The Hasᵊkâl•âh, Where The Masᵊkil•im Went Wrong

Citation (how to properly cite this article; note academic Chicago Style standard italics and quotation marks):
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Yirmeyahu Ben-David. “The Hasᵊkâl•âh, Where The Masᵊkil•im Went Wrong.” Israel Jews News. Editor: Yirmeyahu Ben-David. (2018.05.21, The Netzarim, http://www.netzarim.co.il). (Date you accessed the Israel Jews News article) ​.
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Normally, I begin with well-founded premises, then build the necessary logic to demonstrate a conclusion. The הַשְׂכָּלָה (Hasᵊkâl•âh) issue, however, is so evidence heavy, probably indicating multiple outside verification and further studies, that readers might benefit from having an idea of what to look for along the way. The question I intend to raise is why were the מַשְׂכִּילִים (Masᵊkil•im), especially the rabbis, unable to distinguish the mutual exclusivity between the rational view (logic, science, hard evidence, documented history) of modernity as distinguished from acculturation and assimilation into the surrounding goy•im populace? These two aims are not inextricably connected as the (Masᵊkil•im rabbis steadfastly held. Staying real (logical, rational) and keeping abreast of science does not imply conforming to PC nor keeping up with the Joneses. Precisely the opposite!

There is no need for me to reinvent the wheel to set out the basics of the historical setting of the Enlightenment in the goy•im European world, nor even the consequent Hasᵊkâl•âh in the European Jewish world; though it’s imperative to respect that the two are mutually independent. It suffices to rely on previous researchers and demonstrate, in the process, where and how the Masᵊkil•im went off the rails – and how a repeat of that error must be avoided in future convergence between Judaism and scientific reality. We’re not focused on the goy•im side of the Enlightenment nor errors they have made. Jews can get it right independent of goy•im advances or strayings.

European Jewish pop distr c1933 USHMM

European Jewish population distribution c 1933;
US Holocaust Memorial Museum (Galicia overlaid)

 

The clearest, most straightforward and complete analysis on this topic that I’ve found to date is a paper by Marie Schumacher-Brunhes. She introduces Enlightenment as: “A result of the economic, social, and cultural change in the 18th century, the Haskalah emerged as the movement that brought the European Enlightenment to the Jewish world. Its supporters, the so-called Maskilim, were active in various fields: in philosophy, education, culture, economics, politics and, last but not least, religion. Transformation reached the individual European Jewish communities at various times and in various ways. The movement began in Western Europe, pioneered by the Berlin philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. It spread eastwards to Galicia and was developed further in Russia.”msb, §Introjumpto

 

Dispersions of 70 CE & 135 CE

Following the 70 CE and 135 CE expulsions of Jews from Yi•sᵊr•â•eil and Yᵊru•shâ•layim, the preponderance of Jews, the ordinary “lower class” anti-Hellenist Pᵊrush•im became the Mi•zᵊrakhim, fleeing the Hellenist Roman Empire entirely, taking refuge in Arab countries to the south and east.

Simultaneously, the aristocratic Hellenist Tzᵊdoq•im, together with their aristocratic Hellenist complement of the Pᵊrush•im, fled to the northeastern European (Ash•kᵊnazim) and Spanish (Sᵊphâ•râd•im) regions, respectively, in order to remain in their aristocratic Hellenist comfort zone – the Hellenist Roman Empire.

Antikythera mechanism ca BCE 85 0250x223 Antikythera mechanism model telescopic ca BCE 85 0250x159
Antikythera computer gears, c BCE 85!!! Antikythera computer reconstructed, telescopic view

The Dark Ages that followed the break-up of the “Holy” Roman (Catholic) Empire are so named for excellent reason. Chaos and plagues decimated populations, resulting in still-inestimable loss of knowledge. Accumulated knowledge was almost totally lost as mankind fell backward into the darkness of a Neo-Stone Age. Wonderful, precision geared computers were soon unimaginable instruments that historians assessed must have been brought to Stone Age peoples by aliens. Until recently, modern historians have insisted that ancient war machines were limited to slingshots, bows and arrows.

