Page 72 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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THE P OL AR I T Y IN S. D. L U Z Z A T T O ’ S
THOUGHTS AND WR I T I NGS
On the One Hundreth Anniversary of His Death
B
y
N o a h
H.
R o s e n b l o o m
I
n
the galaxy of eminent scholars, theologians, and interpreters
of Judaism who emerged from the intellectual ferment of
the nineteenth century, Samuel David Luzzatto still occupies a
position of distinction. Though time has dimmed the brilliance
of many of his distinguished contemporaries, the literary legacy
with which he had enriched Hebrew literature, scholarship, and
thought continues to interest the student of Judaism. Luzzatto’s
versatility and prolificacy were extraordinary. Proficient in
several languages, he wrote on a variety of subjects: biblical
exegesis, studies in Jewish history, Hebrew philology, essays in
philosophy and ethics. He also wrote poetry, translated the
Pentateuch into Italian and left several significant volumes of
letters. Many of his views appear now antiquated and some of
his theories unfounded. Notwithstanding this natural process of
intellectual corrosion, a goodly portion still commands our
respect and consideration.
Luzzatto was born in 1800 in Trieste. Formally this year
marked the termination of the Age of Reason and the com­
mencement of the Age of Romanticism. These two ages, though
chronologically consecutive, were intellectually antithetical. The
new age constituted a revolt against the philosophy of ration­
alism which rested firmly on Newtonian science and Lockean
psychology. The emergence of new socio-economic factors and
the recrudescence of heretofore dormant anti-rational forces
radically transformed the intellectual climate of the era. Reason
so eloquently extolled in the eighteenth century became ancil­
lary to emotion and the sentiments of the heart became more
important than the speculations of the mind.
A Tenuous Equilibrium
Born in the twilight year between these two eras, Luzzatto
inherited certain elements from both. He was endowed with a
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