Page 211 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

Basic HTML Version

LIBERLES / SAMSON RAPHAEL HIRSCH
2 0 3
I I I . H IR S C H ’S W R IT IN G S
Hirsch’s prolific writings can be divided into three main di­
visions, which approximate three different chronological stages
in his career.
The Nineteen Letters
and
Horeb
were written by
a man still under the age o f thirty. They reflect Hirsch’s com­
mitment to describe Judaism using language, terminology, and
an essay format that was meant to attract those Jews wavering
in their religious observance. In these essays, Hirsch sought to
provide a philosophical description o f Jewish ritual and a pres­
entation o f Judaism as a worldly religion fully capable o f re­
sponding to the heavy demands o f nineteenth century society.
During this period Hirsch’s objective was to reach out to the
Reformers in the hope o f convincing them to return to tradi­
tional observance, but the Reformers, o f course, had a mind
o f their own. Despite the personal relationships that existed dur­
ing the 1830’s, one must be precise in describing the religious
situation at this time as being fluid. The ideological positions
o f thinkers like Geiger and Hirsch were already relatively fixed,
but the social movements representing these positions had not
yet amalgamated and communication between the adherents
o f different positions was still possible, albeit difficult at times.
The relationship between Geiger and Hirsch did not break
down specifically over the appearance o f
The Nineteen Letters
,
for Geiger’s initial response to the book was in fact rather warm.
Yet Geiger’s call that the debate should begin hints at the more
fundamental causes for the break — the lines separating their
respective positions were being formed and transposed into the
more rigid separation o f religious movements. Hirsch’s literary
output during the following years, including the sequel o f Ben
Uziel’s correspondence, focused on polemics with his Reform
opponents.
Hirsch’s next literary phase began a few years after his move
to Frankfurt in 1851. Beginning in 1854, Hirsch published a
family journal known as
Jeschurun.
Jewish journalism had by
that time gained several decades o f experience, but
Jeschurun
appeared on the scene at a time when ostensibly the Jewish
press was floundering. The politically active years o f the 1830’s
and 40’s had given rise to a politically oriented press which
had declined subsequent to the collapse o f the revolutionary
movements o f 1848. In contrast, Hirsch’s
Jeschurun
was primar­