Commentators' Biographies (see below)
Commentator Timeline (Listed chronologically)
2nd Cent Onkelos, Israel
1040-1105 Rashi - Shlomo ben Yitzchak, France
1085-1174 Shmuel ben Meir (Rashis grandson), France
1092-1167 Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra, Spain
1135-1204 Rambam - Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides), Spain
1160-1235 RaDaK - David Kimchi, Provence
1194-1270 Ramban - Moses ben Nahman (Nachmanides), Spain
13th Cent Daat Zkeinim miBaalei HaTosafot: collection of Torah commentaries by students of Rashi
1275-1340 Yaakov Baal HaTurim, Germany/Spain
1288-1344 RaLBaG - Levi ben Gershon, France
1437-1508 Isaac Abravanel, Spain
1475-1550 Ovadia Sforno, Italy
1508-1600 Moshe Alshikh, Tzfat
1534-1572 Isaac ben Solomon Luria, Jerusalem
1550-1619 Kli Yakar - Shlomo Ephraim ben Aharon Lunschitz, Poland
1565-1630 Hashelah HaKadosh - Isaiah ben Abraham HaLevi Horowitz
1641-1718 Siftei Chachamim - Shabtai Bass, Poland
1696-1743 Ohr Hachayim - Chaim Ibn Attar, Morocco
1741-1804 Maggid of Dubno - Jacob ben Wolf Kranz
1746-1813 Rabbi David of Levov, Poland
1762-1839 Chatam Sofer - Moshe Schreiber, Germany/Bratislava
1765-1827 Simcha Bunem of Przysucha, Poland
1800-1865 ShaDaL - Shmuel David Luzzato, Italy
1809-1879 MaLBiM - Meir Lev ben Yechiel Michael, Poland/Rumania
1847-1905 Sefat Emet - Yehudah Aryeh Leib of Ger, Poland
1838-1933 Chafetz Chayyim - Israel Meir HaCohen Kagan, Poland
1856-1926 Samuel Bornstein, Poland
1865-1935 Abraham Isaac Kook, Latvia/Israel
1903-1994 Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Riga/Israel
1905-1997 Nechama Leibowitz, Riga/Israel
1930-1989 Pinchas HaCohen Peli, Israel
1930-2001 Chaim Stern, USA
b. 1922 W. Gunther Plaut, Germany/USA/Canada
b. 1937 Adin Steinsaltz, Israel
Neil Gillman Canada, USA
Lawrence Kushner, USA
Ellen Frankel, USA
Elyse Goldstein, USA, Canada
- Isaac Abravanel
- (1437-1508) was born in Lisbon, Portugal, and died in Venice, Italy. He served as the finance minister to Spain and Italy. His monumental commentaries include political observations and polemics defending Judaism, reflecting his knowledge of philosophy and history as well as his experience as political statesman. He pleaded unsuccessfully with Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to reverse their decree of 1492 to expel the Jews from Spain.
- Moshe Alshikh
- (1508-1600) born in Adrianolpolis and died in Damascus, but lived most of his life in Safed (Tzfat), Israel. Alshich was a prominent halachic authority and popular preacher in Safed during its golden age in the 16th century. Hayim Vital was one of his disciples. A collection of his popular Shabbat sermons form a commentary to the Torah. His commentaries contain many midrashim and religious-ethical and philosophical ideas.
- Rav Samuel Bornstein
- (1856-1926) was the author of Shem Mi-Shmuel, a nine volume collection of inspirational essays on the Torah and Jewish holidays. In this work, Bornstein presented many of the ideas of his father, Rabbi Abraham ben Ze'ev Nachum Bornstein, who was head of the Bet Din of Sochaczew (Poland). The commentary set forth many of the classic ideas of the Chassidic movement. Upon his father's death, Samuel suceeded him as the rebbe of the Aleksandrow Chassidim.
