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Paul Franks

Inner Anti-Semitism or Kabbalistic Legacy? German Idealisms Relationship to Judaism

Beinhaltet der Deutsche Idealismus einen heimlichen Antisemitismus, wie Michael Mack behauptet, oder ist er einem kabbalistischen Erbe verpflichtet, wie Jrgen Habermas meint? Beide Behauptungen enthalten ein Krnchen Wahrheit. Vom christlichen Anti-Judaismus bernehmen Kant, Fichte, Schelling und Hegel den Gebrauch des Begriffs Judaismus, um zunchst einen maximalen Spannungsmoment der Dialektik zu bezeichnen dem geschichtlichen Gipfelpunkt verlockend nahe, aber zugleich frustrierend fern. Erst in zweiter Linie bezeichnet Judaismus eine lebendige post-biblische Religion. Solche Urteile ber den Judaismus knnen einzig und allein auf das Alte Testament gegrndet und unmittelbar auf zeitgenssische Juden angewendet werden. Somit interpretieren auch Kant, Fichte, Schelling und Hegel den Judaismus mit Hilfe ihres spezifischen Konzepts von Dialektik. Whrend Schelling und Hegel einen Augustinischen, relativ milden Anti-Judaismus vertreten, ermglicht Kant eine neo-markionistische Eliminierung des Judaismus eine Mglichkeit, die Fichte, den Antisemitismus vorwegnehmend, dann realisiert. Eine aufmerksame Betrachtung des rabbinischen Judaismus lsst die Kritik der Deutschen Idealisten indessen als fragwrdig erscheinen. Ihre Ansicht des Absoluten als einer selbstverneinenden Negativitt ist der lurianischen Kabbala verpflichtet. Allerdings werden kabbalistische Ideen in der christlichen Kabbalistik blicherweise entweder ins biblische Altertum zurckversetzt oder als christlich vereinnahmt. Philosophen, die sich mit der Tradition des Deutschen Idealismus befassen, sollten auf die Notwendigkeit einer Revision solcher Urteile reflektieren, um die Fallstricke des Anti-Judaismus zu vermeiden und die fruchtbare Beziehung der Philosophie zum Judaismus anerkennen.

Most contemporary thinkers with an interest in German Idealism are oblivious to the connection between German Idealism and anti-Semitism. To be sure, it has already generated some discussion, mainly from Jewish philosophers but also from some Germans. Indeed, it is a topic that Jewish philosophers can hardly afford to ignore. On the one hand, all Jewish philosophy since the 1790s from Salomon Maimon to Hermann Cohen, from Franz Rosenzweig to Emmanuel Levinas has been intimately intertwined with German Idealism (Franks, 2007). Kant and Hegel are to modern Jewish philosophy what Plato and Aristotle were to medieval Jewish philosophy, and Habermas has fittingly titled an essay, The German Idealism of the Jewish Philosophers (Habermas, 1985). On the other hand, the title of a recent book by Michael Mack speaks of the inner anti-Semitism of German Idealism (Mack, 2003). By inner antiSemitism, Mack evidently means to suggest that the derogatory remarks of the philosophers are not merely extrinsic expressions of prejudice, to be explained

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in terms of cultural context. Instead, he wants to suggest, anti-Semitism is somehow internal to the philosophies of the German Idealists, and cannot be expunged not, at any rate, without considerable complication. If German Idealism is internally anti-Semitic, then is Jewish philosophys intimate relationship with German Idealism not a colossal mistake? At the same time, should not anybody who is interested in German Idealism, whether they have a stake in Jewish philosophy or not, want to determine whether it is internally antiSemitic? Gershom Scholem famously and furiously rejected the very idea of German-Jewish dialogue as a myth (Scholem, 1976). The passionate Jewish love for German culture was not only unrequited, it was rewarded with hatred and murder. Jewish philosophys relationship with German Idealism is one expression of this tragic history. But there are, I believe, more general lessons to be learned here lessons about the processes of secularization at work in modernity, about the possibility of multiculturalism in philosophy and in society in general, and about the future and significance of Jewish philosophy.

I. Christian Anti-Judaism from Augustine to Luther

There is a long-standing dispute, rooted in debates between Left and Right Hegelians, about the secularization that seems essential to modernity. Does it consist in the dissolution of religion, or at least of religions claims to authority within the public sphere, hence in the possibility of new developments, unrelated to religion, in the space vacated by religion? Or does it consist in the appropriation of certain ideas from religion, the liberation of these ideas from the control of religious authorities? The German Idealists seem to engage in secularization in the second sense: they appropriate or liberate certain ideas from Christianity, specifically from the Lutheran Christianity to which they variously affiliate. If there is an inner anti-Semitism in German Idealism, this is surely because of the secularization in this sense of Christian anti-Judaism. Before proceeding, it is necessary to deal with some tricky issues concerning the term anti-Semitism. First used by Wilhelm Marr in 1879, in the first decade of a unification of Germany that also led to the emancipation of Jews throughout the new country, the term drew both upon ancient biblical tradition the descent of the Jews from Noahs son, Shem and upon recent work in philology. For the terms antonym, Semitic, had been used by August Ludwig von Schlzer to designate Hebrew and related languages in 1781. Once Marr founded the Anti-Semitic League, the term anti-Semitic soon came to signify an opposition to Jewish emancipation, frequently (though not invariably)

For an important version of the debate, see Lwith, 1957, who argues for the appropriation view, and Blumenberg, 1985, who is closer to the dissolution view.


Paul Franks

undergirded by pseudo-scientific views about the racial and hence ineliminable characteristics of Jews. Strictly speaking, it is anachronistic to speak of anti-Semitism before the struggles over Jewish emancipation in the late nineteenth century, perhaps before the advent of racial pseudo-science. Yet it has now become commonplace to use the term more broadly. On the one hand, too narrow a usage risks the implication that anti-Jewish prejudice in other contexts or on non-racial grounds is just fine, while obscuring the connections between varieties of opposition to Jews and Judaism. On the other hand, too broad a usage risks trivialization and the obscuring of differences. I will side-step the issue by speaking, from now on, of anti-Judaism, while attempting to delineate the pressures under which traditional Christian antiJudaism can give rise to the discrimination, violence and genocidal tendencies that we have come to associate with anti-Semitism.2 By anti-Judaism, I mean not merely the criticism or rejection of Judaism but also the specific view that Jews qua adherents of Judaism are uniquely excluded from salvation or from some religious or secular equivalent. By inner anti-Judaism, I mean antiJudaism that is not merely an accidental attitude but rather part of the selfdefinition of the religion or philosophy in question. In this sense, inner antiJudaism may be called traditional within Christianity because anti-Judaism of some kind has been internal to most, but not all, varieties of Christianity since the second century. However, there were early Christianities without antiJudaism,3 and significant advances have certainly been made since the Holocaust of which the Second Vatican Council is of course the most monumental example. In order to give a conceptual overview of a long, complicated and torturous history, I find it helpful to begin with a brief account of the Augustinian view of Judaism the so-called doctrine of witness. Highly innovative when Augustine first propounded it in the fourth century, this doctrine became, more or less, the official position of the Catholic Church until the thirteenth century, although it had a certain elasticity, and although it was subject, as I will explain, to pressures that could lead to legalized discrimination and murderous violence. Augustine developed his doctrine against the background of the long transformation of Christianity from a Jewish sect into the established religion of a Roman Empire in which Jews were subject to systematic, legal discrimination. More immediately, Augustines innovation was the fruit of his own disentanglement from

Anti-semitism is an ontic radicalization of anti-Judaism, focusing on the Jews very being, thematized in racist or other terms. For influential versions of this distinction, see Langmuir, 1996 and Oberman, 1981. See, e. g., Pseudo-Clementine Homily 8: For on this account Jesus is concealed from the Jews, who have taken Moses as their teacher, and Moses is hidden from those who have believed Jesus. For, there being one teaching by both, God accepts him who has believed either of these.

Inner Anti-Semitism or Kabbalistic Legacy?


Manichaeism, which was itself only the most successful in a series of profoundly anti-Jewish versions of Christianity. Christian anti-Judaism has typically been articulated in terms of antitheses articulated by Paul: antitheses between law and gospel, letter and spirit. But, as Paula Fredriksen emphasizes (Fredriksen, 2008), there was a fundamental difference between the context in which Paul wrote his epistles and the context in which they were read from the second century on. Paul always identified himself as a Jew, and he believed that the Second Coming, along with the conversion of all of his fellow-Jews, was imminent. His criticisms of Judaism were always from within, and he always understood the exclusion of most Jews from salvation was to end imminently. To speak of Paul as anti-Judaic is anachronistic, since he does not contrast his own religion to Judaism, or himself to Jews as such. However, later, gentile readers of Paul, who did not identify as Jews and who assumed that the distinction between Christians and Jews was permanent, or at any rate to endure as long as the current state of the world, read Paul in a very different context. Some saw the Jewish scriptures themselves as antithetical to Christian life. Most notably, Marcion, in the second century, came to think that the law and the gospel could not originate from the same god. There had to be one god who created the world and gave the law to the Jews; and another whose appearance in the form of Jesus revealed the gospel. Accordingly, Marcion sought to purify Christianity of the taint of Judaism. He offered the first Christian canon, removing all Jewish scriptures and retaining only redacted versions of Pauls epistles. The Manichaeism to which Augustine subscribed for a decade had its own scriptures, but it agreed with Marcion in its hostility towards Judaism and in its thorough rejection of the Hebrew Bible. Four elements of the Augustinian doctrine of witness can be formulated in the form of a commentary on a verse that he cited repeatedly. In the Old Latin version used by Augustine, Psalm 59: 11/12 reads: Slay them not, lest at any time they forget your law; scatter them in your might. 4 Applying this verse to the Jews, Augustine argued as follows. First, the key to the mystery of the survival of the Jews is their preservation of the law namely, the law of Moses, as specified in the Hebrew Bible. The law of Moses is your law, the law of God. Contrary both to Marcion and to his Manichaean successors, the law can be read spiritually, in a way that is not antithetical to the gospel. Moreover, without the letter, there is no spiritual interpretation. Without the law, which the gospel fulfils, there is no gospel. So the law must be preserved. In the end, as Paul affirmed, the Jews will come to see the law according to the spirit, and they will resume their rightful place in the economy of salvation (Romans, 11:26).

This is the Vetus Latina version. Compare Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. Your law is omitted in, e. g., the Septuagint, the Masoretic Text, and the Vulgate.


Paul Franks

However, second, the Jews are blind to the laws spiritual interpretation. They understand and practice the law only according to the letter, and obstinately refuse to acknowledge Jesus, just as they refused in his lifetime. The literal interpretation of the law emphasizes the importance of practices that involve the body and also construes salvation in corporeal terms. It is important to note here that, as Christians and Jews became disentangled in the early middle-ages, Judaism came to be used as a polemical term within intra-Christian debates. The primary targets of these polemics were other Christians, while Jews were only their secondary targets. At the same time, Christians were increasingly unlikely to have intimate knowledge of the practices and beliefs of living Jews. Consequently, Judaism came to signify a literal interpretation of the law that was largely a Christian construction. This would have fateful consequences. Third, God punishes the Jews for their rejection of Jesus. Unlike other nonChristians, the truth lies within their grasp, but they do not seize it. Their blindness to the spiritual meaning of the law is manifest in their temporal state in their being scattered throughout the diaspora, in exile from the ruins of their temple and their devastated homeland. This punishment signifies an exclusion from salvation that is unique, though ultimately to be overcome when the Jews are converted. Fourth, the Jews should not be terminated: Slay them not. The Jews with their literal understanding of the law and in their lowly temporal condition testify to the truth of Christianity. Thus Christians are enjoined not to eliminate the Jews by violence. At the same time, of course, efforts at conversion are encouraged, insofar as the conversion of the Jews is an essential aspect of the eschatological hope for salvation of the world. In its opposition to the views of Marcion and Mani, this is an anti-antiJewish position. When anti-Jewish violence occurred without official sanction, notably in the Rhineland in 1096, during the First Crusade, the Augustinian doctrine could be invoked in protection of Jews. When Bernard of Clairvaux sought to prevent a repetition of this violence during the Second Crusade, in 1146, he appealed to the very verse cited by Augustine, adding: The Jews are indeed for us the living letters of Scripture, constantly representing the Lords passion (Cohen, 1999, pp. 2356, citing Bernard of Clairvaux (195777), VIII, pp. 31117). Still, Augustines position is hardly pro-Jewish. Indeed, when subject to certain pressures, it can be used to justify discrimination and even violence. This is exactly what happened in the late middle ages, and Luther inherited the resulting, hateful, discriminatory and violent version of anti-Judaism. Consider the third element of the doctrine, which consists in the recognition of the lowly state of the Jews as divine punishment. During Augustines time, shortly after the Emperor Constantines conversion to Christianity in 312, Jews were citizens of Rome, as all inhabitants of the Empire had become a century earlier. However, the question quickly arose whether, in light of the Emperors

Inner Anti-Semitism or Kabbalistic Legacy?


conversion, Jews were to be considered the equals of Christians within the political order. Should their status as divinely punished not be reflected here too? Over the next few centuries, a succession of laws gradually deprived, first Judaism of its equal rights as a religion, then Jews of their equal rights as citizens. Discrimination of this systematic, legal variety can easily be seen as a further expression of the divine punishment of the Jews, manifest in their being scattered. Augustine never advocates such discrimination, but it is not obviously incompatible with his doctrine of Jewish witness. Consider, now, the fourth element: the normative conclusion that Jews should not be slain. The Jews signify the letters of the law, which are to be preserved so that both can be read spiritually. However, the letter kills (2 Corinthians 3:6). Jews persist, even now, in the very obstinacy with which they rejected Jesus in the past. Did the participation of the Jews of the past in the killing of Jesus amount to homicide or deicide? To what extent are the Jews of the present to blame for their ongoing obstinacy? Are they simply blind, or wilfully so? And does their continued obstinacy amount to a continued, present participation in the killing of Jesus? Jews came to be perceived as themselves violent, in virtue of their very existence, which signified, after all, that the Second Coming had not yet arrived. In the later middle ages, the fantasy of present Jewish violence against Jesus took the form of accusations of host desecration and child murder. Then Christian violence seemed justified in punishment of or in defence against an imaginary Jewish attack on Christianity, on the still imperfect world, on God Himself. To be sure, Church authorities often rejected these accusations of violence. But the accusations were not straightforwardly contrary to the elements of the Augustinian doctrine. Rather, they drew on longstanding and oft-repeated ideas to which Augustine and his successors were as committed as anyone: the obstinacy and blameworthiness of the Jews, and their role in effecting an unnatural opposition of the letter to the spirit, thus maintaining or, at least, signifying the imperfection of the world. Finally, the Augustinian rationale for the continued survival of the Jews is their preservation of Mosaic law. But what if they do not preserve the law? Then the rationale vanishes. In the thirteenth century, it came to the attention of the Church that Judaism had not stood still since the time of Jesus. Rabbinic Judaism had developed and most Jews had accepted the Babylonian Talmud as authoritative. With the exception of the anti-rabbinic Karaites, who were not prominent in the Latin West, Jews did not read scripture literally after all. They had their own ways of interpreting and observing the law, and these were very distant from the spiritual readings of Christians. This discovery led to a dramatic rebirth of what might be called neo-Marcionite tendencies within the Church. Jewish law which is to say, rabbinic or Talmudic law could not have been given by another god, as Marcion had argued, for dualism was heterodox. But this law could hardly have been given by God. Accordingly, it must have


