Burning of Haskallic literature in Brooklyn, NY

19th May 2019

The author of the text that is to be burnt was written by Naphtali Hirz Wessely: an 18th century Maskil. He was fully committed to traditional observance and belief, but advocated for widening the Jewish curriculum to include secular studies.

His views were essentially no different to those expressed by Rav Hirsch, who is accepted in almost all ultra-orthodox circles as a bona fide religious authority and as part of the orthodox canon. What changed is that by the time Hirsch came along – half a century after Wessely – Wessely’s program had already been accepted throughout the German Jewish world. It was no longer a radical idea. Instead, the new threats were assimilation, secularisation and the emerging Reform movement.

Wessely is regarded as a heretic not for the views that he espoused, but for the context in which he did so. Whereas Hirsch is seen as responding to an already corrupted Judaism and trying to save it, Wessely is the initial corruptor.

This book burning may also be symbolic of the battle Chassidic communities are currently leading against NGOs and governmental bodies who want them to adhere to minimal national curricula. In the US, Yaffed has been doing outstanding work in pushing essentially for the basic requests that Wessely fought for.

Burning his books is meant to send a message that that request is still regarded as heretical and that Hirsch’s leniency does not apply to the modern Chassidic context.

TRANSLATION

With the help of God,

“He purified Tiberius and made it clean”

With this we are informing our esteemed members that with God’s help a holy and historical event will occur:

THE BURNING OF HASKALLAH LITERATURE

To fulfil the commandment “eliminate the evil from amongst you”, to put in the flames and to eliminate in smoke the book A SEALED GARDEN, written by the head and founder of the Haskallah movement, the ultimate source of impurity, Naphtali Hirz Wessely, may his name and memory be erased. The book was found in an inherited collection from that period.

This will take place with God’s help in the presence of many, at the end of the holy Sabbath, ‘Emor’, that is pleasantly upon us, immediately after the evening prayers in front of our synagogue.

In preparation for the fulfilment of this rare commandment, a “wonderful essay” is being published with God’s help, for a historical description of Hirz Wessely: Who was he and why was there so much anger towards him from the giants of Israel, their soul rests in the elevated chambers.

Explore and read what the genius and holy author of “Noda B’Yehuda” wrote about this book. These are his holy words:

“The heretic – may his name and memory be erased – Hirz Wessely, in his conspiracy to deceive people published the book “A Sealed Garden”, and now his perverseness was revealed… The essence of this booklet is to deny the Torah and to shame the Written Torah. Do like me and publicise the wickedness of this evil man Hirz Wessely, may his name be erased publicly… And whoever shuns him and despises him shall be blessed from heaven…”