The role of Judaism in Samuel Hirsch's "understanding of the state"

Seminar Paper, 2011

4 Pages, Grade: 2,0


The role of Judaism in Samuel Hirsch’s understanding of the state

Among the teachings of Samuel Hirsch the question regarding the identification of a state with its religious institutions certainly features among one of the most prominent. To Hirsch, it was in particular important to study the specific terms on which such identification was to be achieved. Central to his treatment of this subject was his view that state encompasses a community, and that therefore respect as well contribution to its well-being does not merely lie in the interest of its people, but is furthermore considered their duty as well a service to God. Hirsch aims to further cement this thesis by making use of an analogy wherein he proclaims that the people themselves are the fatherland, whereas any king or sovereign is merely their representative. Accordingly he also rejects the theory of a social contract between the king and his subordinates, especially if such an idea is established on a religious basis, since to Hirsch religion always must remain a purely individual matter.

In his perception of a state’s function Hirsch was largely influenced and inspired by the teachings of Hegel, notably by the latter’s “Philosophy of Right”. In this work, Hegel argues that the state must ensure that sociability of the society and the individual family have to remain in balance, which is why the ideal state is at the same time also always a religious state, aiming to perfect in practical life what religion teaches. Perhaps even more important, Hegel was also among the most prominent proponents of Jewish emancipation[1] .

Yet as Hirsch remarks, many Jews at the time apparently still failed to make a connection between their Israeli tradition and their service to the state they were living in, although - as Hirsch asserts - there does actually not exist any spiritual or ideological conflict in holding on to the Jewish faith while at the same time serving the institutions of the state. In order to further validate this notion, Hirsch also frequently refers to several quotations he took directly from the Bible. Consequently, Jews should not abandon their religion if they seek service with the state, a view which was of course in stark contrast to all those arguments demanding the abolishment of Judaism and Mosaic Law in order to recognise and accept the authority of the state[2] . Quite to the contrary Hirsch says that Jews should continue to adhere to their faith, since by transferring the beliefs and values they share to their work as public servants Jews will become reliable and faithful to the state.


[1] Shlomo Avineri: A Note on Hegel’s View on Jewish Emancipation. In: Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Apr., 1963), pp. 145-151.

[2] Faur, José: Sephardim in the Nineteenth Century: New Directions and Old Values. In: Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, Vol. 44 (1977), pp. 29-52.

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The role of Judaism in Samuel Hirsch's "understanding of the state"
University of Luxembourg
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Samuel Hirsch, Judaism, Zionism, State, Religion
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Joe Majerus (Author), 2011, The role of Judaism in Samuel Hirsch's "understanding of the state", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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