In Memory of Professor Moshe Greenberg by Nathaniel Helfgot
As a committed student of Tanakh as well as chair of the Tanakh and Jewish Thought Departments at YCT Rabbinical School, I would be remiss if I did not take note of the death last week of one of the leading Jewish scholars of Bible, as well as a wonderful human being, Prof. Moshe Greenberg z”l, who died in Jerusalem at the age of 81.
Prof. Greenberg, a long-time professor of Bible at Hebrew University after his aliyah in 1970 contributed enormously to deepening our understanding of Tanakh, with an honesty tempered by reverence and a tenacious and exacting standard of research and learning. It must be acknowledged candidly that while Prof. Greenberg was a fully observant Jew, he adhered to views on the authorship of the Torah that are at odds with normative Orthodox teaching (ikarei ha-emunah). Yet many of his scholarly contributions enriched the study of Tanakh for us all, even as we strongly maintained a different set of faith assumptions about the genesis of the Torah.
One of his important contributions was to infuse general Biblical scholarship with a decided Jewish tone and help the broader scholarly world appreciate the contributions of classical midrash, parshanut and Jewish scholarship to the study of the Bible. While he was a careful scholar, he was not only interested in the smaller esoteric issues of mehkar which sometimes can lose the forest in its analysis of the trees. He was extremely interested in the broad issues of Biblical theology and meaning as attested to by the work he put in to translating the work of Yehezkel Kaufman into English and many of the essay collected in his Hebrew volume “Al Hamikra ve-al Hayahdut” and in his collected English essays published by JPS over a decade ago. In that context, he was extremely involved in trying to articulate a vision for and guide the secular Israeli educational establishment how to teach Bible and make it relevant in the context of modern-day Israeli life and culture.
He left a legacy of important and seminal essays as well as a number of outstanding disciples, themselves today leading Bible scholars including, Dr. Barry Eichler, Dr. Shnayer Leiman, Dr. Richard Steiner, and many more who continue to enrich our learning and understanding of the Bible and its interpretation.
Yehi Zihro Barukh
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