Moses Mendelssohn's “Jerusalem”
One of the major tasks of Mendelssohn and other Jewish thinkers is to formulate a larger vision of the Enlightenment, in which the Jews would not only participate but also take the lead. In Jerusalem (Berlin, 1783), Mendelssohn presents Jewish liturgies as particularly sophisticated forms of rational and theological semiosis. The group performance of Jewish liturgies is a signifying event in which the dynamism of God's spirit and the living wisdom and guidance of God's Torah is represented. Thus, liturgical semiosis is especially important to Judaism because it defeats all idolatrous attempts to fix spirit and wisdom in concrete forms. Mendelssohn's view is that all commandments and laws provide scripts for countless behavioral performances. This moves Jewish commandments out of the realm of civil and criminal law into a philosophical, theological, and aesthetic arena that is led by signs.
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