- Simcha Bunem of Przysucha
- was born in 1765 in Poland. The son of an itinerant preacher, he did not become a chasid until well after he became a married man. After years working as a timber merchant and travelling to visit various rebbes, he studied pharmacology in Danzig and eventually opened a pharmacy in Przysucha. He finally became a disciple of the great Seer of Lublin, and became renown for his learning and wisdom. When the Seer died, Simcha Bunem became his heir apparent. This was a controversial appointment, because there were many who felt his business background made him an inappropriate candidate. Nonetheless, he succeeded the Seer, and he was able to apply his worldly wisdom to Torah insights. He based his teachings on Torah study and not miracle working and became an active part of the communal and political life of Polish Jewry. Simchah Bunem died in 1827, and was succeeded by his son Abraham Moses, but real leadership of his group was assumed by Menahem Mendel of Kotsk. Simcha Bunem's teachings were collected by his disciples and published in 1859 as Kol Simchah.
- Chafetz Chayyim
- was the name used to refer to Rabbi Israel Meir HaCohen Kagan, taken from the name of his most famous work on the laws of slander. Born in Zhetel, Poland on February 6, 1838, he came from humble origins. He was taught by his parents until the age of ten and then moved to Vilna to further his Jewish studies. He did not, however, distinguish himself as a student at that time, and later refused to enter the pulpit rabbinate. The Chafetz Chayyim settled in Radin (Poland) where he ran a modest grocery store with his wife. He did the bookkeeping while spending most of his time studying Torah and disseminating his knowledge to the common people. Eventually, his reputation grew, and so many students came to learn from him that his small store became known as the Chafetz Chayyim Yeshivah. In addition to his teaching, the Chafetz Chayyim was very active in Jewish causes. He travelled extensively to teach Torah and encourage people to support Jewish institutions. He was one of the founders of Agudat Yisrael, the international orthodox Jewish organization and helped many yeshivot survive the financial problems of the interwar period. The Chafetz Chayyim passed away in 1933 in Radin. He left an incredible legacy of 21 religious works. His first book, Sefer Chafetz Chayyim (1873), was the first attempt to organize and clarify the laws regarding slander and gossip. His later works include Shmirat HaLashon, which furthers his discussion about guarding one's tongue, and the triad of Mishna Berura, Bi'ur Halacha, and Sha'ar HaTzion (1894-1907), his commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch.
- Chatam Sofer
- (real name Moshe Schreiber) was born in Frankfurt, Germany on September 26, 1762. A brilliant scholar, he was offered many rabbinic positions and accepted the post of Chief Rabbi of the Bratislava Jewish community in1806. He founded there a rabbinical seminary whose excellent reputation and high educational standards attracted outstanding students from all over Europe. A noted expert on the Talmud, rabbis regularly travelled to Bratislava to seek his advice and decisions regarding the Talmud. In addition to his educational duties and religious functions, he devoted his life to juridical matters and was a baal din, a chief judge of the rabbinical court. In 1809, when Bratislava was besieged by Napoleonic troops, the Chatam Sofer took refuge in the nearby village of Saint Jur from where he organized charitable activities to help his fellow citizens who were affected by the war. He was a voluminous writer, composing numerous volumes of responsa, sermons, commentaries, letters, poems, and a diary - all bearing the imprint of his fervent Orthodoxy. An ardent enemy of Reform Judaism, he opposed innovation of any sort. In 1839 he fell ill and died on October 3rd. His coffin was made out of the planks of his lecturers desk. His Mausoleum in Slovakia is a place of pilgrimage to this day.
- Rabbi David of Levov
- was born in Biala, Poland in 1746. He was a renowned tzaddik (righteous man) and leading student of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak, the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin. He lived through the period of the Napoleonic Wars, which cut him off from his teacher for some time, and many stories exist about his encounters with Napoleon and other notables of the time. Rabbi David was particularly famous for his love for all Jews, always finding ways of defending even the most wicked. Following in the style of his teachers, Rabbi Davids teachings on the Torah utilize many parables and stories. He was considered to be well versed in both the revealed and mystical aspects of the Torah. Rabbi David died in Levov, Poland in 1813.
- Dr. Ellen Frankel
- is the author of many books, including The Classic Tales: Four Thousand Years of Jewish Lore and The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols, and is also an accomplished story teller. Dr. Frankel received her Ph.D. in comparative literature from Princeton University. She is editor in chief and CEO of The Jewish Publication Society of America.