Paul Franks

been given by none other than the devil. Now it could be argued that the Jews had lost the protection offered by Psalm 59, even that as followers of a satanic religion they were other than human, in fact, demonic (Trachtenberg, 1943). Officially, though, Jewish obstinacy could now be explained as the Talmuds fault. Thus, beginning in Paris in 1242, with an event that Jews still lament annually, books were burned. Where the Talmud was not burned, Jews kept their books only under the condition of Christian censorship. More severe persecution ensued, against which the Augustinian doctrine of witness offered no protection. Jewish obstinacy seemed proof of their satanic nature, which came close to entailing their immunity to conversion. Anti-Judaism became ontic, while discrimination threatened to turn violent, and violence edged towards genocide. Luther inherits the full weight of late medieval, Christian anti-Judaism, with its misrepresentations of the Talmud, its fantasies of present Jewish violence against Jesus, and its demonization of Jews. First, like so many of his predecessors, Luther emphasizes the Pauline antitheses, which he removes from their original, intra-Jewish context, thus creating a particular Lutheran construct of Judaism or legal literalism. Paul is seen as distinguishing himself from arguing with the Jews as a whole, and the literalist and legalistic Judaism which Paul supposedly condemns wholesale is to be found as much among papists as among Jews. Neither can receive the spirit of the gospel, for both are slave to the letter of the law, which is not only the Mosaic law as such, but any doctrine or instruction that demands human acceptance, without creating a new heart or a new life. Thus the Jews are the secondary target of an intra-Christian polemic. Second, and connectedly, Luther believes at first that, if the legalism of the papists is removed, the Jews will convert.5 This is similar to the thirteenth century view that the Jews would convert if only the Talmud were removed. Also similar is the fact that, after the failure of the expected conversion, Luther becomes increasingly convinced that the literalist obstinacy of the Jews is all but incurable and that Jews are demonic. He clearly believes popular accusations of Jewish violence, including host desecration and infanticide. At the same time, he never excludes the possibility of conversion. Third, contemporary Jews are not, in any event, authentic Jews, since it became impossible even to aspire to observe the law once the temple was destroyed as a divine punishment: Their wish to be Mosaic Jews must not be indulged. In fact, no Jew has been that for fourteen hundred years (Luther, Die Juden und ihre Lgen, 1543, in WA, I/53, p. 525). Judaism is not only deadening; it is dead. All this, of course, undermines the applicability of the Augustinian doctrine of witness. Thus, fourth, notwithstanding his respect for Augustine, Luther advocates anti-Jewish violence: the burning of synagogues and schools, the

See Das Jesus Christus ein geborner Jude sei, 1523, in WA, I/11, pp. 307336.

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destruction of Jewish houses; the seizure of Jewish books and the prohibition of Jewish teaching; along with the removal of the right to safe conduct. Implicitly rejecting Augustines appeal to Psalm 59, Luther writes, We are at fault [] in not slaying them (WA, I/53, p. 522).

II. German Idealisms Anti-Judaism: Secularization as Appropriation

German Idealism appropriates all four elements of the Augustinian doctrine, or analogues thereof, and the stresses and strains to which they are subject. (1) According to Kant, Hegel and Schelling, the law that is central to Judaism can and should be interpreted spiritually. It contains an important feature of Christianity, but without the further feature that makes Christianity a religion of freedom. More specifically, Judaism expresses the sublimity of God, rising above the sensuality of idolatrous religions. Kant writes:
Perhaps there is no more sublime passage in the Jewish Book of the Law than the commandment: Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image, nor any likeness either of that which is in heaven, or on the earth, or yet under the earth, etc. This commandment alone can explain the enthusiasm that the Jewish people felt in its civilized period for its religion when it compared itself with other peoples, or the pride that Mohammedanism inspired. The very same thing also holds of the representation of the moral law and the predisposition to morality in us. It is utterly mistaken to worry that if it were deprived of everything that the senses can recommend it would then bring with it nothing but cold, lifeless approval and no moving force or emotion. It is exactly the reverse. (AA, V, p. 274) 6

Like the moral law, the Mosaic law rises above the senses in its conception of the highest ground. But the absence of sensual representation deprives neither of the ability to motivate action. In fact, sublimity generates feelings of reverence that motivate more effectively than sensual representations. Similarly, late in his career, Hegel emphasizes that Judaism is the religion of sublimity, while Schelling, echoing Augustine against Manichaeism, insists on the importance of attending to the Hebrew Bible, without which Christianity remains incomprehensible (SW, VIII, pp. 269274). But here lies a crossroads. How is the prohibition of representation related to the rest of Mosaic law? Is this prohibition alone sublime and spiritual? What is at stake is nothing less than whether Judaism, taken as a whole, prefigures and implicitly involves the appearance of spiritual freedom, or whether it is merely a pre-condition whose destruction must precede that appearance. The former suggests respectful disagreement along with a claim to supersession; the latter

Translation from Kant, 2000.


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suggests deep hostility and a demand for overthrow. I will call the former the Prefigurationism and the latter Preconditionism. (2) The Mosaic Law is, according to Kant, but a pale shadow of the moral law. Whereas the moral law is a law of autonomy, a law one gives oneself in an act of freedom, the Mosaic Law is a law of heteronomy, given by another in an act of domination. Since autonomy is, for Kant as well as Fichte, the philosophical equivalent of salvation, it follows that Jews are specifically excluded from salvation by their Jewishness. Both Schelling and Hegel agree with this: the Jews excluded themselves from the great course of history (SW, XIV, p. 151) and stand immediately before the gates of salvation (HW, III, 340) without ever entering. For them, however, the equivalent of salvation is the realization of spiritual freedom within the intellectual, ethical, social and institutional arrangements of modernity. Underlying Kants antithesis between autonomy and heteronomy are passages from Pauls Epistle to the Romans, which have frequently been read within the context of anti-Judaism. Underlying Kants conception of autonomy is Romans 2:1415: (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, [eautov eisn nmov] even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) And underlying his conception of heteronomy is Romans 7:2125:
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in Gods law; but I see another law [eteron nmon] at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to Gods law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

The latter passage has been read here I set aside the question of Pauls intention as contrasting Gods law, the law of freedom in my inner being, with another law, the law of sin and slavery in my body. Indeed, this other law has been identified with the law of Moses. When Pope Gregory IX condemned the Talmud to the flames in 1239, he described it as another law [aliam legem], using the Vulgate translation of eteron nmon, an identification repeated by his successor, Pope Clement IV in 1267 (Cohen, 1999, p. 322, p. 332, citing Simonsohn, 1988, p. 172, pp. 2336). My suggestion is not that Kant is explicitly aware of this background, but that he repeats, perhaps unwittingly, a longstanding pattern of Christian thought, a pattern according to which the greatest threat to morality consists in the substitution of a law of slavery for the law of freedom. Judaism may not be Kants primary target, but it all too easily becomes the focal point of the criticism of heteronomy, whether in his or other hands.

Inner Anti-Semitism or Kabbalistic Legacy?


