Friday, May 28, 2010

Samson Raphael Hirsch and Our Times

I am linking a rather lengthly article here, which appeared in 1936 in the monthly journal “Nachlath Z’vi”, which was published by the “Rabbiner Hirsch Gesellschaft” in Frankfurt, Germany. In 1960 it was translated into English and printed in a small, private publication “Forum” in New York. The reader will find this article quite as timely now as it was when first published.

The author, Dr. Maximillian Landau, came from Eastern Europe to Frankfurt-on-the-Main to study at the Samson Raphael Hirsch School and later at the Yeshiva there. Subsequently he completed his Jewish studies at the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin, and graduated from Berlin University, where he eventually became Professor of Literature. After Hitler’s rise to power he emigrated to Israel. Unfortunately he died in a tragic accident late in 1959.

As I stated previously, the article is too lengthly to post in its entirety on this blog, but I will print the first two paragraphs here and you can click on the link above to continue. Those interested in the topic will find it well worth it:

"The stature of Samson Raphael Hirsch has recently become the object of quite lively debate. His spiritual work and its historical significance are being examined critically from various points of view and the former consensus of opinion regarding the merit of his accomplishment has lately been replaced increasingly by attempts to question its meaning for our time or to limit severely the scope of its application in the present day. This critical attitude toward Samson Raphael Hirsch in many Orthodox circles today deserves careful and close scrutiny for it points to an important change in the mentality of German Orthodoxy and requires a basic reexamination of our own attitude to Hirsch.

The reservations regarding Samson Raphael Hirsch’s ideas have been made by various groups and for many different reasons. Yet, they all agree in one respect. They consider a great many of his basic teachings as having been applicable only to circumstances in that particular era in which he lived, and consequently they no longer fully recognize the validity of his precepts for our own day. In fact, even the defenders of Hirsch, when seeking to counter these arguments, sometimes find it expedient to sacrifice some of his theses which appear to them of secondary importance, in order to be in a better position to stress all the more the timeless value of the rest. ..."


Baked Lecho Dodi said...

Yekkes are always whining about this issue. While they have a legitimate gripe about the way Rav Hirsch is being remembered, there are far more pressing issues for all of kllal yisroel. Rav Hirsch would be on top of them.

efrex said...


1) What could be more pressing than defining and defending one's religious/moral worldview?

2) R' Landau's essay is not just of interest to yekkes. Professor Marc Shapiro published another translation of it in a Torah Umaddah Journal article.

There seems to be some dispute about R' Landau's fate. According to Shapiro, he was died during the Holocaust (the article linked has him as being one of Hitler's victims, but I believe that, in the published version of his biography of R' Yechiel Yakov Weinberg, Shapiro records him being killed in a car accident in Germany).

Now, if only someone would translate some of the followup articles from Moreinu Jacob Rosenheim* and R' Weinberg (see note 12 in the Shapiro article)...

* 5 points to anyone who knows why I use that title

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that some charedim are trying to highjack Rav Hirsch's hashkafos and present Torah im Derech Eretz as a "horaas sha'ah".

efrex said...

HF: As the article shows, this is far from a new phenomenon, and is one that gets refuted in each and every generation.

Yekkishe Bekishe said...

What's even worse is that they are trying to equate Torah Umada - which puts Torah & secular knowledge on an equal footing, with Torah Im Derech Eretz - which doesn't.

Yehudah said...

Yekkishe Bekishe:

Says who that Torah Umada places Torah and secular knowledge on equal footing?

Who defines Torah Umada? Rabbi Bernard Revel who founded YU? Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik, YU's most famous face? Richard Joel, YU's current president?

Stop trying to create artifical walls between TIDE and Torah Umada. TIDE is well defined. Torah Umada is not. It is a general concept that has been defined by different people differently. Just read YU's student newspaper. Every year, you can find artciles by students debating what they think Torah Umada means.

YDL said...