Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Seridei Aish: The Mussar Movement as frum Haskalah

Seridei Aish’s (4:293—in Men of Spirit edited by Rabbi Leo Jung. page 223): The very leaders who fought so bitterly against the new movement [of Chassidus] were the first to recognize the need for some change. They admitted some truth in the charges by Hassidim that the Judaism of Lithuania had no soul, that “their Torah had no life and that their prayers lacked significance.” They recognized that they had been neglecting the spiritual content of the Torah by paying insufficient attention to the philosophical problems involved… [page 242:]: The Musar movement, rooted in the desire for spiritual perfection and the improvement of character, acquired a new factor in Kovno: concern for very survival of Judaism, which was threatened by the Haskalah movement, whose early romantic charm had long since passed and which could now be seen in its furious conspiracy against traditional Judaism. R. Israel’s slogan was: “Fight the Maskilim with their own weapons! Form an all‑Hebrew genuine Haskalah movement and educate rabbis and teachers to spread this pure Hebrew Haskalah among the people!” ... “Rejection of the secular Haskalah alone is not enough,” argued R. Israel. “It is the nature of a new cultural trend to seep in through small crevices. Fighting it with prohibitions and excommunications alone will not stem the tide, for the spirit of man is not to be stemmed by mere force. “The suppression of the spirit in itself is of no value. It cuts short spiritual development and results in but a spiritual sterility. The sole defense against a cultural movement breaking in from the outside is the establishment of an opposing cultural force, and the opening of doors to a fresh trend of thought, stemming from the very dept of our Jewish soul. Thus not a war against a foreign ‘enlightenment’ but a war for Hebrew original Haskalah, which means moral perfection, nobility of soul, and lofty ideals. Such a deep—rooted Haskalah need not fear foreign enlightenment, which is but external polish and technical proficiency, has no roots in Judaism, and cannot satisfy the yearnings of a Jewish heart.”


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