Page 74 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

Basic HTML Version

e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
In the field of Biblical exegesis, however, his ratio-romantic
polarity effected a dualism in approach. His attitude to the Bible
is therefore a two-dimensional one, that of faith and of reason.
The former he applied to the Pentateuch, insisting on its Mosaic
authorship, historic authenticity, and textual purity. The latter
he applied to the books of the Prophets and the Hagiographa,
whose text he audaciously ventured to emend and whose origin
he dared to postdate. He also regarded the Masoretic system of
vocalization and accentuation as of a late period and therefore
unauthoritative. This seeming incongruity in Luzzatto’s ap­
proach to the Bible is only explicable in the light of the intel­
lectual equilibrium he endeavored to maintain in a matter so
sacred and important as the Bible. It resulted, therefore, in a
fundamentalist approach to the Pentateuch and to a critical
attitude to the other Bible books.
An Agonizing Reappraisal
The polarity of reason and romanticism became markedly
pronounced in Luzzatto’s philosophic writings. Though Luzzatto
was already familiar in his early youth with some of the works
of Locke, Montesquieu, Condillac, and Mendelssohn, philosophy
occupied neither an exclusive nor central place during this
period. Indeed, at the age of eighteen he began to write a treatise
dealing with the philosophy of Judaism but did not complete
it. It is difficult to ascertain whether this was due to his variegated
interests, to the magnitude of the project, or to the inherent
polarity which tore him asunder intellectually. However, he
returned to the study of philosophy a decade later when ap­
pointed professor of the newly opened
Collegio Rabbinico
Padua, a theological seminary for the training of rabbis required
by the government to demonstrate knowledge in philosophy
and competence in religion. Religious philosophy and ethics
were included among the subjects Luzzatto taught.
Cognizant of the extensive philosophic background of his
students, Luzzatto set out to review the various philosophic
systems beginning with the ancient Greeks up to his own time.
He attempted to evolve a philosophic outlook compatible with
the teachings of traditional Judaism. His views he embodied in
Lezione di Teologia Morale Israelitica; Discorsi Morali agli
Studenti Israeliti; Yesodei Hatorah
and in some essays which
were included in the collections
Mechk’rei Hayehadut
P’ninei Shadal.
The tenuous equilibrium Luzzatto had maintained in the
far-flung areas of his academic interests became even more pre­
carious in the domain of religion and philosophy. Though the