web analytics
August 5, 2015 / 20 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Reb Chaim Brisker Of Bible Scholars


Rabbi Breuer’s achievement in the study of Chumash can be compared to Rabbi Chaim Brisker’s revolution in Talmud study. Both build on the insights of their predecessors, back to Chazal themselves. Both advocate systematic analysis. Both shift the focus of study from the localized clash of question and answer to the search for underlying principles that would explain the data.

In the academic world this aspect of Rabbi Breuer’s work was received with a thundering silence. Naturally those scholars committed to the Documentary Hypothesis for religious or intellectual reasons would not be eager to discard the consensus, especially as Rabbi Breuer offered not an all out refutation, but rather an alternative method, compelling only to those already inclined to embrace Torah miSinai on other grounds.

Many observant academics had become comfortable with a policy whereby they gained tolerance by publishing only on “neutral” subjects, employing vague formulations that do not require explicit affirmation or denial of ikkarei emuna. Some avoided teaching Chumash altogether to avoid offending either the Orthodox or the secular.

Acknowledging Rabbi Breuer’s work directed unwelcome attention to the ways in which Orthodox students of Bible are divided from their non-Orthodox counterparts.

Many readers of his early articles simply didn’t grasp what Rabbi Breuer was getting at. He used kabbalistic terminology without fully explaining how it was relevant to modern biblical inquiries. I believe he was not understood until his work became known among students familiar with Brisk who could appreciate the analogies noted above.

Even after he became popular there were valid criticisms from those largely sympathetic with his approach: Rabbi Breuer was too exuberantly prone to accept questions raised by Bible critics as legitimate regardless of the particular merits of the case, simply because they were taken seriously in the literature he studied. More important, Rabbi Breuer and many of his followers underestimated the degree to which adopting the vocabulary and stylistic tics of academic Bible study subtly undermines the sense of reverence essential to Torah study. The fact that many live their lives in Torah institutions may have been a drawback rather than a boon – had they spent more time in the university, they might have become warier of this danger.

Misunderstanding and loneliness is the fate of the pioneer. Rabbi Breuer persevered against the indifference of the academy and initial lack of comprehension within the Torah community. He can no longer join us in cultivating the fields he has plowed. But as we continue to expand and deepen his work, it is a duty and a privilege to show gratitude for his initiative and inspiration.

About the Author: Rabbi Shalom Carmy is professor of Jewish studies and Jewish philosophy at Yeshiva University and editor of the Torah journal Tradition.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Reb Chaim Brisker Of Bible Scholars”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
US Secy of State John Kerry announcing nuclear agreement with Iran from Vienna.
Israel Law Center Files Motion to Block IranDeal in NY Federal Court
Latest Indepth Stories
The Quran

Islamists spoke of “Love and Justice in a World of Suffering,” skipping the horrors caused by Islam

President  Barack Obama.

How and when is it appropriate for pulpit rabbis to comment publicly on the Iran issue?

David Menachem Gordon

David was many things: Brother, son, grandson, nephew, uncle, cousin, talmid, comrade, AND a WARRIOR

Graffiti at Duma home that was torched in Samara.

Some Israelis seem to have forgotten no one has yet tracked down the murderers of Ali Bawabsheh.

Aside from my own 485-page tome on the subject, Red Army, I think Jamie Glazov did an excellent job at framing things in United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror.

“Isn’t it enough that the whole world hates us? WHy do we have to hate each other?”

Who said Kerry won no concessions from Iran? He secured pistachios and Beluga caviar for America!

In 2015, Israel’s fertility rate (3+ births per woman) is higher than all Arab countries except 3

The New Israel Fund, as usual, condemns the State of Israel rather than condemning a horrible act.

I sought a Muslim group that claims to preach a peaceful and accepting posture of Islam, Ahmadiyya

While Orthodox men are encouraged to achieve and celebrated for it, Orthodox women too often are not

Jonathan remember, as long as you’re denied your right to come home to Israel you’re still in prison

Reports of a dead baby, a devastated family, and indications of a gloating attacker.

“The fear of being exposed publicly is the only thing that will stop people,” observed Seewald.

“Yesha” and Binyamin Regional Council leaders said the attack “is not the path of Jews in Judea and Samaria.”

The occasion? The rarely performed mitzvah of pidyon peter chamor: Redemption of a firstborn donkey.

More Articles from Rabbi Shalom Carmy

There are great teachers whose impact is limited to their students. Greater still are those whose students initiate students of their own. The greatest teachers, however, influence not only the direct line descending from them, but an entire climate of thinking. All of us are their talmidim.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-reb-chaim-brisker-of-bible-scholars/2007/03/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: