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Jewish-Jewish Encounters in History and Literature
Biografien, Diskurse und transnationale Vernetzungen

Abstract

When German authorities established the Theresienstadt Ghetto for Bohemian and Moravian Jews in late 1941, the site initially functioned much like other ghettos and transit camps at the time, as a mere way station to sites of extermination further East. The decision to reconfigure the ghetto as a site of internment for select “privileged” groups of Jews from Germany and Western Europe, and its advertisement as a “Jewish settlement” in Nazi propaganda, constituted an apparent paradox for a regime that sought to make the Greater German Reich “judenrein” (clean of Jews). This article investigates the Theresienstadt Ghetto from a historical-spatial perspective and argues that varying prejudices and degrees of antisemitism shaped divergent “spatial solutions” to segregate Jews from non-Jews, wherein the perceived divide between so-called “Ostjuden” and assimilated Western Jews played a central role. In this analysis, Theresienstadt emerges as a logical culmination to paradoxical policies designed to segregate select groups of German and assimilated Western European Jews.

Abstract

This paper closely examines the translation of the Hebrew word תהום – abyss (Genesis 1:2), in two versions of the Buber-Rosenzweig Bible: In the first edition of Die Schrift published 1926 the abyss is translated as “Abgrund”. However, after Rosenzweig’s death, the “Abgrund” is erased by Buber and replaced in later versions (1930/1952/1962) by the rather odd word “Urwirbel.” This paper reflects on the transition from “Abgrund” to “Urwirbel” and demonstrates the profound rootedness of Buber and Rosenzweig in the German philosophical vocabulary of the early twentieth century. It shows how the conversion from “Abgrund” to “Urwirbel” crystalized a moment in German-Jewish thought, a historical meeting point in the depths of the abyss between the German and the Hebrew languages. The encounter was covered by the course of history but deserves to be revisited and reinterpreted.

Abstract

This paper examines the relevance of Rosenzweig’s theory of translation to his concept of redemption. Rosenzweig’s statements on the redemptive virtues of translation, in the afterword to his Jehuda Halevi and in “Scripture and Luther,” are well known. However, when considered in connection with the Star of Redemption as well as with the later essays, Rosenzweig’s position appears more complex than what a first reading might suggest, for he seemed to have abandoned his first definition of translation – as an imperfectly redemptive task, nevertheless providing effective understanding between the peoples – to adopt the notion of a true redemption of the tongues, be it at the expense of understanding. In what sense is translation, if at all legitimately, bound to Redemption? The paper argues that the concept of the spirit (Geist) is central to Rosenzweig’s theory of translation, and examines the metamorphoses of this concept from the Star to the later essays. It accounts for the fact that language, in a certain sense, is the true subject of redemption, and allows for new insights into the philosophy of history.

Abstract

The exchange between Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig on the status of halakha is a well known, but also frustrating fixture in scholarship. For rather than responding to Rosenzweig’s critique, Buber seems to retreat in silence, claiming to be “unable to speak” about his position on Jewish Law. Scholars have generally tried to explain Buber’s failure to respond on philosophical and biographical grounds. What I propose, by contrast, is to revisit the question of Buber’s silence and secrecy from a hermeneutical standpoint, arguing that Buber engaged in a deliberate strategy of concealment that constituted its own form of response. The hermeneutics of silence discloses a call for religious renewal that follows a state of Dialogvergessenheit, but which cannot be made audible. Neither dialogue nor its remembrance can be commanded. While Buber struggles with his Nichtredenkönnen, he also stands in a tradition of secretive hermeneutics – the Jewish hermeneutics of sod.

Abstract

This paper consists in a reflection on the conceptual nerve center of Franz Rosenzweig’s thought and heritage that is the category of redemption as an epistemological category. The reflection is articulated through a comparative study of the redemptive epistemologies of three modern Jewish thinkers: Franz Rosenzweig, Rabbi Yoseph Dov Soloveitchik and HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook. The comparison arises from a basic feature that this paper identifies as common to all three modern visions of epistemic Jewish redemption: they all feature Hegelian interpretations of the traditional Jewish category of teshuva.

Abstract

In retrospect of a century, the philosophical and theological concepts of Franz Rosenzweig’s New Thinking, as developed in the Star of Redemption, are in many aspects a milestone in modernity, reflecting the crisis of the modern Jew and Judaism both historically and politically. The notion of redemption serves here in fact as a paradigm for modernity itself, where the individual attempts to position himself in the tension between religion and secularism, tradition and modernity. This contribution analyses Rosenzweig’s “Jewish journey of redemption”, not only from the perspective of Jewish Messianism, but in the context of modern Jewish thought as a cultural critique (Kulturkritik) in Western tradition, in its philosophical, theological, historical and political aspects.

Abstract

This article explores aspects of Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption from the perspective of systems theory. Mosès, Pollock, and others have noted the systematic character of the Star. While “systematic” does not mean “systems theoretic,” the philosophical theology of the Star encompasses ideas that are salient in systems theory. The Magen David star to which the title refers, and which deeply structures Rosenzweig’s thought, fits the classic definition of “system” – a set of elements (God, World, Human) and relations between the elements (Creation, Revelation, Redemption). The Yes and No of the elements and their reversals illustrate the bridging of element and relation with the third category of “attribute,” a notion also central to the definition of “system.” In the diachronics of “the All,” the relations actualize what is only potential in the elements in their primordial state and thus remedy the incompleteness of these elements, fusing them into an integrated whole. Incompleteness is a major theme of systems theory, which also explicitly examines the relations between wholes and parts and offers a formal framework for expressing such fusions.

In this article, the systems character of Parts I & II of the Star is explored through extensive use of diagrams; a systems exploration of Part III is left for future work. Remarkably, given its highly architectonic character, diagrams are absent in Rosenzweig’s book, except for the triangle of elements, the triangle of relations, and the hexadic star, which are presented on the opening page of each part of the book. While structures can be explicated entirely in words, diagrams are a visual medium of communication that supplements words and supports a nonverbal understanding that structures both thought and experience.