Guttmann, Michael

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GUTTMANN, MICHAEL (1872–1942), Hungarian talmudic scholar. Guttmann was born in Hungary and studied at the Budapest rabbinical seminary and at the University of Budapest. From 1903, the year of his ordination at the Budapest rabbinical seminary, to 1907 he was rabbi at Csongrád. He lectured on Jewish law from 1907 to 1921 at the Budapest seminary. From 1921 to 1933 he was rabbi and professor of Talmud and halakhah at the Breslau Jewish theological seminary and in 1925 he was visiting professor of Talmud at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1933 he was appointed head of the Budapest seminary. Guttmann combined a wide knowledge of the sources with an acute modern, critical approach. Among his publications in this field were Einleitung in die Halacha (Budapest Seminary Jahresberichte, 1909, 1913); Asmakhta (Breslau Seminary Jahresberichte, 1924), on talmudic methodology; and Beḥinat ha-Mitzvot (ibid., 1928) and Beḥinat Kiyyum ha-Mitzvot (ibid., 1931), on the reasons for the observance of the commandments. He edited *Abraham b. Ḥiyya's textbook of geometry, Ḥibbur ha-Meshiḥah ve-ha Tishboret (introduction, 1903; the work itself 1912–13). Guttmann was one of the editors of Ha-Ẓofeh le-Ḥokhmat Yisrael (1911–14), editor of Ha-Soker (from 1933), and of Magyar Zsidó Szemle and published articles in these and other periodicals in Hebrew, Hungarian, French, and German. He was also an editor of and contributor to the Oẓar Yisrael encyclopedia and the Eshkol Encyclopedia Judaica, in both the German and Hebrew editions. His Das Judentum und seine Umwelt (part 1, 1927) deals with the attitude of Judaism to the non-Jewish world. Written against the background of rising nationalism and antisemitism in Germany in the 1920s, when everything Jewish, and the Talmud in particular, was under virulent attack, it is completely apologetic. Guttmann planned as his major life work a vast talmudic encyclopedia, which would have been beyond the talents of most other scholars working alone. Only four volumes of Guttmann's Mafte'aḥ ha-Talmud, covering the letter alef, appeared (1910–30); the rest of the material was lost after his death when the Nazis occupied Hungary in 1944. Even this small installment is of major importance as a talmudic reference work.


D.S. Loewinger, in: S. Federbush (ed.), Ḥokhmat Yisrael be-Ma'arav Eiropah, 1 (1959), 130–47; idem (ed.), Jewish Studies in Memory of M. Guttmann (1946), incl. bibl.; A. Guttmann, in: Bitzaron, 8 (1943), 46–48.

[Moshe David Herr]