- Dr. Neil Gillman
- is the Aaron Rabinowitz and Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Jewish Philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary. A native of Quebec City, Gillman graduated from McGill University in 1954, was ordained at JTS in 1960 and received his PhD in philosophy from Columbia University in 1975. Dr. Gillman's book, Sacred Fragments: Recovering Theology for the Modern Jew, published by the Jewish Publication Society of America, won the 1991 National Jewish Book Award in Jewish Thought. His Conservative Judaism: A New Century was published by Behrman House in 1993. The Death of Death: Resurrection and Immortality in Jewish Thought, Dr. Gillman's fourth book, was published by Jewish Lights Publishing in 1997 and his most recent book, The Way into Encountering God in Judaism, was published by Jewish Lights in spring 2000.
- Rabbi Elyse Goldstein
- is the Rabbinic Director of Kolel. She served the congregations of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, and was the senior rabbi of Temple Beth David of the South Shore in Massachussets. She is the author of Revisions: Seeing Torah through a Feminist Lens, and editor of The Women's Torah Commentary and The Women's Haftarah Commentary all published by Jewish Lights. She was the 2005 recipient for Exceptional Educator from the Covenant Foundation.
- HaShelah Hakadosh
- is derived from the initials of Isaiah ben Abraham Halevi Horowitz's major work: Shnei Luchot Habrit. Horowitz (1565-1630) was a rabbi, kabbalist, halachist, and communal leader. He was born in Prague but moved to Poland. In 1621, after the death of his wife he moved to Israel until his death. He was buried in Tiberias. His extensive work 'Tablets of the Covenant' combines halachah, homily and Kabbalah to instruct the reader on how to live. Divided into two sections, the first section contains laws concerning the festivals, and the second on the mitzvot organized in the order they appear in the Torah.
- Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra
- was one of the most outstanding Jewish scholars of the "Golden Age" of Muslim Spain. Born in 1089 in Tudela, Emirate of Saragossa (now Spain), he was a true renaissance man. He gained renown as a Hebrew poet, grammarian, translator, commentator, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer. To Ibn Ezra, there was no conflict between science and religion for he considered that science and astrology were the basis of Jewish learning. Little is known of his life except that he was on friendly terms with the eminent poet and philosopher Judah ha-Levi, whom some historians believe was Ibn Ezra's father-in-law. The latter part of his life (after 1140) was spent wandering in poverty throughout Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. It was during his travels that he composed most of his many influential literary works. Revered as one of the most important biblical commentators, his interpretations were neoplatonic and often quite rationalistic. His commentary was based primarily on a meticulous foundation of Hebrew grammar and philology, with close attention paid to the realities of Biblical life. His style is brief, to the point of being cryptic, and has therefore generated its own subsidiary literature of supercommentaries. Ibn Ezra used his commentaries to defend the rabbinic oral tradition against its detractors from the Karaite movement, making extensive use of the teachings of Rabbi Sa'adia Ga'on, the tenth-century sage who had conducted his own war against Karaism. Ibn Ezra Died in 1164 in Calahorra, Spain.
- Kli Yakar
- is the pen name of Ephraim Solomon of Luntschitz (1550-1619). A rabbi, preacher and biblical commentator from Poland, Ephraim of Luntschitz was renowned for his brilliant sermons, in which he spared no sector. He bullied the rich for not being more generous, criticizing their pretensions of religious status based on finance rather than on deeds. At the same time he accused the poor of not doing enough to help themselves and relying on charity. His sermons were collected and published in Ir Giborim, Revivot Efrayim and other volumes. His name comes from the title of his great Torah commentary, which is included in many editions of the TaNaKh as a standard commentary.
- HaRav Abraham Isaac Kook
- (1865-1935) - first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael - was a mystic and a philosopher, a preeminent Talmudic scholar and a Lurian Cabbalist - a profound and original thinker. Born in Latvia of both Hasidic and Mittnagdic stock, he retained throughout his life a unique blend of the mystical and the rational. He was a master of the entire Halachic, Midrashic, philosophic, ethical, and Kabbalistic literature. But more important, he brought to bear the tradition upon the contemporary scene. He saw the return to Eretz Yisrael as not merely a political phenomenon to save Jews from persecution, but an event of extraordinary historical and theological significance. He called for and envisioned a spiritual renaissance where "the ancient would be renewed and the new would be sanctified." Rav Kook developed an original system of study based on a return to the sources where all the different branches of Judaism were united. He founded a Yeshiva based on this system of study, the first in which Hebrew was the language of instruction. Due to his poetic style and desire to conceptualize, his writings are often difficult to understand. Rav Kook's printed works to date are in excess of 30 volumes with many works still in manuscript. There are a number of translations into English of a small fraction of his works.
