Thumbnail Biographies of Rabbis Mentioned in Brit-Am Writings
List is roughly in Chronological Order.
TARGUM ONKELOS. Targum Onkelos is the primary Jewish Aramaic targum ("translation") of the Torah, accepted as an authoritative translated text of the Five Books of Moses and thought to have been written in the early 100s CE. Onkelos, was a convert to Judaism and said to have been the nephew of Roman Emperor, Hadrian (reigned 117-138 CE), who was an enemy of the Jews. Onkelos is also identified with Aquila of Sinope who translated the Bible into Greek. According to Epiphanius, the Greek translation was made by Aquilas before he converted to Judaism, while the Aramaic translation was made after his conversion. This is said to have been under the direct guidance and instruction of Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Eliezer. A.E. Silverstone (“Aquila and Onkelos,” 1931:73) has shown that Aquilas wrote both the Greek and the Aramaic versions, insofar that "both versions betray the same outstanding characteristics."
In Talmudic times, readings from the Torah within the synagogues were rendered, verse-by-verse, into an Aramaic translation. To this day, the oldest surviving custom with respect to the Yemenite Jewish prayer-rite is the reading of the Torah and the Haftara with the Aramaic translation (in this case, Targum Onkelos for the Torah and Targum Jonathan ben 'Uzziel for the Haftarah).
TARGUM YEHONATAN. Targum Jonathan, is the official eastern Aramaic translation to the Nevi'im (Prophets). The Talmud (Megilla 3a) attributes its authorship to Yehonathan ben Uzziel, a pupil of Hillel the Elder. According to this source, it was composed "from the mouths of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi." These were all Prophets, members of the Great Assembly. Hai Gaon (939-1038 CE) the head of the Yeshivah and Rabbinical settlement in Pumbetitha (Medieval Babylon) is understood as attributing Targum Yehonathan to "Joseph" the head of his academy.
TARGUM YERUSHALEM. Ths seems to be a submarined version of Targum Yehonatan with some changes.
ARUK of Nathan ben Jehiel of Rome, 1035-1106, was a Jewish Italian lexicographer, i.e. writer of dictionaries. His major work is known as "Safer Ha-Aruk" or just "Aruk."
ARUCH HASHALEM - Alexander KOHUT, 1842-1894, Rabbi and Orientalist. Born in Hungary and died in the USA. He spent 25 years of his life writing "Aruk ha-Shalem." This a kind of encyclopedic reference work giving the contemporary (in his time) academic understanding of entries in the Aruk of Nathan ben Jehiel as well as additional information on numerous other subjects. His work was accepted by Orthodox Jews and is still valuable even though on many points the information he used (from non-Jewish secular sources) is now outdated.
YOSIPHON, Josippon (Hebrew: "Sefer Yosipon") is a chronicle of Jewish history from Adam to the age of Titus. It is named after its supposed author, Josephus Flavius, though it was actually composed in the 900s CE in South Italy.
RAV SAADIA GAON, born in Egypt, died in Tiberias, in Israel (882/892- 942) was a prominent rabbi, Gaon, Jewish philosopher, and exegete of the who was active in the Abbasid Caliphate. He is known for his opposition to the Karaites, for his book on "Beliefs and Opinions," and his commentary to the Torah.
RASHI, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105), North France, author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud and commentary on the Torah and other parts of the Tanakh. He identifies Tsrarafat (Obadiah 1:18) with France and says that the Lost Ten Tribes went there.
MAIMONIDES, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (1138-1204), aka Rambam. He was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of all time. He was also a preeminent astronomer and physician, serving as the personal physician of Saladin. Born in Spain he died in Egypt, whence his body was taken to the lower Galilee and buried in Tiberias, in Israel. Maimonides at a young age wrote a commentary on the Mishah that is still very much in use. He wrote a philosophical work, "Guide to the Perplexed" which among other matters explains difficult passages and expressions in the Torah. He also compiled his "Mishenh Torah" (also known as "Yad Hazakah") systematically codiying Rabbinical Law. His opinions on medical matters are still sometimes consulted and he wrote Responsa of lasting importance. He brings as a legal principle the declaration that the future Messiah will inform each Israel which Tribe they pertain to, and that the members of the Tribe of Levi will be identified first. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, The Laws of Kings, ch. 12, no.3 based on the Talmud, Kiddushin 70;a.
