Samson Raphael Hirsch

Samson Raphael

German Rabbi, Biblical Scholar and Writer, Intellectual Founder of the Torah Im Derech Eretz School of Contemporary Orthodox Judaism

Author Quotes

You wrote that the Torah isolates us. True! If it did not, Israel would long since have lost its identity. Look what struggles are required to preserve the purity of Yisrael's spirit within our people despite this isolation! But does this spell enmity? Or pride? As if God were not the Lord of all creatures, all men? An unfortunate misinterpretation indeed! After all, Yisrael has no other task than to acknowledge as its God the One Who calls and educates all human beings to His service, and to make Him known as such through its destiny and way of life!

We have a duty to inform [our pupils] of this [view], lest they come to think that it is part of Jewish doctrine to believe literally every exaggerated statement found in the aggadic literature and that whoever does not believe this is a heretic, God forbid.

Yeah, ?Do not destroy anything? is the first and most general call of God. If you should now raise your hand to play a childish game, to indulge in a senseless rage, wishing to destroy that which you should only use, wishing to exterminate that which you should only exploit, if you should regard the beings beneath you as objects without rights, not perceiving God who created them, and therefore desire that they feel the might of your presumptuous mood, instead of using them only as a means of wise human activity ? then God?s call proclaims to you, ?Do not destroy anything! Be a mentsch

Yisrael was given the Torah in the wilderness, and there - without a country and land of its own - it became a nation, a body whose soul was Torah. Thereby it came to be a mamleches kohanim, a ''kingdom of priests,'' a nation serving as the guardian of God's Word in the midst of humanity, as a priest serves amidst his people. At the same time, by fulfilling God's Word, it was to become a goy kadosh, a "holy nation,'' standing apart in holiness... Torah, the fulfillment of the Divine Will, constitutes the foundation, basis and goal of this people. Its nationhood is, therefore, not tied to transitory things or dependent on anything of a passing nature; it is as eternal and everlasting as spirit and soul and the Word of the Eternal. However, this people was to enter history as a nation in the midst of other nations in order to become a social model of the Torah's teachings. Therefore, a land, prosperity and institutions of statehood were to be put at Yisrael's disposal not as goals in themselves, but as means for the fulfillment of Torah.

Was Judaism ever 'in accordance with the times?' Did Judaism ever correspond with the views of dominant contemporaries? Was it ever convenient to be a Jew or a Jewess??Was that Judaism in accordance with the times, for which, during the centuries following the Dispersion, our fathers suffered in all lands, through all the various periods, the most degrading oppression, the most biting contempt, and a thousand-fold death and persecution? And yet we would make it the aim and scope of Judaism to be always 'in accordance with the times!

There is but one road that leads to salvation; amends must be made precisely where the wrong was done. We must forget the views and prejudices that we inherited about Judaism and, instead, turn to the sources of Judaism, the Tanach (scriptures), the Talmud and the Midrash. We must read, study and comprehend them in order to live by them and to draw from them Judaism's views about God, the world, mankind and Yisrael. Thus Judaism must be studied and understood out of itself and be elevated, all by itself, to a science of wise living.

One of the horrible ironies of the 20th century is that in precisely those two states tried the hardest to be patriots, Germany and Italy, evil and maniacal persecution by Gentiles.

Only a determined enemy of truth would deny that the Jews have on the whole conscientiously and gladly carry out the duties and obligations imposed on them by the Talmud of loyalty and obedience authorities and the fair dealing brotherly love towards all.

The mere sight of the starry sky serves to proclaim the majesty of G-d?s creation: the heavenly realm, governed by unchangeable, mysterious laws, reveals G-d as the Almighty Lawgiver. What be the sense of living if man were not similarly to conceive of his life as a service toward the realization of the Divine Will? How great is man as he recognizes his vocation calling upon him to dedicate himself to G-d?s will in freedom and to prepare, with his own life, for the kingdom of G-d on earth? God counts on ?the children and infants: to mature towards this one, great goal in life. This, in turn, entails deeply significant responsibilities in the education of our children.

If your left hands wounds the right hand, shall the right hand out of revenge wound the left hand?... Are we not all members of one entity? limbs of one body?

