Masters of the Word Vol. 3

Traditional Jewish Bible Commentary from the Eleventh Through Thirteenth Centuries

By Rabbi Yonatan Kolatch

Pages: 512

ISBN: 978-0881259391

OU Press, Ktav Publishing House

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Masters of the Word is an in-depth exploration of the rich world of traditional Jewish Bible commentary. It analyzes the unique method and style of each commentator against the backdrop of his time and place. Using the parashat hashavua as a discrete unit, it devotes each weekly Torah portion to the exclusive commentary of an individual great scholar, thus familiarizing the reader with a significant, but manageable, selection of the commentator’s work.

Not just another “parashah book,” this pioneering work addresses such questions as: How did the era and its spirit affect the commentator, and how did he influence his times? How did he approach the Oral Law and rabbinic tradition? What were his goals? What kinds of textual problems did he deal with? These issues are addressed clearly and comprehensively. The author’s comments are fully footnoted.

The first two volumes covered Bereishit, and included twelve commentators in chronological order from the first through thirteenth centuries, beginning with Chazal and Targumim, through Rashi and Rashbam, and ending with Ibn Ezra, Chizkuni, and the Ba’alei Tosafot. This volume, on the first half of Shemot, continues into the fourteenth century, with an emphasis on five central commentators emanating from Spain and Provence: Rambam, Radak, Ramban, Rabbenu Bachya, and Ralbag.

Forthcoming volumes of Masters of the Word will be devoted to the other books of the Torah, charting the history and development of Bible commentary up to the present day. By viewing the Bible through the varying lenses of its commentators, one can begin to truly understand the depth and diversity of its “seventy facets.”

Rabbi Yonatan Kolatch has been involved in Jewish education for more than four decades in the US and Israel, in varying capacities, including educational administrator, mashgiach ruchani, teacher, and rebbe. Ordained by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Kolatch also holds master’s degrees in social work and Jewish education from Yeshiva University. Before coming on Aliyah in 1993, Rabbi Kolatch worked as a clinical social worker in addition to his ongoing work in chinuch. His weekly Zoom shiur on parshanut hamikra focuses on one topic or even verse in the weekly Torah reading, and traces its meaning and understanding through the centuries, beginning with Chazal through modern day commentary. He and his family reside in Jerusalem.