I’m sure you’ve all heard of Nehama Leibowitz, Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun and Rabbi Mordechai Breuer. Together, these three are universally acknowledged in having made a major contribution – each in their own way – to making the study of Tanach accessible and exciting to Orthodox Jews after decades of haskalic and secular monopolization of that most cherished source.
But have you ever heard of Prof. Yehuda Elitzur? Well, you should have. Elitzur was one of the pioneers of Academic Orthodox-Jewish Bible study in Israel. Not only did he serve on the editorial board of the Daat Mikra series, he also taught Tanach in Bar-Ilan from the inception of the Bible department to the early 90s. Hundreds of students passed under his tutelage – some of them teach in his department today. The site dedicated to his memory is chock full of shiurim and fascinating articles, products of a lifetime of dedication to Torah.
More than that, he was one of the very few Orthodox Bible scholars who was not ‘Metzitz venifga’. In his day, as nowadays, most Orthodox Jews who went into Academic Bible either became full-fledged BC-niks or chose ‘safe’ scholarly areas away from the issues of TMS/DH. Prof. Elitzur did neither – he studied, and taught, the Tanach – Chumash included. He acknowledged the questions but refused to accept that DH was the only possible answer. I heard a professor of mine quote him as saying ‘I’m the only one allowed to teach Torah [in an academic setting – AIWAC]’. In my opinion, it was the other way around – he was the only one who would let himself enter the lion’s den and come out unscathed.
In addition to my ‘guide to non-observant Jews’, I will be translating his programmatic article on the subject of academic Bible study in digestible parts over the next few weeks. My ban on debating TMS/DH on this blog remains (I refer once again to the Stop! Here We Think! forum in Hebrew and English for these purposes). Please respect my wishes and do not force me to actively moderate comments.