2/25/2007

Baruch Dayan Emet: R' Mordechai Breuer (1921-2007)



R' Mordechai Breuer passed away over Shabbat (6 Adar 5767), at the age of 85.
R' Breuer, a recipient
of the Israel Prize for his contribution to the world of Biblical commentary and restoration of the Masoretic text, was a trailblazer within the Orthodox community for his head-on encounter with higher Biblical criticism.
His legacy is c
oncentrated in two main areas:
  • He did extensive work to restore the Masoretic text, through use of manuscripts and especially the Aleppo Codex, an early medieval Biblical manuscript whose authenticity was attested to by Maimonides himself, and which was largely destroyed in 1947 when the Arabs of Aleppo rioted in the city's Jewish Quarter in the wake of the UN Partition vote. His edition of the TaNach was published as the 'Keter Yerushalayim' series by the Hebrew University and is the standard version published by Mossad HaRav Kook. Israeli Presidents are sworn in on this edition.
  • He developed a theory of Biblical commentary called 'Shittat Ha-Bechinot', which assumes that the Torah presents laws and stories from multiple perspectives. He developed this approach to account for the doublets noted by Biblical scholars who used them as evidence of multiple authorship of the Torah. He published his studies in two sets, each two volumes, one pertaining to the Torah's various accounts of calendar cycles, and the other on the doublets in the Bereishit narratives.
It is in the latter area that his mark is greatest. He single-handedly invented an entire new school of Biblical commentary, which has evolved well beyond his apologetic tone and no longer takes its cues from the consensus of Documentary Hypothesis theorists. The notion that the Torah is multivocal and presents different viewpoints in different contexts has been adopted by an entire generation of new pashtanim.

He was a great-grands
on of R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, architect of German Neo-orthodoxy in the 19th Century. His religious worldview and living habits were clearly influenced by his family heritage, though he was not afraid to challenge that intellectual heritage, once remarking about R' Hirsch's Torah commentary, "There is no commentary more beautiful, and no commentary less accurate".

The funeral will take place in Jerusalem t
oday, the 7th of Adar, the anniversary of the burial of the first great teacher of the Torah, at 2pm on Har Ha-Menuhot.

Yehi Zikhr
o Barukh.
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