Sunday, August 30, 2015

Guest Post: My Connection to and Understanding of Torah im Derech Eretz by Boruch Miller

My connection to Torah im Derech Eretz began long before I knew to give the philosophy a name, and has remained a central part of my outlook. As a child raised in a family that deeply connected to its Central and Western European origins, I grew up with a strong sense of tradition, manners, etiquette, and decorum. My parents, who believe very much that the task of a parent is to cultivate their children, both taught me the stories of the Patriarchs, Moshe Rabbeinu, and the wanderings of the Children of Israel in the desert alongside a strong focus on secular education--including music, art, architecture, and other aspects of high culture. Each summer, my parents would take vacations that exposed me to the diversity of the American landscape, all the while applying what I saw to what I would learn in both secular and religious instruction. For my parents, these topics connected seamlessly. What was the God of Jacob, if not also the God of mathematics and biology? Where were the wonders of the God who led the Jews out of Egypt, if not also found in the depths of the Grand Canyon and the heights of the Rocky Mountains? My parents were careful to show me that for a true connection to the Divine, one needed to find that connection in the fullness of the world that the Divine created and continues to create, not just in the limited sphere of that which is conventionally thought of as "religious". Indeed, it is when venturing beyond the "religious" spheres where God has the most potential to become real, and one has the most amazing opportunities to fulfill the mandate of being a "light unto the nations".

In my mid-teens, when I became more drawn to the Chareidi community, the more expansive understanding of the interplay between Torah and the ways of the world remained solidified for me. Perhaps too naive, I presumed that the communities toward which I was gravitating would, at least theoretically, share my own outlook. When confronted with conflicting ideas or opinions that opposed secular studies and approaching secular culture, I had my own ways of explaining it to myself. Those opposing the connection of Torah and external culture were, to me, extremists who simply could not represent the true Chareidi standpoint. However, after more than a decade of living within the Chareidi community, attending Chareidi "Torah only" yeshivos, and marrying someone raised within the community, I have come to see the reality of the disconnect between myself and the broader Chareidi community.

Coming to the realization that I was not a "Torah only" type of person led me to reexamine my own conception of Judaism. This reexamination eventually led me to seriously study the works and lives of those who lived with a strong Torah im Derech Eretz philosophy, even before it was conceptualized as such by Rav Hirsch, zt"l, including Rav Jakob Ettlinger, Chacham Isaak Bernays, the Maharatz Chajes. Each seemed to be able to remain fully faithful to the Torah while personally greatly appreciating the wisdom and truth lying beyond conventional religious sources. For all of their awareness of the outside world, those great men also remained quite attached to traditional Jewish culture.

This realization not only gave me a sense of relief in my long-held perspectives on Judaism and the world, but also provided me with a set of role models. This discovery also led me to a study into the origins of my own family and the culture out of which their philosophies grew and were then passed on to me. All of this led to a complete refreshment of my own connection to Judaism and Torah observance.

The longer I have viewed my adoptive community from the perspective of Torah im Derech Eretz, the more I have found the warnings of Rav Hirsch and Rav Dr. Breuer regarding the need to move into modernity to be true. Over the years, I have seen countless people who have had true crises of faith, many abandoning Torah observance altogether, after having been raised disconnected from the realities of the outside world and then suddenly happening upon it later in life. Many seem to enter into a revolt after having been educated in a system that considers secular studies to be "sheker" and the science of Chazal to be Divine scientific truths (an idea against which Rav Hirsch writes strongly in several places).

For me, this highlights the relevance of Rav Hirsch's work in our own time. As in 19th century Germany, the freedom given to Jews in today's world requires each and every one of us to gird ourselves with a perspective that firmly plants our minds and hearts in the primacy of Torah, while understanding that the broader creation contains relevance, truth, and importance, and beckons our involvement in a Divine task that moves beyond the traditional confines of the frum world; not only intellectually, but through the basic level of civic participation as well.

As a young father, I find my personal dedication to the path of Torah im Derech Eretz to be incredibly important for the proper education of my children. As such, I work hard to conceptualize Torah im Derech Eretz in the context of today's world, as well as the differences between Torah im Derech Eretz and Torah u'Madda. The issues of the modern era are a struggle, and require constant vigilance and nuance in approaching the broader world. However, kernels of truth and wisdom remain to be found from among the non-Jewish society. Regardless of the pervasiveness of low culture and the crass elements found in some of the more popular strains of modernity, there remains an entire globe that speaks of the glory of God, if we can only pay attention correctly. It is a struggle, but represents a true and meaningful avodah for the modern Torah im Derech Eretz practitioner.

