Liturgy and Ethics: Hermann Cohen and Franz Rosenzweig on the Day of Atonement

Journal of Religious Ethics 7 (2):215 - 228 (1979)
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Ritual atonement for Cohen aims exclusively at ethical repentance. Sins, or ethical failures, are regarded as unwitting misdeeds, corrigible once recognized. As individuals continue to vacillate, their need for repentance remains life-long. Rosenzweig, however, considers redemption from sin impossible without recourse to miracles. Individual failures are failures in wish, Rosenzweig implies, rather than failures in deed, as Cohen maintains; hence atonement requires above all the ongoing regulating of wishes through liturgical prayer. "Repentance" (t'shuvah), which for Cohen is the "return" to ethical integrity, is for Rosenzweig the "return" to the daily, weekly, and yearly prayers of the Jewish liturgy.



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Martin D. Yaffe
University of North Texas

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