NACHMANIDES, Rabbi Moses ben Nahman (1194-1270), aka Ramban. [Note Nachmanides in Hebrew is often referred to as RAMBAN with an "N" end whereas Maimondies is called "RAMBAM" with an "M."]
medieval Jewish scholar, Sephardic Rabbi, philosopher, physician, kabbalist, and biblical commentator. Nachmanides, became the Chief Rabbi of Catalonia, Spain. In 1263, he was forced to participate in a public religious disputation against a Jewish Apostate named Pablo Christiani. The Dominican monks had induced the King, James-1 of Aragon, to order Nachmanides to reply to claims made. Nachmanides was successful in his defence of Judaism and in appreciation received 300 gold pieces from the king. The Dominicans however succeed in having Nachmanides banished from the Kingdom. Three years later in 1267 he moved to the Holy Land. He established a synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem that still exists and is known as the “Ramban Synagogue.” He then moved to the city of Acre where he founded a yeshiva. In the Holy Land he wrote his commentary to the Torah. He is known for the stress he puts on living in the Land of Israel and the ongoing obligation of every Jew to conquer the Land and settle therein. In his "Book of Redemption" Nachmanides writes about the Lost Ten Tribes. He says they are still in Exile and did not return to join Judah. They are at the edges of the far north, in Tserafath (Obadiah 1:18). In the End Times they will defeat the forces of Esau and return.
CHIZKUNI, Hezekiah ben Manoah, a French Rabbi in the 1200s, wrote a commentary on the Pentateuch, ca. 1240. It was printed at Venice in 1524.
IBN EZRA. Rabbi Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra (1089 -1167) was one of the most distinguished Jewish Biblical commentators and philosophers of the Middle Ages. He was born in Tudela in northern Spain, may have died in England. He travelled widely mentioning sights in Egypt and India, was a close friend of Judah Halevi; had a son who converted to Islam. Iben Ezra identifies the Canaanites of Obadiah 1:18 with Germany.
YEHUDA HALEVI (c. 1075-1141) was a Spanish Jewish physician, poet and philosopher. He died shortly after arriving in the Holy Land in 1141, after being trampled by an Arab horseman in Jerusalem. He is best known for his work "Ha-Khuzari" describing a hypothetical debate and discussion before the King of Khazaria with the attendance of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Greek, Philosophers.
RADAK, Rabbi David Kimhi (1160-1235), was born in Narbonne, a city in southern France medieval rabbi, biblical commentator, philosopher, and grammarian. He wrote a commentary on the Book of Genesis and on each of the Prophets, and on the Psalms, as well as a polemic work against Christianity, and a valuable linguistic work. His literary style was of a very high standard. He had a highly original, rational, approach combined with appreciation of Talmudic sources. The RADAK understands Jeremiah 31:20 as describing a pathway of dolmens or something like it. Abarbanel, who came later, accepted this understanding. It speaks of the Migratory Path of Ephraim (cf. Jeremiah 31:17).
RABEINU BACHYA, Rabbi Bahya ben Asher ibn Halawa 1255-1340) a Spanish Rabbi and scholar of Judaism. He was a commentator on the Torah. He was one of two people now known as Rabbeinu Behaye, the other being philosopher Bahya ibn Paquda.
RALBAG, Levi ben Gershon (1288-1344), better known as Gersonides, medieval French Jewish philosopher, Talmudist, mathematician, physician and astronomer/astrologer. He wrote a commentary on the Torah.
"AKEDAT YITSCHAK" (Isaac ben Moses Arama c. 1420-1494) a Spanish rabbi and author. Upon the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, Arama settled in Naples, where he died in 1494.