As for the difference between Torah im Derech Eretz and Torah u'Madda, my understanding grows out of the words of Rav Hirsch's grandson Rabbi Isaac Breuer, that Torah im Derech Eretz does not propose a synthesis, but a "true and absolute domination of the Divine precept over new tendencies." According to the Torah u'Madda philosophy, the practitioner is meant to achieve an internal synthesis between modern academics, culture, and Judaism. In my experience, those engaged in Torah u'Madda are perfectly fine with internalizing non-Jewish culture over Jewish culture, with the wholesale adoption of humanism for its own sake, capitalism or socialism for their own, or any other idea, without needing to understand the viewpoint of the Torah and Jewish thought. In other words, there are two realms, one religious and one academic/intellectual/cultural. For me, there is only one realm, and that is Torah. However, it happens to be that some truth and wisdom, of Divine origin to be sure, has been developed by non-frum sources. It is my job, using Torah as the sole guide, to parse through that wisdom, including a nuanced appreciation and admiration of the Divine human ability to conceptualize, create, or find the wisdom and beauty in the non-frum world. The same is true with culture, understanding that I have a duty to represent Judaism within the context of modern society and so therefore must know how to conduct myself appropriately within the standards of modern society.

The fullness of Torah im Derech Eretz, as well as the process a Torah im Derech Eretz person is meant to undergo when approaching the outside world, is, for me, found in Rav Hirsch's comments on Pirkei Avos, perek 3, mishna 9. It isn't that admiring nature is a misdeed. The misdeed is found in thinking that admiring nature is something disconnected from Torah study. A Jew must understand that all of academia and nature, as well as the work of man's hand, must be used to help us have a greater appreciation of God's creation. When we begin to think of secular studies, art, and culture as separate realms disconnected from Torah, and essentially means and ends within themselves, we are making a mistake that could lead to assimilation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

1880 Collage of German Rabbanim

In the 1880s, Israel Wiesen put together a Collage of German rabbanim and rabbanim from German speaking countries. TIDESociety reader Andrew Schwartz graciously shared this collage with us. It was passed down in his family. We note that the rabbanim here cover a hashkafic range.

