Aptowitzer, Victor

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APTOWITZER, VICTOR (Avigdor ; 1871–1942), rabbinic scholar. Aptowitzer was born in Tarnopol, Galicia, and studied at the University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of Vienna where, from 1909 to 1938, he taught biblical exegesis, aggadah, and religious philosophy, as well as Talmud and Codes. From 1919 to 1938 he also taught Talmud at the Hebrew Teachers' College in Vienna. A confirmed Zionist, he gave his lectures in Hebrew. Although suffering from impaired vision, and completely blind at the end of his life, he remained a productive scholar, who made a strong impression on his students. He investigated, among other things, the biblical quotations in the Talmud and in the Midrash which vary from the masoretic text. Of particular importance in this field is his Das Schriftwort in der Rabbinischen Literatur (4 vols., 1906–15). Aptowitzer also sought to clarify the content and literary form of the aggadah by comparing it with the Apocrypha and with the commentaries and homilies of the Church Fathers. He established criteria for distinguishing between legends of folk origin and legends created in the academies. He dealt with aggadah in his Kain und Abel in der Agada (1922), and with both halakhah and aggadah in his Parteipolitik der Hasmonaeerzeit im rabbinischen und pseudoepigraphischen Schrifttum (1927; partly published in Hebrew in Sefer Yovel… S.A. Poznański, 1927). Aptowitzer's investigations into the relationship between the legal writings of the Armenians and Syrians and those of the Jews are summed up in his Beitraege zur mosaischen Rezeption im armenischen Recht (1907) and Die syrischen Rechtsbuecher und das mosaisch-talmudische Recht (1909; Hebrew translation, 1923). In these two works he traces Jewish influence present in these Christian codes. He published an edition of Sefer Ravyah by *Eliezer b. Joel ha-Levi, together with textual and explanatory notes (2 vols., 1913–35), with addenda and emendations (2 vols., 1936; new ed. 1965). His comprehensive introduction (1938) is an important source for biographies of medieval Jewish scholars of France and Germany. In 1938 Aptowitzer settled in Jerusalem where, in addition to articles on the history of the halakhah, he published Meḥkarim be-Sifrut ha-Ge'onim ("Studies in the Literature of the Geonim" (1941)). For many years he reviewed talmudic literature in the Monatsschrift fuer Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums.


J. Klausner, in: ks, 5 (1928/29), 348–55; Albeck, in: Moznayim, 16 (1943), 122 ff.; Hirschberg, in: Israelitischtheologische, Lehranstalt, Vienna, Sefer ha-Zikkaron… (1946), 46 ff.; Waxman, in: S. Federbush (ed.), Ḥokhmat Yisrael be-Ma'arav Eiropah (1959), 25 ff.

[Moshe Nahum Zobel /

Moshe David Herr]