R’ Chaim Hirschensohn was born in 1857 in Sfat; his daughter Nina Alblum wrote a biography of life in Sfat in the early days. He visits the Berlin Rabbinerseminar, moves back to
What makes him interesting is his vision for a new era, expressed in a shelf of seforim. This is a new era, wherein to found a new kehillah based on democracy – Judaism, Halacha, Dayyanut to be based on consent of the governed.
· Eleh haBrit: different covenants within Tanach where for each we get more and more obligations.
· Commentary on Horios expresses political theory.
· Responsa collection Malki Bakodesh on how to run a government.
Nobody has really analyzed this material yet. Eliezer Schwied put out a volume on him in English; he and David Zohar have gone through and pulled out punchlines, without analyzing if this is a good read of Horios, how he relates to Rambam and earlier teshuvos.
1) we all have to be democratic, all Jews are part of the universal democratc Ben Noah covenant of complete equality between Jew and nonJew.
2) Halacha empowered by people. In HaBrit, explains that we have many covenants, and Judaism is about Kiymu veKiblu.
He works through “what about Marah” “what about Mishpatim” “what about kiymu vekiblu” which others had not yet done. Hirschensohn talks about a future
Pg. 41-42 in Malki Bakodesh: While we’re in exile, you don’t have to tell us not to kill the 7 Nations, but as a free people, what will happen when the state is created? Keep ideas fresh, for new great leaders to answer. . We will have to cancel gentile-based minhagim since we don’t have to mix with them any more. Return to a pristine halacha. Return to spirit of shakla vetarya of the Tannaim.
A great undying principle: God is not a tyrant, religion is not based on Divine will, but on our acceptance of covenants of
We don’t make up our own laws, we have elected representatives, etc., and halacha works the same way – individual covenants, which apply to our children, because that’s the way law works. To be a good citizen, or member of the Brit of Klal Yisrael, you have to take upon yourself the keeping of mitzvoth.
His unique approach to, e.g. autopsies: Pikuach Nefesh is not sufficient to allow autopsies, because the individual is already dead, but Nivul haMet only deals with memory and honor, not with the actual body,. He has to sit and think about different halachic approaches to problems.
Where others have small-scale pragmatic agendas, he has an overarching vision driving his approach to psak.
In terms of the Bible, he can give you an answer about any narrative, such as miracles, that they are not parables, but historical accounts, similar to Shada”l, but he intimates that we should use the best tools available for analyzing the Bible. He doesn’t want to run through philosophy or kabbalah in
Some of his stuff is translated on Meimad and/or Kibbutz haDati websites, that regard him as a bit of a hero, but only excerpts, not full analyses of issues.