Moses Mendelssohn famously penned his Jerusalem; or, On Religious Power and Judaism in response to a public challenge. Mendelssohn had declared ecclesiastical power to be a contradiction in terms, and had thus come out strongly against the use of coercion in religious life, and against the ban of excommunication by rabbinic authorities, in particular. In the anonymously published The Search for Light and Right, August Cranz defies Mendelssohn to explain how he could reconcile this liberal view of religion with his continued commitment to - and his insistence that Jews were still obligated to observe - Jewish law. As reasonable as all you say [about religious power] may be, to just that degree it contradicts the faith of your fathers ⋯ and the principles of its church ⋯ expressly set down in the books of Moses, Cranz argues. The theocratic ruling staff drove the whole people ⋯ with force and punishment. True, Cranz concedes, exile reduced the capacity of Jewish authorities to enforce Jewish law, but these ecclesiastical laws are there even if their exercise is no longer a must. Cranz challenges Mendelssohn to explain his apparently irreconcilable commitments: How can you persist in the faith of your fathers and shake the whole structure by clearing away its cornerstones, dear Mr.
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