Heidegger and Judaism

Image: Lara Mantoanelli


Commentary on the book “Kabale” by Michael Chighel

Ma tovu ohalecha ya'akov
Mishkenotecha Yisrael
(How beautiful are your tents Ya'akov
And thy tabernacles Israel)
Balaam's Blessing


The book Kabale: Das Geheimnis Des Hebraischen Humanismus Im Lichte Von Heideggers Denken, by Michael Chighel is a direct confrontation against Heidegger from Judaism, in which Heidegger's thought is accused of something worse than anti-Semitism. It is nothing more than a magician Balaam, portrayed in the Bible as the first anti-Semite.

For the author without mincing words, Heidegger comes from “Heide”, pagan, and represents anti-adamism, anti-Hebrew humanism, after all, the book of Genesis does not begin with the national history of a people, but from the universal creation of the world and of man, and the national question only appears in the middle of the biblical text.

What is at stake in Hebrew humanism is the intentional phenomenon in Husserl's sense, qualified as “jüdische” by Heidegger, an intentionality that represents the whole of humanity's teaching. That is why the Torah begins with the creation of man, who was certainly not a Jew, and thus follows the history of mankind to much later chapters.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Heidegger was a pathetic defender of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as he confessed to Jasper. Indeed, what bothers Heidegger's Nazi philosophy is the message of a Levitical priestly entity, entrusted by God as a ministry to spread the messages of Hebrew humanism to humanity. This is what is seen by the sophisticated defenders of The Protocol of the Elders of Zion, such as Évola, Heidegger and Schmitt, as a conspiracy, hence the name of the book: “Kabale”, as it is present in Schiller and in the dictionary of the nationalist Grimm.

The merit of this book is that it is the first to discuss the truth of Heidegger's thought from Judaism, Torah and Talmud, in addition to Chassidut. It is as if Heidegger illuminated the whole of Judaism with his anti-adamism.

Just as Balaam was compared to Moses for his degree of prophecy, Heidegger is not always wrong, only his knowledge has a demonic origin when he attacks the Jewish intellectual culture, the Talmud and the Torah, as a decision for the “Seienden”, not for the "Seine". Note, in this sense, the preference for the “Seienden” in Jewish intellectuals like Husserl, and it is enough to open a page of the Talmud to see Jewish rationalism. What Heidegger doesn't see is the love of your neighbor as yourself on every page of that same intellectualism.

The great innovation of this book, along with many others that dealt with Nazism and Heidegger's anti-Semitism, is that the author is radical, as he sees that the enmity between Judaism and Heidegger is irreconcilable. It is in this sense that Heidegger attacks the conspiracy of the “Weltjudentum”, as a conspiracy against pagan thought.

Indeed, the Jews are the historical enemies of being, against which Heidegger pits the German people.

All from the parallel between the thought of Heidegger and the prophetic forces of Balaam, son of Beor, this book is, above all, an encyclopedia of Judaism from its primary sources. The most beautiful part of Chighel's book involves the last chapters, where there is a counterpoint between the seminal words of Heidegger's philosophy and the seminal words of Judaism: what is, for Judaism, "Welt", "Boden" and "Erde ”?

“Welt” is “Od”; “Boden” is “Erez”; “Erde” is “Adama”; moreover, “Ethos” is “Zelem”; and “Poiesis” is “Awoda”.

From an example, we will see a very current counterpoint: land for Judaism is not “Boden”, that is, soil, after all there is no atavistic connection between the people and the soil, but a universal divine command to sanctify the land, which it can never be an end in itself.

Hebrew humanism, accused of conspiracy by Heidegger, is exemplified by the wonderful text of the Talmud, through which Chighel ends the book: “Rabbi Meir würde sagen: Woher weiß man, dass selbst ein die Sterne anbetender Nichtjude, der sich mit dem Studium der Tora beschäftigt, wie ein Hohepriester ist? Aus dem Vers: ›Darum sollt ihr meine Satzungen halten und meine Rechte. Denn wenn ein Mensch sie tut, wird er durch sie leben.‹ (3. Mose 18:5). Der Vers sagt nicht ›Priester‹, ›Leviten‹ oder ›Israeliten‹, sondern ›ein Mensch‹. So hast du gelernt, dass selbst ein sternenanbetender Nichtjude, der sich mit dem Studium der Tora beschäftigt, wie ein Hohepriester ist”. [Rabbi Meir said: how do we know, and even a pagan who worships the stars, who does not study Torah, is equal to the high priest? From the verse “Therefore you must do my commandments and my commands. If a man will, he will live.” The verse does not say “priest”, “Levite” or “Israelite”, but it says “a man”. Thus you learn that even a pagan who worships the stars and who occupies himself with Torah is a high priest].

We pose one more provocative question: does the Zohar not stress a deeper analogy between the theurgy of Moses and the magic of Balaam?

If Heidegger is Balaam, then wouldn't he have an important role not in Kabbalah, but in the true Kabbalah, which inspired, in dialogue with Neoplatonic elements, the German idealism of Hegel, of Schelling, of which Heidegger is a great interpreter?

Would the difference be so irreconcilable, as our author says, or would there be something unthinkable, as a common denominator between the pagan tradition and the Jewish tradition?

After all, isn't Wolfson's question correct? “[…] if not exclusive—consequence of the Jewish propensity for calculative machination. In the final analysis, we must ask, is the insight of Heidegger not on par with the vision of Balaam, a wild blindness that uncannily empowers one with the ability to see the semblance of the shadow of truth even as one is blinded to the semblance of the truth of one's own shadow is the insight of Heidegger”.

*Ari Marcelo Solon is a professor at the Faculty of Law at USP. Author, among others, of books, Paths of philosophy and science of law: German connection in the development of justice (Prisms)


Michael Chighel. Kabale: Das Geheimnis Des Hebraischen Humanismus Im Lichte Von Heideggers Denken. Frankfurt am Main. Verlag Vittorio Klostermann, 294 pages.


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