As the architect of Orthodoxy in the modern era, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) has an outsized impact on the Torah world until this very day. In his own lifetime his leadership of German Jewry overall and in particular his own community of Frankfurt stemmed the tide towards secularization, and created a framework for a flourishing Torah community within modern life. His seminal works of The 19 Letters, Horeb, commentary on Chumash and hundreds of articles of his Collected Writings, formed the basis of his Torah outlook in the face of new challenges.

Yet his influence wasn’t limited to his own lifetime or his own community in Frankfurt or Germany. His impact permeates the entire spectrum of 21st century Orthodoxy. He pioneered the use the vernacular in Orthodox rabbinic life, initiated the first Torah oriented newspaper, spearheaded the first Torah education for girls, and laid the groundwork for much of what is considered standard Orthodox practice and values in contemporary society. A nuanced examination of his imprint on contemporary Orthodoxy can serve as a reevaluation of the crucial role he played in modern Jewish history.

 

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