I was given a copy of the 2006 reprint of Rabbi Hayyim Hirschenson’s Malki baKodesh on my last journey. I have read the older Hebrew edition. But as I pack for the next journey, I took it out to read for Shabbat.and looked at the new edition, He writes as 1929 Zionist. who attended the early Zionist congresses and wants to deal with the political problems that will arrive. He wants to assure that Religious Jews would not require a king and would not require the institution of sacrifices. He wants to allow people on to the Temple mount but as house of prayer for all people. It is permitted to join the Jewish legion even if it is a non-obligatory war- yet was are not in a messianic age. Finally, he accepts the concept of a high court of appeals- something that Rav Kook vehemently objected to its institution.Along the way and unlike most Rabbinic works are discussions of Horace Kalen, Louis Brandeis, and Jabotinsky. He supports the creation of legal boards and mishpat ivri to avoid Rabbinic courts. And finds the Balfour declaration a major event that should reorient Judaism. No law of the Torah can be against true civilization
In the original 1929 edition there was already an English preface which encouraged the role of the populous, and the need to make sure the halakhah does not perish. ” They deal with considerations of primary importance for every Jew who is interested in the organic continuation of Jewish life in the line of historical development of Jewish teaching on the basis of Halacha.” The editor of the new edition notes the influence of Abraham Lincoln’s “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”.
He is anti Kingship based on the Abrabanel. And his approach seems to solve problems by making things problematic. The Bavli says this but the midreshei halakhah say other things and our questions cannot be answered so we can have a removal of a Rabbinic category. So unlike Maimonides who creates an ideal messianic halakhah- Hirschenson shows there is no ideal and there the laws are inoperative. He also used the technical questions of the Vilna Gaon, R. Akiva Eier and the Torah Temimah, to remove closure. As a said in my YUTorah class on Hirschenson- he is not just creating liberal position but works through Horayot and Sanhedrin and undoing them. Unlike others who try and make him Maimonidean, philosophic, or intellectual modernist. He is more historic oriented, a strong defense of popularism, and is more about removal of law than the construction of new law. (cf, the volume’s introduction that compares him to David Hartman).
A few theological points:
He writes that he was witness to WWI and the slaughter of the Armenians and decides that there is a need to write a new Zohar style apocalypse, like the Nistarot of Rabbi Shimon or Zohar Shemot 6-7, which he wrote and called “Tikkune Hamalkhut”
He wrote and analysis of Spinoza’s ethics and what we can learn from it in Spinoza’s work, contained in his Musagei Shav veha-Emet. He can use Spinoza because he is not trying to create rationality, rather he is seeking to create opening for a broader life, like Rabbi Reines.
Coincidently, I had Hirschenson’s hagadah at hand, literally, someone recently sent me a copy.
Here are a few ideas from it:
“Maimonides did not intend that there would be only 13 principles of faith; there are many other principles in the Torah. Maimonides needed to explain only those principles that the masses would not understand because of their philosophic depth… There are many halakhot that are also principles such as those of “kill and do not violate.” And in the case of the Hagadah, the wicked son writes himself out of Judaism.
He translates “pereshut- zu derekh eretz” as one of the class system, perishut means class and the Jews who were originally upper class were treated as lower class and that is a major afflication.
The hagadah states that Jews are free in many countries due to minority rights but they are not spiritually free yet because are feeling the oppression of the majority culture and therefore do not have love of Torah and fear of heaven. He also notes that until he cme to the US, he never knew why both phrases are needed and now he sees that one can have a sense of heaven and be totally removed from [the laws of] Shabbat and Torah.