Friday, March 24th, 2017

Books of Interest – Recent Works of Rabbi Mordechai Breuer

August 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Books of Interest, Tanach, Tradition

Pirqe Miqraot

Mordechai Breuer, Pirqe Miqraot, Tvunot Press – Herzog College, Alon Shvut, 2009.  362 pages.  [Hebrew]

The ‘Aspects Theory’ of Rav Mordechai Breuer:  Articles and Responses ed. Yosef Ofer, Tvunot Press – Herzog College, Alon Shvut, 2005.  369 pages. [Hebrew]

Megadim 50 (Tamuz 5769), 268 pages. [Hebrew]

In 1999, Tradition (33:3) published an essay by Rabbi Meir Eckstein about the innovative (and controversial) approach toward Tanach interpretation and Bible criticism advocated by Rabbi Mordechai Breuer z”l, who passed away in 2007.   The piece, which is currently our featured article from our archives and can be accessed for free here, focused on Rav Breuer’s Pirqe Moadot (p. 1986), essays on the Bible’s presentation of the holidays.   Subsequently, Rav Breuer published Pirqe Breishit (1998) on the Book of Genesis.

These most recent volumes significantly contribute toward our understanding of Rav Breuer’s novel approach to Torah study.  The first volume, Pirqe Mikra’ot, covers various aspects of the last 4 books of the Torah that were not covered in Pirqe Mo’adot.  Although it has been published posthumously, Rav Breuer himself wrote and edited the articles, with his son bringing the project to completion.  As always, there are a number of thought-provoking essays in this volume, which will surely raise interest from admirers and critics alike.

The 2nd volume includes a collection of essays (spanning several decades) written by Rav Breuer to explicate and defend his methodology, as well as several responses to his approach (and others like it) written by a number of distinguished Tanach teachers, including Professors Uriel Simon, Shmuel Hugo Bergman, and Amos Chacham as well as Rabbis Yoel Bin-Nun, Shalom Carmy, and Mosheh Lichtenstein.  This collection is an extremely important statement on the differing approaches taken by Orthodox thinkers who take both the study of Tanach and the challenges of Bible criticism seriously.  Particularly enlightening is an interview conducted with Rav Breuer in his later years in which he describes the reaction that his shiurim and methodology initially received, including from distinguished rabbis like Rabbi Yehuda Amital, Rabbi Eliezer M Schach, and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Melzer. He further contends that he never had a “crisis of faith” when responding to Bible criticism.  He explains,

“No man, even as great as Moshe, is capable of writing as great and monumental of a book as this [the Bible].  In this the Bible critics are correct.  The entire problem is whether you believe that God can write a book.  If you believe so, then he can write the Torah anyway he likes, even if the Torah appears as if it was written by many different people in different eras.” (p. 355, loose translation). 

Read the book and his critics, and decide whether you find his approach intellectually or theologically compelling. 

As Rav Breuer laments toward the end of that interview, even many of his closest students have not adopted his approach, even as they have utilized other tools from the world of academic Bible study.  The 3rd book, a special volume in honor of Megadim‘s 50th issue, provides several examples of the “literary-theological” approach adopted by several of Rav Breuer’s students, as well as a thorough index of the first 50 volumes of Megadim.  To read more about this approach, see Hayyim Angel’s article in Tradition 40:3, available here as well. Yaakov Beasley’s review of two recent English works that adopt similar approaches can be found in the current edition of Tradition

For more information on these works, click here for the website of Tvunot Press

- Shlomo Brody

For more books of interest that recently appeared on the Tradition website, please click here.

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