Studies in the Bible and Jewish Thought

By Moshe Greenberg | Go to book overview

Kaufmann on the Bible: An Appreciation
1964

On October 9, 1963, Yehezkel Kaufmann, the foremost Jewish biblicist of our time and a profound interpreter of Jewish history, died after a long illness. Though all of his life's work is suffused with a devotion to his people, his original grasp of the issues of Jewish existence exploded so many fashionable theories, his views were put forth with such detachment from party, and with such plainspokenness that few of the intellectual and academic establishment in Israel were willing to accord him his due during his lifetime. Never married, a small, ascetic, retiring man, his life was wholly given over to thought, writing, and research. To a request for a curriculum vitae he is said to have replied, "I have no biography, only a bibliography."

The biographical note on Kaufmann in the Hebrew University catalogue reads as follows:

Born Dounaievci ( Russia), 1889; Yeshiva of Rabbi C. Tschernowitz; Dr. phil. Berne, 1918; senior teacher of Hebrew subjects, Reali [High] School, Haifa, 1929-49; research scholar, Bible and history of religion; recipient, Israel Prize for Jewish Studies, 1958. Hebrew Univ.: Professor, 1949; Professor Emeritus, 1957.1

Kaufmann's Berne dissertation was a philosophic "treatise on the sufficient reason" (Eine Abhandlung über den Zurreichenden Grund). Thereafter, although he made a few more contributions to philosophy, his attention focused almost exclusively upon the complex issues making up the riddle of Jewish existence through the ages.2 His first major work, Gola ve-Nekar ( "Exile and Alienation"), a four-volume historical-

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