If, however, in the midst of the world worships wealth and lust, Israel were to lead a tranquil life of righteousness and love; if, while everywhere else the generation of man is sinking into the depth of sensuality and immorality, Israel?s sons and daughters splendor of youth, purity and innocence,, what a powerful instrument good Israel could be! If every Jew would be a uniquely eloquent example and teacher of universal righteousness and universal love; thus the dispersed of Israel or to show themselves everywhere on earth as the glorious priests of God and pure humanity; if only we were, or would become that which we should be, if only our lives were a perfect reflection of our law- what a mighty force we would constitute steering mankind to the final goal of all human education! This would affect mankind more quietly, but much more forcefully and profoundly than ever our tragic record of suffering.

It became essential that the Jewish people be reminded for all times of an important fact; namely, that they must never again attempt to restore their national independence by their own power; they were to entrust their future as a nation solely to Divine Providence.

It follows that this task of self-control is an obvious one; and yet it is rated at being so difficult that a person who succeeds in it deserves far more praise and fame than the conquering hero of a city.

My mind is too small to recognize the good and truth that will result, according to you, from your efforts in colonizing Eretz Yisroel. What you consider a mitzvah and a great obligation, does not seem so in my humble opinion. I have no knowledge of secret matters, and I see nothing better than to continue on the road paved by our fathers and predecessors, who made it their goal only to improve our Torah observance, and to look forward to the redemption, which might come any day, if we only listen to G-d's voice. They never approached redemption through the improvement of the Holy Land, only through the improvement of our hearts and deeds.

Heathens and idolaters how much more so with non-Jews the God of the Bible, creator of heaven and earth, keep all the Cardinal Commandments? The Talmud then in regard of the duties man and man on exactly the same level as Jews they have a claim to benefit all of the duties not only of justice also an active human brotherly love.

If in recent centuries German Jews remained more or less aloof from European civilization the fault lay not in their religion but in the tyranny which confined them by force within the walls of their ghettoes and denied them intercourse with the outside world? religion is truly present, it will find expression, especially in the sunshine of freedom.

Everything bestowed upon you - mind, body, fellowman, material goods, other creatures, every talent and every power - all are merely means to action, to further and to safeguard everything. With love and with justice! The earth was not created as a gift to you - you have been given to the earth, to treat it with respectful consideration, as God's earth, and everything on it as God's creation, as your fellow creature, to be respected, loved and helped to attain its purpose according to God's Will.

God demands that every Jew find his own well-being only and that of the country? In whichever land Jews shall live as citizens? They shall honor and love the princes and government as their own? Tribute with every possible power to their good? It is a duty imposed by God and no less only than all the others, in whatever land they shall dwell in, not only to fulfill all the duties which the laws of that land explicitly laid down, over and above that, do with thoughts, and deed everything that can contribute to the weal of the nation? To give honestly enjoy sleep all that the community demands the common good from the individual in the way of treasure, energy and wisdom; and to sacrifice even life itself the Fatherland calls and sons to its events. This outward obedience to the laws must be joined by the inner obedience: i.e., To be loyal to state the heart and mind, loyal to the Kings, to guard the honor of the state with love and pride, to strive with enthusiasm wherever and whenever you can so that the nations institution shall prosper, so that every all your country has set as its national goal shall be achieved and furthered.

Aggadic statements do not have Sinaitic origin, they reflect the independent views of individual Sages? it is not mandatory for a Jew? to accept them.

Enlightenment and? moral civilization, are intended to be the heritage of all to whom God has given breath on earth. It is the seedling of this heritage that God has planted into the hearts of mortals, and the purpose of Judaism is to be the sunshine that will cause these seedlings to ripen.

Every breath drawn by an individual who truly serves God will elicit a responsive chord from the universe around him.

A truth, in order to produce results, must be impressed upon the mind and heart repeatedly and emphatically. Merely to acknowledge the essential principles of righteousness and love, is not sufficient to actually build up such a life ... In addition thereto, symbolic words and actions are necessary so that they may become indelibly stamped upon the soul, and thus preserved for yourself and for others.

A life of seclusion, devoted only to meditation and prayer, is not Judaism.

Nothing is more clever, nothing can deny better or is more all-knowing than ignorance.

Our sacred literature does not use obscure language, but describes most things in words clearly indicating their meaning. Therefore it is necessary at all times to delve into the literal meaning of words to achieve complete understanding of what is actually meant.

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Samson Raphael
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German Rabbi, Biblical Scholar and Writer, Intellectual Founder of the Torah Im Derech Eretz School of Contemporary Orthodox Judaism