Moses Mendelssohn (traditionally in Russian publications: Moses Mendelssohn ; German: Moses Mendelssohn ; September 6, 1729 - January 4, 1786 ) - Jewish-German philosopher , exegete and translator of biblical texts, critic , founder and spiritual leader of the Haskala movement (“Jewish enlightenment”) . He received the nickname "German Socrates ." Mendelssohn's ideas had a huge impact on the development of the ideas of German education and the reform movement in Judaism in the 19th century.
|Date of Birth|
|Place of Birth|
|Date of death|
|A place of death|
|Language (s) of works|
|School / tradition||rationalism , enlightenment , humanism|
|Period||18th century philosophy|
|Significant ideas||Enlightenment , Haskala , Emancipation|
|Influenced||Leibniz , Locke , Hobbes , Spinoza|
- 1 Biography
- 2 Descendants of Mendelssohn
- 3 Philosophy
- 4 Works
- 5 Halacha
- 6 Bibliography
- 6.1 In Russian
- 7 notes
- 8 Sources
- 9 References
- 10 Literature
Born in Dessau ( Elector Anhalt , address: Hospital Gasset, 10) September 6, 1729 in a poor Jewish family. Names of parents: Menahem-Mendl and Beyla-Rachel-Sarra  . He received a traditional Jewish education under the guidance of his father, the scribe of the holy books Menachem Mendl (also worked as a melamad and gabbay ) and rabbi David Hirshel Frenkel (1707-62), thanks to whom he began to study the philosophy of Maimonides . In 1742 he followed Rabbi Frenkel to Berlin . In 1750, he got a teacher's place in the house of a Jewish manufacturer, the owner of a company that sewed silk products, after some time he became an accountant and then co-owner of his enterprise.
From his youth, Mendelssohn strove to deepen his knowledge: he studied German literature, Latin , acquired deep knowledge in the field of natural sciences and philosophy, in particular the teachings of Leibniz , Wolf , Locke , Hobbes , Spinoza and Russo . Mendelssohn’s poetic experiments in Hebrew and an attempt to publish the first newspaper in this language - “Kokhelet musar” (only two issues came out) belong to this period. Subsequently, Mendelssohn wrote mainly in German. 
Acquaintance with Lessing in 1754 , which began with a general passion for chess, played a decisive role in the fate of Mendelssohn (their friendly communication at the chessboard is depicted in the painting “ Morning of Daniel Lessing and Lafater to Moses Mendelssohn” by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim ). Since both thinkers were passionately devoted to the ideals of the Enlightenment , this meeting marked the beginning of their continued creative collaboration. It should be noted, however, the existence of significant differences between them in understanding the ideals of the Enlightenment. Unlike Lessing, who believed that Jews should be culturally assimilated, Mendelssohn was not ready to abandon his Jewishness , believing that he would be able to prove by his own example the possibility of a Jew participating in universal culture without losing his national religious identity. 
Together with Lessing, Mendelssohn published a number of magazines. From the very beginning of his literary work, Mendelssohn wrote articles on moral, philosophical and ethical topics, as well as literary and critical notes.
In 1761 he married the daughter of Hamburg merchant Abraham Guggenheim - Fromet Guggenheim. The marriage was concluded for love, which was then infrequent.  Fromet gave birth ten times, four children died in childhood or infancy. 
Together with Lessing, Mendelssohn took part in the collection Letters on Contemporary Literature, where he rather sharply criticized the position of King Frederick II the Great in the question of German literature compared to French. The irony of the situation was that the Jew Mendelssohn defended German literature from the attacks of the German king. The King of Prussia did not forget this criticism, he subsequently used his right of the highest authority, approving the admission of new members to the Prussian Academy, and twice crossed out the name of Mendelssohn, whom the Academy would be glad to see among its members, from the list, the first time this happened in 1771 . 