Over centuries of miso-Judaic Roman (Christian Church) pogroms infecting Europe and the Arabs, discriminatory practices and taxes were imposed upon Jews, constricting Jews into a Tᵊphutz•âh (Dispersion) of tiny “Jewish” colonies (ghettos, shtetls) among the goy•im.

 

Newton & Science Trump Religion – The Enlightment

Around the 17th century, logic (rational thought, science) imposed a profound change. “Isaac Newton’s epochal accomplishment in his Principia Mathematica (1687), which, very briefly described, consists in the comprehension of a diversity of physical phenomena – in particular the motions of heavenly bodies, together with the motions of sublunary bodies – in few relatively simple, universally applicable, mathematical laws, was a great stimulus to the intellectual activity of the eighteenth century and served as a model and inspiration for the researches of a number of Enlightenment thinkers. Newton’s system strongly encourages the Enlightenment conception of nature as an orderly domain governed by strict mathematical-dynamical laws and the conception of ourselves as capable of knowing those laws and of plumbing the secrets of nature through the exercise of our unaided faculties.”bristow, §1.0jumpto

For the first time in the history of man, the priests (Church and rabbis) were wrong, proven false. Logic (science) was reliable and true, the Church and theology were unreliable and false. This reality bled over into strong skepticism as an integral element of Enlightenment thought – including skepticism of rabbinical authority in the Jewish community. The theologians determination to find ways to ameliorate their denial of reality and reassert their authority framed the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment in 18th century Europe – though this offered no respite to Mi•zᵊrakhim Jews in Arab countries.

“For Enlightenment thinkers themselves, … the Enlightenment is not an historical period, but a process of social, psychological or spiritual development, unbound to time or place… Enlightenment philosophy tends to stand in tension with established religion, insofar as … daring to think for oneself, awakening one’s intellectual powers, generally requires opposing the role of established religion in directing thought and action.” [bristow, §1.0.]

As I clued readers at the beginning of this article, we may note at this point that Enlightenment philosophy will conflict with with established traditional religion only when either Enlightenment philosophy or established traditional religion – or both – diverge from logic/​science. When each aligns with the shared connection of logic/​science then they converge with each other. Showing how this must be done is the aim of this paper.

“Through their articulation of the ideal of scientia, of a complete science of reality, composed of propositions derived demonstratively from a priori first principles, these philosophers exert great influence on the Enlightenment. But they fail, rather spectacularly, to realize this ideal. To the contrary, what they bequeath to the eighteenth century is metaphysics, in the words of Kant, as “a battlefield of endless controversies.” However, the controversies themselves – regarding the nature of God, mind, matter, substance, cause, et cetera, and the relations of each of these to the others – provide tremendous fuel to Enlightenment thought.” [bristow, §1.1]

“Despite the confidence in and enthusiasm for human reason in the Enlightenment – it is sometimes called “the Age of Reason” – the rise of empiricism, both in the practice of science and in the theory of knowledge, is characteristic of the period. The enthusiasm for reason in the Enlightenment is primarily not for the faculty of reason as an independent source of knowledge, which is embattled in the period, but rather for the human cognitive faculties generally; the Age of Reason contrasts with an age of religious faith, not with an age of sense experience.” [bristow, §1.2]

“Many of the leading issues and positions of contemporary philosophical ethics take shape within the Enlightenment. Prior to the Enlightenment in the West, ethical reflection begins from and orients itself around religious doctrines concerning God and the afterlife. The highest good of humanity, and, accordingly, the content and grounding of moral duties, are conceived in immediately religious terms. During the Enlightenment, this changes, certainly within philosophy, but to some significant degree, within the population of western society at large. As the processes of industrialization, urbanization, and dissemination of education advance in this period, happiness in this life, rather than union with God in the next, becomes the highest end for more and more people. Also, the violent religious wars that bloody Europe in the early modern period motivate the development of secular, this-worldly ethics, insofar as they indicate the failure of religious doctrines concerning God and the afterlife to establish a stable foundation for ethics.” [bristow, §2.2]

