Breuer, Mordechai

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BREUER, MORDECHAI (1921– ), religious Bible scholar. Breuer was born in Karlsruhe, Germany. His father, Samson Breuer, was a mathematician, and his uncle, Rabbi Isaac Breuer, was an Orthodox Jewish thinker who carried on the work of Samson Raphael *Hirsch. Mordechai is Hirsch's great-grandson. At the age of 13, Breuer came to Israel with his family. He studied in the Horev yeshivah high school in Jerusalem, then Yeshivat Kol Torah, and finally in Yeshivat Hevron. In 1947 he taught Talmud in the *Bnei Akiva yeshivah in Kefar ha-Ro'eh. He was a Bnei Akiva emissary to the detention camps in Cyprus. During the War of Independence, Breuer was the counselor of the Bnei Akiva group that assisted in defending Jerusalem. From 1949 through 1965, he taught Talmud at Yeshivat ha-Darom in Reḥovot. Afterwards, he was a Ministry of Education national supervisor for Talmud study for two years. From 1967 to 1982, he taught Bible at Mikhlelet Yerushalayim le-Vanot and from 1969 he taught Bible at Yeshivat Har Eẓyon and at other institutions. In 1999, he received the Israel Prize for Torah literature. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Hebrew University. His son, yoḤanan, became head of the Hebrew Language Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Breuer's major contribution to Jewish studies is in two fields. The first is in the determination of the exact text of the Hebrew Bible. In the 1970s and 1980s Mossad ha-Rav Kook published a Tanakh edited by Breuer based on early printed editions along with manuscript editions. Subsequently, when the Aleppo Codex became available, Breuer gained expertise in that valuable manuscript, first using it to publish a corrected Tanakh in 1998 and then again in 2001, in a format that mirrors the Aleppo Codex. This edition was adopted by the Hebrew University and is called Keter Yerushalayim: Tanakh ha-Universitah ha-Ivrit bi-Yerushalayim. Breuer has written numerous articles regarding the Aleppo Codex and his work in determining the correct text of the Bible. This edition was accompanied by Breuer's Nusaḥ ha-Mikra be-Kheter Yerushala'yim: Mekorotav be-Mesorah u-ve-Khitvei ha-Yad (2003). Despite his lack of academic training, his work on the Aleppo Codex has been widely accepted in the academic world.

Breuer's second contribution is also in the field of biblical studies, particularly in the area of biblical interpretation. In keeping with his Hirschian heritage of meeting the challenges presented by the "scientific" and academic study of Judaism, Breuer has developed a new approach to Bible study called "multiple perspectives." In essence, Breuer accepts the questions posed by biblical criticism but gives a totally different set of answers. As a devout Jew, Breuer accepts the divine authorship of the Bible, especially the Pentateuch. However, he acknowledges that the Pentateuch text seems to be written in different styles, which the biblical critics attribute to different authors and different historical periods. Breuer rejects the multiple authorship hypothesis and maintains instead that God, Himself, wrote the Pentateuch using the different styles and then combined them into the text we know as the Five Books of Moses. In a number of works, particularly Pirkei Mo'adot (2 vols., 1986) and Pirkei Bereishit (2 vols., 1999), he attempts to explain why God constructed the text in this manner. Aside from a small cadre of his students, Breuer's system of "multiple perspectives" has not been adopted by religious teachers.

In addition, Breuer translated Hirsch's commentary on the Pentateuch and Haftorahs from German into Hebrew (1967–88). Other works include a Passover Haggadah with Hirsch's commentary (Heb., 1961) and Ta'amei ha-Mikra be-21 Sefarim u-ve-Sifrei Emet (Iyyov, Mishlei, Tehillim) (1982).


Sefer ha-Yovel le-Rav Mordechai Breuer (1992); Y. Ofer (ed.), Shitat ha-Beḥinot shel ha-Rav Mordechai Breuer: Koveẓ Ma'amarim u-Teguvot (2005); M.J. Bernstein, in: The Torah u-Madda Journal, 3 (1991–92), 23–24; S. Carmy, in: Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah: Contributions and Limitations (1991); M. Ekstein, in: Tradition, 33:3 (1999), 6–23; M. Lichtenstein, in: Daf Kesher le-Talmidei Yeshivat Har Eẓyon, no. 851 (2003); Y. Bin-Nun, in: ibid. no. 863 (2003); M. Breuer, in: ibid, no. 864 (2003); C. Navon at:

[David Derovan (2nd ed.)]

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Breuer, Mordechai

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