Between Two Worlds: Mendelssohn, Wessely and the Move Toward Modernity

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dc.contributor.advisor Sheppard, Eugene Graff, Talia 2011-05-23T18:47:37Z 2011-05-23T18:47:37Z 2011
dc.description.abstract With the advent of modernity in the eighteenth century, came an unprecedented acceptance of Jews into European political and social culture. The European Enlightenment offered the promise of intellectual exchange unburdened by religious zealotry. Jewish thinkers emerged, well versed in both Jewish and contemporary secular thought, who saw no difficulty in reconciling their faith and philosophy. Among them, Moses Mendelssohn, frequently cited as the founder of the Jewish Enlightenment, and Naphtali Herz Wessely. Though both of these thinkers remained steadfast in their observance of Jewish law, traditional rabbinic leaders responded to their writings with suspicion and hostility. Mendelssohn frequently capitulated to rabbinic pressure, despite the fact that he conceptually rejected the coercive powers of religious authority, as he made clear in Jerusalem: Or on Religious Power and Judaism, published in 1783. Naphtali Herz Wessely, an ardent admirer of Mendelssohn, and collaborator in the production of the Bi’ur, one of Mendelssohn’s more controversial undertakings, turned to the rabbinic leaders of Italy to spare his reputation when he came under rabbinic attack from figures iv such as Ezekiel Landau and David Tavli, for his publication of Divrei Shalom Ve-emet, in 1782. My thesis will explore the tense struggle for authority between the traditional rabbinic elite and the emerging maskilim. I will explore the strategies employed by both Mendelssohn and Wessely to maintain their credibility among those who labeled them as dangerous radicals and suggest possible explanations for their eagerness to remain a part of the traditional Jewish community. I will argue that the early haskalah, as defined by scholars such as David Sorkin, can be differentiated from the later haskalah, not only in terms of the maskilims’ topical concerns, but in their relationship to the rabbinic elite. I will also explain why Wessely, based in Berlin, turned to authorities n Trieste for support.
dc.description.sponsorship Brandeis University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf
dc.language English
dc.language.iso eng
dc.publisher Brandeis University
dc.relation.ispartofseries Brandeis University Theses and Dissertations
dc.rights Copyright by Talia Graff 2011
dc.title Between Two Worlds: Mendelssohn, Wessely and the Move Toward Modernity
dc.type Thesis
dc.contributor.department Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies MA Masters Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Brandeis University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

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