ABARBANEL, Abravanel. Isaac ben Judah Abarbanel (1437-1508), commonly referred to as Abarbanel, also spelled Abravanel, Avravanel or Abrabanel, a Portuguese Jewish statesman, philosopher, Bible commentator, and financier. Wrote an extensive verbose commentary on the entire Bible, along with philosophic works. Don Isaac Abarbanel wrote that his forebears were descended from King David. King Afonso-5 of Portugal employed him as treasurer. When Alfonso died Abarbanel fled to Castile (Spain) in 1483. He was employed by Queen Isabella as financier. He left Spain in 1492 when the Jews were expelled. He went to Naples, Italy, died in Venice in 1508. Abarbanel writes often about the Ten Tribes. He says that belief that the Ten Tribes are now in Exile but will return and re-unite with Judah is one of the Principles of Belief in the Bible. He also emphasizes the presence of descendants of Israel being among the English.
"SEFORNO," Ovadia ben Jacob Sforno (1475-1550) was an Italian rabbi, Biblical commentator, philosopher and physician.
Rabbi MANASSEH BEN ISRAEL (1604-1657), [source: Wikipedia] was born in Madeira, Portugal, to a Marrano family. The family moved to the Netherlands in 1610, returned to Judaism. The Netherlands was in the middle of a process of religious revolt against Catholic Spanish rule throughout the Eighty Years' War (1568-1648). Amsterdam was an important center of Jewish life in Europe at this time. The family's arrival in 1610 was during the Twelve Years' Truce mediated by France and England at The Hague. Manasseh rose to eminence not only as a rabbi and an author, but also as a printer. He established the first Hebrew press in Holland. One of his earliest works, "The Conciliator," published in 1632, was an attempt to reconcile apparent discrepancies in various parts of the Hebrew Bible. In 1644, Manasseh met Antonio de Montezinos, a Portuguese traveler and Marrano Sephardic Jew who had been in the New World. Montezinos convinced him of his conclusion that the South America Andes' Indians were the descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. This purported discovery gave a new impulse to Manasseh's Messianic hopes, as the settlement of Jews throughout the world was supposed to be a sign that the Messiah would come. Filled with this idea, he turned his attention to England, whence the Jews had been expelled since 1290. He worked to get them permission to settle there again and thus hasten the Messiah's coming. Messianic and other mystic hopes were then current in England. His book, "The Hope of Israel," was first published in Amsterdam in Latin in 1650. In addition to reporting Montezinos accounts of Jews in the Americas, the book also expressed the hope that the Jews would return to England as a way of hastening the coming of the messiah. [He also reports a Hebrew inscription having been found in the Orkneys, Scotland, and the Ten Tribes having once been in Scythia]. Manasseh also stresses his kinship with parliament, and explains himself as driven by amity for England rather than financial gain.
In 1652 “The Hope of Israel” was translated from Latin into English. His account of descendants of the Lost Tribes being found in the New World deeply impressed public opinion and stirred up many polemics in English literature.
Menasseh characterizes the condition of Jewry at the time by saying:
#Hence it may be seen that God hath not left us; for if one persecutes us, another receives us civilly and courteously; and if this prince treats us ill, another treats us well; if one banisheth us out of his country, another invites us with a thousand privileges; as divers princes of Italy have done, the most eminent King of Denmark, and the mighty Duke of Savoy in Nissa. And do we not see that those Republiques do flourish and much increase in trade who admit the Israelites?#
He made contact with Oliver Cromwell who was sympathetic to the Jewish cause, partly because of his tolerant leanings but chiefly because he foresaw the importance for English commerce of the participation of the Jewish merchant princes, some of whom had already made their way to London. Manasseh corresponded with John Saddler who believed the English were descended from the Lost Ten Tribes and said so in a Parliamentary address and in his book, "The Rights of the Kingdom."
Steven Nadler ("Menasseh ben Israel, Rabbi of Amsterdam," 2018) concluded:
"They [the sundry European Gentile Millenarians that were in contact with Manasseh] especially valued [Manasseh] as the Jewish expositor of a common [Jewish-Christian] Messianic vision, wherein the worldly empires will be swept away by a "Fifth Kingdom" [or Fifth Monarchy] ruled by a savior sent by God."
