When did Jewish orthodoxy adopt the state – a thoroughly modern institution – as theologically desired? When did the idea of theocracy in the form of a Jewish total state was conceived? The invention of the sovereign religious state, so natural to many contemporary orthodox Jews, sounded in fact entirely peculiar when first presented, and its depiction as complying with the Jewish tradition demanded interpretive and exegetical creativity. The lecture focuses on the Jewish “reactionary modernism” of Weimar Republic as laying the philosophical and theological grounds demanded for presenting the sovereign religious state not only as theologically acceptable, but also as self-evident for many orthodox Jews who believe that it is this (modern) polity that Jews have anticipated and hoped for during the past two millennia. Particular attention will be given to Isaac Breuer’s and Leo Strauss’s ideas of “Gottesstaat” and “Torastaat” in the setting of Weimar’s crisis of liberalism.
Itamar Ben-Ami is a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a graduate of the ultra-Orthodox yeshiva world. His dissertation “The Schmittian Jews” has been awarded scholarships of Minerva Stiftung and the Posen Society of Fellows.