Samson Raphael Hirsch

Samson Raphael
Hirsch
1808
1888

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

Author Quotes

Our Sages say G-d imposed three vows when he sent Israel into the wilderness: (1) that the children of Israel shall never seek to reestablish their nation by themselves; (2) that they never be disloyal to the nations which have given them shelter; (3) that these nations shall not oppress them excessively (Kesubos 111a). The purpose of our exile, in addition to that of punishment, is to test us. Nachmanides (1194-1278) writes that the ultimate redemption depends on the Jewish people remaining faithful and preserving their identity in all the lands of their exile. This is a difficult task. The forces of persecution and the enticements of assimilation have often proved all too powerful. Yet, despite all, a remnant of Jewry has always remained faithful and continues so, praise be to G-d, until this very day. Thus, Jews are enjoined to perform a most precarious balancing act. On the one hand there is the obligation to act in an honest, empathetic, loyal and patriotic manner towards the nation in which they dwell. This obligation extends to Jewish relations with all peoples living within the nation. On the other hand, there is a need for spiritual and to some extent social isolation in order to practice the Torah and preserve Jewish survival. Inclining too far to either side of this dichotomy can result in much evil and confusion. In the proper balance, though, lies the fulfillment of Jewish destiny. And, combined with the yearning for the Messiah, it is the only recipe for the world's salvation.

Our Sages were enemies of ignorance. They regarded education, intellectual enlightenment, and the acquisition of knowledge as the first of all moral commandments. They viewed the dissemination of intellectual enlightenment among all classes of the population as the prime concern of the nation, and the training of a child's mind as the first and most sacred duty of fatherhood. They considered it a matter of conscience for every Jewish father to see that his child should not remain a boor and am ha'arets; no Jewish child must be allowed to grow up as an ignorant, uneducated person.

Perhaps the day will come when all the things bestowed upon mankind for its benefit and liberation will become corrupted into their very antithesis. Mankind, instead of assuring its members their legitimate rights of development ... will serve them the tear-drenched bread of slaves and the worm-wood of bitterness.... At such time, science, too, will become solely destructive ... will frantically blind itself with its own brightness ....Mankind will vainly exhaust its strength in a blind upsurge of uncurbed desires.

The goal of study has not been practical life, to understand the world and our duty in it.

The Importance of a Smile: A smile costs nothing, but gives much. It enriches those who receive, without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None is so rich or mighty that he can get along without it, and none is so poor but that he can be made rich by it. A smile creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in business, and is the countersign of friendship. It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and is nature's best antidote for trouble. Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away. Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give.

The more the Jew is a Jew, the more universalist will be his views and aspirations, the less alien will he be to anything that is noble and good, true and upright in the arts and sciences, in civilization and culture… The more the Jew is a Jew, the more gladly will he give himself to all that is true progress in civilization and culture – provided that in this new circumstance he will not only maintain his Judaism, but will be able to bring it to ever more glorious fulfillment.

The more the Jew is a Jew, the more universalist will his views and aspirations be, the less aloof will he be from anything that is noble and good, true and upright, in art or science, in culture or education; the more joyfully will he applaud whenever he sees truth and justice and peace and the ennoblement of man prevail and become dominant in human society.

The prophet of the new message came into their midst with the cry of "religion allied to progress"; he filled the blank, pacified their conscience and wiped out their shame. With this magic word he turned irreligion into Godliness, apostasy into priesthood, sin into merit, frivolity into virtue, weakness into strength, thoughtlessness into profundity.

[The people of] Israel must never again attempt to restore its national independence by its own power; it was to entrust its future as a nation solely to Divine Providence.

This will never change, not even if the latest scientific notion that the genesis of all the multitude of organic forms on earth can be traced back to one single, most primitive, primeval form of life should ever appear to be anything more than what it is today, a vague hypothesis still unsupported by fact. Even if this notion were ever to gain complete acceptance by the scientific world, Jewish thought, unlike the reasoning of the high priest of that nation, would nonetheless never summon us to revere a still extant representative of this primal form [an ape] as the supposed ancestor of us all. Rather, Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus, and one single law of “adaptation and heredity” in order to bring forth, from what seemed chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today, each with its unique characteristics that sets it apart from all other creatures.