In the XVIII century, Mendelssohn was one of the few Jews who managed to gain respect and recognition in the scientific world. He was friends with philosophers Herder and Kant , writer Wiland , naturalist and traveler Alexander Humboldt and his brother Wilhelm - philologist, philosopher and linguist.  He set an example for many of his brothers in faith, and the Berlin Jewish community was proud of him. Out of respect for Mendelssohn, the community granted him complete tax exemption in 1763 . Mendelssohn also successfully engaged in commerce. Nevertheless, despite his fame in Europe, Mendelssohn was only tolerated in Prussia, and he could only be in Berlin because he was vouched for by one of the so-called Schutzjude (a Jew who enjoys the patronage of a local ruler). Only in 1763, Mendelssohn himself received the status of Schutzjude.  In the same year, the work of Mendelssohn, submitted to the competition of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, received the first prize, and Kant himself was the second prize winner. The given topic of the work was a comparison of the reliability of evidence in philosophy and mathematics  .
When, in 1769, the Swiss Christian theologian Lafater defied Mendelssohn in an open letter, offering to refute evidence of the tenets of Christianity or, if he could not do so, abandon Judaism and embrace Christianity, Mendelssohn found himself in a difficult position. On the one hand, in Germany at that time it was dangerous to refute the official religion, on the other hand, Mendelssohn did not intend to abandon the religion of his ancestors. He managed to get out of the situation by sending polite, albeit full of irony letters to Lafater, in which, without surrendering his position as a believing Jew, he gently circumvented the sharp corners of the problem, demonstrating his wisdom and tolerance in this way. According to Mendelssohn, his philosophical views only strengthened his religious beliefs, and he continued to remain in the position of Judaism . Mendelssohn’s polemic with Lafater aroused the keen interest of contemporaries and sympathy for Mendelssohn on the part of many representatives of Protestant circles, under the pressure of which Lafater was forced to apologize to Mendelssohn.
The dispute with Lafater made Mendelssohn realize that, as a person recognized in Europe, he has a moral obligation to devote himself to the problems of European Jewry. In a letter to a friend, Mendelssohn writes:
|After long deliberation, I came to the conclusion that I should devote the entire remainder of my strength to children and, perhaps, a significant part of my people, giving them the best translation and explanation of the holy books than they have ever had before. This is the first step towards a culture from which my people - unfortunately - were so distant that there was doubt as to whether any improvement could even happen in this matter. |
Using his connections, he did his utmost to help German and foreign Jews in resolving various issues, including those related to the emancipation of the persecuted people. In addition, by all means available to him, he sought to introduce Jews to German culture. At the same time, however, he himself sought to fill his gaps in knowledge of the Bible and the Hebrew language .
Mendelssohn is considered the initiator of the movement of "Jewish education" - Haskala . His presentation “What is enlightenment?” (Was ist Aufklärung?) In 1784 initiated a discussion about enlightenment at the end of the 18th century in Germany. He was the one who broke open the ice of prejudice against the Jews and paved the way for them from the alienated ghetto world to global values. When Lessing wrote his play “Nathan the Wise,” which became a hot sermon of religious tolerance and humanity, it was easy to guess that the prototype for Nathan was Moses Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn never called for Jewish religious assimilation . He himself always remained a believing Jew, open, at the same time, the trends of the modern world and the achievements of civilization.
Mendelssohn's disciples went much further than him in their willingness to abandon Jewish traditions. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, figures in Berlin's Haskalah proclaimed that religious observance had lost its meaning and that humanity could unite on the basis of deism or “natural religion”. This paved the way for a massive departure from Judaism among the representatives of the upper strata of Jewry in Western and Central Europe. 
At the end of his life, Mendelssohn was embroiled in a polemic about the views of the late Lessing. According to Jacobi , Lessing confessed to him his secret Spinozism. At that time, Spinoza ’s views were considered atheism dangerous for society, and Mendelssohn hurriedly wrote an article to “Lessing's Friends” and ran with her to the publisher on Saturday December 31, 1785 , to print it as soon as possible. According to Fromet's wife, he was in such a hurry that he did not dress warmly enough for the Berlin winter, after which he fell ill. At first the disease seemed not dangerous, but the state of fifty-six-year-old Mendelson quickly worsened, and he died on Wednesday January 4, 1786 in Berlin . Mendelssohn’s doctor and personal friend Marcus Hertz left a pathetic description of Mendelssohn’s death with a smile on his lips. Contemporaries saw death as a sacrifice of themselves in the name of friendship  .
