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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Post‐medieval Jewish Interpretation

Edward Breuer

The period between 1650 and 1900 forms a particularly rich and variegated chapter in the history of Jewish biblical interpretation, particularly within the European Ashkenazic communities. Over the course of these two and a half centuries, hundreds of Bible commentaries and super‐commentaries were written and published, and although the vast majority have fallen into obscurity, a few have exerted considerable influence and continue to be studied to this day. The substantial scholarly output of this period was broadly due to three historically related factors: the growth and relative stability of communities in both Western and Eastern Europe, a flourishing religious and scholarly life, and an active Jewish printing industry.

The biblical scholarship of this period is particularly important because of the way in which it reflected and even shaped the far‐reaching historical, religious, and cultural shifts taking place within European Jewry. Through most of the 17th and 18th centuries, the interpretation of the Bible was largely derivative of medieval exegesis, particularly the didactic and homiletical modes of late medieval scholarship. As the 18th century progressed, the textual and linguistic interests of medieval Spanish exegesis began to be revived, and by 1800 biblical interpretation was given new impetus by the Jewish Enlightenment and, to a lesser degree, by the reinvigorated scholarly circles that emerged in Lithuania in opposition to the spread of Hasidism. In the 19th century, as the cultural and religious insularity of traditional Jewish life gave way to the external pressures of emancipation, and as internal divisions weakened the authority of rabbinic Judaism, the interpretation of Scripture became a central factor in the struggle to determine the meaning and relevance of inherited Jewish traditions.

Despite the large numbers of Bible commentaries that appeared in the 17th and 18th centuries, almost all of them were methodologically unoriginal and substantively unremarkable. In the Sephardic communities of North Africa, the Middle East, and Western Europe (e.g., Amsterdam and Hamburg), there seems to have been some effort to maintain the study of the Bible and Hebrew language pioneered by medieval Spanish scholars, but with few linguistic or exegetical advances. Among the Ashkenazic communities of Western and Eastern Europe, the reality was more complex. On the one hand, biblical commentaries were a time‐honored scholarly endeavor, and a great many of them centered around the careful parsing of midrashic texts and Rashi's commentary, which had attained near‐canonical status. On the other hand, there was a pronounced ambivalence, if not indifference, toward Bible study, and especially any kind of scholarship that focused on the philological or grammatical aspects of the text. The study of rabbinic literature, both the Talmud and the long line of codes and commentaries that followed in its wake, was given intellectual and spiritual pride of place, and the study of the Bible was relegated to a respectful, honored, but distinctly secondary position. These realities are reflected in the fact that some of the best and most en‐ during writings of this era emerged from non‐Ashkenazic Mediterranean communities: Me'am Lo'ez, the mid‐18th‐century popularLadino compilation of rabbinic writings (Constantinople, 1730–1772); Ḥayyim ben Moses Ibn 'Attar's 'Or ha‐ḥayim (Venice, 1742) which became very popular among Ashkenazic Jewry; and David Samuel Pardo's Maskil le‐David (Venice, 1761), a super‐commentary to Rashi.

Modern students of the Bible have often credited a group of 17th‐century thinkers, among them Benedict Spinoza (1634–1677), for anticipating the emergence of modern biblical criticism by eschewing traditional modes of interpretation and by raising questions concerning the reliability, authenticity, and even authorship of the Bible. In his Theologico‐Political Treatise (1670) Spinoza set out to employ “the true method of scriptural interpretation,” which would entail examining the Bible afresh “in a careful, impartial, and unfettered spirit, making no assumptions concerning it” (Benedict Spinoza, Theologico‐Political Treatise, transl. R. H. M. Elwes, New York: Dover Pub‐ lications, 1951; preface and pp. 98–119 ). Spinoza's intention was to undermine the presumption of a seamless, consistent text that could be ascribed to the hand of Moses and to convince his readers that the Bible was so confused and beset with problems that a clear understanding of its meaning was often beyond reach. A careful reading of the Theologico‐Political Treatise, however, belies the scholarly value of his biblical insights by revealing the arbitrary nature of his methods and the capricious quality of many of his conclusions. Spinoza's discussion was far less interested in the interpretative difficulties and challenges of the Bible than in undermining the authority of Scripture for a variety of philosophical and political reasons. Moreover, since it was written in Latin, Spinoza's handling of the Bible had absolutely no impact on 17th‐ and 18th‐century Jewish interpretation of the Bible. It is generally believed that European scholars who launched the serious critical study of the Bible drew upon Spinoza's writing, although a careful examination of their scholarship might suggest more limited influence.

