Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and Nineteenth-Century German Orthodoxy on Judaism's Attitude toward Non-Jews
Miller, Moshe Y.
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The project of granting emancipation to the Jews of Central and Western Europe beginning in the late eighteenth century was predicated on a demonstration on their part of their worthiness of being granted citizenship. Therefore, charges concerning the alleged tribalism of Judaism's ethic or its supposed hatred of Christianity had to be disproven. Leading ideologues of German Reform Judaism accepted elements of this critique as valid but argued that their modernized version of Judaism transcended the narrow approach of the past. Orthodox leaders, on the other hand, aimed to demonstrate that a proper understanding of historic Judaism reveals a genuinely universalistic ethic involving a Jewish mission to facilitate the spiritual regeneration of mankind. Further, Jews are expected to treat non-Jews, in the ethical realm, no differently from the way they treat Jews. By affirming these ideas, the leaders of Orthodox Judaism in Germany hoped to demonstrate that Orthodox Jews were no less worthy of emancipation than their liberal co- religionists.;One figure who stands out in this context is Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888). As the leading spokesperson for Orthodox Judaism for much of the nineteenth century, Hirsch made a point of responding to charges of Judaism's alleged particularism made by leading German thinkers, including some, like Hegel and Schleiermacher, who supported Jewish emancipation and opposed practical manifestations of antisemitism. Hirsch internalized the universalistic values he preached and did not see them as a departure from Jewish tradition. In point of fact, that tradition was not monolithic regarding both the worth of non-Jews and the legitimacy of Christianity. Hirsch and his colleagues in the German Orthodox rabbinate drew upon the liberal precedents within traditional Jewish literature when formulating their own views.;This paper analyzes the assertions made by non-Jewish intellectuals concerning Judaism and the responses found in the primary texts of German Orthodoxy. In so doing, it calls into question the claim that Hirsch was a nineteenth-century Maskil, whose worldview was influenced more by the European Enlightenment than by rabbinic Judaism, and instead places his views concerning non-Jews in the context of the emancipation struggle and post-Enlightenment German intellectual history.