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Counter-Enlightenment In A Jewish Key: Anti-Maimonideanism In Nineteenth-Century Orthodoxy

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Chapter Summary

The chapter focuses on two Orthodox thinkers- Samuel David Luzzatto and Samson Raphael Hirsch. While there are significant ideological differences between them, they share the conviction that participation in non-Jewish cultural and intellectual life is compatible with firm adherence to halakhah. Yet Luzzatto and Hirsch have grave doubts about the ethical trajectory of enlightened European society. The chapter explains that while criticizing the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) these Orthodox critics in fact identify with many of its ideals. But for them it is authentic Judaism rather than rationalism that provides the best means to actualize these ideals, hence their criticism of the "arch-rationalist" Maimonides. This shows how the dichotomy between Haskalah and Orthodoxy is not as great as is sometimes assumed.

Keywords: Jewish Enlightenment; Maimonides; Orthodox critics; Samson Raphael Hirsch; Samuel David Luzzatto



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