1. R. Marcus (Meyer) Lehmann, Mainz, 1831-1890
2. R. Ezriel?
3. R. Yosef Cohen Tzedek of Lemberg, 1827-1903
4. R. Joseph Altmann, Karlsruhe, 1818-1874
5. R. Dr. Yitzchak Rulf, Memel, 1831-1902
6. R. Raphael Natan Rabinowitz, Munich, 1835-1888
7. R. Mortiz Gudeman, Chief Rabbi Vienna, 1835-1918
8. R. David Cassel, Berlin, 1818-1893
9. R. Dr. Joseph Hirsch Dunner , Amsterdam, 1833-1911
10. R. Avraham Shaag Zwebner, Kobersdorf (Austro-Hungary), 1801-1876
11. R. Eliyahu? Matmaler?
12. R. Yaakov Ettlinger, Chief Rabbi Altona, 1798-1871
13. R. Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, Chief Rabbi Pressburg, 1815-1871
14. R. Benjamin Hirsch Auerbach, Halberstadt, 1808-1872
15. R. Yitzchak Aharon Landesberg, Grossvardein (Hungary), 1804-1879
16. R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, Frankfurt, 1808-1888
17. R. Wolf (Gabriel Fabian) Feilchenfeld, Dusseldorf, 1827-1913
18. R. Samuel Freund, Prague, 1794-1881
19. R. Dr. Joseph (Josef) Isaacson, Rotterdam, 1811-1885
20. R. Saul Isaac Kampf, Prague, 1818-1892
21. R. Solomon Plessner, Posen, 1797-1883
22. R. Nathan Marcus HaKohen Adler, London, 1803-1890
23. R. Zecharias Frankel, Breslau, 1801-1875
24. R. Joseph Guggenheimer, Kalin, Bohemia
25. R. Zacharias (Zerach) Spitz, Goltsch-Jenikau, 1815-1883
26. R. Aaron Kornfeld, Goltsch-Jenikau, Bohemia, 1795-1881
27. R. Dr. Moritz (Moshe) Diamant, Lucenec, Slovakia
28. R. Loeb (Löw) Schwab, Pest, 1794-1857
29. R. Lazar Horowitz, Vienna, 1803-1868
30. R. Elchanan Rosenstein, Berlin, 1796-1869
31. R. Dr. Michael Sachs, Berlin, 1808-1864
32. R. Isaac Noah (Yitzchak) Mannheimer, Vienna, 1793-1865
33. R. Uri Feist (Feust), Bamberg, Rabbi during 1797-1802
34. R. Loeb Maier Berliner (Aryeh Lob ben Abraham Meir Berlin), Hesse-Cassel (Kurhessen), 1738-1814
35. R. Levi (Loeb) Bodenheimer, Krefeld, 1807-1867
36. R. Loeb (Leo, Lion) Ullmann, Krefeld, 1804-1843
37. R. Akiba Moses Lehren, Amsterdam, 1795-1896
38. R. Amschel Mayer Rothschild, Frankfurt, 1773-1855
39. Sir Moses Montefiore, England, 1784-1885
40. R. Albert Cohn, Paris, 1814-1877
41. Baron James Mayer de Rothschild, Paris, 1792-1868
42. R. Arnaud Aron, Strasbourg, 1807-1890
43. R. Shlomo (Solomon) Kohn, Schwerin, 1822-1902
44. R. Shmuel (Samuel) Mayer, Hanover, 1819-1882
45. R. Lazard Isidor, Paris, 1813-1888
46. R. Naftali Tzvi (Hirsch) Aub, Munich, 1796-1875
47. R. Marcus Jastrow, Philadelphia, 1829-1903
48. R, Chaim Schwarz, Huerben, 1800-1875
49. R. Israel Schwarz, Cologne, 1830-1875
50. R. Eliezer Löb, Ichenhausen, 1837-1892
51. R. Shalom ben Melech Mizrahi (Shlomo Mousaieff?), Tajikstan (Uzbekistan?), Jerusalem, 1852-1922?
52. R. Yosef ben Mattisyahu (Josephus Flavius), Jerusalem, 37-100
53. R. Yosef Shlomo (Joseph Solomon) Delmedigo, Candia, 1591-1655
54. R. Dovid Brod?, Chazzan and M’shorer,
55. R. Jacob Judah Aryeh Leon Templo, Amsterdam, 1603-1675
56. R. David Sassoon, Mumbai, 1792-1864
57. R. Yehuda Leib ben Ze’ev, Cracow, 1764-1811
58. R. Israel Joseph (J.J.) Benjamin, Falticeni, Romania, 1818-1864
59. R. Yehosef (Joseph) Schwarz, Jerusalem, 1804-1865
60. R. N. Erensbuch?, Prague
61. R. Wolf Fisheles?, Prague
62. R. N. Yishaya?, Schneidemuhl
63. R. Gabriel Riesser, Hamburg, 1806-1863
64. R. Nathaniel Gabriel Weisbart, Allersheim,
65. R. Isaac Heymann, Amsterdam, 1834 (1829?)- 1906
66. R. Israel Wiesen (creator of this photo collage)
67. R. Meir Halevi (Max) Letteris, Vienna, 1800-1871
68. R. Bernhard Beer, Dresden, 1801-1861
69. R. Abraham Cohen Rofe (Abraham ben Shabbethai Cohen), Zante, 1670-1729
70. R. Samuel de Leon, Physician, ?
71. R. Solomon ben Jacon Ayllon, Amsterdam, 1664-1728
72. R. Moshe (Moses) Mendelssohn, Berlin, 1729-1786
73. R. Tobias Cohn, Metz-Jerusalem, Physician, 1652-1729
74. R. Jonah?, Physician
75. ?
76. R. Benjamin Ze’ev Wettely?, Prague
77. R. Naphtali Herz Wiesel (Hartwig Wessely), Berlin, 1725-1805

Monday, August 24, 2015

More on blog posts

Somebody asked me recently to list my goals with this blog. I listed three:

1) To build a community of TIDE practitioners.
2) To put some TIDE ideas into the public space.
3) To reinforce the derech in my own mind.

