Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chasam Sofer - Jews were protected from assimilation by being despised and uncivilized

Chasam Sofer (Derashos—BeShalach): G-d took the Jews out of Egypt which was the lowest type of society that did all types of disgusting abominations which G-d hated. The Jews at that point were a despised lowly people - not even a distinct nation. In Egypt, they were primitive slaves working with bricks and mortar and were without doubt devoid of even minimal knowledge of culture or science. They even lacked elementary knowledge of civilized conduct. Our sages (Yoma 75b) say that the Jews in Egypt were comparable to chickens pecking in a garbage dump until Moshe came and taught them the concept of meal times - breakfast and dinner. [Seforno —they were like animals]. We see that they were totally primitive like the slaves of the barbarians. So how could this debased people be immediately brought to Sinai where they were shown the most profound secrets of the universe and became prophets with unbounded understanding of spiritual issues? This question is reinforced by the fact that they remained primitive and uncultured people as we can see from their lowly behavior and outrageous complaints during this time? Wouldn’t it have been better to gradually educate them in civilized conduct to the level of the best of the nations of the world. They should have at least been raised to the level where they could be considered a nation. Once they were civilized, they should then have been refined level by level until they were prepared for receiving the Torah at Sinai? In truth, it is impossible to keep the Jews as a distinctive people unless they are completely separated from the other nations. That is accomplished by not learning knowledge which is common to other nations even Bible on the level of translation. The natural tendency to assimilation can only be prevented by going to the opposite extreme. If G-d had first educated the Jews in worldly knowledge, they would never have acquired the truth of the Torah and faith. Before they would have reached, this final goal they would have already rejected them because these studies would have given them the universal identity common amongst all the nations. Moreover, even if the Jews had understood that the gods of the nations were worthless illusions and reject them, nevertheless they would also have completely rejected G-d also.


  1. Let's here it for ignorance! So much for being a light unto the nations.

  2. Right! Does anyone imagine the Avos or Moshe Rabbeinu being uncouth? The Nevei'im?

  3. Perhaps the context of this was that there were huge reformist upheavals in the time of the Hatam Sofer, and some were suggesting the Hirschian way of integration. The Hatam Sofer was a genius and giant - although he opposed modernization and innovation.
    Perhaps if he had nto taken such a strong stand , there would have been even greater assimilation?
    There are some who argue the other way, that perhaps his viewpoint failed, since the reform and secular movements continued to grow.


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