Mendelssohn married two daughters with the help of traditional Jewish matchmaking, his letters contain a description of the family idyll, except that his son Joseph stopped studying Hebrew , to which his father was tolerant  . But after the death of Moses, four of his six children were baptized.  The most famous of them: the eldest daughter Brendel, better known as Dorothea Schlegel . Another daughter - Henrietta, resembling the appearance of her father, kept a famous literary salon. Son Abraham was indifferent to religion, began to raise children in the spirit of the religion of the environment and was baptized himself after his daughter Fanny , a famous opera singer, did it. The son of Abraham Felix was baptized by his father, after which he became known as Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy . The famous composer did a lot of Christian music, however, when he restored Bach ’s Passion for John , he exclaimed: “A Jew was required for such work!”  . By the middle of the 19th century, out of 56 descendants of Moses Mendelssohn, only four remained Jews, the rest were not only assimilated, but were also baptized  . However, even the grandson of Felix Mendelssohn, the great-great-grandson of Moses, could not become an officer as a person of Jewish origin. [fifteen]
Mendelssohn was one of the most significant popularizers of the rationalist school of Leibniz - Wolf . He opposed criticism by Voltaire of Leibniz's Theodicy, a work in which the great German philosopher justifies God for evil in the world and considers issues of freedom and necessity.
The book "On Sensations" (1755) was Mendelssohn's important contribution to philosophical aesthetics. Unlike the creator of the term “ aesthetics ”, Alexander Baumgarten , Mendelssohn regarded aesthetics as an independent activity of the spirit, the sphere of which lies between the foggy region of feelings and the clear - mind. In his opinion, sensuality in the field of aesthetic is of greater importance.
In the book Philosophical Works (vols. 1-2, 1761), Mendelssohn develops his aesthetic theory, justifying the autonomy of aesthetic judgments, emphasizing their independence from logical criteria or ethical goals.
Mendelssohn’s book “Morning Hours” provoked “debate about Lessing ’s Spinozism ” in German society, which became one of the most important events of the intellectual life of the era. Mendelssohn's main opponent was the German philosopher-irrationalist F.G. Jacobi . This open debate, in which many German philosophers took part, gave rise to a discussion about pantheism (religious and philosophical doctrine that identifies God with nature) Spinoza . The discussion contributed to the growth of Spinoza's authority among European philosophers.
Mendelssohn regarded himself as a German philosopher, and regarded religion as a private matter, although he himself was an Orthodox Jew who regularly visited the synagogue . He demanded tolerance and a free choice of religious beliefs, proposing to distinguish between the spheres of influence of the state and religion. In a “Letter to Deacon Lafater,” Mendelssohn emphasized the tolerance of Judaism, which, unlike Christianity, does not engage in missionary activity and does not require non-Jews to observe the commandments of Judaism, being limited only to the seven commandments of the descendants of Noah , accessible to everyone within the framework of a natural religion  . Mendelssohn agreed to express his true views on the unacceptability of Christianity only in a letter to the Prince of Braunschweig, under the condition that the letter was not published. In Christianity, Mendelssohn was mainly repelled by dogmas about the divine nature of Jesus, the notion that non-Christians have no hope of salvation, as well as faith in eternal torment of hell, the devil and spirits. The rejection of all this, according to Mendelssohn, could lead to the creation of a common religion of Christians and Jews  .
Mendelssohn had a great influence on the development of philosophical thought and the humanistic traditions of the 18th century. His aesthetic theory influenced the formation of the views of Goethe , Schiller and Kant . Lessing's Laocoon (1766) also owes much to Mendelssohn's influence.
In 1755, Lessing published Mendelssohn's first significant work in German, Philosophische Gespräche, which immediately made him a philosopher. The book claimed that Leibniz’s doctrine of “pre-established harmony” essentially belongs to Spinoza.
In the same year, a book on aesthetics “Letters on feelings” (Briefe über die Empfindungen) appeared.
In the article “Pop Metaphysician” (Pope ein Metaphysiker, 1755), written together with Lessing and first anonymously published in 1755, both philosophers defended theodicy (the desire to reconcile the existence of world evil with the idea of a good and rational God) of the great German philosopher Leibniz from attacks English poet Alexander Pope .
In 1763, Mendelssohn was awarded the Prussian Academy of Arts for the best development of a philosophical theme in the essay “On Evidence in Metaphysical Sciences” (Abhandlung über die Evidenz in der metaphysischen Wissenschaften, published in 1764), which was presented at a competition in which many famous philosophers of the time participated , including Kant .
