|The Torah translation is taken from:|
The Living Torah by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
Published by Moznaim Publishing Corp.
4304 12th Avenue
Tel. (718) 438 7680
ORT wishes to acknowledge the contribution of Mrs Tobie Seidenfeld, widow of the late Rabbi, for granting the electronic rights of ‘The Living Torah’ for use with ‘Navigating the Bible’.
Extract from 'The Aryeh Kaplan Reader' published by Mesorah Publications Ltd. Reproduced with permission.
A Tribute To Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (z'l)
(Born October 23, 1934. Died January 28, 1983)
Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner, zt'l, one of the leading scholars and Roshei Hayeshivah of the last generation, once said that Elijah the Prophet walks among us in the streets and we do not even take notice of him; as the Prophet said: 'He (Elijah) will restore the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their father.' The same can be said about Aryeh Eliyahu Moshe Kaplan, for he was on a similar mission of uniting the hearts of the generations.
Aryeh Kaplan’s family originated in Salonika, Greece, and according to business records from that country, as members of the Racenati family his forebears were successful as discount bankers. But Rabbi Aryeh’s riches were of the spirit that he had derived from the legacy of that once great Jewish center.
By all appearances, he had assimilated into the Ashkenazic Jewish community, having absorbed the Lithuanian method of Torah study from the yeshivos he attended. Indeed, he was ordained by Rabbi Eliezer Yehudah Finkel of the Mirrer Yeshivah in Jerusalem.
In truth, he succeeded in blending together the disparate influences of Torah in Mir, Salonika, Brisk and others...Chasidism, Talmudic dialectics and philosophy, and integrated them into his ever-pure Jewishness. His teachings and writings glow with the full spectrum of Judaism, as a masterwork of art combines many hues in one original work.
In the course of a writing career that spanned only eleven years, Rabbi Kaplan became well-known to thousands of teenagers, and adults alike. His career began with the five booklets of the Young Israel Intercollegiate Hashkafa Series: Belief in God; Free Will and the Purpose of Creation; The Jew; Love and the Commandments; and The Structure of Jewish Law.
Several other booklets, spanning the entire spectrum of Jewish thought and philosophy, as well as some dealing with basic practice and observance, were published by the Orthodox Union and its youth arm, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth/NCSY. These include: Tefillin - God, Man and Tefillin; Love Means Reaching Out; Maimonides’ Principles - The Fundamentals of Jewish Faith; The Waters of Eden - The Mystery of the Mikveh; and Jerusalem - The Eye of the Universe.
He authored a series of anti-missionary tracts that were published by NCSY, first separately, later combined into one volume entitled The Real Messiah. The author’s close relationship with the Orthodox Union also included service as editor of its magazine, Jewish Life, and director of its Collegiate program.
Rabbi Kaplan was a popular speaker, who addressed every NCSY National Convention since his association with the organisation began, missing only the two that coincided with the birth of two of his children. He also spoke with NCSY’s New York Region on a regular basis, and essentially became the spiritual adviser of its Brooklyn region. Firmly believing in NCSY’s goals of acquainting unaffiliated and alienated Jewish teenagers with their heritage, Rabbi Kaplan was a prime force behind the teshuvah phenomenon - the return to Jewish observance. 'Throughout history, Jews have always been observant,' he once remarked. 'The teshuvah movement is just a normalization. The Jewish people are sort of getting their act together. We’re just doing what we’re supposed to do.'
Rabbi Kaplan held an M.A. in physics and his work reflected that training. In culling Jewish sources for his books, he once remarked, 'I use my physics background to analyze and systemize data, very much as a physicist would deal with physical reality.' This ability enabled him to undertake monumental projects, producing close to 50 books, celebrated for their erudition, completeness and clarity. Rabbi Kaplan brought forth numerous other original works ranging from books explaining the deepest mysteries of Kabbalah and Chassidism to a unique Haggadah combining utmost simplicity and scholarly depth. Some of his works have been translated into Russian and Dutch, in response to the quest of searching Jews.
Rabbi Kaplan’s most recent major effort, The Living Torah, published by Maznaim Press, is a contemporary English translation of the five books of Moses with maps, notes, illustrations and an annotated bibliography, all compiled by the author in the short period of nine months. The Living Torah has been hailed by scholars and students as the most readable and complete English translation of the Torah ever produced.
Rabbi Kaplan often had several projects in the works simultaneously. During the past five years, while compiling The Living Torah and new manuscripts on tzitzis and the Jewish wedding, Rabbi Kaplan engaged in the monumental task of translating the 17th century classic, Meam Loez from the original Ladino into English. Me’am Loez is the enormously influential multi-volume work initiated by the Sephardic Torah giant Rabbi Yaakov Culi, which expounds he weekly Sidrah, weaving the Midrashic commentary, philosophic discussion, and halachic guidelines into one flowing text. The translation, published by Maznaim, was entitled The Torah Anthology, and it had been Rabbi Kaplan’s goal to complete it in eighteen volumes, by Rosh Hashanah, 5743. At the time of his death, 15 volumes had been completed.
As his fame grew, Rabbi Kaplan became one of the most popular magazine journalists in the Torah field. In addition to his service with Jewish Life, he was a frequent contributor to The Jewish Observer. His articles dealt with an unusually broad range of subjects, ranging from the technicalities of Safrus (the scribal arts) and the halachically correct writing of a get (Jewish document of divorce), to methodology for countering missionaries, and meditation and prayer. His remarkable ability of presenting esoteric information in a popular, lively style won him a wide following. Moreover, the breadth of his knowledge did not suffer from the pitfall of superficiality. Rabbi Kaplan’s articles from The Jewish Observer form a major part of this book.
He labored tirelessly, day and night, producing more outstanding works of great and original Torah scholarship single-handedly than teams of other authors working in the field. Yet, he somehow managed to find time for the simplest Jews, perfect strangers, seeking the answers to the spiritual questions in their lives. None were turned away empty-handed. With this burning preoccupation with Torah, which was his mission in life, he was also a devoted husband to his loyal wife, Tobie, with whom he gave love and inspiration to their nine children. May his example be an inspiration, and his memory a blessing.