Certainly, Kant understands Jewish law as heteronomous. Although the prohibition on representing the divine anticipates the moral laws elevation above sensibility, Jews remained attuned in their minds to no other incentive except the goods of this world and only wished, therefore, to be ruled through rewards and punishments in this life (AA, VI, p. 79).7 Theirs was a slavish mind (AA, VI, p. 80). Indeed, since religion is part of morality, and morality can only be autonomous, Judaism is no religion:
The Jewish faith, as originally established, was only a collection of merely statutory laws supporting a political state; for whatever moral additions were appended to it, whether originally or only later, do not in any way belong to Judaism as such. Strictly speaking Judaism is not a religion at all but simply the union of a number of individuals who, since they belonged to a particular stock, established themselves into a community under purely political laws, hence not into a church. (AA, VI, p. 126). Judaism is a delusion of religion. (AA, VI, p. 128)

As is typical of Christian anti-Judaism, Kant does not have only the Judaism of Jews in mind. For him, Judaism is a distortion into which anybodys morality and religion can fall. In this sense, Judaism should be eliminated from Christianity too. Hence Kants retrospectively horrific statement: The euthanasia of Judaism is pure moral religion, freed from all the ancient statutory teachings, some of which were bound to be retained in Christianity (as a messianic faith) (AA, VII, p. 53). Morality and religion can be cleansed of impurity only by the death of Judaism, which will signify the entry of humankind into its destined unity. Of course, the violence portrayed here as euthanasia is figurative only, equivalent to the ultimate conversion that Augustine expected. Yet it is uncomfortably close to the actual violence counselled by Luther and realized by Hitler. We have returned to the crossroads between Prefigurationism and Preconditionism. The language of euthanasia suggests that, for Kant, Judaism anticipates spiritual freedom only negatively, in its overcoming of sensuality. In all other respects, it is merely statutory law where it should be moral religion; hence, its destruction is a pre-condition for freedoms realization. Thus Jesus appeared to a people ripe for a revolution [] as though descended from heaven, and not as the fulfilment of Jewish messianism (AA, VI, p. 80). To this extent, Kant departs from the Augustinian view that Mosaic Law is susceptible to spiritual interpretation throughout. This prepares the way for a neo-Marcionite position. Regarding Judaism as the antithesis of the Gospel, Fichte does not merely edit the Judaism out of Paul, like Marcion; instead, he edits Paul out of Christianity because of his residual Jewishness (GA I/8, pp. 26972). Recalling pre-Christian roots of anti-Semitism, Fichte sees Judaism as founded on the hatred of mankind (GA, I/1, p. 242), and he retains only the Gospel of John, in which Jesus

Translations in this paragraph are from Kant, 1996.


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Jewish origins are unmentioned.8 Thus Fichte prepares the way for the reevaluation of Marcion as the precursor of the Lutheran Reformation.9 Schelling finds a duality, not between Judaism and Christianity, but within Judaism, expressed by the distinction between the divine names Elohim and YHWH (SW, XIV, pp. 128132). The former name signifies the unity of the cosmic powers, or the relative One, who, manifesting residual paganism, demands the sacrifice of Abrahams son. But the absolute One, manifest as the angel of YHWH, frees Abraham from this command, while also blessing Abraham for being prepared to obey Elohims command, thus acknowledging the relative One as a necessary stage in the absolute Ones manifestation. On the one hand, aspects of Judaism connected to the relative One are mere preconditions to be destroyed by Christian freedom, and the law is a yoke of slavery (SW, XIV, pp. 146147n., citing Gal. 5.1).10 On the other hand, aspects connected to the absolute One are prefigurations of Christianity. Indeed, the negation of residually pagan preconditions is itself a prefiguration of Christianity, and it is this prophetic element alone that gives Judaism an edge over contemporaneous paganism, which exhibits many parallels. In general, Judaism, strictly speaking, was never something positive. It can be defined only as shackled paganism, or as potential, still concealed Christianity; and it was just this middle position that was fatal to it (SW, XIV, p. 148). Having played out its role in late antiquity, Judaism has long been both dead and deadening, so that the killing of Christ, notwithstanding its salvific necessity, expresses Judaisms inner nature.11 Of all the German Idealists, Hegel alone is unequivocal in his mature lectures, at any rate in taking the Prefigurationist route. This makes him closest to Augustine and thus relatively benign in his anti-Judaism. To be sure,



Notoriously, Jesus is reported in this gospel to have said to the Jews, You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your fathers desire (John, 8:44). On the gospels Jewish Christian authorship and the complexities of its anti-Judaism, see Reinharz, 2001. There is much to be said elsewhere about the gospels complex within German Idealism and among twentieth century thinkers such as Eugen Rosenstock and Franz Rosenzweig. See Harnack, 1921, and his youthful essay of 1870, published in Harnack, 2008. Harnack was no Nazi, but his work was helpful to the Deutsche Christen who took over many German Protestant Churches during the Nazi period, seeking to remove Jewish elements from the Christian canon. In this remarkable footnote, Schelling responds to an auditors objection that his unsympathetic account of Judaism is inconsistent with the Old Testament, i. e., the Hebrew Bible. He appeals to the insight into Judaism of Paul, whose view of the law he interprets in a Lutheran manner. See SW, XIV, p.149 n.: Christ cannot be understood out of Judaisms inner resources. It provided the matter of his existence, but he himself is really the potence of paganism, alien to Judaism. Therefore the Jews had to destroy (kill) his matter, and from this destroyed [matter] the potence of paganism could arise freely for the first time, as he says only at the end: for all the nations (Luke 24:47).

Inner Anti-Semitism or Kabbalistic Legacy?


both early and late, Hegel sees Judaism as exemplifying the bondsmans relation to the lord. But Hegels view of Judaism becomes increasingly nuanced and appreciative as his view of that relationship develops.12 Especially in the 1824 and 1827 lectures on the philosophy of religion, he comes to see Jewish service as liberating labour: Judaism is liberation from all earthly domination (VPR, II, p. 344); taken as a whole, it is submission to divine wisdom, as expressed in Job, but enacted as absolute faith in Gods covenant with Israel (VPR, II, pp. 345352, p. 573). Consequently, Hegels view of Judaism is more positive than Schellings: Mosaic law-governed practices do not merely pre-figure Christianity; they do what Christianity does, effecting a reconciliation between God understood as infinite subjectivity and humans (VPR, II, pp. 3512). Nevertheless, Christian reconciliation is superior to Jewish reconciliation. Indeed, Hegels late appreciation of Judaism does not require him to abandon his earlier critique of Judaism, which he never drops, and which he reiterates forcefully in 1827 and 1831. Judaism is now seen to involve not only human liberation but also purposeful, divine particularization (VPR, II, p. 563), but they do not become one. God initiates and oversees the development, but it remains external, abstract mediation and never becomes self-mediated, concrete development; similarly, the Jews remain frozen at the developmental stage of their election, as one people at its root, one family among others (VPR, II, pp. 5757n.). Thus Judaism fails to become genuinely universal, and becomes highly resistant to change in even its most contingent elements. Self-excluded from history, it never becomes true freedom (VPR, II, pp. 5749). What is most striking is that, for each of these thinkers, Judaism is primarily the penultimate moment in the dialectic that culminates in salvation, secondarily the religion of the ancient Israelites reflected in the Old Testament i.e., the Hebrew Bible read through the lens of the New Testament, especially Pauls epistles and only thirdly the religion of actual, living Jews. More detailed consideration would show, I believe, that each philosophers view of Judaism is closely correlated with his view of this dialectic. Thus, Kants view must be situated within the moral dialectic of humiliation and respect: Mosaic law anticipates the moral law in its prohibition of sensual representations of the unconditioned, but it is in all other respects a guise of the false law, the principle of happiness, which must be struck down if autonomy is to be achieved (AA, V, pp. 735). Fichtes neo-Marcionism reflects his general tendency towards antithetical and impatient non-dialectical thinking with respect to rival systems and approaches, which expresses itself in his rhetorical annihilations of dogmatists. For both Schelling and Hegel, Judaism names the maximally tense moment in the dialectics progression towards salvation, the stage that

On Hegels struggle with the dark riddle of Judaism (Rosenkranz, 1844, p. 49), see Rotenstreich, 1963; Fackenheim, 1968; Poggeler, 1974; Hodgson, 1987; Yovel, 1998; and ORegan, 1997.