“Though the Enlightenment is sometimes represented as the enemy of religion, it is more accurate to see it as critically directed against various (arguably contingent) features of religion, such as superstition, enthusiasm, fanaticism and supernaturalism. Indeed the effort to discern and advocate for a religion purified of such features – a “rational” or “natural” religion – is more typical of the Enlightenment than opposition to religion as such… However, controversy regarding the truth-value or reasonableness of religious belief in general, Christian belief in particular, and controversy regarding the proper place of religion in society, occupies a particularly central place in the Enlightenment.” [bristow, §2.3]

 

Where Masᵊkil•im went off-the-rails

This is where practically all pre-Sho•âh Masᵊkil•im went off the rails – equivilating science with modernity and surrounding goy•im. As a result, the cdistorted Hasᵊkâl•âh into acculturation and assimilation into the surrounding goy•im. For this, faithful Jews still criticize the Hasᵊkâl•âh – when they should, more properly, be criticizing the pre-Sho•âh off-the-rails Masᵊkil•im!

The widespread tendency of the Masᵊkil•im toward acculturation and assimilation to “modernity,” which everyone equated to the surrounding goy•im – the luminaries (PC 1.0). This, of course, threatened the authority of the anti-science, anti-rational rabbis, who’ve vehemently, and ignorantly, equated logic (science, rational thought, reality) to miso-Judaism enemy ever since.

 

The Only Solution

The solution follows from that simple observation: simply avoid equating logic (science, rational thought, reality) with surrounding goy•im or “modernity”. Pursue logic (science, rational thought, reality) independent of surrounding goy•im or modernity; therefore, there is no motivation, nor pressure, nor tendency to acculturate nor assimilate. Insist that the surrounding goy•im likewise pursue logic (science, rational thought, reality). That necessarily implies that success for both converges in logic (science, rational thought, reality). For either to pursue the other instead of logic is like a cat chasing its tail. Further, Tōr•âh and Ta•na”kh mirrors י‑‑ה is the Singularity Creator-Author of the laws of logic (science, rational thought, reality)!

As the slogan on our website home page stresses: “From different perspectives toward a shared path… inexorably, the Nᵊtzâr•im are the future!” Strict adherence to the Creator’s reality and laws of the universe – filtering out superstition, fanaticism and supernaturalism – is the only solution that enables convergence into our unrelenting shared reality inevitable, inexorable.

 

Missing the solution; and the consequences

Failure to figure out this solution led to a plethora of sectarians and cults, including the Kha•sid•im, Kha•reid•im, Mit•na•gᵊd•im

“Because of the Hasᵊkâl•âh, modernity was seen as a real challenge by the Jewish minority. It raised many burning questions: Adherence to or loss of traditional ways of life, decisions for or against “emancipation” and “assimilation” (and would not the former lead automatically to the latter?), as well as the question of adapting religion and religious practices to the modernization of society. The Jewish community had to choose a form of integration.” [msb, §4; emphasis added]

While this describes the choices being imposed on Jews by the Masᵊkil•im rabbis, it’s elementary logic that curbing supernaturalism, superstition and tradition to the constraints of logic (science) does not imply assimilation, neither primarily nor secondarily. Similarly, the “modernization of society” is not equivalent to logic. Substituting the former invites confusion and straying off-the-rails. The assertion that “The Jewish community had to choose a form of integration” is both non sequitur and ex falso quodlibet.

