Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rav Hirsch Challenges the Rambam

"This great man [viz. Rambam], to whom and to whom alone we owe the preservation of  practical Judaism to our time, is responsible-because he sought to reconcile Judaism with the difficulties which confronted it from without, instead of developing it creatively from within -for all the good and the evil which bless and afflict the heritage of the fathers. His peculiar mental tendency was Arabic-Greek, and his conception of the purpose of life the same. He entered into Judaism from without, bringing with him opinions of whose truth he had convinced himself from extraneous sources and - he reconciled. For him, too, self-perfection through the knowledge of truth was the highest aim; the practical he deemed subordinate. For him knowledge of God was the end, not the means; hence he devoted his intellectual powers to speculations upon the essence of Deity, and sought to bind Judaism to the results of his speculative investigations as to postulates of science or faith. The mitzvot became for him merely ladders, necessary only to conduct to knowledge or to protect against error, the latter often only the temporary and limited error of polytheism. Mishpatim became only rules of  prudence, mitzvot as well; Chukkim rules of health, teaching right feeling, defending against the transitory errors of the time;  Edot ordinances, designed to promote philosophical or other concepts; all this having no foundation in the eternal essence of things, not resulting from their eternal demand on me, or from my eternal purpose and task, no eternal symbolizing of an unchangeable idea, and not inclusive enough to form a basis for the totality of the commandments."

19 Letters, letter 18

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