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anticipates salvation to the highest degree but fails to realize it.13 Indeed, their different judgments of Judaism may arise from their different understandings of the dialectic. Hegels necessitarian dialectic of the concept requires each moment to contain all the elements of its successor, although these moments cannot be fully realized without further negation; while Schellings contingencyladen dialectic of the will portrays moments, not as emerging directly from their predecessors, but as produced thanks to some contingent act of will in response to their predecessors shortcomings. Hence, it may be argued, Hegel must conceive of Judaism as containing all the elements of Christian salvation as yet realized only in abstracto while Schelling must conceive of Judaism as lacking at least one element necessary for salvation the incarnation that Christianity alone supplies through a volitional and revelatory intervention. (4) Schelling and Hegel both regard the stateless and lowly condition of the Jews as a divine punishment for their self-exclusion from history, which has advanced from the stage of Judaism to that of Christianity. Thus Hegel, in the Phenomenology, calls the Jews the most reprobate of peoples (HW, III, 340),14 and Schelling sounds a familiar note: They had to cease to be a people and were dispersed and scattered among the other peoples (SW, XIV, p. 149). More ominously, neither Kant nor Fichte recognizes the condition of the Jews in Christendom as disadvantaged at all. Kant points out correctly enough that the Jewish diaspora pre-dates the destruction of Jerusalem. Then, ignoring both popular prejudice and discriminatory laws, he concludes that, their dispersion throughout the world, with their unity of religion and language, must not be attributed to a curse inflicted upon this people, but rather to a blessing, especially since their wealth, estimated per capita, probably now exceeds that of any other people of the same number (AA, VII, p. 206n.).15 Going further still, Fichte asserts that Jews have the advantage over all other nations, because they constitute a global state within a state that is more secure and powerful than other states. (GA, I/1, pp. 2912).16 Here is a secular version of the medieval fantasy of Jewish violence, in defence against which, Christian discrimination is justified. To arrive at the full-blooded anti-Semitism of the late

14 15 16

Both tend to treat Greek or pagan religion and Judaism as equally one-sided predecessors of Christianity, but ultimately place Judaism higher insofar as it is closer to Christianity. For Schelling (SW, XIV, 131), the angel of YHWH is not yet the appearance of A2, but rather B the inverted potency determined to appear by A2. For Hegel, Judaism corresponds to abstract negativity, which remains separated from the process of its own constitution, hence fixed or dead, which is not yet concrete, selfnegating or living negativity. In this noteworthy passage, the Jews are adduced, as it were, out of nowhere, to illuminate a moment in spirits appearance. Kant provides no basis for this economic conjecture, presumably grounded in prejudice. Hitler alludes to the passage in his speech at Munich on July 28, 1922. See Jckel and Kuhn, 1980, p. 659.

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nineteenth century, one needs to add two further elements: the ontologization of Jewish nature expressed by the pseudo-scientific concept of race in whose development Kant plays an early role and the demonization that would deprive the Jews even of human rights. (5) Positions on the emancipation of the Jews are largely determined by the general views sketched above: Kant is somewhat equivocal, Fichte is opposed, and Schelling and Hegel are clearly in favour. Underlying the debate is the unexamined yet universal assumption that Judaism is, in its current state, both degraded and degrading to its practitioners. Endorsing a proposal for the reform of Judaism by the adoption of the religion of Jesus which he mistakenly ascribes to his former student, Lazarus Bendavid17 Kant remarks that this is the only plan which, if carried out, would leave the Jews a distinctive faith and yet quickly call attention to them as an educated and civilized people who are ready for all the rights of citizenship and whose faith could also be sanctioned by the government (AA, VII, pp. 523). But this is ambiguous: are the Jews already ripe for citizenship and official recognition as a religious community, so that the proposals implementation would merely call attention to this fact? Or would the reform render them ready? On just this question, Fichte divides from Schelling and Hegel. Driven by his prejudiced view that Jewry constitutes a misanthropic, global state, he writes:
Human rights [the Jews] must have, even if they do not grant them to us; for they are human beings, and their injustice does not justify us in treating them with injustice [] But to give them civil rights, I see no way, except to cut off all their heads in one night and replace them with others in which there is not a single Jewish idea. In order to protect ourselves against them, I see once again no way, except to conquer their beloved land for them, and to send them all there. (GA, I/1, p. 293n.)18

The Jews will be fit for civil rights, in addition to the human rights that they already possess, only if they give up Judaism or perhaps render it Judaism in name only, without a single Jewish idea. The violence is, once again, metaphorical, yet still disturbing. In contrast, both Schelling and Hegel think that Jews are uncivilized because of discriminatory laws that isolate Jews from the rest of humanity. In an 1848 memo, Schelling recommends emancipation on the grounds that the exclusion



Kant perhaps conflates Bendavid with David Friedlnder, who proposes religious reform in exchange for emancipation. However, neither suggests adopting the religion of Jesus. See Bendavid, 1793, and Friedlnder, 1799. Kant can understand the modernization of Judaism only as conversion to some approximation of Christianity. The first sentence earned Fichte a reputation as a principal enemy of the Jews. See Ascher, 1794. Later, the second sentence made him a hero to some Zionists. See Voigts, 2003.


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of Jews from political office has not prevented them from attempting to undermine the state, while inclusion in the life of the state will make Jews feel increasingly connected to that life. Since Judaism is incompatible with the German principle of higher honour, this will eventually lead to their conversion to Christianity.19 Hegel argues in the Philosophy of Right that, although it was technically right to deny civil rights to the Jews as members of another nation, it was nevertheless the height of folly. This is because patriotism is not only an antecedent condition but is actively created by the sense, reinforced in ordinary life, that the national community is the substantial basis and end of ones life, so that emancipation would bring about the desired assimilation, while continued exclusion would bring reproach, not only to the Jews, but also to the state (HW, VII, 209, 270).20 Indeed, it may be Hegels view that emancipating the Jews would mark the culmination of modernity, since the infinite pain of the Jews in pre-modern Christendom expressed its still-to-be-overcome division between heaven and earth and its as yet unrealized embodiment of spirit, of the principle of the unity of divine and human nature (HW, VII, 358).21 Whether Hegels desired assimilation is supposed to consist in conversion, in the adoption of the religion of Jesus, or in the renewal of Judaism from its own sources, remains unclear. But, however well-intentioned Hegel may have been, one may be forgiven for worrying that, as in Luthers case, the stiff-necked Jews refusal to meet the expectations of self-styled benefactors could lead to a backlash. Civil rights should flow, not from an assessment of beneficial consequences, but from the demands of justice. The basis for these views consists of a specific understanding of the dialectic culminating in salvation, along with more or less serious study of the Hebrew Bible always read through the lens of the New Testament, especially Pauls epistles and their history within Christian anti-Judaic tradition and an unhealthy dose of prejudice. Developments of Judaism since the life and death of Jesus are simply ignored, with the important exception of kabbalah, to which I will attend in the next section. Yet rabbinic Judaism develops its own conception of spiritual freedom as constituted through the human activities of interpretation and innovation. On the kabbalistic version that has long been mainstream, the salvific process is even internal to God, just as Hegel requires, since the covenant with both Israel and humanity in general places Gods destiny in human hands.22 To understand this, however, one must examine the Torah in


20 21

See Cahnman, 1974. Schelling ends Lecture XXIX of his Philosophie der Offenbarung with Anti-Pope John XXIIIs words to the Jews of Constanz: May Almighty God lift the veil from your eyes (SW, XIV, p. 151). This appears to have been a papal ritual. See Linder, 2009. Compare the pre-Vatican II Roman Missal for Good Friday, based on 2 Cor. 3: 1316. See Avineri, 1953; Smith, 1991; Fischer, 2006. See Fackenheim, 1973, p. 120.

