R. Samson Raphael Hirsch – Intellectual Profile

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R. Samson Raphael Hirsch
RSR Hirsch
R. Samson Raphael Hirsch
ר' שמשון בן רפאל הירש
Exegetical Characteristics
Influenced by
Impacted on



  • Name – 
    • Hebrew name – ר' שמשון בן רפאל הירש 
    • German name – R. Samson Raphael2 Hirsch
  • Dates – 1808-1888
  • Location – R. Hirsch was born and raised in Hamburg, and later lived in Oldenburg, Emden, Nikolsburg, and Frankfurt.
  • Education and Occupation
    • After attending yeshiva in Mannheim, R. Hirsch went to the University of Bonn, studying philosophy, history, classical languages, and physics,3
    • He served in several rabbinical positions.4
    • His rabbinic activities focused on battling Reform Judaism and developing the Torah im Derekh Eretz school of Modern Orthodoxy.5
  • Family – R. Hirsch was the son of Raphael and Gella Hirsch. His great uncle was R. Yehuda Leib Frankfurter Spira, who authored the Torah commentary HaRekhasim Levikah.6
  • Teachers – Chakham Isaac Bernays,7 R. Yaakov Ettlinger,8 R.Mendel Frankfurter.9
  • Contemporaries – Abraham Geiger.10
  • Students – 
  • Notable events
    • 1810 – France annexes Hamburg, commencing a process of emancipation of the Jews and the opening of general society to broader Jewish participation.
    • 1817 – Reform congregation organized in Hamburg. The Hirsch home was a center of anti-Reform activity, which left a deep impact on the young Samson.
    • 1844 - Reform rabbinical synod of Brunswick, where radical reforms were adopted, such as annulment of dietary and matrimonial laws. In the aftermath, R. Hirsch moved towards support for organizational separation between the Orthodox and Reform communities.
    • 1848-49 – Emancipation of the Jews of Austria and Moravia. R. Hirsch was a leader of the struggle for emancipation.11
    • 1876 – Prussian "Law of Secession" passed, which provided a legal basis for creating a separate Orthodox community.


  • Biblical commentaries – R. Hirsch authored an extensive 5-volume Torah commentary in German,  published together with his own translation into German,12 as well as a commentary on Tehillim.13 A commentary on Yonah, based on R. Hirsch’s lectures, has recently been published.14
  • Rabbinics
    • Responsa and Talmudic novellae – ספר שמש מרפא : שאלות ותשובות, חידושי הש"ס, אגרות ומכתבים15
  • Jewish thought – The Nineteen Letters,16 Horeb: A philosophy of Jewish laws,17 The Hirsch Siddur,18 Collected Writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.19
  • Commonly misattributed to – 

Torah Commentary


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Significant Influences

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Later exegetes