- Jacob Ben Wolf Kranz
- (1741-1804) - born in the province of Vilna. He is more widely known as the Maggid of Dubnow where he served for 18 years. A famous preacher (darshan) and storyteller who used parables and folkloristic elements to effectively communicate deep spiritual messages. He wandered through various cities in the Vilna province. His major work, Ohel Ya'akov, together with his other works and collections of homilies, were printed posthumously by his son.
- Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
- was ordained rabbi from the Hebrew Union College in 1969. He was the rabbi of Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Massachusetts for 28 years. Under his guidance, the congregation published V'taher Libenu, the first gender-neutral liturgy ever written. Kushner has been a leading force for personal and institutional spiritual renewal and was the first Rabbinic Chairman of Reform Judaism's Commission on Religious Living. He is widely regarded as one of the most creative religious writers in America. His many books include: Jewish Spirituality: a brief introduction for Christians (2001), The Way into Jewish Mystical Tradition (2001), The Book of Miracles (1997), God Was In This Place and I, I Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning (1991), The River of Light: Spirituality, Judaism and the Evolution of Consciousness (1981, 1990), and Honey from the Rock: Visions of Jewish Mystical Renewal (1977, 1990).
- Nechama Leibowitz
- (1905-1997) - born in Riga, Latvia, she grew up in Berlin and made aliyah at the age of 25. For almost 50 years, she was a devoted teacher of Torah, and in her own modest, self-effacing way, was a supra-commentator (and some would say super-commentator) on the Bible. She taught a generation of Israeli Bible teachers in her trademark brown overcoat and beret, but her most significant contribution was probably the thousands of 'teach-yourself gilyonot', pages with directed questions that helped the student examine the text more closely, and learn how to ask the question, 'What bothers Rashi?' She created a grass-roots 'correspondence school' for Torah study. Some of her works have been translated and collected into valuable Torah study volumes, and a small sample is available online.
- Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz
- (1903-1994), brother of the famous Torah teacher Nechama Leibowitz, was born in Riga, where he received his Jewish education from his parents. He earned both a Ph.D and a M.D. studying at universities in Germany and Switzerland. In 1934 he moved to Israel where he joined the faculty of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as a professor of organic chemistry. Until his retirement in 1973, he also assumed the posts of professor of chemistry, biology and neuro-psychology in the medical school of Hebrew University, and served as a professor of Jewish studies at Haifa University. After 1973, he remained at Hebrew University as a professor of philosophy. Over these years, Leibowitz authored many books and articles in both Hebrew and English, lectured internationally, and served as editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Hebraica from 1956 to 1972. Outspoken in his views on Judaism and Israel, he aroused a great deal of debate and antagonism among religious and non-religious circles. The decision in 1992 to award him the Israel Prize sparked much controversy, and Leibowitz declined to receive it. He died in Jerusalem in 1994. It was largely Leibowitz's political views that made him such a controversial figure. He strongly disapproved of Israel's system of party rule and was critical of coalition politics. He was a fierce social critic, speaking out publicly against government corruption and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He was a staunch opponent of Israel's occupation of Arab territory, arguing that "occupation morally destroys the conqueror" and supported military conscientious objection to serving in the territories. Leibowitz's notion of Judaism focused entirely on the importance of Halacha. He held that, "the obligation to observe the commandments was an end in itself," and that religion therefore was not a means to a greater personal or social good. Leibowitz advocated the need for fresh Halachic deliberations to deal with the ever-changing situations and challenges of the modern world.