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both its written and oral dimensions, which Kant and the German Idealists including Hegel at his most sympathetic never do. Mendelssohn pioneers the philosophical articulation of this oral dimension in his Jerusalem, portraying Torah as a kind of living script that arouses the spirit and heart (JA, VIII, p. 169), and preparing the way for, among other things, Franz Rosenzweigs insistence that Judaism conceives Torah, not as law, but rather as commandment (mitzvah), and that the task of Jewish life is to transform the impersonal strictures of law into personal commands issuing from Gods loving presence. Jewish philosophy has risen to the Kantian and German Idealist challenge to explain how Judaism can be an expression of freedom. Indeed, this has been fruitful because terms drawn from Kant and German Idealism are particularly well-suited to the task. But this does not detract from the fact that Kant and German Idealism perpetuate Christian anti-Judaism. Indeed, just as the Reformation, by casting off the centralized Church authority that had generally restrained anti-Judaism in accordance with Augustines doctrine, threatened to unleash unprecedented violence against Jews, so Kant and German Idealism, by appropriating anti-Judaism in a secular form, threatened to unleash an even more unrestrained violence. The fulfilment of the threat was far from inevitable. But, when it was fulfilled, the Kantian and Fichtean fantasies of a servile and misanthropic Judaism making war on the world would play their parts, and the Hegelian and Schellingian hopes for an emancipation that would lead to Jewish assimilation and conversion would offer little protection.

III. German Idealisms Kabbalistic Legacy: Secularization as Tsimtsum

What, then, of the other side of German Idealism relationship to Judaism? Is there also a positive relationship that explains the intimate relationship between Jewish philosophy and German Idealism? Responding to the residual antiSemitism of unnamed colleagues, who still maintained that Jews could be at best second-rate philosophers, Jrgen Habermas argues, not only that this is false, but that Jews are particularly attracted to German Idealism because German Idealism is itself Jewish! There is much to criticise in Habermas essay, which he himself calls reportage rather than serious scholarship. In particular, much of

Hegel is aware of kabbalah, but knows little or nothing of its biblical and midrashic roots, and he discusses it in his lectures on the history of philosophy, not in his lectures on the philosophy of religion. Thus, he can say, amazingly, that Judaism acknowledges no internal development of God and never develops the story of the Fall (VPR II, 627). When he discusses kabbalah, it is within the ancient context of Philo of Alexandria and Neo-Platonism, and without any recognition of kabbalahs continuing vitality.


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the essay is vitiated by the fact that Habermas adopts, for the sake of rebuttal, his anti-Semitic opponents racist criterion of who counts as a Jewish philosopher. Nevertheless, there is an important grain of truth here. He writes: It remains astonishing how productively central motifs of the philosophy of German Idealism shaped so essentially by Protestantism can be developed in terms of the experience of the Jewish tradition. Because the legacy of the Kabbalah already flowed into and was absorbed by Idealism, its light seems to refract all the more richly in the spectrum of a spirit in which something of the spirit of Jewish mysticism lives on, in however hidden a way (Habermas, 1985, pp. 212). This strange-sounding claim is made out by Habermas on the basis of a second-hand and now somewhat outdated knowledge of kabbalistic traditions. Yet the claim can be reconstructed. By the legacy of the Kabbalah, Habermas means to refer to a complex of ideas associated with the sixteenth century kabbalist, Isaac Luria, who initiated a transformation, not only of kabbalistic thought, but also of Jewish practice. Most importantly, Habermas invokes the concept of tsimtsum or contraction: In Lurianic mysticism the idea is developed of the universes arising in virtue of a process of shrinkage and contraction; God withdraws into an exile within himself (Habermas, 1985, p. 39). Habermas 1954 doctoral dissertation already follows Franz Rosenzweigs suggestion that Schellings philosophy employs Lurianic concepts (Rosenzweig, 2000, p. 57). Indeed, long before Schellings 1810 Stuttgart lectures, in which he speaks explicitly of tsimtsum, the kabbalistic impact on German Idealism may already be seen in the publication that instigated the rise of German Idealism, in Friedrich Heinrich Jacobis letters to Mendelssohn.23 According to Jacobi, Lessing had confessed to him that his Enlightenment rationalism had led him inexorably to Spinozism the ultimate impiety. This bombshell is intended to explode the reputation of supposedly moderate rationalists such as Mendelssohn who maintain that they are theists who can comfortably inhabit their religious communities. But Jacobi also reports that Lessing was fascinated by the concept of tsimtsum, which he discussed in an irreverent and naturalistic manner (Jacobi, 1785, pp. 345). In Jacobis reported conversation, there are three options. The first two, which are portrayed as having the virtue of consistency, are Spinozism and kabbalism. Jacobi distinguishes these two options, but he also identifies them, as if to say that the distinction is without a difference.24 Since neither allows for individuality and personhood, both amount to what he later calls nihilism, which is thereby identified as Jewish. At the same time, Jacobi himself speaks for the kabbalah in the strict sense, which he perhaps understands as Christian.
23 24

On Jacobis significance for German Idealism, see Franks, 2005. See Jacobi, 1785, p. 170. The identification of Spinozism with kabbalah is most famously associated with Wachter, 1699 and 1706.

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Lessing and Jacobi can speak of tsimtsum because of the astonishingly ambitious translation project directed by Christian Knorr von Rosenroth and his associates. The resulting volumes (Knorr von Rosenroth, 167784) contain translations of parts of the Zohar, and of published works deriving in various ways from the teaching of Luria, including some Lurianic traditions recorded by Haim Vital, which were still passing among kabbalists in manuscript, as well as various treatises discussing the Christian significance of kabbalah. It is a crowning achievement of the Christian kabbalism originating with the Christian discovery of the kabbalah in the Renaissance (Schulte, 1997). But it also shares the limitations of Christian kabbalism: motivated by the desire to convert the Jews, it views everything spiritual in kabbalah as Christian rather than Jewish; it takes at face-value the kabbalistic claim to antiquity, thus continuing the conceit that Judaism has not developed creatively since the time of Jesus; and it neglects the intimate linkage between kabbalah and other aspects of rabbinic Judaism, notably midrash and Talmud. Habermas speaks, understandably, of the impact on German Idealism of Lurianic mysticism. But tsimtsum is not exclusively Lurianic. It has midrashic roots to which I will turn shortly and is found in pre-Lurianic kabbalistic texts, sometimes under the name of tsimtsum, sometimes not (Scholem, 1941; Idel, 1992). Over several centuries, Luria, whose legacy was not only unpublished but also mainly unwritten, became a screen on which complex concatenations of kabbalistic ideas some with prior histories could be projected, reformatted, and rearranged. Although Lurias principal disciple, Haim Vital, insisted on a vow of secrecy, the doctrine of tsimtsum, among others, made its way into print with remarkable speed. Here is one version of Vitals exposition of tsimtsum, published only recently, after circulating among select kabbalists in manuscript for centuries:
When the supernal Emanator decided to create this material cosmos, it withdrew its presence in the manner described by our rabbis, of blessed memory, [when they said] He concentrated His presence between the two staves of the Ark, 25 for prior to this the infinite [Ein-Sof] filled everything. [] At the beginning of creation, when the Blessed One withdrew its presence all around in every direction, it left an empty space in the middle, surrounded on all sides by the light of the infinite, empty precisely at the centremost point. (Vital, 1985, p. 17)


See Midrash Shir ha-Shirim, Parshah 1.13: My beloved is to me as a bag of myrrh, lodged between my breasts. (Song of Songs, 1:13) Of all the spices, none is sweeter than this myrrh. Similarly, the Holy One Blessed be He is the most fitting thing in the world. And why does he compare the Holy One Blessed be He to a bag? Because it is written of the Holy One Blessed be He, For I fill heaven and earth declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:24) And He contracts His in-dwelling between the staves of the Ark, as it says, resting between my breasts. Compare Bereshit Rabbah 4:3; Tanhuma Vayakhel 7.