“However, everywhere the goals of the proponents [i.e. the Masᵊkil•im rabbis, ed.] of the Hasᵊkâl•âh were the same: to lead the Jews out of the religious ghetto, to integrate the Jewish world into the non-Jewish world and to bring separation to an end in favour of non-Jewish tendencies, customs and knowledge. The pre-requisites for such integration were modernisation and ending the centuries-old blending of religious and social life.” [msb, §5; emphasis added]

 

Europe Emerges From The Dark Ages

This era delineated the last several centuries of religion-imposed (Christian, Jewish, Muslim and others) intellectual darkness and illiteracy under the rule of illiterate religious seminary priests, rabbis or imams. Rabbis were no more – nor less – illiterate than goy•im. However, it was the illiterate Masᵊkil•im rabbis, the most distinguished heads of many varieties of pro-Hasᵊkâl•âh rabbinic seminary-colleges, not Hasᵊkâl•âh per se, who strayed from Tōr•âh; imposing non sequitur Malforms (degenerative reforms) upon Jews – advocating for integration, assimilation and acculturation into the goy•im. That wasn’t logical; ergo, it was incompatible with Hasᵊkâl•âh!

Contrary to [msb, §5] and others, “ending the centuries-old blending of religious and social life” was not a pre-requisite of Hasᵊkâl•âh! What is required is continuous upgrading mankind’s knowledge – especially religion , hopefully Jews continuing to lead the Way, advancing logic into closer harmony with the Omniscient Creator-Singularity, י‑‑ה, reflected in Tōr•âh. Only in this Way does “religion”, including rabbinic Judaism, become compatible with י‑‑ה as illuminated in Tōr•âh and Ta•na”kh. Only then can Jewish social life be illuminated by True “religion”.

“Civil society’s discrimination against the Jewish minority was to be stopped. In this regard it was important to take the actual situation into account and to help improve the social life of the Jews so that they could become equal members of society; at the same time Judaism was to become more open to the world. Thus, the second part of the Haskalah’s programme aimed to bring about a new and modern religious and theological self-understanding. The Maskilim, the proponents of the Haskalah movement, criticised specific aspects of the religious tradition, especially those customs and rituals that stood in the way of Jewish social integration. Thus, the origin of the tensions between Orthodox and “enlightened” Jews lay in their thoughts on the importance and role of religion in modern Jewish society.” [msb, §7]

In the blossoming (e.g., Western Europe: France, and Germany’s anti-Yiddish Rebbe Moses Mendelssohn) days of the Hasᵊkâl•âh, “enlightened” rabbis and lay Jews were also Orthodox Jews; but significantly less illiterate than the Orthodox Jews of Eastern Europe – though describing seminarians (Jewish or non-Jewish), even of Western Europe, as “educated” is a considerable exaggeration afoul of logic.

It is imperative that the social life of Jews be fully realized, that Jews be equal members of society and, especially, Judaism become more open to the world. There’s no conflict with logic nor Tōr•âh here. However, the “new and modern religious and theological self-understanding” must be compatible with logic-interpreted Tōr•âh – no longer superstition, enthusiasm, fanaticism and supernaturalism tradition religion passed-off by illiterate rabbis as Tōr•âh! Even teaching Hebrew grammar (instead of German-acculturated Yiddish) “provoked a storm of indignation from [other, ed.] Orthodox Jews.”[msb, §20] Whether, or not, customs and rituals stand in the way of Jewish social integration, however, is irrelevant and cannot be considered as a factor. The only touchstone of legitimacy must be logic alone, particularly logical explication of Ta•na”kh, not integration into the goy•im world nor its notion of modernity. The role of religion, therefore, exactly opposite of diminished, is enhanced, confirmed by logic and fortified by logic and knowledge!

