Exegesis and Politics Between East and West: Nachman Krochmal, Moses Mendelssohn, and Modern Jewish Thought Journal Article uri icon



  • AbstractRecent scholarship on modern Jewish thought has sought to overcome the field’s Germanocentrism by recovering diverse visions of Jewish life across eastern and western Europe. While studies typically emphasize either striking differences or surprising affinities between these settings, I use the neglected eastern European philosopher Nachman Krochmal to highlight a strategy of creative appropriation and redirection—an eastern European strategy of breaking with German-Jewish philosophy precisely by deploying that tradition’s own resources. One of modern Jewish philosophy’s early episodes, I argue, is a politically charged engagement with biblical exegesis involving Krochmal and the German-Jewish thinker Moses Mendelssohn. Implicitly drawing on yet revising the treatment of biblical interpretation in Mendelssohn’s Hebrew writings, Krochmal seeks to retrieve what he sees as a vital element of Jewish politics: possessing neither a shared land nor military strength, he insists, Jews have long sustained their diasporic collective through hermeneutical endeavors such as rabbinic midrash, and they should continue to do so by launching a transnational project of historically sensitive exegesis. The resulting image of a transnational Jewish collective whose fate is separate from that of non-Jewish polities breaks with Mendelssohn’s political vision, pointing to an east-west dynamic of creative repurposing—an instance of an eastern European thinker drawing on a German-Jewish predecessor to develop a sharply contrasting philosophical vision.

publication date

  • October 1, 2021

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • February 26, 2022 11:49 AM

Full Author List

  • Sacks E

author count

  • 1

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0017-8160

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1475-4517

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 508

end page

  • 535


  • 114


  • 4