Page 84 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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result is such an absorbing preoccupation of the reader’s mind
with crystal-clear and orderly explanations of Rashi’s rationale
that the supernatural elements evaporate willy-nilly.
An interesting example of Heidenheim’s method occurs with
reference to Genesis 23.10. The verse reads: “And Ephron is
sitting in the midst of the children of Heth.” Rashi
ad locum
comments: “The spelling is defective [i. e., the verb is written
without a
so that it may be read ‘he sat’] to indicate that on
that very day he was appointed to be an officer over them; because
of the importance of Abraham, who was about to come in contact
with him, he was elevated to a dignified position.” Rashi’s com-
mentary is based upon
Bereshit Rabbah
58.7: “That very day he
was appointed
[chief magistrate].” Heidenheim is,
of course, not satisfied with this rabbinic ex-cathedra statement,
which is not in accord with the method o
i peshat
which he admires.
Heidenheim therefore adds the interesting comment: “ I have
searched throughout the Bible and have found that wherever the
expression ‘in the midst of the people’ or ‘in the midst of a group’
is used, Scripture intends to describe ‘an exalted or elevated
position’.” He adduces examples from Jeremiah 29.32 and II
Kings 4.13 in corroboration of this statement. “And that is the
reason,” he adds, “for the Shunammite’s response to Elisha’s
question, ‘Wouldst thou be spoken for to the King or to the captain
of the host?’ She answered, ‘I dwell among my people,’ meaning
that she enjoyed an exalted position and had no need for an
There is no doubt that Heidenheim brought a well-stocked mind
and an intuitive linguistic sense to bear upon many of Rashi’s
comments. I t is unfortunate, therefore, that the standard editions
of the Pentateuch do not include his
obiter dicta
as an adjunct to
the great Commentator.
In order to sum up adequately the literary achievements of
Wolf Heidenheim, it would be necessary to pay him homage on a
grand scale. His contributions include original works on Hebrew
grammar, on the history of the Hebrew vowel system and Biblical
tropes, and on the development of the Masorah. He edited
important works by others when he realized that their ideas and
their scholarship would hasten the spread of learning among the
Jews of his time. He established the models for the liturgies, both
festival and daily, of the German Jewish community. He fathered
the science of Jewish literary history and Jewish bibliography.
He produced — in the full and complete sense of the term —