- Rabbi Isaac Ben Solomon Luria
- (1534-1572), was known as the Ari, "the Lion", an acronym for the Hebrew phrase "the divine Rabbi Yitzhak". He was considered to be the most profound thinker to come out of the Jewish mystical tradition. His teachings revolutionized the entire Kabbalistic tradition. Luria was born in Jerusalem to German parents. His father died when he was young, and Luria was raised by his mother in the house of her wealthy brother. Luria studied Jewish law and rabbinic literature in Egypt. His teachers considered him an outstanding student. In addition to his study, Luria earned a living through commerce. When Luria was 15 years old, he married his cousin and together they moved to a secluded island on the Nile that was owned by his father-in-law. During this period, he concentrated his studies on the Zohar and the works of earlier Kabbalists. In 1569 he moved to Safed. He was particularly interested in the ideas of his contemporary, Moses Cordovero, and studied Kabbalah with him until Cordovero's death in 1570. Initially Luria was famous as a mystical poet. Later, he started teaching Kabbalah in an academy, and would occasionally speak in synagogues. Many of his followers considered him a saint. Luria died in an epidemic in the summer of 1572 and was buried in Safed. Luria himself never wrote anything down, but his teachings were preserved in the somewhat conflicting and often unreliable accounts preserved by his disciples, primarily Rabbi Chaim Vital (1542-1620). Books on his work include: Ez Hayyim, Shulhan Aruch Shel R. Yizhak Luria, Orhot Zaddikim and Patora de Abba. Up to today, very little of Lurias teaching are available in English.
- was a 2nd century C.E. translator of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic. His work was later given the title Targum Onkelos - the translation of Onkelos. Composed in the Land of Israel, Targum Onkelos became the standard version of the Hebrew Bible that was used in Babylonian synagogues during the Talmudic era. A convert to Judaism, Onkelos gained the respect of the leading Hebrew scholars of his day. His translation became almost as authoritative a text as the Hebrew TaNaKh itself, and was of particular interest to later commentators and scholars, since, as translation, which is a subjective art form, it reflects the common understanding of the Hebrew text of Onkelos time. Many modern scholars contend that the name "Onkelos" was mistakenly attached to the Aramaic text in early medieval times on account of a mis-identification with a translation by "Onkelos the Proselyte" that is mentioned in the Talmud. No alternative authorship of this Aramaic translation has been suggested.
- Rabbi Pinchas HaCohen Peli
- (1930-1989) rabbi, scholar, essayist, and poet, was a tenth generation rabbi and fourth generation Jerusalemite. Rabbi Peli was Professor of Jewish Thought and Literature at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and served as a visiting professor at universities throughout the world, including Hebrew University, Yeshiva University, Cornell and Notre Dame. He is the author of many books and essays, and was considered a leading disciple and authority on the thought of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. During 1984-85, Rabbi Peli wrote a weekly Torah column in the Jerusalem Post; These inspiring modern commentaries were later collected into a book Torah Today, published by Bnai Brith Books (Washington,1987). His insights on the Torah and its application to contemporary issues have been widely acclaimed for their universalism.
- Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut
- (born 1912) is the leading historian, scholar and representative of the Reform Movement. He has been heralded as, "our greatest living Reform scholar, our most prodigious and prolific author and the person who has had the greatest impact on Jewish adult education." Rabbi Plaut, the author of more than 25 books, is best known as the editor of the U.A.H.C.s, The Torah, A Modern Commentary, often referred to as the Plaut), which is one of the most commonly used Chumashim in the world today. Born in Germany, Plaut trained in law and received his Doctorate in Jurisprudence from the University of Berlin in 1934. Arriving in the US as a refugee, he was ordained a rabbi at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati in 1939. He served as a chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe during World War II, and later served as a pulpit rabbi in Chicago, St. Paul and at Torontos Holy Blossom Temple, where he continues to this day as Senior Scholar. He has written on theology, philosophy and history, and has produced three works of fiction and two volumes of autobiography. He has held many major posts, including the presidency of both the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Canadian Jewish Congress and served as Vice-Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. He is the recipient of numerous honours, including the Order of Ontario and is an Officer of the Order of Canada. Having just celebrated his 90th birthday, Rabbi Plaut is still active in public affairs, lecturing, writing and researching.
