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Franz Rosenzweig (December 25, 1887  – December 10, 1929) was an influential Jewish theologian and philosopher.

Contents

Early life

Franz Rosenzweig was born in Kassel, Germany to a middle-class, minimally observant Jewish family. His education was primarily secular, studying history and philosophy at the universities of Göttingen, Munich, and Freiburg.

Rosenzweig, under the influence of his close friend Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, as well as his cousins, considered converting to Christianity. Determined to embrace the faith as the early Christians did, he resolved to first live as an observant Jew before becoming Christian. Famously, after attending Yom Kippur services at a small Orthodox synagogue in Berlin, Germany, he underwent a mystical experience. As a result, he became a baal teshuva.[1] Although he never put pen to paper to explain what transpired, he never again entertained converting to Christianity, deciding instead to remain a Jew. In 1913, he turned to Jewish philosophy. His letters to his friend, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, whom he had nearly followed into Christianity, have been published as Judaism Despite Christianity.

While researching his doctoral dissertation on Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Hegel and the State, Rosenzweig reacted against Hegel's idealism and favoured a philosophy which did not begin with an abstract notion of the human. This philosophy has come to be known by several different names, including speech-thinking and existentialism.

Rosenzweig was a student of Hermann Cohen, and the two became close.

The Star of Redemption

Rosenzweig's major work is The Star of Redemption, in which he expounds his new philosophy, a description of the relationships between God, humanity and world as they are connected by creation, revelation and redemption. In this work he is critical of all Western philosophy that seeks to efface the fear of death and replace actual human existence with an ideal. Hegel's Idealist philosophy is a primary target of such attacks. Rozenweig was originally an idealist but his experiences on the front of World War I changed him to become a proto-existenialist.

It was in the Macedonian trenches that this work of Franz Rosenzweig was written.

If one considers the density, the concentratedness of this text, the constructive achievement and the linguistic sensibility, then one can only wonder at how someone can write such a thing on military post cards to his mother in Kassel, who then copies it from torn scraps of paper so that it becomes a book -this is among the most astonishing events.[2]


Between God and The World Is creation. Between God and the Self (aka:people) is Revelation. Between The self and the world is Redemption. If one makes a map with God at the Top, the world and self below (on equal plane) with the appropriate intersections, one will see a 'map' which is a Star of David.

He is very concerned with dialogue, the relationship between the self and the other. "New thinking" is "Speech thinking" and at a deep level it is revelatory. This world of revelation is in the here and now (not on the metaphysical plane) and comes to each individual. They are called to love God, to do so is to return to the world to take care of it... and that is redemption.

Collaboration with Buber

Rosenzweig, while critical of Jewish scholar Martin Buber's early work, became close friends with him upon their meeting. This friendship lasted despite their differences of political opinion: Buber was a Zionist, while Rosenzweig was a strong defender of the German-Jewish heritage and felt that a return to Israel would embroil the Jews into a worldly history they should eschew. Further, Rosenzweig criticized Buber’s dialogical philosophy, because it is based not only on the I-Thou relation, but also on I-It, a notion that Rosenzweig rejected as idealistic. He thought the counterpart to I-Thou should be He-It, namely “as He said and it became”: building the "it" around the human "I" – the human mind – is an idealistic mistake.[3] Famously, Rosenzweig and Buber worked together on a rather literal translation of the Torah from Hebrew to German. The translation, while contested, has led to several other translations (in other languages) using the same methodology and principles. Their publications concerning the nature and philosophy of translation are still widely read.

Educational activities

Rosenzweig, unimpressed with the impersonal learning of the academy, founded the Independent House of Jewish Learning, a place for adult education that sought to promote Jewish literacy and involvement. His goal in turning aside more respectable University positions was to engage in dialogue with human beings rather than merely accumulate knowledge. The Lehrhaus, as it was known in Germany, was an innovative Jewish Free University, which produced many prominent Jewish intellectuals. In October 1922 Rudolf Hallo took over the leadership of the Lehrhaus. It stayed open until 1930, and was reopened by Martin Buber in 1933.

Illness and death

Rosenzweig suffered from the muscular degenerative disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Lou Gerhig's Disease) and towards the end of his life had to write with the help of his wife Edith, who would recite letters of the alphabet until he indicated for her to stop, continuing until she could guess the word or phrase he intended (or, at other times, Rosenzweig would point to the letter on the plate of his typewriter). They also developed a system based on him blinking his eyes.

Rosenzweig's final attempt to communicate his thought, via the laborious typewriter-alphabet method, consisted in the partial sentence: "And now it comes, the point of all points, which the Lord has truly revealed to me in my sleep, the point of all points for which there—". The writing was interrupted by his doctor, with whom he had a short discussion using the same method. When the doctor left, Rosenzweig did not wish to continue with the writing, and he died in the night of December 10, 1929, in Frankfurt, the sentence left unfinished.[4]

Rosenzweig was buried on December 12, 1929. There was no oration; however, Buber read Psalm 73.[citation needed]

See also

References

  1. ^ Emil L. Fackenheim (1994). To Mend the World. Indiana University Press. ISBN 025332114X. http://books.google.com/books?id=By-Ayj_p-cQC&pg=PA317&dq=teshuva&sig=bBuZO705NaNe_SH9MApdcLB-qUA. 
  2. ^ The Political Theology of Paul by Jacob Taubes, Stanford University Press, 2004, page 64.
  3. ^ Franz Rosenzweig in Encyclopedia Judaica by Ephraim Meir and Rivka G. Horwitz, Thomson Gale, 2007.
  4. ^ Nahum N. Glatzer, Franz Rosenzweig: His Life and Thought (New York: Schocken Books, 1961, 2nd edn.), pp. 174–6.

External links

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