In November 1655, Manasseh arrived in London. Manasseh published his “Humble Addresses to the Lord Protector” (Cromwell), asking that the Jews be re-admitted to England, but its effect was weakened by William Prynne's publication of “Short Demurrer.” Meanwhile in Amsterdam his student, Baruch Spinoza, the famous philosopher was excommunicated for his disbelieving notions by the Rabbis. In England it was concluded that no law actually existed forbidding Jews to enter the country so there was no need to make a new one allowing them to do so. The Jews could come as they liked. In February 1657 Cromwell granted Manasseh a state pension of 100 pounds (estimated at ca. $23,000), but he died before enjoying it, at Middelburg in the Netherlands in the winter of 1657. His major work "Nishmat Hayim" (Soul of Life) is a treatise in Hebrew on the Jewish concept of reincarnation of souls.
Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech SHAPIRA of Dinov, 1784-1840 (known after his book as the "Bnei Yissachar"). A prolific writer, he stubbornly fought against the Jewish reform-type Haskalah ("Enlightenment") Movement. The traditions of Zvi Elimelech Spira from Dinov continue with his descendants and rabbis in Brooklyn. His grave in Poland became a place of pilgrimage for the Hasidim. His understanding of the blessing to Ephraim and Manasseh is of value since he brings additional proof that Ephraim will become great before Manasseh does, as happened with Britain and America. The "BNEI ISSACHAR" points out that the hands of Jacob were placed on the two sons: Manasseh was to the right of Jacob but Jacob crossed his arms and put his left arm on the head of Manasseh. Manasseh remaining on the right hand side meant that Manasseh would be the greater in some respects but at a later date due to the left arm being generally weaker and slower.
CHATAM (CHASAM) SOFER: Moses Schreiber (1762-1839), one of the leading Orthodox rabbis of European Jewry in the 1800s. Sofer established a yeshiva in Pozsony (Pressburg in German; today Bratislava, Slovakia), the Pressburg Yeshiva, which became the most influential yeshiva in Central Europe, producing hundreds of future leaders of Hungarian Jewry. This yeshiva continued to function until World War-2; afterward, it was relocated to Jerusalem, under the leadership of the Chasam Sofer's great-grandson, Rabbi Akiva Sofer (the Daas Sofer). The Chasam Sofer was an authority who is quoted many times in Orthodox Jewish scholarship. His descendants included the "Katav Sofer" and others who have been quoted in Brit-Am articles at some time or other.
Amongst other matters he opined that Britain, and parts of Western Europe in the Messianic Era will be considered as parts of the Land of Israel. He gave his support to Rabbi Shimshon (Samson) Raphael Hirsch in Germany.
RABBI SAMSON RAPHAEL HIRSCH (1808-1888): Rabbinical Philosopher and Commentator. His philosophy occasionally termed neo-Orthodoxy, together with that of Azriel Hildesheimer, has had a considerable influence on the development of Orthodox Judaism. He wrote a number of influential books. Hirsch was a vocal opponent of Reform Judaism, and similarly opposed early forms of Conservative Judaism. He wrote a philosophic work "Horeb" discussing the symbolic importance of the Commandments as well as commentaries to the Torah, to Psalms, and to the "Siddur" (Jewish Prayer Book). His work is important for its contents and also for its etymology of Hebrew words. Rabbi Hirsch wrote his works in German. All the other Rabbis mentioned here wrote in Hebrew apart from Rabbi Saadia who wrote in Arabic, Yehudah Ha-Levi who also wrote in Arabic and Maimonides a few of his whose works were also in Arabic. Hirsch explained the name “Manasseh” to mean “Responsible Representation.”
