Thursday, June 12, 2008

Why blog about the Nineteen Letters?

I told a very good friend of mine well over ten years ago that I have found much mussar within the pages of The Nineteen Letters. I have always been a curious why so many people I know have never actually read or even looked at The Nineteen Letters (for this blog it will also be referred to as TNL).

I had a discussion erev Shavuos with someone I am very close with about wasted potential and missed opportunities. I decided to bite the proverbial bullet and attempt to, with time, write several posts about The Nineteen Letters. I hope that this blog will bring some of Rav Hirsch's ideas to those who are not so familiar with his works. When new material is added there will be an update posted at my other blog, or you subscribe and get email updates. I, personally, suggest this method, as I will be posting when I can the time. You can subscribe by using the form to the right or clicking here.

As a brief introduction, TNL was first published in 1836. It was written mostly as a "trailer" for his monumental work HOREB, which was published in 1838. Originally Rav Hirsch was wanted to publish HOREB, but his publisher wasn't sure if there was a market for a book dealing with "A Philosophy of Jewish Laws and Observances". It was suggest that the author try a smaller booklet first, which became TNL.

Most of the text I'll use for blogging purposes is from the first English translation by Rabbi Bernard Drachman, published in 1899. While other versions are available, including Rabbi Elias' publication, there is one basic reason that I have chosen to use the old's available for free on goggle-books, here. In an age when we all spend time in front of computers, it's easy enough to read a few pages (or even download the pdf) if you are so inclined look up what I'll be writing about. I've included a link to the online version on the right side of your screen.

Lastly, I'm no Hirschian expert, just a guy who reads The Nineteen Letters every summer. This summer I'll, hopefully, be reading it with you!

Behind the cover page of TNL Rav Hirsch wrote the following inscription:
This quote from Megillah 3a was said by Yonasan ben Uziel when "defending his revelation of the translation of the Secrets of the Prophets"(from WebShas). This is how Rav Hirsch starts out his sefer. Originally it was published anonymously, written by "ben Uziel". There was no ego, no attempt to gain fame, only an attempt to bring light to the lives of Jews, both observant and those who were not-yet observant and defend Yiddishkeit. An example of "L'shaim Shamayim" at its' best.

Thank you for taking time to read.


Pragmatician said...

It's certainly a good idea.
As you said it's known to exist but not enough for it's content to be something regularly quoted or discussed.

I vaguely remember reading the Artscoll's translation a few years ago.

I'm looking forward too refresh my memory.

Neil Harris said...

Thanks, glad you're still around. :)

Leah said...

I am very interested in the Nineteen Letters (having actually only heard about it now.) I googled TNL to find out more and was excited to come across your blog. I very much look forward to reading what you have to say as I attempt to undertake it as part of my summer reading as well.

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