The Ashkenazic ambivalence toward the Bible began to change slowly in the 18th century, as some rabbinic authorities and scholars increasingly complained about the neglect of Bible study, particularly the pedagogic inattention to sound grammatical and textual skills. A small number of new books, most notably those of Solomon Hanau (1687–1746), tried to revive interest in the study of Hebrew grammar and to recapture some of the vibrancy of earlier generations. There was a rediscovery of the peshat‐oriented commentary of Rashbam, and later in the century, a renewed interest in the writings of David Kimḥi (Radak) and Abraham Ibn Ezra.

By far the most important development in this regard was the appearance of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) in late 18th‐century Prussia and its impact on the culture of European Jewry. As part of their effort to promote the integration of Jews into European society, these Jewish Enlightenment figures, or maskilim as they came to be known, were highly attuned to the achievements of contemporary German culture and sensitive to the perceived deficiencies of Jewish education and scholarship. The maskilic interest in the study of Scripture was thus shaped by a double orientation. On the one hand, maskilim were attracted by some of the universalism and literary‐aesthetic sophistication of the German and European Enlightenments, and they sought to infuse Jewish Bible study with the same textual sensibilities. On the other hand, embarrassed by the state of biblical scholarship within their own communities, they wanted to showcase the wealth of inherited textual traditions and advance the study of Scripture in distinctly Jewish terms.

Both tendencies were evident in the new edition of the Torah published by Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786), a highly regarded German philosopher and man of letters who was also the most prominent individual associated with the Berlin Haskalah. Appearing in Berlin between 1780 and 1783 as Sefer Netivot ha‐Shalom, Mendelssohn's Bible was a collaborative affair that came to include two of thefinest scholars associated with the Haskalah, Naftali Herz Wessely (1725–1805) and Solomon Dubno (1738–1813). Sefer Netivot ha‐ Shalom included a new German translation, an extensive Hebrew commentary, and a series of highly technical Masoretic notes that attempted to fix the precise morphology and pointing of the text. The German translation, printed in Hebrew script and rendered into a good contemporary Hochdeutsch (“high,” or “literary,” German), served the same function as earlier Bible translations, namely, to make the text accessible to a growing number of Jews who felt less comfortable with Hebrew than with their native tongue. More importantly, the translation also set out to capture the prosaic and poetic qualities of the Hebrew original in order to offer Jews a text that was as aesthetically sophisticated as any German Bible in circulation, but without christologically‐informed readings and interpretations, and without the textual emendations being introduced by contemporary German scholars. In this regard, Mendelssohn offered his co‐religionists a Bible translation that conformed to both Jewish textual traditions and rabbinic interpretations.

The Hebrew commentary to this Bible embraced the same twofold orientation. On the one hand, the Bi'ur (Heb b‐'‐r) or “explanation,” as this commentary was simply titled, culled the medieval exegesis of Rashi, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra, and Naḥmanides (see “Medieval Interpretation,” pp. 1876–1900 and “Jewish Translations of the Bible,” pp. 2005–20) for the best of their peshat‐oriented interpretations, while also contributing its own linguistic and literary insights. In the face of broad European disregard for the scholarly value of rabbinic literature, on the other hand, Mendelssohn and some of his fellow commentators tried to demonstrate the exegetical acuity of midrashic interpretations by pointing to the sound philological, syntactical, and narrative insights exhibited by the Sages of late antiquity. This commentary, in fact, went out of its way to incorporate rabbinic literature, both midrash halakhah (legal interpretation) and midrash aggadah (interpretation of narratives), and to explain its relationship to peshuto shel miqra'—the “plain” sense of the text. Mendelssohn and his fellow contributors adopted differing strategies with regard to the articulation of this relationship: Mendelssohn viewed peshat (the plain sense) and derash (rabbinic‐homiletical interpretation) as eliciting two hermeneutically distinct yet equally veracious layers of the text, while Wessely was more inclined to conflate the two by suggesting that the rabbinic reading represented nothing but the true depths of peshat. In either case, their commentaries displayed serious regard for the linguistic qualities of Scripture, using it to elicit fresh approaches to the biblical text as well as a better appreciation for the substantive exegetical legacy of rabbinic Judaism. The Bi'ur was reprinted in dozens of 19th‐century editions, making it by far the most popular Jewish Bible and second only to the traditional texts published with Targum and Rashi.

In Eastern Europe, meanwhile, many Jewish communities had been swept up by the social and religious revivalism of Hasidism, and with it came a number of scholarly and popular commentaries to the Bible. The opposition to this movement, centered in the leadership of R. Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (the Vilna Gaon; 1720–1797) and his Lithuanian‐based disciples, was no less intensely committed to the study of kabbalistic traditions, and they too incorporated these scholarly pursuits into their study of Scripture. R. Elijah and his followers, however, also cultivated an interest in the Bible that roughly paralleled, and may even have been informed by, maskilic developments in Western Europe. In his 'Aderet 'Eliyahu, first published posthumously in an 1804 edition of the Torah, R. Elijah called attention to the importance of peshat‐oriented readings of Scripture, while at the same time probing the nature of rabbinic exegesis. His expression of concern for the biblical text and its traditional rabbinic interpretation, however, was aimed at underscoring the far‐reaching, even radical, nature of rabbinic derashot (homiletical expositions). This commentary did not in itself set out to advance fresh approaches to the biblical text, nor did it substantively explicate the exegetical discernment of the Sages. With this emphasis on the distinction of peshat and derash, R. Elijah sought to highlight the interpretative creativity and profundity of rabbinic Judaism, an endeavor that would shape the intellectual and spiritual character of Lithuanian scholarship well into the 20th century.

The most significant developments in Jewish biblical scholarship, however, took place among 19th‐century Jews concentrated in German‐speaking Europe. As the Jews of these regions began their century‐long struggle to gain civic equality and social integration, the contemporary study of the Bible came to reflect the cultural and religious vicissitudes of the age. One can discern three different though somewhat overlapping trends, all of them cognizant of the relationship of Bible study to the broader challenges of modernity, and all of them staking out a set of assumptions regarding Scripture and its religious and cultural meaning to contemporary Jews.

In the wake of the German Haskalah, there was a discernible revival of Hebrew and Bible study among European Jews. Within a decade after the publication of Mendelssohn's Bible, a group of younger maskilim had extended the project to cover the books of the Prophets and Writings. Sefer Netivot ha‐Shalom was eagerly studied in some circles, and over the next half‐century there appeared a number of super‐commentaries to the Bi'ur. In 1810, Judah Leib ben Ze'ev (1764–1811), one of the last contributors to the German Haskalah before its dissipation, wrote a set of introductory essays to the Prophets and Writings that drew upon contemporary German scholarship, in which he laid out their respective historical and literary features, including some critical notions regarding authorship. More importantly, the interest in Hebrew and Bible study was also taken up by those not directly identified with the Haskalah, but who shared some of its cultural predilections. Solomon Pappenheim (1740–1814), a rabbinic court judge in Breslau, wrote a multi‐volume study of Hebrew synonyms, while Wolf Heidenheim (1757–1832), an important publisher and editor of liturgical texts, penned a series of commentaries on the Masorah and a super‐commentary to Rashi.

As the Haskalah spread into other regions of Europe, a younger generation of traditionally trained yet maskilically oriented scholars also took up the study of the Bible. Much of this scholarship did not appear in the classical form of the commentary, but rather as essays and studies published in leading maskilic journals such as Bikurei ha‐Itim and Kerem Ḥemed. In Galicia, Nachman Krochmal (1785–1840) addressed questions regarding Isaiah, Ecclesiastes, and Psalms, embracing the late dating of sections of this literature and arguing that such critical awareness was already evident in rabbinic literature. His one‐time student and friend Solomon Rappoport (1790–1867) also included in his writings similar critical ideas regarding the books of Isaiah and Psalms. In Italy, Isaac Samuel Reggio (1784–1855) produced an extensive Hebrew commentary alongside his Italian translation of the Torah, as well as a number of essays on biblical issues. Samuel David Luzzatto (1800–1865), Reggio's contemporary and colleague, wrote at least two Hebrew grammars, a study of Targum Onkelos, and various articles on Hebrew philology. His lectures on the Torah, including introductions to issues regarding the biblical text and modes of in‐ terpretation, were collected and published posthumously. Paralleling but somewhat independent of these endeavors, there also emerged a group of Lithuanian maskilim who produced a number of commentaries, super‐commentaries, and journal articles that took up various linguistic and exegetical issues pertaining to the study of the Bible.

Taken together, these writings exemplify the increased pedagogic and scholarly attention to biblical scholarship as part of an endeavor to expand the intellectual, religious,and cultural horizons of European Jews. This body of literature, however, was also largely traditionalist in its commitments and sensibilities, and did not broadly engage the critical‐scholarly ideas emanating from the German universities. Critical notions regarding the text, its editing, and its historical context were raised only with regard to the non‐Torah books of the Bible, and largely where medieval scholars had either opened the door to such notions or where there existed sufficient ambiguity to allow for new ideas. While these writings did not generally have enduring value, they did make the engagement with Scripture a far more central part of European Jewish culture.

The second salient trend that characterized the 19th‐century study of Scripture emanated from a group of Jews far more receptive to the academic methods and intellectual discourse of contemporary German scholarship. Emerging in the 1810s, this group began to promote the Wissenschaft des Judentums, the critical‐academic (“scientific”) study of Jewish history and literature, with particular emphasis on texts, languages, and philosophical issues not generally studied in traditional settings. Two of the most important members of this movement, Leopold Zunz (1794–1886) and Abraham Geiger (1810–1874), contributed substantively to the scholarly study of the Bible. Zunz edited a German translation of the Bible and wrote critically about the books of Psalms and Chronicles, later even turning his attention to issues in the Torah as well. Geiger focused his Urschrift und Übersetzungen der Bibel (Breslau, 1857) on the originally fluid nature of the biblical text and the presence of competing versions, a phenomenon that he substantiated by pointing to the varying translations of Scripture that emerged in late antiquity.

Although Geiger's critical insights went beyond those of Krochmal, Rappoport, and Luzzatto, these scholars formed a broader circle in which the distinctions between maskil and proponents of Wissenschaft were considerably blurred. Still, those associated primarily with Wissenschaft who had at the same time disencumbered themselves of traditional practices and beliefs had far more social and intellectual freedom to pursue a wide variety of questions regarding the Bible. In the case of Geiger, one of the most important and active Reform leaders, one might have expected a concerted effort to apply new historical‐critical methods to the Bible to counter traditionalist beliefs and to help bolster some central historical assertions of the nascent Reform movement. In fact, proponents of Wissenschaft des Judentums engaged the Bible in a rather limited way; they appeared less interested in the development of new critical perspectives relating to the origins of the Bible or to the serious study of biblical history or philol‐ ogy, than in the textual and interpretative reception of the biblical text. This was evident in Geiger's Urschrift and its attention to early Bible translations. Underlying his scholarly thinking was the notion that the Bible was not a “sealed book of antiquity, whose meaning the student had to unlock in order to acquaint himself with the ideas of a day long past.” Rather, “every age, every movement and every personality in history has brought its own ideas to bear upon the Bible” (Abraham Geiger, Urschrift und Übersetzungen der Bibel, Breslau, 1857, p. 72). This unobjectionable observation, a staple of intellectual history, was not merely a programmatic outline of an important subfield of biblical scholarship; Geiger's statement that the Bible was all things to all people was predicated upon his insistence that an objective interpretation of Scripture could not be achieved, and therefore was not a particularly valuable endeavor to pursue. For Geiger, as for other contributors to the Wissenschaft des Judentums, the cultural and religious needs of the moment manifested themselves in an almost exclusive focus upon the manifold ways in which the Bible had been read—pointing clearly to the possibility of other, more contemporaneous readings—rather than on the original meaning of the text. Jewish critical scholarship would eventually free itself of these constraints,but at this juncture the social and cultural bases upon which to develop such interests were as yet undeveloped.

The third trend that characterized the 19th‐century study of the Bible arose out of the most traditionalist element of European Jewry, that which came to be identified by its orthodoxy. Traditionalist leaders were largely unwilling to deal with scholarly advances in biblical criticism, but they were acutely sensitive to other 19th‐century developments that they perceived to be far more pressing: the growing abandonment of traditional Jewish practices, and the Reform eschewal of rabbinic authority in general, and ancient rabbinic readings of Scripture in particular. Alongside their communal and polemical activities against the burgeoning Reform movement, a number of these traditional defenders of rabbinic Judaism also sought to buttress their orthodoxy by turning to the Bible and trying to demonstrate the fundamental accord between Scripture and its rabbinic elucidations. The resulting commentaries, lengthy and extensive as they are, contributed an important and lasting corpus of traditional scholarship to the history of biblical interpretation.

The first of these commentaries, expressly written to address the relationship of the Oral Torah to Scripture, was Ha‐Ketav veha‐Kabalah (The Written Text and [Rabbinic] Tradition), published in 1839 by R. Jacob Zvi Meklenburg (1785–1865) of Königsberg. This exegete exhibited an impressive scholarly range that included not only rabbinic and medieval texts, but also a rudimentary knowledge of classical languages and a familiarity with maskilic and Wissenschaft writings. Meklenburg was most concerned about the perceived inauthenticity of oral traditions, particularly the idea that rabbinic readings were foisted unnaturally upon Scripture. In response, he suggested that a refined grasp of the biblical language and idiom would demonstrate that “the Written Torah and the Oral Torah are twins, stuck one to the other such that they could not be sundered” (Ha‐Ketav veha‐Kabalah, Leipzig, 1839, introduction, p. xiii). Meklenburg, however, did not intend to collapse the distinction between peshat and derash. His aim, rather, was to defuse any apparent tension between them and to legitimate midrashic and talmudic readings by grounding them in the biblical text with subtlety and sophistication.

In the body of the commentary itself, this particular concern for rabbinic exegesis actually played a secondary role. His explication of the rabbinic interpretations of Scripture was undertaken only on a selective basis, and his limited attempts at laying out a systematic approach to the problem relied substantially on Mendelssohn's writings. Ha‐Ketav veha‐Kabalah was devoted first and foremost to an explication of peshuto shel miqra' (the plain sense of the biblical text), drawing extensively and in an undifferentiated manner on Mendelssohn's Sefer Netivot ha‐Shalom, the Vilna Gaon's 'Aderet 'Eliyahu, and the scholarly contributions of Pappenheim, Heidenheim, Luzzatto, and others. In many ways, this commentary served as an excellent anthology of late 18th‐ and early 19th‐century peshat exegesis, a collection that reflected the reinvigoration of Jewish Bible study. Ha‐Ketav veha‐Kabalah was published again in 1852 with a number of substantial additions and deletions, and material was again added to the edition that appeared in 1880; this latter edition was subsequently reprinted numerous times.

Responding to similar religious challenges and drawing upon some of the same scholarly traditions, R. Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michel (1809–1879) also set out with the scholarly aim of joining the Written and Oral Torahs, but he approached the undertaking in a far more systematic and substantive fashion. More commonly known by his acronym, Malbim, he served as a communal rabbi in the Posen region of eastern Prussia through the 1850 s, at a time when proponents of reform began to articulate their positions with greater forcefulness. By mid‐century he had authored commentaries to Isaiah, Song ofSongs, and Esther, and in 1866 he produced a commentary to the Prophets and Writings. In 1860 he published an edition of the Sifra, the early rabbinic midrash to Leviticus, which interpolated the relevant biblical verses at the head of each midrashic segment, and to which he wrote a commentary titled Ha‐Torah veha‐Mitzvah. It is most significant, in terms of understanding Malbim's methods and aims, that it was this rabbinic commentary that appeared with the full text of the Sifra as the Leviticus section of his Bible commentary. Over the next two decades Malbim applied this approach to the other books of the Torah, producing a commentary to the Mekhilta (Exodus) and Sifre (Numbers and Deuteronomy); for sections of the Bible without midrash halakhah, Malbim posed a series of questions to which he supplied lengthy answers, somewhat reminiscent of the style employed earlier by Abravanel and other late medieval scholars. Judging by its numerous reprintings, this work proved to be one of the most popular Bible commentaries of late 19th‐century European Jewry.

In his extensive two‐part introduction to the original Sifra commentary, Malbim was unequivocal about his overarching objective: to develop tools that would demonstrate the veracity of rabbinic traditions. The Sages, he asserted, had a profound knowledge of Hebrew that included a firm grasp of grammatical principles, sensitivity to the subtlest of differences among apparently synonymous nouns and verbs, and an appreciation of biblical style and idiom, all of which he detailed in a separate section of the introduction. Malbim explicitly rejected the notion that rabbinic teachings were merely traditions that used scriptural verses as props or as a kind of subscript. Moreover, unlike Mendelssohn and Meklenburg, and more akin to the approach taken by Wessely, he insisted upon the linguistic profundity of rabbinic literature, which resulted in the blurring of the distinction between peshat and derash. After all, if the Sages were superb linguists and readers of texts, then all their interpretations could be identified with peshuto shel miqra'. The words of the Oral Torah, he wrote, “are compelled by and ingrained in the Scriptural peshat and in the depths of the language. Derush [sic] alone is the simple peshat that is based upon the true and clear rules of language” (Malbim, Sifra devei Rav…im Peirush Ha‐Torah veha‐Mitzvah, Bucharest, 1860, p. 2 a).

