GHDI logo

Excerpts from the Pamphlet by Gabriel Riesser proposing the Emancipation of the Jews (1831)

page 3 of 5    print version    return to list previous document      next document

5. But there are regulations of a different kind that go by the name of laws – especially those concerning circumcision, the Sabbath, and dietary prohibitions – similar to Catholic regulations about fasting, known as fasting laws. These regulations, as a whole, are viewed by the Jews as emanating from religion, and even those who depart from them, whose number everywhere is quite considerable, and who hold that their religion, at a higher level of development, could do without these formalities, are not of the view that, from the beginning, these regulations have borne relationship to their religion. Now Dr. P. regards this as a fundamental error and is of the opinion that these laws, as early as Moses, were something purely political, a product of purely national legislation that was quite alien to religion. We would like to concede this point: on what, then, is our error based? Most certainly on the fact that we regard as religious duties obligations which are nothing of the kind, [and] not that we practice them after we have acknowledged them as alien to religion, and belonging to political legislation. Dr. P. commits a peculiar error by foisting upon us without notice his "more correct" view, while he so very much regrets our sorry conceptual confusion. That we* observe these laws because we regard them, contrary to Dr. P.'s opinion, as religious,** – and not, as Dr. P. twists the matter, "because we believe we are required by our religion to remain a special nation" – is something that emerges most clearly from the way that we, in all the relationships that we regard as belonging to civil law, regard ourselves as obligated to obey unconditionally the laws of the land, while none of us believes himself obligated to deviate from those other laws in general and for the sake of the state.

[ . . . ]

* I say we here – without considering, as mentioned earlier, that many of us, according to our religious conviction, believe that we are absolved from these laws – because this diversity belongs completely to the area of religious opinion, and it has never occurred to the latter that they would come so much as a hair closer to the state by not observing those laws.
** In regard to circumcision it is curious that Dr. P. cannot help conceding (p. 14 and 26) that it originally had a purely religious significance when it originated with Abraham. But he has not adduced the smallest bit of proof for an alleged metamorphosis by dint of which this ceremony should now be viewed as a national insignia by the Jews.

first page < previous   |   next > last page