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ENLIGHTENED JEWS Moses Mendelssohn who was born in 1729 in central Germany came from a poor Jewish family He was fortunate to get a traditional Jewish education with some philosophical input At age fourteen he moved to Berlin to continue studying with his rabbi While in Berlin he learned French Italian English Latin and Greek on top of the German and Hebrew he previously knew Mendelssohn began to write and publish some philosophical essays in German To some he was known as the Jewish Socrates 2 Mendelssohn became life long friends with Gotthold Ephraim Lessing who later wrote a play using Mendelssohn as the model Jew He was portrayed as Nathan in Nathan the Wise published in 1779 who was the Jewish hero and spokesman for brotherhood and love of humanity 2 This of course was written during the Enlightenment era Both Mendelssohn and Lessing were both heavily influenced by the writings of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz who attempted to reconcile Christianity with science 1 In Nathan the Wise the Moslem Sultan calls upon Nathan and asks him What faith and what law do you hold to be the best He asks him this because by the people he is known as very wise The sultan Saladin wants to know Nathans reason for being a Jew and states A man like you wont let the accident of birth hold him to one religion Or if it holds him it will surely be of his own choice because his insight and his reason prompt him to make that choice as the best religion of the threeIll also make it mine The sultan then leaves the room and gives Nathan a moment to think about his answer When he comes back Nathan is finally ready and has a story to tell A quick summery of the story is that there was a father who received a ring of priceless value And whoever wore this ring
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