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Nachman Krochmal: Guiding the Perplexed of the Modern Age

Jay M. Harris
Copyright Date: 1991
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfxr3
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  • Book Info
    Nachman Krochmal
    Book Description:

    "A well-organized and engaging read." - Religious Studies ReviewThe first in-depth look at...an important nineteenth century Jewish thinker and historian. Well-written [and] well- researched." - The Jerusalem Post Magazine"A significant contribution to our understanding of the rise of modern Judaism in its East European manifestation." - ChoiceHarris examines Nachman Krochmal's work, particularly as it aimed to guide Jews through the modern revolution in metaphysical and historical thinking, thus enabling them to commit themselves to Judaism without sacrificing intellectual integrity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4475-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-43)

    THERE ARE at least two different approaches one can take in writing the biography of a towering intellectual figure such as Nachman Krochmal (1785–1840). One is to carefully track the events of his life, his friends, acquaintances and enemies, and try to integrate this material with his scholarly achievement. The second is to write an in-depth study of Krochmal’s scholarly work, and its place in Jewish and general intellectual history. That is, one can write a biography of the mind that produced the great work, theMore N’vukhe ha-Z’man (The Guide of the Perplexed of the Time). The first...

  6. CHAPTER 2 METAPHYSICS AND JEWISH FAITH
    (pp. 44-102)

    CONSISTENT WITH the method outlined above, in chapters 5, 6, 7, and 17 of theGuidewe find Krochmal attempting to clarify the central metaphysical positions of Judaism in a way that allows for their latent philosophical content to be made manifest. The reason for Krochmal’s clarification is the attack made on these propositions by the world of modern philosophy. Krochmal argues that traditional Jewish metaphysics remains as viable as ever, but could no longer be sustained in the manner in which its positions had previously been formulated. For the works of Spinoza, Kant and Hegel, among others, had challenged...

  7. CHAPTER 3 KROCHMAL’S THEORY OF HISTORY
    (pp. 103-155)

    KROCHMAL CLAIMED that his metaphysical speculation represents the metaphysical position that is at the root of Judaism, and of which Jews have been aware, in full or inchoate form, throughout their history. That Jewish metaphysics is so fully encoded within Jewish scriptures, laws, rituals, and folklore, and that all Jews are in some unarticulated way aware of God as the ground of all being—that is, as absolute spirit—is crucial for Krochmal in his understanding of the course of Jewish history. He claimed that the Jews survived through history as a creative force by virtue of their unique faith,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 BIBLICAL STUDIES
    (pp. 156-205)

    THE ONSET of historical thought and scholarship touched on virtually all aspects of traditional self-understanding, but perhaps none more than on the place of the Bible within traditional culture. From the time of Hobbes and Spinoza, through the works of Voltaire and Reimarus, the Bible emerged as a document that must be understood as all other human documents are: as a product of a time, place and point of view.¹ In the century or so that separated Spinoza from Mendelssohn, however, this point of view gained little currency within the Jewish community, and certainly cannot be said to have exercised...

  9. CHAPTER 5 THE RABBINIC TRADITION
    (pp. 206-273)

    IN TRADITIONAL Jewish self-understanding, the Torah, the basis of Judaism, is actually comprised of two Torahs, one written, the other oral. This fundamental claim represents the basis of rabbinic Judaism. The history of Jewish thought, however, is replete with attempts to determine precisely what this means. One strand of thought insists that together with the written revelation—that which God communicated to Moses, and the latter committed to writing, or that which God himself actually wrote—God communicated to Moses further amplifications and explanations. The latter, in turn, transmitted them to Joshua who transmitted them to the elders, and so...

  10. CHAPTER 6 THE PERPLEXITIES OF THE AGGADAH
    (pp. 274-307)

    KROCHMAL’S CHAPTER on aggadah opens with the juxtaposition of these conflicting rabbinic pronouncements. He cites them to illustrate the deep ambivalence of Jewish culture toward this genre of rabbinic discourse. On the one hand, in the aggadah one finds much rabbinic reflection on the nature of God and providence; it is, thus, an indispensable, if problematic, resource for the construction of rabbinic theology. On the other hand, the aggadah is replete with scientific and historical errors; angels, demons and evil spirits; and stories about the rabbinic sages that cast them in a bad light and seem to promote questionable ethical...

  11. CHAPTER 7 CONCLUSION
    (pp. 308-328)

    KROCHMAL’S WORK remains of interest for at least three reasons. It represents an important Jewish reaction, both critical and sympathetic, to the intellectual modernization that shook the foundations of traditional society; it provides a different model of coping with the modern age from those that came to prevail in Germany and have dominated the discussion of Jewish modernization; its philosophical sections, including its phenomenology of rabbinic learning, remain an untapped resource in the continuing efforts to achieve a successful Jewish reorientation in the modern age. In addition, it is clear that Krochmal exercised an important influence on conservative Jewish historiography...

  12. INDEX
    (pp. 329-339)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 340-341)