In 1767, Mendelssohn published his most famous work, “Fedon, or On the Immortality of the Soul” (Phädon, oder über die Unsterblichkeit der Seele, 1767), in which he talked about man in his relationship with God and offered evidence of the immortality of the human soul. From all sides he received enthusiastic responses, he was praised for the transparency and clarity of thought, form and style. The first edition was fully distributed in four months, and was reprinted during the life of Mendelssohn ten more times. The book has been translated into Dutch, English, French, Danish, Russian and Hebrew  .
In 1778-79 Mendelssohn translated the Pentateuch of Moses into German (in Hebrew letters) and published them with his commentaries in Hebrew under the title Netivot Hashalom (Paths of the World, 1780-83). Mendelssohn also edited and annotated comments on other books of the Bible. Printed in Hebrew, these translations were available to those Jews who did not know how to read German. Mendelssohn's translations laid the foundation for enlightenment among German Jews. Jews in Eastern Europe who read only Yiddish gained access to the German literary language through religious texts. In order to study the German language, Mendelssohn's translation was reprinted in 1836-38. in Warsaw and in 1848-53 in Vilna . On the other hand, Mendelssohn's translations served to renew the Hebrew language , gave a new impetus to the development of the written tradition of the Jews, and were of great importance for the development of Hebrew literature and the cultural revival of European Jews. Mendelssohn also translated the Psalter , Song of Songs, and one of Yehuda Halevi 's Sinoid into German. Bible translations aroused great discontent among orthodox rabbis. The Pentateuch , published by Mendelssohn, was publicly burned by Jews in Posen and Liss  . Mendelssohn barely managed to avoid the cherem , and the help of the authorities also helped  . At the same time, Berlin Chief Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Levin (1721-1800) asked Mendelssohn to translate into German some sections of Jewish religious law (The Ritual Laws of the Jews, 1778).
In 1783, N. G. Wessel published a work calling for the reform of Jewish education. Wessel was attacked by the rabbinical establishment, which put Mendelssohn in a difficult position, who advocated for the freedom of the individual from coercion. Mendelssohn himself was also on suspicion among the rabbis, suspicions intensified when Mendelssohn defended Wessel. Mendelssohn was also criticized by some Christian writers who saw Mendelssohn's tolerance as a departure from traditional Judaism. As a result, Mendelssohn set forth his views in the capital work “Jerusalem, or On Religious Power and Judaism” (Jerusalem, oder über religiöse Macht und Judentum, 1783), in which he outlined his views on the state and religion, Christianity and Judaism. According to him, the motto of the state should be tolerance, freedom of conscience and thought, and the difference in faith should not serve as an obstacle to the use of civil rights. The church should not use any power other than persuasion.
Mendelssohn argues that Christianity is a religion of faith, while Judaism is a religion of deed. Christianity, unlike Judaism, gives the dogma an exceptional, absolute meaning. The Torah does not order to believe in certain dogmas, but orders to comply with laws whose purpose is to streamline and ennoble life. Being both a convinced rationalist and a deeply religious person, Mendelssohn argued that in the Jewish religion there is no contradiction between reason and faith. At the same time, he advocated the need to preserve the ritual cult. To his contemporaries, choosing between religion and social life, he advised: " Carry on yourself, as far as you can, the burden of both duties - this is the harsh sentence of history ."
The book also denied religious coercion within Judaism, and Mendelssohn had to explain that the punishments prescribed by the Torah should not be applied after the destruction of the Temple  .
Mendelssohn’s book was welcomed by the most prominent minds of the time. Mirabeau admitted that she “deserves to be translated into all languages,” and Kant wrote to Mendelssohn that he considers his book “a forerunner of the great reforms not only for the Jewish nation, but also for other nations.” 
Among other works of the philosopher - "On the principles of fine arts and sciences" (Betrachtungen über die Quellen und die Verbindungen der schönen Künste und Wissenschaften, 1757); “On the sublime and naive in the fine sciences” (Über das Erhabene und Naive in den schönen Wissenschaften, 1758).
In 1783, Mendelssohn's article “What is Enlightenment?” Appeared, and later in the same year, Kant's work of the same name appeared  .
