Heller, Ḥaayyim

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HELLER, ḤAYYIM (1878–1960), rabbinical and biblical scholar. Heller was born in Bialystok. From 1910 Heller served as rabbi in Lomza, Poland. In 1917 he settled in Berlin, where in 1922 he established a new type of yeshivah (Bet ha-Midrash ha-Elyon) for research in Bible and Talmud; his yeshivah attracted a number of graduates of Eastern European yeshivot, such as Samuel *Bialobocki and J.B. *Soloveitchik. In 1929 he joined the faculty of the Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, New York. After a short sojourn in Palestine, he returned to the United States, living first in Chicago and then New York. He published several volumes of novellae, including: the two-volume Le-Ḥikrei Halakhot (1924–1932); Peri Ḥayyim (Schulsinger edition of Maimonides' Yad, 1947); and Kunteres be-Hilkhot Loveh u-Malveh (1946). Other works, which are of great scholarly value, are: his critical edition of Maimonides' Sefer ha-Mitzvot (1914, 19462), based on two different translations (Mss. Munich 213, and Margoliouth, Cat, 2 (1904), nos. 503–5), the Arabic original, early editions, and others; an annotated edition of the Peshitta version of Genesis and Exodus in Hebrew characters (1927–29); the Samaritan Pentateuch (1923); a critical essay on the Palestinian Targum (Al ha-Targum ha-Yerushalmi la-Torah, 1921); and on the Septuagint, critical annotations to Mandelkern's Bible Concordance Al Targum ha-Shivim ba-Konkordanẓyah Heikhal ha-Kodesh (1944), with an introduction in English. In German, Heller published Untersuchungen ueber die Peshitta, 1 (1911) and Untersuchungen zur Septuaginta, 1 (1932). Heller was one of the very few modern scholars who combined a vast and deep talmudic erudition of the traditional type with a thorough competence in the methods of textual research. He defended the traditional masoretic text against the Bible critics.


H. Seidman, in: S. Federbush (ed.), Ḥokhmat Yisrael be-Ma'arav Eiropah (1963), 96ff.; J.L. Soloveitchik, in: Hadoar, 40 (1961), 400ff.; T. Preschel, in: Or ha-Mizraḥ, 9 (1962), 74–76; 10 (1963), 52 (bibl.).