“One of the important points of controversy that the Masᵊkil•im had to deal with was the binding nature of the Ha•lâkh•âh… for an enlightened Jew… These religious questions were of interest to the Jewish public until the 1870s. At the heart of the matter was the question of the relationship of religion to secular culture and science. In this regard supporters of the Hasᵊkâl•âh pointed to the philosophy of the medieval Jewish thinker Moses Maimonides (1138–1204) … who in his Guide for the Perplexed (end of the 12th century) had sought to reconcile Judaism with reason and with the study of the natural sciences. The aim was to demonstrate the ability of the Jews to improve their own customs and to re-interpret Jewish religion and culture.”[msb, §18]

Today’s Kha•reid•im and Orthodox Jews often cite Ram•ba”m – until they discover he was a rationalist, at which point they equivocate and recant. The Ram•ba”m was right in vigorously opposing the Kha•sid•im supernaturalist mystics. One can only imagine how infinitely better Jews may have fared had they followed logic instead of the anti-logical (denial of reality), calamitous direction of superstitious, radical and supernaturalist tradition. As Rebbe Mendelssohn noted, “if they wanted to be faithful Jews all they had to do was adhere to the ritual commandments of their own free will, from which it followed that there is no justification for religious compulsion.” [msb, §19]

“In general the followers of the Hasᵊkâl•âh showed a particular interest in the study of Biblical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew Literature and advocated introducing modern disciplines to replace the study of the Ta•lᵊmud.” [msb, §22]

Displacing Ta•lᵊmud, however, is non sequitur; not implied by any dedication to logic and never should have been pursued. While Ta•lᵊmud is routinely misapplied by illogical rabbinic casuistry, it remains an irreplaceable wealth of stored knowledge that must be reevaluated logically, not blanket-displaced by often logically fallacious “modern disciplines.” If there is a primary key to the disaster that eventually led to the anti-logical misdefinition of electricity, Malforming Sha•bât and incurring the Sho•âh, this may be the pivotal point where it all went calamitously.

The necrosis of Hasᵊkâl•âh came later. However, the “younger followers” of Mendelssohn improved upon it. “Whereas Mendelssohn had attributed the character of revelation to the entire Biblical and Talmudic tradition, including ceremonial laws, and declared them binding for all Jews, his younger followers approached the religious traditions with the instruments of rational and historical criticism.” [msb, §25]

“The second generation of Enlightenment thinkers demonstrated a tendency towards radical deism.” [msb, §26]

  • Moderate Deism in the goy•im world approximates logical Tōr•âh as figured-out by Avᵊrâ•hâm and Mōsh•ëh, et al. perceiving the Logic (Holy spiritual Voice) of the Creator-Singularity, י‑‑ה.

  • Goy•im Enlightenment’s most famous, enduring and powerful Deist product is the U.S.A.! Ben Franklin and a number of other founding fathers of America were Deist heirs of the Enlightenment. Thus, Logic is the shared nexus, path of convergence, for goy•im and Tōr•âh worlds.

  • Radical Deism, by contrast, runs off-the-rails afoul of Logic, deteriorating to less than logical; only “partially logical”; which is simply a camouflaged fallacy.

  • Logical Tōr•âh never, even partially, contradicts an intelligent (!) and logical understanding of Ta•na”kh. Logical Tōr•âh was, and remains, correct; with no contradiction of Tōr•âh. To the contrary, it is superstitious – Epikoros – mysticism and supernaturalism that contradicts the Omniscient Creator-Singularity of Tōr•âh! Tōr•âh doesn’t oppose Logic, Tōr•âh is Logic, which comprises the Laws of the Creator-Singularity: י‑‑ה! Only logic-challenged, superstitious, radical and supernaturalist traditionalists (goy•im Christians and Muslims no less than Jews), intellectually “Left Behind” in the Dark Ages and unable to grasp explanations of “miracles” that conform to the Creator’s – י‑‑ה‘s – Laws, oppose Tōr•âh Logic!

Unfortunately, proponents of Deism illogically conjoined the effort “to reform the liturgy by removing the songs and prayers that called for the return to Tzi•yōn.” [msb, §26] Another pivotal and calamitous detour that Masᵊkil•im rabbis illogically stitched onto Hasᵊkâl•âh that bore bitter fruit.

