To students of Jewish philosophy, the works of Franz Rosenzweig are a must read. Those who simply enjoy learning about the lives of fascinating Jews may also enjoy this introductory mini-bio.
Rosenzweig was born in Kassel, Germany, on December 25, 1886. Like many German Jewish families, the Rosenzweigs were thoroughly assimilated into the German middle class, and their Jewish practice was minimal. In fact, Rosenzweig’s Jewish connection was so fragile that, for wider social acceptance, he came close to converting to Christianity.
Encouraged to convert by several of his cousins and friends, Rosenzweig decided that he wished to experience one last High Holidays season before converting. That Yom Kippur, which he observed in an Orthodox synagogue in Berlin in 1913, was a major turning point in his life. Not only did he not convert, but he committed himself to an observant life.
Rosenzweig’s great philosophical tract, The Star of Redemption, was published in 1921. In it, he posits that revelation is constantly occurring as part of the interaction of two triple relationships: the first between God, man and the world, and the other between creation, redemption and revelation.
As part of his quest for Jewish growth, Rosenzweig founded “The House of Jewish Learning” (Der Lehrhaus) in 1920, where any and all were welcome to participate and study, explore and discuss all aspects of Jewish life.
Rosenzweig is often associated with Martin Buber. Although there were many issues upon which they disagreed, they worked together to produce a highly-regarded translation of the Torah into German.
In 1922, Rosenzweig developed ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and paralysis slowly overtook him. Even as he lost use of his limbs, he continued until work to the end, eventually communicating by blinking as the alphabet was recited by his dedicated wife, Edith.
Franz Rosenzweig passed away at age 42, on December 10, 1929, in Frankfurt.
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