Shmuel Alexandrov (1865–1941)
in No masters but God
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This chapter considers the life and work of R. Samuel Alexandrov. Raised in a Habad hasidic home and having attended elite institutions of rabbinic learning, this fascinating figure played a leading, and often notorious, role in the great debates of his day. Both maskil and mystic, he developed an idiosyncratic religious philosophy, combining hasidic thought, kabbalistic tradition, and cultural Zionism with German idealism, the Russian sophiology of Vladimir Solovyov, and Proudhon’s anarchism. The chapter begins with a discussion of Schellingian influences on Alexandrov’s thought and proceeds to an analysis of Alexandrov’s Spinoza/Schelling-inspired epistemology. It then proceeds to trace his ideas as to the fall and redemption of mankind and the way he synthesizes kabbalistic and Schellingian sources to articulate it. In essence, it involves the shattering and eventual restoration of the individual ego and the Absolute. His understanding of this process is then used to frame his notions of cosmopolitan nationalism, the mission of Israel, the abrogation of the law, pacifism, and diasporism. The chapter concludes by examining the way such ideas shaped Alexendrov’s Zionism.