Urbanization of formerly rural and isolated German Jews, “became the archetype of the modern Jew who has escaped the ghetto and whose life is guided by the principle of community and solidarity with the host country.” [Bourel, Juifs d’ Allemagne 1994, p. 179 in msb, §29]

Overdo seems to have been universal, as some Masᵊkil•im went so far as to switch from Sha•bât to Sun[god]day and even to convert to Christianity [msb, §30] – all of which became blamed on Hasᵊkâl•âh! It’s no wonder that many rabbis have a dim view of the Hasᵊkâl•âh.

When Hasᵊkâl•âh migrated from France and Germany to Eastern Europe, Hasᵊkâl•âh became even more distant from its raison d’être: logic. The goals of Eastern European Masᵊkil•im looked solely toward emancipation of Jews from previous discriminatory taxes and laws while keeping religious obscurantist and fanatic “traditions” unchanged – without regard for logic. “In Galicia and in the Tsarist Empire the Hasᵊkâl•âh and the Kha•sid•im movements developed in an atmosphere of mutual hate that shines a light on the role of violence in the development of modern Judaism.” [msb, §36] Kha•sid•im mystics, particularly, hated and reviled Masᵊkil•im as [Epikorᵊsim].” [msb, §38]

Ha•lâkh•âh was to be interpreted less rigorously.” [msb, §37]

Yet another illogical, critical and disastrous non sequitur. Logic compels exactly the opposite: rigor! The logical (i.e. scientific) method is more rigorous, not lax! It is the method, logic instead of illiterate and superstitious imagineering, that changes.

One of the positive developments that emerged from the migration to Eastern Europe: outside of Germany, especially in Russia, Yiddish wasn’t understood by the Jewish populace. Hebrew was required to communicate with them. Thus, the blight of German-bastardization of Hebrew gave way to Hebrew. [msb, §47]

The purest form of Ha•lâkh•âh seems to have been the work of philosopher Nachman “Krochmal, who was regarded as the “Galician Mendelssohn” by Zunz, rejected every form of assimilation and attempted to demonstrate the uniqueness of the Jewish tradition and its enduring nature. He was a pioneer of the critical studies of Jewish history and his work accompanied students of the Jewish sciences throughout the 19th century.” [msb, §53]

Extending into Russia, “the milieu into which, according to the Maskilim, the Jews should integrate was characterised by [miso-Judaism].” [msb, §57] The oxymoronic nature of expecting acculturation, assimilation and integration, which were never logically relevant to the Ha•lâkh•âh, were then impossible to ignore.

“The Masᵊkil•im‘s largest school, and with the most diverse curriculum, was in Lithuania. [the “Litvaks”: antiKha•sid•im, Ash•kᵊnazim Kha•reid•im; ed] It is especially noteworthy that here the enlightened forces could build on an older tradition that was in harmony with modern ideas, especially with the principle of the rational exploration of Judaism. This had been the achievement of the Gaon of Vilnius (and his successors), who had introduced the study of Hebrew grammar, and the study of the secular sciences that were a pre-requisite for understanding the Talmud, and who had supported the translation of scientific works into Hebrew.” [msb, §59]

Russian pogroms in the late 19th century had a vital positive side: turning the tide from non sequitur contra-Tōr•âh (therefore likewise contra-Hasᵊkâl•âh) pursuit of integration to a need to return to Tzi•yōn – the Zionist movement – “returning to the legitimate historical course of the Jewish people by overcoming the concept of assimilation.” [msb, §65]

Appendix

     

  1. Marie Schumacher-Brunhes. “Enlightenment Jewish Style: The Haskalah Movement in Europe”. European History Online (EGO), Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG). (Mainz: 2012.04.19).
    ​. 2018.05.21. return-up

  2.  

  3. William Bristow. “Enlightenment”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition). Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
    ​. 2018.05.21. return-up

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