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“There is a popular notion that, unlike Hasidism and Musar, which attempted to deepen the religious experience of the Jew, the Hirschian system aimed at merely preserving Judaism against the onslaught of Western culture. It is our conviction that this notion is erroneous. Study of R. Hirsch's writings and commentaries has been for many a most effective source of Musar, deepening our spiritual grasp of Judaism.”---Rabbi Shelomoh Danziger, last paragraph of http://www.stevens.edu/golem/llevine/rsrh/Clarification%20of%20RSRH_danziger.pdf

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Ultimate Decision

Thousands of worldviews: religions, philosophies, cultures. Which one should I live by? 

Endless choices: how should I think, speak, act on a daily basis? Which people should I spend my time with, and how should I relate to them? Time is limited; how should I use it?

Experts tell us to focus: on the Essential, on the The One Thing, on the Wildly Important Goals, on What Matters Most. But what IS essential? What IS the one thing?

“It is…the will of G-d that is the sole basis for all our duties. And should any other basis for any duty be possible for the whole of mankind? Ought the idea of ‘duty’ to be conceivable without the idea of ‘G-d’s will’?.....everything  which appertains to activity –our personality, our intellectual capacity, and physical powers, and the world which surrounds them and provides them with objects and means---belongs to the One and Only G-d. Who then can have disposal of all this except G-d alone? Whose orders ought we then follow except His?” (Horeb, by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Foreword, first paragraph; bold added.)

Simple words, yet stunning in their implications.

We can eliminate any worldview, and any use of our time, that is not directed by the One G-d’s commands. All brands of atheism, agnosticism, and polytheism certainly have no concept of a valid command that would be binding on anyone. But even a form of monotheism that is murky about, or even downgrades, the concept of G-d’s clear, direct commands is suspect.

The Torah provides clear, direct commands from the One and Only all-powerful Creator; it is the final contender in our search for meaning.

And all of this is implicated by one word: Mitzvah.

See Horeb, by R' S.R. Hirsch. Scroll to page 159 of 450.