Judaism Eternal: Selected Essays from the Writings of Samson Raphael Hirsch - Vol. 1

By I. Grunfeld; Samson Raphael Hirsch | Go to book overview

PREFACE

IT is now sixty-seven years since Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the great Frankfurt Rabbi, founder, inspirer and organiser of Western Jewish Orthodoxy in the post-emancipation era, passed into eternity. Few of his pupils are still alive, and even the third generation of those taking over his great inheritance is slowly moving towards its close.

The influence of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch's conception of Torah-Judaism is bound to increase in the modern world. As in his own day, so are we witnessing once more a deep crisis in the development of Western Civilisation and its transition into a new era. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, by virtue of his passionate conviction of the eternal newness of the Torah and its applicability to any situation which might arise has shown that historic Judaism need not fear the rise of new civilisations nor the transplanting of Jews to new environments. The task of the Jew, he held, was not to level down the Torah to the changing spirit of the times, but to lift up the manifestations of a given civilisation to the ideals of the Torah.

The fact that we are again living in a period of transition and supreme crisis, when a deliberate challenge is being flung down to our present-day civilisation, gives the religious philosophy of Samson Raphael Hirsch an added significance for our own time.

In 1890, two years after the death of Hirsch, a well-known Anglo-Jewish writer wrote about him in the Jewish Quarterly Review: "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; in this case certainly to the human mind within the narrower circle of Judaism. . . . 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".

In spite of the fact that this view of the greatness of Samson Raphael Hirsch and of the need for the translation of his works

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