Any supporter of education and culture should deplore the fact that when these secular studies are evaluated in terms of their usefulness to the young, too much stress is often placed on so-called practical utility and necessity. Under such circumstances, the young are in danger of losing the pure joy of acquiring knowledge for its own sake, so that they will no longer take pleasure in the moral and spiritual benefits to be obtained from study.

To reestablish peace and harmony on earth... and to bring the glory of God back to earth, is proclaimed on every page of the Word of God as the result and aim of Torah.

Anyone who emerges in the midst of mankind as a herald who knows how to employ the gift of poetry to inspire the human mind with enthusiasm for all that is pure and true and godly, anyone who knows how to make man proud to be human and to enable him to recognize his God in every breath of his existence, anyone who can snatch man from the dust to have him stand upright in all his dignity and nobility, is, in the view of Judaism, a messenger of God on earth.

We forget that by hurrying to impose the yoke of the materialistic, or, as we like to put it euphemistically, the practical aims of life upon the dawn and springtime of childhood and early youth, we only deprive our children prematurely of the bloom of flowering youth and nip our children's spiritual yearnings in the bud. Instead of encouraging our children to get wisdom for its own sake, we raise them to become only clever and shrewd, judging everything in the light of self-interest and respecting only those intellectual and spiritual pursuits that are likely to yield the highest dividends in terms of material gain. A generation raised on such a philosophy of life will never be able to experience that true joy of learning, which regards knowledge itself as the supreme reward.

However important it is that love shall precede marriage, it is far more important that it shall continue after marriage.

We mourn over the sin which brought about that downfall (the Temple destruction -- author), we take to heart the harshness which we have encountered in our years of wandering as the chastisement of a father, imposed on us for our improvement, and we mourn the lack of observance of the Torah which that ruin has brought about. Not in order to shine as a nation among nations do we raise our prayers and hopes for a reunion in our land, but in order to find a soil for the better fulfillment of our spiritual vocation in that reunion and in that land which was promised, and given, and again promised for our observance of the Torah. But this very vocation obliges us, until G-d shall call us back to the Holy Land, to live and to work as patriots wherever He has placed us, to collect all the physical, material and spiritual forces and all that is noble in Israel to further the weal of the nations which have given us shelter. It obliges us, further, to allow our longing for the far-off land to express itself only in mourning, in wishing and hoping; and only through the honest fulfillment of all Jewish duties to await the realization of this hope. But it forbids us to strive for the reunion or possession of the land by any but spiritual means.

If someone is too tired to give you a smile, leave one of your own, because no one needs a smile as much as those who have none to give.

Money must be viewed as a means, not an ends. It may make many of life's pleasures attainable, but it is useful only within its proper context. If one makes money his life's goal in and of itself, rather than serving as a means towards other joys, it will likely replace them. [paraphrase]

Man was created to learn wisdom.

Merely to seek greater ease and comfort... through the destruction of the eternal code set up for all ages by the God of Eternity, is not and never can be Reform. Judaism seeks to lift us to its height, how dare we attempt to drag it down to our level?

Our children should be fitted for bread-winning, but they should be taught that bread-winning is only a means, not the purpose in life, and that the value of life is to be judged... by the good and the service to God with which it is filled.

Judaism makes man find God where he finds himself.

The Greeks stressed the holiness of beauty; the Jews emphasized the beauty of holiness.

A Whole combination of knowledge, insight, abilities and skills as well as moral virtue and spiritual excellence, make up the art of the wifely home-builder.

In general, one cannot judge the true extent of a person’s fortune by outward appearances. The little a righteous man has may be far better than the noisy abundance in which many lawless delight. The modest possessions of a righteous man make him much happier than the great fortunes of many evildoers about which so much ado is made in the world.

Author Picture
First Name
Samson Raphael
Last Name
Hirsch
Birth Date
1808
Death Date
1888
Bio

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