In 1785, Mendelssohn published a book, Morning Hours, or Lectures on the Existence of God (Morgenstunden, oder Vorlesungen über das Dasein Gottes, 1785), dedicated to the moral and theological proof of the existence of God and which became his philosophical testament. In it he develops the ideas of Spinoza , but in contrast to him, Mendelssohn argues that along with the immanent existence of the world in God, it is necessary to recognize the existence of the world outside of God, although depending on Him. Thus, the pantheist will also have to recognize the act of creation. Such, according to Mendelssohn, was Lessing's position.
Mendelssohn wrote relatively little about Halacha (Jewish law). In 1761, Mendelssohn, then 32 years old, tried to obtain ordination as rabbi ( Hebrew סמיכה ) from Rabbi Jonathan Eibesiuc , but he limited himself to a letter of recommendation written in an enthusiastic style. The reason for the refusal was apparently that Mendelssohn wrote philosophical works in German, which was unusual  .
Khatam Sofer quotes Mendelssohn under the acronym RAMAD in connection with the decision of the Duke of Mecklenburg in 1772 to conduct an obligatory postponement of the funeral until the third day after death. Mendelssohn approved this measure against the funeral of a living person. Hatam Sofer favored a traditionally fast funeral.   
- Moses Mendelssohn. Reasoning about the spiritual property of the human soul. St. Petersburg, 1806.
- Moses Mendelssohn. Fedon, or about the immortality of the soul in three conversations. St. Petersburg, 1811. Part 1-2.
- Moses Mendelssohn. About the question “What does it mean to educate?” (Translation and introductory article by M. R. Demin) // “Philosophical Century”. Almanac. Vol. 27. “Encyclopedia as a form of universal knowledge: from the Enlightenment to the Internet” / Ed. editors T.V. Artemyeva, M.I. Mikeshin. - St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg Center for the History of Ideas, 2004. ( http://ideashistory.org.ru/a27.html )
- German National Library , Berlin State Library , Bavarian State Library , etc. Record # 118580744 // General regulatory control (GND)
- BNF identifier : Open Data Platform
- Biografisch Portaal
- Mendelssohn Moses // Great Soviet Encyclopedia : [in 30 vol.]
- Encyclopædia Britannica
- Feiner, 2005 , p. 22.
- Mendelson Moshe - article from the Electronic Jewish Encyclopedia
- “A pity of it all. A portrait of German-Jewish Epoch, 1743-1933 ", Amos Elon, Picador, NY, 2002, pp. 33-55, 87-88, 207—208,229,244
- Feiner, 2005 , p. 62-63.
- Biography of Moses Mendelssohn Archived October 13, 2007 on the Wayback Machine on the Sem40 website
- Feiner, 2005 , pp. 169-171.
- Feiner, 2005 , pp. 159-160.
- Feiner, 2005 , pp. 155-156.
- p. 207-298
- p. 244
- Feiner, 2005 , pp. 74-76.
- Feiner, 2005 , pp. 79-80.
- Feiner, 2005 , pp. 66-67.
- p. 54
- Feiner, 2005 , pp. 122-146.
- “From Moses to Moses there was no equal to Moses” Archival copy of February 19, 2008 on the Wayback Machine , article by Eugene Berkovich
- Feiner, 2005 , p. 21.
- Hatam Sofer to Shulchan Aruch , Yore Dea, 338
- Quiatha Rega Mawet (Heb.: Determining the time of death) Archived April 16, 2010 on Wayback Machine , ed. R. M. Halperin. Historical review
- Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics , on the definition of death
- Mendelssohn Moshe - article from the Electronic Jewish Encyclopedia
- Moses Mendelssohn's Biography on Sem40
- "From Moses to Moses there was no equal to Moses," an article by Eugene Berkovich.
- Mendelssohn, Moses (Ben-Menachem) // Jewish Encyclopedia of Brockhaus and Efron . - SPb. , 1908-1913.
- Ionkis G. Lessing and Mendelssohn: A Story of One Friendship / Partner, No. 10, 2009.
- Shmuel Feiner. Moshe Mendelssohn. - Gdolei ha-Ruah ve-ha-Yetzira be-am ha-Yehudi. - Jerusalem: Merkaz Zalman Shazar letoldot Israel, 2005 .-- 176 p. - (Hebrew) Shmuel Feiner. "Biography of Moses Mendelssohn.": Heb. משה מנדלסון, ירושלים: תשס״ו