God. Hirsch was one of the
first religious thinkers in Europe to recognise that dualism in
life resulting in the separation of the religious life from the
secular, with their conflicting moral standards, is the scourge
of modern civilization. In the economic field this dualism led
to the exclusion of morality from economics; in politics it
proved even more disastrous by making self-interest and ex-
pediency guiding principles of international relationships. Thus
religion, which should embrace the whole of life, was robbed
of its influence in the practical affairs of the world by being
confined to the House of Worship.
Hebrew has no word for “religion.” This seeming paradox
can easily be explained. Religion in the Biblical conception
must permeate life in all its aspects: individual, economic, social
and political. The Bible does not use the word “religion”
because everything is potentially religious. To set aside a part
of life as the realm of religion is the very negation of the
philosophy of the Bible; indeed, it borders on blasphemy because
it implies there is a sphere of life from which God is excluded.
Life is one and indivisible just as God is one and indivisible,
and no aspect of life, individual or collective, is outside the
rule of God and His law. Tha t is the meaning of the saying:
“In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy
paths” (Proverbs 3, 6).
In
Introduct ion to the Prophet Isaiah
which contains Hirsch’s
philosophy of general and Jewish history, he discusses the con-
ception of the sovereignty of God as contrasted with the sover-
eignty of nations. He warns mankind that unless the usurped