He is a very modest and unassuming person. Yet, in considering his scholarship, Rabbi David Fuchs shines for all to benefit from.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of his association with Koren Publishers, an association that witnessed his sharing with us his refined presentment of the laws of Jewish liturgy through the holiday prayer books and of his unique commentary on those tractates of the Mishnah associated with the high holidays and the three festivals.
Aside from just seeing his name associated with the Koren liturgical works there is a very special person behind the name David Fuchs whose biography will be the subject of this week’s essay.
Based upon personal discussion and email interview, please read on and enjoy this profile in excellence.
Born in Haifa in 1971, David was to serve three years in the IDF as an auxiliary in a combat regiment; and served in a reserve regiment until being discharged in 2011.
His education, from 1991 to 1994, included attending Hebrew University, studying physics, and mathematics, graduating with distinction.
From 1994 to 2007 he studied with Rav Yehuda Amital, and Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, both now of blessed memory, at Yeshivat Har Etzion, where he received his semicha and was one of the first members of the advanced Iyyun Kollel and edited the periodical, Ma’alin Bakodesh.
In 1999 he married Tirtsa, a lawyer. They have five children and have been living in Alon Shevut in the Gush ever since.
David describes himself as modern orthodox, however please consider this:
“This term is very inclusive and broad, and I do not fit neatly into any of the sub-divisions I know of. I firmly believe in the Torah as the manifestation of G-d’s will, and that it was handed down, “l’avdah u’leshamrah.”
“I am also a religious Zionist in the simple sense of the term – believing in G-d as the director of history, I see the state of Israel as another manifestation of His will, and since on balance, it has greatly improved the lot of the Jewish people, I am very thankful for it.”
When questioned about his literary goals David had this to say:
“The simple answer is that I set myself none – at least, as long as I am a Koren employee, the ultimate decision as to what I write rests with my superiors. But, when I write about any halachic, hashkafic, textual [by which I mean the reading of canonical texts], grammatical, literary, historic, philosophical and so on. Then I have to try to present as many of them as necessary in the most concise and lucid way.
“At the present, I am working on a new edition of the High Holidays Machzorim in Hebrew, and was asked to write a new commentary on the piyutim. The relevant prisms are multiplied there, as the Kalir wrote his piyutim in the context of a certain order of prayer, but they were adopted by the Ashenazic communities as a part of a quite different one, and in recent generations many of them are omitted.
“…quite often the verses on which the Kalir based his piyutim have been understood differently by his readers, through the commentaries of Rashi and Ramban, the teachings of Rambam, and many others. And, in recent generations, modern commentaries on the siddur and machzor offer new perspectives, which are often more relevant to contemporary readers.”
And, it is on this last point that I find the most interesting in contemporary liturgical writings and thought. David Fuchs is unique in that he demonstrates a firm and most mature grasp of the world and thought of Jewish prayer and its laws governing its daily practice thus making his work most relevant to all to learn from his teachings.
I conclude this essay with the following observation by Rabbi Fuchs:
“As I make no claims to Torah greatness, I rely heavily on contemporary summaries, footnotes in books, and the recently developed electronic search devices. Of course, much care needs to be taken when proceeding in this method, and I make a point of checking the sources referred to, and I have needed to develop an intuition both to where to look, and how to sift the important from the less relevant ones. I am sure much of my work could be bettered.”
Until that time, Rabbi David Fuchs represents one of the finest scholars in Jewish commentary and study in the world today. I am proud to know him, and learn from him through the use of the Koren siddur and machzor all year round. I highly suggest that you do likewise starting with this holiday season.