So 1) is the ideal and 3) the sort of reserve goal/bonus. 2) Sits in between. But as life generally goes, we don't have control over others, only ourselves. And it turns out that 3) is the main benefit for me, at least, the thing that goes on every day. I can't say that I have seen any substantive community develop here, and who knows what effect these posts have on the world at large/if they are getting out there. But I can tell you that my own attachment to Torah Im Derech Eretz, to the German Jewish community, and to the great Sages of TIDE such as Rav Hirsch, Rav Breuer (father and son), and Rav Schwab, as well as other such as Dayan Grunfeld, are strengthened every day.

I guess that Rabbi Soloveitchik would call this a covenental community, a meeting of generations.

And I say to this blog's readers, you might also find that by making posts, your own connection to this beautiful derech of Torah becomes stronger. The world certainly tries to confuse us and we must be very active not to be taken in by it. I recall an expression that says something like  - 'at first I worked to change the world, then I came to work so that it wouldn't change me.'

So it goes here and with anything we believe in. By trying to build something, we build ourselves.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Collage of Rabbanim from Germany

Collage of rabbanim from Germany dating back to Rabbeinu Gershon and extending all the way to Rav Schwab.

I have laminated copies that you can use for your succah. Just email me to order . 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Looking for Posts

This is an invitation for posts on the subjects of Torah Im Derech Eretz and German Orthodoxy/Minhag Ashkenaz. It can be as short or long as you like. I'd like this to be a society of TIDE people, not just my take on TIDE. You can post anonymously if you prefer or pseudo-anonymously.

Some possible topics:

I consider myself a Torah Im Derech Eretz person because...
I don't consider myself a Torah Im Derech Eretz because...
My greatest challenge with TIDE in these times is....
I follow minhag ashkenaz because...
Here's how I view the difference between Torah only, TIDE, and Torah u'Maddah
Even though my family comes from Eastern Europe, I follow TIDE because...
Even though my family is from Germany, I follow an Eastern European derech because...
I like R' Hirsch's writings because.

Please email me to discuss or to send over your post.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Ashkenaz Siddur - Bad Hamburg

"Rabbi Rallis Wiesenthal works to preserve Orthodox German Jewish customs. A graduate of Yeshivat Beis HaMidrash LaTorah (Hebrew Theological College), Skokie, Illinois, he lives in West Rogers Park with his wife and children."

"For the past twelve years, Rabbi Rallis Wiesenthal has been laboring on the holy task of preparing a German Rite Nusaḥ Ashkenaz siddur, in Memory Of The Bad Homburg Kehilloh (1335-1942). Recently completed with help from Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz and K’hal Adas Yeshurun-Jerusalem (KAYJ), Rabbi Wiesenthal describes the history of the Siddur Bnei Ashkenaz:"  (from the Open Siddur Project)


City of Bad Hamburg

Google maps

You see from the map that this city is not to be confused with Hamburg in the North, the city where R' Hirsch was born. The"bad" in Bad Hamberg refers to the baths for which it is famous.

This siddur is organized in Nusach Ashkenaz fashion so that for example birchos hatorah follows birchas haschachar and preceds korbanos. It also contains myriad excellent instructions such as that not to say Vayomer Dovid el Gad before nafillas apayim. Since the Hirsch Siddur contains some nusach polim elements (due to the printer trying to attract Eastern European tradition audiences-which is understandable) this Siddur helps one to reconstruct the authentic Asheknaz tradition. You can order it online.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Then the cause must be bitul Torah

So we all know the Gemara that tells us to respond to our afflictions by examining our deeds. If that examination doesn't turn up any insights, then the cause of the afflictions must be bitul Torah.

Some people think of the bitul Torah as a kind of backdrop/fallback independent of anything else. We must fill our hours with Torah so if we are being punished from above, that's a likely cause if we can't identify any other cause. The approach is mechanistic, like a workflow in a factory. If not a then b.

R' Shimon Schwab explains it in a more holistic manner. The cause is our deeds but if we can't figure out what we did wrong then we need to study more Torah because the Torah teaches us how to live. If we had studied more, we'd know what we did wrong.