The reawakened interest in Hebrew and Bible study and the need to reinforce the integrity of traditional Judaism shaped the writing of a number of other Bible commentaries worthy of note. In the late 1860 s, R. Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808–1888) began publishing a translation and lengthy German commentary to the Torah (Der Pentateuch, übersetzt und erläutert, Frankfurt am Main, 1867–1878). As one of the most prominent and outspoken leaders of German Orthodoxy, Hirsch was no less committed to the defense of norma‐ tive rabbinic Judaism than Meklenburg and Malbim, but he took an entirely different approach to the interpretation of Scripture. In his view, the corpus of rabbinic teachings could not—and for polemical purposes, should not—be derived from the biblical text. Although the Bible served as a kind of a mnemonic primer that elicited the particulars of the Oral Torah, this was possible only in the presence of a revealed tradition that Moses and the Israelites had already absorbed (see Hirsch's commentary to Exodus 21.2 ). Instead, highly sensitive to the prevailing European‐Protestant depreciation of Judaism, Hirsch used his commentary to demonstrate the thoroughly integrated spiritual and ethical worldview of the Torah. Utilizing a mix of philology and homiletics, Hirsch produced what could best be described as a theosophical commentary which made heavy use of biblical symbolism and which mined biblical narratives and strictures for their sublime moral teachings. In tenor and substance, as in language and style, Hirsch's commentary remained a distinct contribution to 19th‐century biblical interpretation.

More than a generation later, R. David Zvi Hoffmann (1843–1921), rector of the Orthodoxrabbinic seminary of Berlin and an important leader of German Jewry in his own right, produced German commentaries to the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy (Das Buch Leviticus, übersetzt und erklärt, Berlin, 1905–1906; Das Buch Deuteronomium, übersetzt und erklärt, Berlin, 1913–1922). His biblical commentaries combined overlapping traditionalist elements of Haskalah and Wissenschaft scholarship with the orthodox apologia of scholars like Meklenburg. Academically trained and well versed in contemporary European biblical scholarship, Hoffmann was as concerned with defending the integrity of the Bible as displaying its ultimate concordance with rabbinic oral traditions. Like Malbim, he devoted a considerable amount of scholarly attention to the study of midrash halakhah, but the methodological conclusions he drew were different. Hoffmann allowed that in many instances rabbinic traditions either preceded or appeared concurrently with their scripturally based articulation in midrashic literature and could not be independently derived from the biblical text. Nevertheless, the task of the modern exegete was to connect the Bible with tradition, even if retrospectively. Hoffmann's biblical writings, however, were not focused solely on this issue, and their scholarly range was broader than any other 19th‐century commentary, incorporating linguistic and scientific insights alongside philosophy and comparative anthropology.

The revival of Bible study took root and flourished in Eastern Europe as well, and although the commentaries that emerged from there shared the traditionalist concern for the integrity of rabbinic interpretations, they tended to approach the problem in a more selective and discerning fashion. The head of the prestigious Volozhin yeshivah, R. Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin (1817–1893; known by his acronym as the Netziv), penned a commentary to the Torah titled Ha‐'Amek Davar which first appeared in an 1879–1880 Vilna edition of the Bible. Like Malbim and Hoffmann, Berlin had elsewhere devoted significant scholarly energy to the study of early rabbinic midrash, but his Bible commentary engaged both Scripture and rabbinic literature in ways that tried to develop an appreciation for their independent literary qualities. Berlin spoke incisively about the limitless interpretative possibilities that inhered in the biblical text, and at the same time allowed that earlier rabbinic modes of interpretation had been independently and creatively derived. At the end of the 19th century, Barukh Ha‐Levi Epstein (1860–1942) also set out to show the fundamental accord between the Bible and the oral law in an edition of the Torah named Torah Temimah (Vilna, 1904). Epstein went about this task by anthologizing rabbinic uses of Scripture and appending a series of notes which proved to contain original and insightful comments regarding the rabbinic interpretation of Scripture. In many ways, the real scholarly achievement of this work may have been the anthology itself, in which Epstein culled a large corpus of rabbinic literature and edited and condensed his findings with masterful scholarship. Perhaps the most original of the late 19th‐century traditionalist commentaries, however, was the posthumously published Meshekh Ḥokhmah (1927) of R. Meir Simhah Ha‐Kohen of Dvinsk (1843–1926). Like Berlin, this exegete was an outstanding rabbinic scholar who appreciated not only the quality of rabbinic scriptural interpretation, but also its ongoing creativity. As such, he asserted the right of rabbinic scholars of all generations to venture beyond attested readings in order to derive new halakhah from scriptural peshat.

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