Approbations

It is known among the tribes of Israel what has been achieved by that righteous man, the pious gaon Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, of blessed memory, late head of the beth din of the holy congregation of Frankfurt am Main, who dedicated his strength and energy to Israel and its Torah, in order to restore the crown of the Law to its ancient glory and to lead the hearts of tens of thousands of [the people of] Israel back to our Father in Heaven. This is the man who, until his extreme old age, devoted his whole life to [the task of] winning souls for the Torah and the Testimony, to support and uphold it, with his activities--"the labors of the righteous are life-giving" [Proverbs 10:16]--as well as with his wonderful, renowned books that are irradiated by the light of the Torah and the lamp of the commandments .... 

However, the light stored up in his books was hidden from those tens of thousands in Israel who do not know the German language .... Now ... I will offer my approbation and my blessing to my friend, the worthy R. Moses Zalman Aronsohn ... for the great and splendid work which he has now undertaken, namely, to translate from the German language into our sacred tongue . . . the great and wonderful Commentary on the Torah by the gaon Rabbi Samson [Raphael] Hirsch, of blessed memory. 


This is the precious and much praised commentary which is indeed a crown of glory, "the beauty of Israel" [II Samuel 1:19]. It is a most honored work, done for the sake of heaven, a lovely, choice treasure to exalt the Holy Torah, to give strength and honor to the religious heritage of the community of Jacob. The many original interpretations introduced by this gaon and sage, who was great in knowledge and who conveyed understanding in a manner that is lucid and in conformity with reason, are invaluable. Of equally matchless value is his demonstration of the complete unity of the Written Torah and the Oral Law, which he accomplished in a truly magnificent manner. ... 


How deep are his thoughts, which reveal the wonders and the wisdom concealed in the Torah of the Lord! He removes all the alien and doubtful ideas raised by would-be scholars from generation to generation, and demonstrates that the Torah of the Lord is perfect, the word of God stands forever, and that the light of the Written Torah and the Oral Law will live for all time. 


Kovno, Monday, the third day of the month of Marheshvan, 5656 (1895) 


(signed) ISAAC ELCHANAN, residing in this holy community 


[Approbation by R' Yitzchok Elchanan Spektor, (1817-96) to the Hebrew Translation of the Hirsch Commentary on Chumash that was started by R' Moshe Aronshon of Kovno in the 19th century, from The Pentateuch, Terumath Tzvi, Judaica Press]

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"The Nineteen Letters [is] a precious and marvelous work on the Jewish faith ... With this distinguished work he achieved great things; he reestablished the glory of our faith in the kehillos in Germany and taught understanding to the confused ... All his words are drawn from holy sources and sevenfold purified in the crucible of true insight and straight thinking ... .I am very pleased that this work has now been translated into our holy tongue .... and I pray to God that.. .just as this work had a great impact upon our brethren in Germany, so may its effect and splendor multiply among the Jews in our country ....I hope that many of our brethren will bring this precious book into their homes for a blessing, for the strengthening of the faith, for our sacred Torah, and the knowledge of Judaism in its holy purity." 

[Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor, 1896]

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I have discussed matters of religious law with [Hirsch] on many occasions, and in whatever I discussed with him he showed that he was thoroughly at home in the Talmud and in the Codes....We Hungarian rabbis are lucky that he thinks we are greater lamdanim than he. If he knew however, what a great lamdan he himself is, we would have no menucha from him.

[Kasav Sofer] Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, (German: Abraham Samuel Benjamin Schreiber), also known by his main work Ksav Sofer or Ketav Sofer (trans. Writ of the Scribe), (1815–1871), was one of the leading rabbis of Hungarian Jewry in the second half of the nineteenth century and rosh yeshiva of the famed Pressburg Yeshiva. His official German name was Samuel Wolf Schreiber. (wiki)

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Under the conditions of our time, where many stray from the way of Torah and faith, with some of them unwittingly, from lack of knowledge, drawn after wrong ideas and meaningless beliefs, these erring people should hear the words of the gaon and thinker [Rabbi S. R. Hirsch] who knew the sicknesses of the people of his time and devoted himself to curing them; he knew how to draw pure water, healing waters, to give to the sick of soul. It is therefore very important to spread these precious works in our country too .... 

