My first book, Moses Mendelssohn’s Living Script: Philosophy, Practice, History, Judaism, has been published by Indiana University Press. The book explores the account of Jewish practice developed by Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), the German-Jewish philosopher generally seen as the founder of modern Jewish thought. Reading Mendelssohn’s well-known German works alongside his neglected Hebrew writings, I call for a far-reaching reassessment of this influential figure, recovering previously unrecognized arguments by Mendelssohn about philosophy, citizenship, and religious authority, and showing that his thought has much to offer broader conversations about modernity and religion. Arguing that a concern with history stands at the center of his approach to topics ranging from science to politics to exegesis, I suggest that his writings not only shed light on a foundational moment in Jewish modernity, but also open up new ways of thinking about ritual practice, the development of traditions, and the role of religion in society.
You can listen to an interview about the book on the New Books in Jewish Studies podcast here.
Scholars will take issue with this or that in Sacks’s arguments, but they will not be able to ignore his work. It forces a rethinking of Mendelssohn’s thought at a time when attention is again being focused on this Jewish thinker. Sacks’s middle ground on Mendelssohn’s traditionalism or radicalism seems to me a persuasive one and will, I believe, win broad, if not complete acceptance.
— Michael A. Meyer, author of Judaism within Modernity