A new book by a Jewish studies scholar argues…
…religion and the haskala (Enlightenment) were more than friends. David Sorkin claims:
"[T]he Enlightenment was not only compatible with religious belief,” it actually generated new formulations of that belief.
This is true for Catholicism and for some Protestant denominations. But to claim it for judaism, as Sorkin does in his new book, The Religious Enlightenment: Protestants, Jews, and Catholics from London to Vienna, is simply wrong.
Sorkin seems to make much of medieval rationalist rabbis like Maimonides, linking them to Mendelssohn, while ignoring the massive opposition to Maimonides and Mendelssohn, both in their lifetimes and afterward. We can see that opposition in our own day by looking at the ban on Rabbi Natan Slifkin.
What small parts of traditional Judaism did was seek some form of temporary accommodation with science and other ideas that threatened it in ways Judaism could not overcome by directly rebuffing them. The majority of rabbis always rejected those accommodations and often fought against the rabbis – like Maimonides – who promoted them.
Traditional Judaism opposed the Enlightenment with all its power. Traditional Judaism lost. To claim otherwise is at best wishful thinking.
[Hat Tip: Yochanan Lavie.]