Page 109 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

Basic HTML Version

r u n f e l d
— S
a m s o n
a ph a e l
ir s c h
sovereignty of nations is curbed with a view to merging them
into a unity of servants of God, there is a serious danger of
mankind’s self-destruction. A very stormy and tragic epoch in
human history has ensued since the death of Samson Raphael
Hirsch, and his warning has assumed a stark relevance in our
On a previous page Hirsch was described as a religious hu-
manist. He called his conception of humanism a religious one,
because in the Jewish view humanism is only a stepping-stone
towards the higher concept of man as the servant of God. In all
his writings Hirsch never tired of stressing this point. Humanism
without a religious basis, i.e. a humanism which denied that man
is the image and likeness of God, a reflection of the Divine
Being, would in the end destroy itself. Far from affirming man’s
self-confidence and creative power and thus elevating him, an
irreligious humanism is bound to debase man by ceasing to
regard him as a being of Divine origin. Hirsch was convinced
that any secular humanism was bound to become in the end
not only anti-religious but also anti-human. This remarkable
phenomenon which the modern philosopher Berdyaev has called
“the self-destructive dialectic within humanism” was clearly fore-
seen by S. R. Hirsch. As long as a hundred years ago he pointed
out that humanism divorced from God must lead to dictator-
ship, cruelty and tyranny. The development of modern history
is a tragic object lesson of this truth.
In 1890, two years after the death of Hirsch, a well-known
Anglo-Jewish writer wrote about him in the
Jewish Quarterly
Rev iew:
“He was one of the few imperial spirits, to use
Macaulay’s words, whose rare prerogative it is to give to the
human mind a direction which it shall retain for ages . . . Great
as the influence was which he wielded during his lifetime, the
real fruits of his activity are only just beginning to ripen . . . His
works must first become known to a greater circle of readers by
translations from the German, partly into Hebrew, and partly
into the vernacular tongues of countries outside Germany.” This,
in my opinion, has proved a remarkably accurate forecast. A
number of Hirsch’s works have been translated into Hebrew
and English. Much, however, remains to be done. Once the col-
lected works of Hirsch are made available in the English tongue
to the Jewish and non-Jewish world, the future influence of
Hirsch’s writings can hardly be over-estimated.