- is the acronym of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, otherwise known as Maimonides. Maimonides was one of the few medieval Jewish philosophers who also influenced the non-Jewish world. Even today he is among the most respected of all Jewish philosophers. The achievements of this twelfth-century sage are extraordinary. Maimonides was the first person to write a systematic code of all Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah. He produced one of the great philosophic statements of Judaism, The Guide to the Perplexed and published a commentary on the entire Mishnah. As a physician, he wrote numerous books on medicine. He was born in 1135 in Cordova, Spain, shortly before the fanatical Muslim Almohades came to power there. He was born into a very illustrious family which was able to trace its ancestry back to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, the compiler of the Mishnah, and King David. His father, Rabbi Maimon, the dayan (judge) of Cordoba, gave him a good education in both Jewish and secular subjects such as mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy. To avoid persecution by the Muslim sect, Maimonides fled with his family, first to Morocco, later to Israel, and finally to Egypt in 1165, where he was appointed physician to the sultan of Egypt and served as leader of Cairo's Jewish community. He died at Cairo, 13 December, 1204, and was buried at Tiberias in Israel. A popular saying in the Middle Ages stated that From Moses [of the Torah] to Moses [Maimonides] there was no one as great as Moses [Maimonides].
- is an acronym of the name of Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, also known as Nachmanides. Nachmanides was born in Gerona, Spain in 1194, where he remained for most of his life. Nachmanides was the foremost halakhist of his age. Like Maimonides before him, Nachmanides was a Spaniard who was both a physician and a great Torah scholar. However, unlike the rationalist Maimonides, Nachmanides had a strong mystical bent. His biblical commentaries were the first to incorporate the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah. He is best known for his two major commentaries - one on the Chumash, which both interprets the verses and discusses the topic in a broader spectrum, and the other on the Talmud, written in the style of the Tosafists. He composed more than 50 other lucid and logical works on a number of specialized topics. In 1263 he was ordered by the king of Aragon to participate in a religious disputation with Pablo Christiani, a Jewish apostate. Ramban won the debate, and published an account of the proceedings. However, the Dominicans showed the king several passages that were deemed to be blasphemies against Christianity, and the work was burned. At the age of 72, Ramban moved to Israel, settling in Acco until his death in 1270.
- is an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, also known as Parshandata: the father of Commentary. Rashi is the name by which the great sage is most commonly known. Rashi was born in 1040 and died in 1105, spending most of his life in Troyes, France. A vintner by profession, Rashi was incredibly prolific. He wrote commentaries on the entire Hebrew Bible and the Talmud. The Talmud is considered impossible to read without Rashi's commentary and his commentary to the Torah is the most standard, and most reprinted commentary in history. Rashis commentary on the Torah has the distinction of being the first Hebrew text ever printed on a printing press. Rashis style pays close attention to the language of the text, providing a mix of his own analysis and a collection of traditional rabbinic midrash. Dozens of 'supra' commentaries have been written on Rashi's commentary; many even suggest that all commentaries on Torah written after Rashi, are on some level a commentary on Rashi's.
- Sefat Emet
- (or 'Sefas Emes' in the Yiddish pronunciation) is the name used to refer to Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib of Ger, an eminent Chassidic sage and the second Gerrer Rebbe. Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1847, he was raised by his grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir, the first Gerrer Rebbe, after his father, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai, died when Yehudah Aryeh Leib was only 8 years old. Raised to be a scholar, he distinguished himself at a young age by devoting 18 hours a day to the study of Torah, mastering Talmud, the Zohar, and Chassidic classics. In 1870, at the age of 23, he succeeded his grandfather as the second Gerrer Rebbe. Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leibs monumental work, Sefat Emet al HaTorah, is a commentary on the Torah in five volumes. His comments stress the moral and ethical lessons to be derived from the text, and he offers many kabbalistic allusions. The title, Sefat Emet, comes from Proverbs 12:19: Sefat emet tikon la'ad - "Truthful speech abides forever", which was the last verse on which he commented before he passed away. Rabbi Leib himself then came to be known by the title of his most popular work. He died in Ger, Poland in 1905.
- Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno
- was born in Cesena, Italy, in 1470. One of the great luminaries of medieval Italian Jewry, he lived during a period of volatile change in the relationships between Italian Jewry and the general Italian population, characterized by the trauma of the Spanish Inquisition, the institution of anti-Jewish laws in Italy, and Papal enmity. In his early years, Sforno received a thorough Jewish and secular education. He attended university in Rome, where he studied philosophy, mathematics and medicine, and received a medical degree in 1501. Later, he settled in Bologna, where he established an academy of Torah study. In contrast to Sforno's early years of relative peace between the Jewish and non-Jewish populations, Sforno's later years were marked by a dramatic deterioration in their relationship. This worsening change in events is reflected in Sforno's later writings. He passed away in 1550, just prior to the advent of severe persecutions of Italian Jewry, including a mass burning of the Talmud in Rome in 1553. Though he was considered one of the greatest halachic authorities of Italy, his fame rests primarily on his Biblical commentaries. For the most part, Rabbi Sforno attempts to provide a straightforward explanatory commentary. He was, however, a product of the Italian Renaissance, and his diverse interests are expressed in this work, particularly scientific matters related to his medical training, such as biology. As he writes in his introduction, he was motivated to compose his work, "because our people dwell in an alien land and concentrate their efforts on the accumulation of wealth, feeling that this will protect them from the exigencies of their time. This in turn results in a condition where they have no proper time to consider the wonders and wisdom of our Torah, and even brings them to question the importance of our holy Torah, becoming critical of its teachings, for they do not understand it properly." Sfornos commentaries, focusing on the actual experiences of the Jews of his time, are considered most relevant to the Jews of our time.
- Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
- Born in 1937 in Jerusalem, an only child of secular, socialist parents. He is now regarded as one of the leading scholars and rabbis of this century. Rabbi Steinsaltz's formal education includes a degree in mathematics from the Hebrew University, in addition to his rabbinic studies. At the age of 23, he became Israel's youngest high school principal. In 1967, Rabbi Steinsaltz published the first volume of his monumental project of translating and interpreting the Babylonian Talmud. Since then, 35 volumes have been published in Hebrew. The Steinsaltz Talmud has been acknowledged as one of the most significant undertakings in the Jewish world. Fifteen volumes of Steinsaltzs Talmudic translation and commentaries have been translated into English and published by Random House, to great critical acclaim. According to Newsweek: "Jewish lore is filled with tales of formidable rabbis. Probably none living today can compare in genius and influence to Adin Steinsaltz, whose extraordinary gifts as scholar, teacher, scientist, writer, mystic and social critic have attracted disciples from all factions of Israeli society." Rabbi Steinsaltz has published 60 books on the Talmud, Jewish mysticism, religious thought, sociology, historical biography, and philosophy which have been translated into Russian, English, French, Portuguese, Swedish, Japanese, Dutch and Chinese. In 1984, Rabbi Steinsaltz established the Mekor Haim Educational Institutions in Jerusalem, which now have over 700 students from preschool through post high-school yeshivas. In recognition of this undertaking in Jewish learning, Rabbi Steinsaltz received the Israel Prize in 1988.
- Chaim Stern
- (1930-2001) A rabbi, prolific author, poet, biblical scholar and the foremost liturgist of the modern Reform movement. He was the editor of the Gates of Prayer, the standard Sabbath and weekday Siddur of the North American Reform Movement, the Gates of Repentance, the High Holy Day Machzor, the Service of the Heart, the siddur of the Progressive Movement of the UK, as well as many other liturgical works. His skills at translating and editing the poetry of others gave high expression to new and traditional prayers and many have come to quote the English passages of his prayerbooks almost as freely as they quote the Bible. His On the Doorpost of Your House has become a staple in Reform Jewish homes and his new translation of the prophetic passages used in the synagogue in The Haftarah Commentary have made these messages accessible to young Bar and Bat Mitzvah students. At a 1998 prayer breakfast for religious leaders, then U.S. president Bill Clinton used words written by Rabbi Stern to apologize for Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
- Rabbi Joseph Tzarfati
- A descendent of Rashi, Tzarfati was a Turkish rabbinical scholar who lived at Adrianople in the early part of the seventeenth century. He was the author of a collection of sermons entitled Yad Yosef (1617).