HANATZIV, Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, (1816- 1893) was an Orthodox rabbi, and dean of the Volozhin Yeshiva which became very important at the time. He wrote a commentary on the Torah, "Ha-Emek Davar," and other works. He stresses matters of importance to us such as the individual character of each Israelite Tribe; the inter-action of the Tribe of Judah with that of Manasseh; the different tribal traits of Levi as compared to Judah; etc.
MALBIM, Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michel Wisser (1809-1879). The Malbim was born in Volhynia, West Ukraine. He had a considerable knowledge of secular sciences and history. In 1859, Malbim became chief rabbi of Bucharest, Romania. Malbim wrote a commentary on all books of the Bible. Building on methods initiated by Rabbi Yaakov Mecklenberg Malbim formulated 613 grammatical principles to justify Rabbinic halakhic exegesis. He speaks often of the 10 Lost Tribes. The Malbim says that in the End times the Ten Tribes will be led by the Messiah son of Joseph whereas the Jews of Judah will headed by the Messiah son of David. The "Pri Tsadik" says the same.
The MALBIM understands the blessing of Jacob (Genesies ch. 48) as saying that the time of Manasseh would have to wait until "He also shall become a people" and then "he also shall be great,"… "But truly his younger brother shall be greater than he" means that Ephraim was to become great by his own merit and not due to his large population.
Rabbi Zadok ha-Kohen Rabinowitz of Lublin, PRI TSADIK (1823-1900) was a significant Jewish thinker and Hasidic leader. He was born into a Lithuanian Rabbinic family and then became a follower of the Hasidic Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica, and of Yehudah Leib Eiger. He was the author of "Pri Tzadik," "Machshavot Charutz" ("Thoughts of the Industrious"), and other works. Like the Malbim, the Pri Tsadik says that in the End Times the Ten Tribes will be led by the Messiah son of Joseph whereas the Jews of Judah will headed by the Messiah son of David.
HARAV KOOK, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, HaRaAYaH (1865-1935), was an Orthodox rabbi, and the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine in the Land of Israel. He is considered to be one of the fathers of Religious Zionism, and is known for founding the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. He was born in Courland in what is now Latvia but then belonged to Russia. In 1904 he moved to Jaffa in the Holy Land then under Turkish rule. In WW-1 he was in Switzerland and London. In 1919, he was appointed the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, and first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine in 1921. He worked to bring non-Religious Jews closer to Judaism. Rabbi Kook wrote numerous books on Halacha and Jewish Philosophy. Some of his ideas have been used in Brit-Am writings. Rabbi Kook, for instance, described the future Messiah son of Joseph as representing the assimilated Jew who reforms Gentiles society from within. Other sources describe the Messiah son of Joseph as heading the Lost Ten Tribes. We deduced from Rabbi Kook, Pri Tsadik, and others that descending to the level of the Gentiles, becoming part of them, and then elevating themselves and others with them was the task of the Lost Ten Tribes in general. This is not an original notion and may be found pre-adumbrated elsewhere.
Rabbi Kook and his followers helped lay the ideological basis for National Religious Zionism. The son of Rabbi Kook, RABBI ZVI YEHUDA KOOK (1891-1982) followed in the footsteps of his father, helped publish and promote the books of his father, amplified and added to his teaching, and inspired National Religious Activism and the Israeli settler movement.
Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter ("SEFAS EMES," also pronounced as "Sefat Emet") 1847-1905, was a Hasidic Rebbe (i.e. Rabbi) of the Gerrer Hasidim in Poland. Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib was one of the greatest Torah scholars of his generation. His output was prodigious, and his works deal with the Talmud, the ethics of the Midrash, and mysticism of the Zohar. He also wrote a Commentary on the Torah with valuable insights that we found useful for Brit-Am studies.
"BEIS YISROEL" - Rabbi Yisroel Alter of Gur (Ger), (1895-1977), also known as the Beit Yisrael, was the fifth Rebbe of the Hasidic dynasty of Ger, a position he held from 1948 until 1977. He escaped from Poland during the Holocaust, and settled in Palestine during 1940. In 1945, he learned that the Nazi regime had murdered his wife, daughter, son, and grandchildren. He remarried, but had no children. He helped revive Hasidei Gur in the Land of Israel. He also wrote a commentary on the Torah in which he speaks of the Lost Ten Tribes and of the task of Joseph and has insights of great value and confirmation to us. Yair Davidiy, of Brit-Am, met the "Beis Yisroel" in Jerusalem in 1974, Pesach, 5734.
