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Jewish Commentators — Their Lives and Works

 

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Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel Weiser
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Hebrew Name(s): מאיר ליב בן יחיאל מיכל; מלבי''ם
Other Names: Malbim, Meir Leib Ben Yechiel Michael, Meïr Löb ben Jehiel Michael, Meïr Löb ben Jehiel Michel Weiser, Der Kempener, Der Kempener Magid, Kempner, Meir Malbim
Period: Acharonim — 19th Century
Location: Germany, Rumania
Dates: 1809–1879

Biography:
Malbim was born in Volochysk, Volhynia. He was educated in Hebrew and the Talmud by his father, and later, by his stepfather, Rabbi Leib of Volochysk. From the age of 13 he studied in Warsaw and was known as the 'iluy (prodigy) from Volhynia. His works indicate that he had a considerable knowledge of secular sciences. He was rabbi of Wreschen 1838 to 1845, and later was called to the rabbinate of Kempen, where he remained until 1859. He became known as "der Kempener Magid."
 
Malbim is considered one of the chief Jewish commentators of the nineteenth century. His voluminous commentaries on the Bible, followed to some extent Abravanel and Alshech. His conclusions are pointed and logical. Malbim’s commentaries are considered to offer the best material for the use of maggidim (The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 8, p. 254). Malbim wrote a commentary to the Shulḥan Aruch, (section Oraḥ Ḥayim), sermons, verse, several works of responsa, a commentary on the code of Maimonides and a work on Hebrew syntax and synonyms.
 
Malbim rejected the concept of synonymous parallelism—the repetition, in biblical verse, of an idea in different words for poetic purposes. Although medieval exegetes such as Abraham ibn Ezra, David Kimhi and Maimonides had at times regarded such features in scripture as literary flourishes, Malbim believed that this approach diminshed the sanctity of scripture and adopted a more nuanced approach arguing that in scripture an additional word implied a new idea. In his inroduction to his commentary on Isaiah he wrote:
 
“in the poetry of the prophets, there is no husk devoid of interior, body without soul, clothing without a wearer, language devoid of a lofty idea, saying within which wisdom does not dwell, for the spirit of the living God is in all the words of the living God.” [from the Introduction of Malbim on Isaiah (Jerusalem, 1978)]
 
Malbim became Chief Rabbi of Bucharest, Romania in 1859, where he defended traditional styles of Judaism from influences of modern European life including the introduction of general knowledge in the curriculum of Jewish schools. His authoritarian style and insistence upon "traditional" orthodoxy led to hostilities with more liberal Jews until he was forced to leave Romania. Similar events occurred in Poland, Lithuania and Russia. He died in Kiev.
 
Acronym, Malbim: Meir Leib Ben Yehiel Michal

Works:
Commentary on the Bible; Artzot HaḤayim; Artzot HaShalom; HaTorah vehaMitzva; Mikra'ei Kodesh; Mashal uMelitza; Megillat Esther

Comments:
Artzoth haChayim is commentary and novellae on the Shulḥan Aruch, section Oraḥ Ḥayim (Breslau, 1837).
Artzoth haShalom is a collection of sermons (Krotoschin, 1839).
HaTorah vehaMitzva contains analytical and innovative commentary on the Pentateuch and the midrash halakhah (Mekilta, Sifra, and Sifre) including the linguistic guide Ayelet ha-Shachar which differentiates similar terms in Hebrew (Warsaw, 1874–80). This work show's Malbims profound knowledge of the Hebrew language and his aptitude for fine analysis and his Talmudic acuteness.
Mikra'ei Kodesh is a commentary on the Prophets and Hagiographa. Published in 1874; this commentary is double—on the words and on the sense.
Written in verse, Mashal uMelitza, is a dramatic philippic which condemns hypocrisy (Paris, 1867).
The first published commentary of the Malbim was on the Megillat Esther (published in 1845). Malbims' commentary on the remaining books of the bible were published between then and 1876.
Sefer Yair Or is a grammatical work on synonymous nouns and verbs. Malbim rejects the concept of synonymous parallelism—the repetition, in biblical verse, of an idea in different words for poetic purposes. Yair Or lists 662 words.

 

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