JERUSALEM (Nov. 7)
Rabbi Menachem Kasher, one of the foremost Jewish scholars of this century, died here last week at the age of 89. He was buried on the Mount of Olives.
Kasher, born of Hasidic stock in Poland, achieved a remarkable reputation as a young man for his scholarship and writing. In the years immediately following World War I he edited a Torah periodical called “Degel Hatorah” (“Torah Flag”) in which many of the leading rabbis of Europe regularly contributed.
In the late 1920’s he came to Palestine, upon the instruction of his Hasidic leader, the Rabbi of Gur, to establish the first Hasidic yeshiva here, Sfat Emet. It was then that Kasher conceived the idea that was to become his life’s work, the monumental “Torah Shlema,” an encyclopedia of Pentateuch commentary. It was literally a life’s work by the time of his death 37 volumes had been published but it is still not quite finished. However, Kasher had managed to complete all the basic research and the work is likely to be finalized by his disciples.
WAS AN ARDENT ZIONIST
While cleaving closely to Orthodox schools of thought, Torah Shlema is a work of major scholarship, relying heavily on manuscript research and careful analysis of the texts of the early commentators. Kasher spent many long days himself examining ancient manuscripts and folios in the Vatican, Cambridge University, and other world renowned libraries.
For Torah Shlema, Kasher received the coveted Israel Prize and other awards, as well as widespread recognition from the wider community. Always a Hasidic figure, Kasher was nevertheless an ardent Zionist. Some of his many books reflect this ideology, and in one, written shortly after the 1967 Six-Day War, he presented a detailed analysis, with close references to Biblical texts, of his deep belief that modem Israel’s history and destiny were divinely inspired.
A Talmudist of vast knowledge and profound analytical insights, Kasher authored many treatises on halacha, not hesitating to cross swords with other renowned authorities. He had an especial bent towards science and philosophy and wrote many books on the religious approach to time, space travel and current issues. He was indeed a Renaissance man.