Traversing the Alltag


In the final paragraphs of the “New Thinking,” playing around with the German word Alltag, Rosenzweig writes:

Everyone should philosophize once.  Everyone should look all around from his own standpoint and life-point.  But this vision is not an end in itself.  The book is no attained goal…it must itself be taken responsibility for, rather than bearing itself or being borne by others of its kind.  This responsibility occurs in the everyday of life.  Except that to know and live it as All-tag [everyday or day of the All], the life-day of the All had to be traversed (Philosophical and Theological Writings, 137).

When Rosenzweig mentions “the book is no attained goal,” it is an allusion to the completion of the Star of Redemption, that is, the end of that text’s systematic determination of “the All” is not the final goal or endgame. Rather, its readers must take responsibility for the All in the everyday of life. This is interesting.  One can certainly catch a glimpse of the Levinasian aspect of Rosenzweig–or better, Levinas’s reading of Rosenzweig– here, but I think (and perhaps it’s because Pollock’s excellent book on Rosenzweig is still somewhat fresh in my head having read through it a month or so ago) that’s to miss the point or ignore Rosenzweig’s debt to and rethinking of the systematic impetus of German Idealism, especially Schelling.  It also sheds light on Rosenzweig’s overarching concern with adult education, translating the Bible and Jeduah Halevi as well as the day to day issues of communal Jewish life.  As Rosenzweig famously said in a letter to Martin Buber: “I see my future only in life, not in writing.”

2 thoughts on “Traversing the Alltag

  1. Here’s a great bit from a letter to Friedrich Meinecke, in which Rosenzweig talks about his work as head of Jüdische Lehrhaus. (I originally came across this in Santner’s book on Freud and Rosenzweig but it’s in Glatzer’s book too.)

    “The small—at times exceedingly small—thing called [by Goethe] ‘demand of the day’ [Forderung des Tages] which is made upon me in my position at Frankfurt, I mean the nerve-wracking, picayune, and at the same time very necessary struggles with people and conditions, have now become the real core of my existence—and I love this form of existence despite the inevitable annoyance that goes with it.”

  2. That’s a great passage–in that same letter to Meinecke, Rosenzweig goes onto say:

    “Cognition no longer appeals to me as an end in itself…the questions asked by human beings have become increasingly important to me. This is precisely what I meant by “cognition and knowledge as a service”; a readiness to confront such question, to answer them as best I can out of my limited knowledge and my even slighter ability. You will now be able to understand what keeps me away from the university…”

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