Rabbi Aryeh Moshe Eliyahu KAPLAN (1934-1983) was an American Orthodox rabbi, author, and translator known for his knowledge of physics and kabbalah. He is most known for his translations of the Torah, writings on Fundamentals of Judaism, Kabbalah, and introductory works and articles to Jewish beliefs and philosophy. He was the author of "The Living Torah," which is a new original translation of the Pentateuch with foot-notes of great value.
RABBI SHIMSHON DOVID PINCUS, (1944/45- 2001) was an Israeli Haredi Rabbi of American origin, who served in Ofaqim, in the south of Israel.
RABBI FISHEL MAEL of Baltimore wrote a book in Hebrew, "Sefer Shivtei Israel" , 5757 (1997). The official title in English (as shown on the back page) is:
According to our impressions Rabbi Fishel Mael, Ph.D. is also a qualified psychologist and works in Counseling and Coaching.
RABBI SHLOMOH CARLEBACH, author of "Maskil Le-Shlomoh" (“Reflections of Shlomoh”) al Shivtei Yishurun (Concerning the Tribes of Yishurun). The House of Rachel" by Shlomoh Carlebach (1986). Shlomo Carlebach (born August 17, 1925) is an American Haredi Rabbi and scholar. Carlebach is a cousin of the composer and musician Shlomo Carlebach (1925-1994) who bore the same name as he has. The author is a Holocaust survivor. The parents of Carlebach and his sisters Ruth, Noemi and Sara were killed in a forest near Riga, Latvia, in 1942. He served as a spiritual supervisor of different Yeshivot. He has written a biography of his father (who was an illustrious Rabbi), as well as a Commentary on the Torah which has been well received. The work we quote from concerning the Tribes "Maskil Lishlomo al Shivtei Yishurun" is considered part of his Torah commentary. Carlebach says the book is based on a series of lessons on the Torah that he gave to students at the Yeshivah “Zicron Melek” in Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY, USA, when he was a Spiritual Supervisor there. The approbations of several Rabbis at the beginning of the book confirm this. At all events his work is of value and interest to our researches.
DAAT MIKRA. Commentaries to the Bible. [Wikipedia tells us] The Daat Miqra (Hebrew: literally, ''Knowledge of Scripture'') is a series of volumes of Hebrew-language Biblical Commentary published by the Jerusalem-based Mossad Harav Kook and constitutes a cornerstone of contemporary Israeli Orthodox Bible scholarship. The project was headed by Yehuda Kiel, who received the Israel Prize for his part in the enterprise.
The singularity of Daat Miqra lies in its combination of a traditional outlook and the findings of modern research. ... an interpretation based primarily upon Peshat the direct, literal reading of the text ...incorporating geographic references, archaeological findings and textual analysis, presenting a clear link between the commentary's traditional approach and contemporary methodology. ... Daat Miqra’s dualistic approach reflects an underlying polemic against Biblical Criticism, ...via a commentary aimed at debunking their methodology. The commentary includes clarifications of difficult words and etymological references... Editors of the series included Yehuda Elitzur of Bar-Ilan University, the International Bible Contest champion and Bible scholar Amos Hakham, Shaul Yisraeli and Mordechai Breuer.
DAAT SOFRIM, Rabbi Chaim Dov RABINOWITZ, 1909-2001, was a Lithuanian born rabbi who authored a monumental commentary on the Hebrew Bible (Daat Soferim) and a history of the Jewish people (From Nechemia to the Present). In 1937 he moved to Tel Aviv. He worked in education. His commentary is highly regarded and received commendations from most of the leading Haredi rabbis of his time including: Yaakov Kamenetsky, Moshe Feinstein, the Lubavitcher Rebbe and many others.