(Dean of the Rabbiner Seminar, Berlin. 1829-99).

AUCTION 75 | Thursday, March 08th, 2018 at 1:00 PM
Auction of Fine Judaica: Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Antiquities, Ceremonial Objects & Graphic Art

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Lot 270

(Dean of the Rabbiner Seminar, Berlin. 1829-99).

Autograph Letter Signed, on personal embossed letterhead, written in Hebrew to R. Eliyahu, Rabbi of Hedias. A responsa concerning Yom Kippur. Autograph address panel on verso. One page. Tear at blank fold. 8vo.


Est: $500 - $700
The controversy between Orthodoxy and Reform Judaism in the middle of the 19th century resonates strongly in the manuscript at hand. The manuscript is part of the wider scholarly debate about the importance, relevance, and trustworthiness of Heinrich Graetz’s pioneering 11-volume study of the History of the Jews. This debate reflects the breech between Samson Raphael Hirsch, rabbi of the secessionist Orthodox “Israelitische Religions-Gesellschaft” in Frankfurt am Main, and his former student and protégé Heinrich Graetz, who in 1854 accepted a teaching position at the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau, the first modern rabbinical seminary in Central Europe, a move which Hirsch considered to be a personal betrayal and a betrayal of the Orthodox cause. Heinrich Graetz’s fourth volume of the History of the Jews, was first published in 1853, beginning with the period following the destruction of Jerusalem. This volume was extensively reviewed by Samson Raphael Hirsch in a series of 12 articles between 1855 and 1857 in Jeschurun, an Orthodox monthly periodical that was edited and published by Hirsch himself. More than 200 pages of objective critique revealed Graetz’s methodical weaknesses and scholarly flaws, including dates and quotes out of context. In the autograph manuscript at hand, Samson Raphael Hirsch harshly criticizes an article by Raphael Kirchheim in the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums. Raphael Kirchheim (1804-89), a German-Jewish scholar who lived in Frankfurt, supported Graetz’s deliberations and had in turn strongly criticized Samson Raphael Hirsch’s first two reviews of Heinrich Graetz’s work. The topic of the debate between Hirsch and Kirchheim is Graetz’s portrayal of the sage Yochanan ben Zakai who opened a Talmudic Academy in the town of Yavneh following the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 CE. Yavneh became the center of Jewish learning for centuries and replaced Jerusalem as the seat of the Sanhedrin. Graetz claimed that Yochanan ben Zakai had redefined and reformed the importance, meaning, and authority of the Sanhedrin – and Hirsch proved through Talmud sources that this was not the case. According to these sources the Sanhedrin was already detached from the Temple service before the fall of Jerusalem. Hirsch makes a strong case for critical historical studies that use all documented sources and not just those that support a predefined opinion. This, Hirsch accuses Graetz and Kirchheim of, the teaching methods of Reform of the Breslau Seminary, and ultimately, Reform Judaism itself. This article was published in: Jeschurun. Jg. 2. 5616 =1855/1856, Heft 4 (January, 1856) p. 221-244.