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To understand this concept, we must examine its roots in midrash, in the oral dimension of Torah. Vital alludes to these roots when he compares the creative tsimtsum to the tsimtsum of the shekhinah between the staves of the Ark in other words, the Ark in the Holy of Holies within the Sanctuary or Temple, containing the tablets brought by Moses, where God dwelt in the midst of the people of Israel. An ancient tradition, found in both rabbinic and non-rabbinic sources, views the construction of the Temple as an image of the creation of the world. And several late ancient or early medieval midrashic texts use variants of the term tsimtsum to describe Gods contraction into the midst of His people. In a much cited passage, Gershom Scholem stresses the discontinuity between this midrashic tsimtsum and its kabbalistic relative: Here we have the origin of the term Tsimtsum, while the thing itself is the precise opposite of this idea: to the Kabbalist of Lurias school Tsimtsum does not mean the concentration of God at a point, but his retreat away from a point (Scholem, 1941, p. 260). Notwithstanding Scholems point, there is a significant continuity between the midrashic and kabbalistic notions, as the following midrash illustrates:
Elihu said: The Almighty, we cannot find Him, excellent in power. (Job, 37:23) He that hears this verse may exclaim: Perhaps, heaven forfend, this is blasphemy! But this is what Elihu meant: We will never find Gods strength displayed towards any of His creatures, for He does not visit His creatures with that which is burdensome, but comes to each one according to his strength. For know that if God had come upon Israel with the full might of His strength when He gave them the Torah, they would not have been able to withstand it, as it says, If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die (Deut. 5:22). God, however, came upon them according to their individual strength, for it says, The voice of the Lord is with power [ba-koah] (Ps. 29:4). It does not say with His power [be-koho] but . . with power, that is, according to the power of each individual. Another explanation: when God said to Moses, Make a tabernacle for Me (Ex. 25:8), he exclaimed in amazement, The Glory of the Holy One, blessed be He, fills heaven and earth, and yet He commands: Make a tabernacle for Me! [] God said, Not as you think do I think; twenty boards on the north, twenty on the south and eight in the west [suffices for Me]; moreover, I will descend and even contract [va-atsamtsem] my Shekhinah within one square cubit. (Shemot Rabbah, 34:1)26

This midrash shows that we are dealing with three instantiations of the same structure: the giving of the Torah at Sinai, the divine in-dwelling in the sanctuary, and the creation of the world. In each case, the following features appear. (1) Divine infinity is understood, not as essentially positive, but rather as negativity that brooks no external limitation. It is a power that would seem to leave no room for anything other than itself to exist, and that is immensely dangerous to anything other than itself that comes into existence. This is why Sinai must be fenced off, and why only Moses is to be allowed to ascend. This is why the Ark

Novak, 1992, brought this midrash to my attention.

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must be kept in the Holy of Holies, which is also out of bounds, except to an adequately prepared High Priest at the holiest time of the year. And this is why there can be no creation without tsimtsum. (2) In order to maintain divine infinity while enabling finitude and otherness, Gods negativity must be self-limiting. God forgoes thoroughgoing and universal immanence, forgoes annihilation of the other. (3) What this manifestation of divine self-limiting calls forth is individuality: a finite image of divine, self-limiting negativity. Once the logic of the idea of tsimtsum is appreciated, it can be discerned independently of any suggestion that the philosopher in question was acquainted with kabbalistic texts.27 Here I want to adduce the case of reciprocal recognition, which continues to be central both to post-Kantian philosophy of mind and ethics, and to contemporary political philosophy. Introducing the theme, Fichte seeks to solve two problems with a single stroke. First, what is the source of our consciousness of ourselves as rational agents, and in particular as instances of a concept of selfhood that is both firstpersonal and such as to allow for instantiation by a plurality of beings? Second, what is the source of the normativity of ethical principles, and in particular of ethical principles that are compatible with a plurality of individual conceptions of the good? Fichtes solution is that self-consciousness originates in an event that he calls the summons. This occurs when one rational agent, already conscious of herself as such, recognizes another being as a rational agent by inviting him to do something. Insofar as the second being recognizes the recognition of the first, he thereby recognizes and becomes aware of himself, both as a member of a plurality and as an individual capable of taking a first-personal perspective. Despite his neo-Marcionite anti-Judaism, Fichtes conception of natural right as a form of heteronomous rationality with its own end, the development of individuality, along with its development by Hegel, is one of the best German Idealist resources for Jewish philosophy.28 Indeed, Fichtes summons exemplifies the structure of tsimtsum. First, it seeks to avoid problems arising from the infinity of rational agency not in God, but in the human being, considered as the image of God an infinity that threatens to brook no limitation. The striving to overcome limits is essential to rational agency as Fichte understands it, and it is accordingly hard to see how a rational agent can come to conceive herself both as an overcomer of limits and as someone who can acknowledge and who, indeed, ought to respect the limits set by the existence of other rational agents. Hegel makes explicit what is implicit in Fichte: that rational agency is to be understood as negativity. And Hegel makes the destructive power of agency vivid with his parables of the life-and-death struggle and of lordship and bondage,

27 28

On Schelling, see Schulte, 1992 and 1998. On Hegel, see ORegan, 1994, and Magee, 2001. Also significant are Schellings conceptions of narrative and myth.


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as if to say that I cannot conceive myself as a rational agent among others without ascribing to myself the power to annihilate the other, either physically or spiritually. Second, the summons involves a contraction or self-negation that makes it possible for the summoner to preserve infinity while acknowledging others and the limits they represent. As Fichte puts it, only the moderation of force [die Mssigung der Kraft] by means of concepts is the unmistakable and exclusive criterion of reason and freedom (GA, I/3, p. 45). Foregoing violence, the summoner accords the other a normative status, and invites the other to enter a communicative realm beyond the use of force (Bernstein, 2007, p. 189). Third, the other is summoned, not as a particular falling under a universal concept, but as an individual. On the one hand, the summons invites the other to discover his or her freedom of choice. On the other, the summons invites the other to discover his or her membership in a norm-governed community of communicators: I may or may not do what you ask me to do, but whatever I choose counts as a response, even if I do nothing; and I am summoned to perform my own, reciprocal act of tsimtsum, forgoing violence in my responsiveness. Thus, in summoning me, the other gives me the law or, better, like Moses, the summoner enables me to receive the law. No wonder that Fichte says, The summons to engage in free activity is what we call education [Erziehung] (GA, I/3, p. 39). Similarly, the Piaseczno Rebbe, who was murdered in the Holocaust after guiding Jewish life in the Warsaw Ghetto, emphasizes the role of tsimtsum at the very heart of the educational process (Shapira, 1931; Friedman, 2003). In addition to its promise with respect to creation, ethics and education, the concept of tsimtsum also offers the resources for an account of secularization an alternative to both the abolition and appropriation models. Already in some biblical and rabbinic traditions, the human being is strikingly empowered by the covenantal relationship with God. Abraham argues with God about the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah in the name of divine justice (Gen. 18), which already suggests a relationship transcending servility. In a well-known Talmudic discussion, Rabbi Yehoshua goes even farther. He argues against God that the Torah is not in the heavens (Deut. 30:12), which he takes to mean that human argumentation about the law should prevail, even if God were to disagree with its conclusion, so that, once the Torah has been entrusted to humans, God has no standing in the argument about its meaning (Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metsiah 59b). The concept of tsimtsum goes even further, or rather it allows us to understand these traditions in a still more radical manner: in both creation and revelation, God contracts, enabling the other not only to exist, but also to emulate divine creativity and revelation. Thus, the responsiveness constituted by contraction, along with the power to constitute society and its norms, passes to the human being. This has given rise to a kabbalistic interpretation of pluralism within Jewish law. It is a constitutive feature of the Mishnah, the first written record of oral

