Sunday, February 11, 2018

Hirsch: The Ideas

My contribution starts at about the 16.00 minute mark.

Does not include much of my more detailed (but off-topic) discussion of the bitter feud in 1926 Frankfurt between the Breuer and Rosenheim factions and the long term reverberations of that feud... ;-)


  1. You mentioned the difference between Hirschian synthesis and RYBS's love of dialectics. It's not only because the latter was Litvish. It's also because when RSRH lived, Hegel dominated the zeitgeist. (Just ask Karl Marx!) Whereas RYBS was a neo-Kantian. Hegel taught that history is driven by thesis-antithesis-synthesis, which then becomes the new thesis, and the whole engine continues. Whereas Kant believed that the human condition inherently harbors unresolvable antinomies. In neo-Kantianism became a love of dialectics that we, over a lifetime. grapple with. But the value is in the work, not a resolution. (Similarly -- the iqar of learning is Shas, not the Rif.)

    Of course, would RYBS have become a neo-Kantian, or REED a Kantian, if Litvisher thought wasn't already leaning that way?

    Other differences between RSRH and RYBS:

    RSRH thought that the ghetto was a bad thing, and TIDE is the ideal.
    RYBS held that Ramatayim Tzofim is the best way to live in our current context. I do not know one way or the other if he felt that being in this context is advantageous (overall) to life in Brisk, had that choice been available.

    I used the idiom Ramatayim Tzofim from the one recorded shiur I know of where RYBS discusses the topic at all. Rabbi Norman Lamm, who coined "Torah uMaddah" does speak of synthesis, not that I know what he means by it. So, TuM isn't necessarily the right idiom for discussion RYBS's position.

    I think the more salient Litvishism in the difference between the two is that RYBS's "Ramatayim Tzofim" is twin peaks of knowledge. RSRH talks about Yefet's high culture. One would have you enjoy Bach, the other would have you studying the applicable music theory. Or as I heard quip: Both idealize the "Rabbi Dr.", the difference is RSRH's doctor is an MD, and RYBS's -- a PhD. That focus on abstract knowledge is a thumbprint of Litta. But it also means that Ramatayim Tzofim is only for those with academic tempraments.

    I fear that to the masses, all this talk of dialectic and synthesis sounds too much like idealizing compramize. I don't want to harp on about societal problems, I've been doing that too much lately. But it highlights a reason why RYBS's philosophy may not work for the masses. A not-making-it Chassid isn't likely to be worse off spiritually than if he didn't attempt Chassidus. But if a not-making-it MO Jew thinks he has a rationale for compromising in his observance, because Western values and mores are important too...

    1. The Ramatayim Tzofim speech is probably the most significant one ever delivered by RYBS. Thanks for your usual perspicacious comments!

  2. It seems to me that the fear of secular education has to do with people going off the derech. However I think the big cause of that is taavos which are made easier through internet and media. So I think that is the real challenge.

    It's interesting that it's usually the "modern" communities with more secular education also has more OPEN access to Internet and mixing of genders. But is secular education the cause of more use of internet etc.?