[Rabbi Chayim Ozer Grodzensky, 1913]from The Nineteen Letters, Feldheim, 1995

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Most interesting is the response of R. Avrohom Mordechai Alter, the Gerrer rebbe. The rebbe did not reply at first to R' Schwab's question, but R. Schwab had the opportunity to meet him personally and asked him the question directly. The rebbe then responded by saying:כֹּל אֲשֶׁר תֹּאמַר אֵלֶיךָ שָׂרָה שְׁמַע בְּקֹלָהּ R Schwab was understandably perplexed by the rebbe's response until the gabbi clarified matters for him by pointing out that שָׂרָה is an acronym for Shamshon Raphael Hirsch.

[Rav Breuer, His Life and Legacy, Kranzler & Landesman, p. 185, footnote 12.]

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There is no doubt that the sage and saint Rabbi S. R. Hirsch, of blessed memory ... did a great thing in founding the admirable and outstanding Religionsgesellschaft which became an exemplary Jewish community. Had the God-fearing not separated themselves by means of a separate kehillah, due to their minority status they would have become submerged within the general community [a development] which did not occur when they separated and developed on their own. Then even the general community was forced to improve itself and to conduct the general institutions in a sacred manner.

Ahi'ezer. Kovetz lggeros 1:243 Rabbi Hayyim Ozer Grodzinski in Judith Bleich, “Rabbinic Responses to Nonobservance in the Modern Era,” In J. J. Schacter (Ed.), Jewish tradition and the nontraditional Jew (pp. 37-115), Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc. (1992), p. 89

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Even the well-disposed of our historians who wish to strive after objective truth have not yet achieved an adequate appreciation of the historic greatness of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Even they talk of him as of a great orator and preacher, who, with the power of his tongue ignited a spark of faith in the hearts of his hearers. It was this force of the spoken word, so they claim, which compelled the simple German Jews to return to a life of traditional observance from which they and their fathers had strayed either in search of material luxury or through a lack of mental stamina. They agree that the establishment of the Adath Jeshurun in Frankfurt--the wonderful edifice which was built in the midst of wholesale abandonment of all defining characteristics of Jewish life--was the first nucleus of the spiritual revival which spread throughout the West. It was this which cleared the way for the movement of "Teshuva" amongst other communities in Germany and elsewhere; and the brilliant achievement of Hirsch served as a model for other great communities in Western Europe and America to establish well-regulated educational institutions in the true spirit of ancient Jewish tradition.

But this description does not do full justice, and may mislead those who have not become acquainted with the great teacher through his important writings. The mere fact that he was the first after an interval of many generations to compose a complete philosophic work on the Jewish faith, to shed new light on the reasons for the Mitzvot in the Torah, the first after a long interval to write a complete commentary on the whole of Torah and Psalms, a commentary which, besides explaining the text, is full of brilliantly original thoughts; the first in modern times to attempt a synthesis between true religion and the best of modern thought and philosophy--is in itself enough to put him in the front rank of Gedolei Yisroel who have arisen in the European Diaspora.

But even this does not paint the whole picture of his spiritual image. He was the initiator of a religious revival which penetrated to the back-bone of German Jewry and spread beyond her borders even into the large population centres of Eastern Europe, and even into the Courts of the Chassidic Rabbis.  

["The Great Teacher," R. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, The Living Hirschian Legacy, pp. 112-3]

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"In reality the success of Chinuch in United States is the active realization of TIDE. As I heard from R' Yaakov Kamenetzky ztz"l, who responded to an inquiry as to how R'SRH should be titled ,and R' Yaakov said the R'SRH should be called Rosh B'nei Hagolah, for even though in his life time his influence was limited primarily to Germany, 'Adank R'SRH there is Yisddishkeit today. '" [Reb Yaakov Kamenetzky cited in a blog comment]

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Even after the Herculean efforts of Rabbi S. R. Hirsch, whose influence caused a tremendous improvement, Rabbi Isaac Halevi (author of Doros Rishonim) wrote in 1901: "In Germany, the Neologues [the reform and semi-Reform] are by far the majority, and they have gone so far that there is no longer any hope of retrieving them." 

[R' Avigdor Miller, A Divine Madness, pp. 77-8. Rabbi Miller was discussing the falling away from Torah observance in 19th century Europe]

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In the last century there was Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch [1808-1888] in Germany. He was unique in both his intellectual ability and his emotional sensibility. He had an aesthetic appreciation and understanding of life. He struggled with the same problem we have today in the United States: how to preserve Torah Judaism in a secular environment. Rabbi Hirsch accomplished great things in Germany.

[R' Joseph Soloveitchik, "The Rav," p. 227.]





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