Item Details

War, Musar, and the Construction of Humility in Modern Jewish Thought

Issue: Vol 2 No. 2 (2018)

Journal: Interreligious Studies and Intercultural Theology

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.1558/isit.37329


This article considers how the musar (virtue-focused) tradition in Jewish ethics may shape Jewish moral judgments on questions of war and peace, focusing on various constructions of the virtue of humility in modern Jewish thought. It gives particular attention to concepts of humility advanced by Menachem Mendel Lefin, the leading figure of the Polish Haskalah, and it suggests that Lefin’s model of critical self-assessment, especially if carried out in partnership with those from different nations or traditions, could help to restrain the misplaced pride, enthusiasm, and impulses to dehumanize enemies that may emerge at times of war. The article brings Lefin’s approach into dialogue with three Jewish thinkers who argued that proper humility should in some cases encourage the use of violence and even the dehumanization of enemies: the Lithuanian Orthodox rabbi Simhah Zissel Ziv, the American Reform rabbi Kaufmann Kohler, and the militant Orthodox Israeli rabbi Meir Kahane.

Author: Geoffrey D. Claussen

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