Moses Mendelssohn

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Divine religion ... does not prod men with an iron rod; it guides them with bands of love.

Moses Mendelssohn (6 September 1729 – 4 January 1786) was a German Jewish philosopher.



Jerusalem, or on Religious Power and Judaism (1783)

Jerusalem oder über religiöse Macht und Judenthum, as translated by Allan Arkush (1983)
  • The state gives orders and coerces, religion teaches and persuades. The state prescribes laws, religion commandments. The state has physical power and uses it when necessary; the power of religion is love and benificence. The one abandons the disobedient and expels him; the other receives him in its bosom and seeks to instruct, or at least to console him.
    • p. 45
  • Divine religion ... does not prod men with an iron rod; it guides them with bands of love. It draws no avenging sword, dispenses no temporal goods, assumes no right to any earthly possessions, and claims no external power over the mind. Its weapons are reason and persuasion; its strength is the divine power of truth.
    • p. 73

Quotes about Moses Mendelssohn

  • On the journey to Antwerp Reb Baruch Laib went out of his way to create still further unpleasantness. The trouble this time was a book which Deborah had picked up from her mother (who had just finished with it), and to which she now turned eagerly to while the time away. Before long she had become deeply absorbed in its pages-it was a Life of Moses Mendelssohn-and her heart bled as she followed the adventures of this poor suffering philosopher-hunchback. His indomitable struggle against his own physical infirmity and external antagonism aroused her deepest admiration. The account of how the authorities turned him back from all the gates of the city of Berlin, filled her with profound pity for the bright-eyed cripple, who, intellectually and spiritually, towered so high above the common clay that barred his way; and she was filled with hatred and contempt for the police who played such an abominable part in the drama. His ultimate triumph over untold opposition was like a personal victory of her own, and how she exulted! She was so carried away that her own life was forgotten. But Reb Baruch Laib took care that this forgetfulness should be short-lived. "There can be no doubt about it now," he fumed. "She's a freethinker ! Look, she's reading the biography of that heretic Mendelssohn!..."
    • Esther Kreitman, Yiddish language novel Der Sheydim Tants (1936), translated into English by Maurice Carr as Deborah (1946), Chapter XIV
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