The Origins of the Haskalah

Topics: Judaism, Hebrew language, Talmud Pages: 2 (594 words) Published: October 9, 2006
The Haskalah was a Jewish movement created in response to the Enlightenment of Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. The spread of the Haskalah had many consequences which are still evident today. The Haskalah spawned changes in Jewish professions and Orthodox Jewry. The followers, or Maskilim, taught Anti-Messianism and Nationalism in hopes of further integrating the Jews into secular society. Also, the Haskalah presented a challenge to adherence to traditional orthopraxy by advocating secular education, linguistic assimilation, reason, and personal accountability.

The Haskalah movement was based on rationality, and "comes from the Hebrew word sekhel meaning reason or intellect." The maskilim promoted the Jews changing their professions, switching from profitable, financial jobs to jobs in crafts or agriculture which required more skill. Though Orthodox Jews were initially against the Haskalah, the schools were nevertheless influenced into teaching general studies alongside Judaic studies. A major component in education during the Haskalah was an Orthodox Rabbi known as the Vilna Gaon. His approach to studying Talmud was to interpret the exact common sense meaning of the texts. In order to better understand talmudic discussions, "he also studied secular subjects including algebra, geometry, astronomy, geography, and Hebrew grammar."

The rise of the concept of anti-Messianism was also fundamental to the Haskala movement. Anti-Messianism is defined as "a feeling that one should not be constantly yearning for a miraculous messiah." This ideology was augmented in the 1600s by a false Messiah, Shabbetai Zevi, who later converted to Islam. The maskil Jonathan Eybeschuetz thought that the messiah should bring about the better legal and social status the Jews were fighting for, and Moses Mendelssohn agreed to the idea of messianic hope, but thought that it shouldn't have an effect on the daily lives of the people.

In addition to the rise of...
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