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Jakob Weil's Contribution to a Modern Concept of Haggadah

Leo Baeck Institute Year Book , Volume 41 (1) – Jan 1, 1996


The Leo Baeck Institute
Copyright © 1996 Oxford University Press
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Jakob Weil's Contribution to a Modern Concept of Haggadah


Jakob WeiVs Contribution to a Modern Concept of Haggadah* BY MAREN R. NIEHOFF Jakob Weil's Fragmente aus Talmud und Rabbinen is a highly significant work,1 because it introduces a new attitude towards rabbinic Haggadah into the German Kulturbereich and anticipates views that became of central importance to the Wissenschaft desjudentums later in the nineteenth century. Weil (1792-1864) is in fact the first to focus on Haggadah as an essential and vibrant expression of Judaism, one which he regards as preserving the original elements of the Mosaic religion. He is thus a pioneer in developing an overall historico-literary conceptualisation ofJudaism - an approach earlier avoided by Moses Mendelssohn, but later fervently advocated by the Wissenschaft desjudentums. In the light of Leopold Zunz's subsequent work it is particularly significant that Weil regards Haggadah as an example of rational-ethical literature with distinctly individualist and spiritual tendencies. These notions of Haggadah are informed by Weil's broad familiarity with the various humanist disciplines. He draws on contemporary Christian scholarship (Johann Gottfried Herder, Karl Friedrich Eichhorn, Johann David Michaelis), on both Jewish and Christian philosophy (Maimonides, Mendelssohn, Immanuel Kant) and on contemporary literature (Christoph Martin Wieland, Friedrich Schiller). Weil's erudition, his broad secular training
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