With this explanation, the ikur and cause of our suffering is still our deeds (The Vilna Gaon gives fixing middos as the purpose of life- Even Shelaimah Chapter One). And the Torah study isn't this independent thing but is tied in intrinsically with action.

Some may shudder at the idea the action is ikur. (See The Rav Thinking Aloud where R' Soloveitchik says that indeed action is ikur and the saying of Chazal of kneged culam doesn't mean Torah is greater but that it teaches us about action.) Does such an idea lead to more Torah study or less?

I say it leads to more because the study has such an important tachlis. It guides our lives and our behavior. I find this idea very motivating for study.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tehillim on Categorical Disparagement Of Jews

As political commentator and relentless defender of Israel Shai ben-Tekoa often points out, antisemitism consists of lies about Jews. R' Hirsch found a source for this in Tehillim, 45:15 - "[Though] You make us a byword among the nations, a shaking of the head among the peoples."

R. Hirsch: "The word "Jew" has become a byword among the nations for anything that is morally base and despicable, and when nations take counsel together regarding the welfare of their citizens, they merely shake their heads "in amazement" and negation when mention is made of Jews. They are "amazed" that anyone could think the Jew is deserving of kindness of consideration in their deliberations, and therefore they shake their head "in negation," denying the Jews all favor or advantage."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Shed sparkling new meaning

"Hirsch's seemingly unending resourcefulness and talent for winning understanding and respect for the Torah and its laws through appeals to reason never ceased to amaze his listeners and readers. He left no question unanswered, no riddle unsolved. Religious observances that had struck enlightened people as obscure, absurd, and repulsive, suddenly shed sparkling new meaning on their noblest thoughts and endeavors. An apparently hopeless, arid desert was changed to a flowering garden." Mordechai Breuer, "Modernity Within Tradition," p. 20.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Wisdom from the gentiles: have hope

This is a really encouraging comment I heard given in an interview with a TV actor from the 1960s who as a child in the 1940s was held in an internment camp for Japanese Americans. Two solders had come without prior notice and pounded violently at their door and took the family at gunpoint to a camp. The camp was surrounded by barbwire and at night a spotlight followed anyone who went outside to the latrine. Not the America they tell you about in school. Anyway, he was asked, what would you say now to that 5 year old boy. He said:

"Be optimistic, have hope. You may be behind barb wires but there will come a time when you will be able to make a contribution."

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mordechai Breuer

So of course there are two that we often hear of in connection to Germany Orthodoxy. They were cousins with one being an expert in Tanach and the other a historian. Mordechai Breuer the historian was a son of Isaac Breuer. Both were great-grandsons of Rav Hirsch.

from Wiki: "Breuer wrote on extensively on History, particularly German Jewish History. His works include Modernity Within Tradition: The Social History of Orthodox Jewry in Imperial Germany, (Columbia University Press: 1992) and The Torah-im-Derekh-Eretz of S.R. Hirsch (1970)."

I have been reading Modernity Within Tradition in recent months. It's a terrific work for getting an Orthodox Jew's perspective on changes within Germany. There are a number of history books written by non-observant professors about Jews in Germany- one that I looked at recently doesn't mention Hirsch, Hildesheimer, Hoffman, or YY. Weinberg even though its focus is 1848-1933. So Professor Breuer's book is quite refreshing. And he had incredible respect for Rav Hirsch. For example:

 "Hirsch's seemingly unending resourcefulness and talent for winning understanding and respect for the Torah and its laws through appeals to reason never ceased to amaze his listeners and readers. He left no question unanswered, no riddle unsolved. Religious observances that had struck enlightened people as obscure, absurd, and repulsive, suddenly shed sparkling new meaning on their noblest thoughts and endeavors. An apparently hopeless, arid desert was changed to a flowering garden." p. 20.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Learning good manners

"The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any." Actor/Dancer Fred Astaire

Good middos are essential in German Orthodoxy. However in our day, well, Fred Astaire's quote is likely a 1/2 century old.

Now the quote is something of an exaggeration. There are people around with good manners, particularly in Washington Heights where the middos are about as good as I have seen anywhere. Obviously Mr. Astaire wouldn't have known about that. But what the graceful dancer meant I suppose was that manners in general aren't very good. The trick for any individual is to model oneself on the exceptions if necessary.

Monday, August 3, 2015


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]

"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]

"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


"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.]


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


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]

"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]


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]