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Torah, that it includes non-binding as well as binding opinions; and it is a constitutive feature of the Talmud that it seeks, not only to decide which opinions are binding, but also to preserve, through argument and analysis, the differences between recorded views. In a well-known Talmudic passage concerning the numerous disagreements between the schools of Hillel and Shammai, a divine voice declares both that the school of Hillel is normative and that [t]hese and those are the words of the living God (Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 13b). In explanation, Solomon Luria, the sixteenth century halachist, invokes the midrashic idea encountered above: that revelation is attuned to the power of each individual. Citing unnamed kabbalists, he explains that, Each perceived in his own way, and in accordance with his intellectual capacity, and received in accordance with the stature and unique character of his unique soul (Luria, 1615, 2a-b). The thought is that, in revelation, which occurs by means of divine contraction, each individual receives the ability to constitute Torah in a unique manner. By the nineteenth century, this approach would give rise to an emphasis on human creativity hiddush in Torah, understood as an image of divine . creativity.29 On this model of secularization, divine revelation necessarily involves contraction, which both enables and calls for the empowerment of the human being. In twentieth century thinkers such as Ernst Bloch, Franz Rosenzweig, and Walter Benjamin the tsimtsum model of secularization is radicalized even more, so that divine contraction empowers the human being even to the point of atheism. For Rosenzweig, this means that atheism must be understood from a theistic point of view. For Bloch and Benjamin, it means that atheism should empower itself by drawing on religious concepts. This is not the occasion for an exploration of the fruitfulness of the tsimtsum model of secularization for thinking about modernity. But it is important to note that Jewish philosophy has given rise to such a model, not least because neither the Left Hegelian conception of secularization as the dissolution of religion nor the Right Hegelian conception of secularization as the appropriation of religious content, have been able to find room in modernity for Jews, not only as human beings, but also as Jews.30



Whereas the first tablets brought from Sinai were wholly produced by God, the second tablets were hewn by Moses at Gods command, signifying on this view developed by several leading Lithuanian Torah scholars the essential role of human creativity in constituting Torah. The second tablets are housed in the Ark where divine tsimtsum occurs. See Berlin, 187980 on Exodus 34: 1 and Deuteronomy 4:14; and Soloveitchik, 1863, Derush 18. See also Haim of Volozhin, 1837, who grounds Torah study in the divine image, discussing tsimtsum between the two staves of the ark in Shaar 3. See Fackenheim, 1973, pp. 45: One question, at least, has already been answered by historical events. When the men of the French Revolution emancipated the Jewish people they proposed to give to Jews as men everything, and to Jews as Jews


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IV. Conclusion
I have argued that German Idealism inherits the Christian anti-Judaic tradition. To be sure, it does so, not as authorized by the Church, but as a secularizer. However, this means that Church constraints are loosened, enabling a return to pre-Constantinian inclusion of Jews in civil society and the state, as well as a return to long-rejected Marcionite possibilities of divorcing Christianity from its Jewish roots, and even the development of new justifications for Christian violence in defence against new versions of old fantasies of Jewish aggression. Not even Hegel departs from the anti-Judaic tradition by considering Judaism in its vitality, after the advent of Christianity and, indeed, up to the present day. Furthermore, this anti-Judaism is inner to the extent that each philosophers anti-Judaism, ignoring actual Jewish life, correlates with his view of the penultimate moment in the dialectic leading to salvation. This gives rise, not merely to a historical scandal, but to a present danger. For anti-Judaism remains latent within Kantianism and German Idealism, and we should have learned by now that such latencies can never be consigned comfortably to the past; they can all too easily be activated. To this situation there are two remedies, whose comparative merits deserve discussion elsewhere. Minimally, contemporary philosophers who engage with Kantianism and German Idealism should take pains to emphasize that the antiJudaic portrayal of Judaism is based on prejudice and ignorance, and they should familiarize themselves with more accurate which is not to say uncritical accounts of Judaisms character and contribution to philosophy. More radically, Kantianism and German Idealism may require revision more or less significant in order to render them capable of recognizing Judaisms role in modernity and compatible with a pluralistic society that includes more than one religious community.31 At the same time, German Idealism has, from its very inception, inherited a kabbalistic legacy. The idea, as central to German Idealism as any theme, of the infinite as self-limiting negativity that calls forth its finite other, owes much to kabbalah, though certainly to other sources as well. This legacy is rich in its implications, not only for Jewish philosophy, and not only for an assessment of


nothing. This proposal had two hidden assumptions. One was that Jews were an anachronism as Jews, and on trial as men. The other was that the faith of Jews could fairly be judged, and their humanity properly be put on trial, by a civilization that had oppressed them for nearly two millennia []. If modern philosophy failed to question the two assumptions of the Emancipation era, modern Jewry, until quite recently, failed as well []. Modern philosophy must reject the false assumptions of the Emancipation era if it is to preserve its integrity. Modern Jewish thought must reject them if it is to find its way to a modern liberty. On the question whether Hegelianism needs revision, see Doull and Fackenheim, 2003.

Inner Anti-Semitism or Kabbalistic Legacy?


Judaisms contribution to general philosophy, but to philosophical thought about a broad range of topics, from metaphysics to philosophy of mind, from ethics and philosophy of education to reflection on modernity and secularization. Here too, however, the anti-Judaic tradition has dominated. As Habermas puts it, the legacy of Kabbalah [] was absorbed by Idealism. In a familiar pattern, whatever seemed positive in Judaism was expropriated. Once again, a remedy is called for: acknowledgment, not only of historical facts, but also of the possibility to which Kant and the German Idealists remain, if I dare use the word, blind that Jewish life and thought remain vital, and are still capable of challenging and enriching philosophy.32

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Material in this paper was originally presented as the Senator Jerahmiel S. and Carole S. Grafstein Chair in Jewish Philosophy Inaugural Lecture at the University of Toronto, and as the second annual Guelph Philosophy Lecture at the University of Guelph. I am grateful to Anthony Bruno, Robert Gibbs, Tyson Gofton, Sol Goldberg, Mark McCullagh, Michael Morgan, Hindy Najman, Karin Nisenbaum, Terry Pinkard, Benjamin Pollock, Ives Radrizzani, Christoph Schulte and Robert Stern; to audiences at Toronto and Guelph; to the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto; and to Fred Rush for his enormous patience. Translations are mine unless otherwise noted.


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II. Rezensionen