Isadore Twersky

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Isadore Twersky (Yitzchak (Isaac) Asher Twersky) (October 9, 1930 – October 12, 1997) was an Orthodox rabbi and the Nathan Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy at Harvard University, a chair previously held by Harry Austryn Wolfson. Twersky was an internationally recognized authority on Rabbinic literature and Jewish philosophy. He was especially known as an expert in the writings and influence of the 12th-century Jewish legalist and philosopher Maimonides. His best-known works are, An Introduction to the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah), and the more popular anthology, A Maimonides Reader. He was the editor of the Harvard Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature (in three volumes), won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989, and was a fellow of both the American Academy for Jewish Research and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. According to Hacker (2005), Twersky can best be characterized as a "historian of ideas and a researcher of the intellectual history of the Jews," and would presumably have considered himself as such.

Biography[edit]

Twersky was born in Boston in 1930, and attended Boston Latin School and Hebrew College, which was then known as Hebrew Teachers' College. His Torah knowledge was largely acquired through diligent private study rather than formal yeshiva instruction (Hacker 2005). He graduated from Harvard in 1952, where he majored in history. In 1949, he was one of the first students to spend a year abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he developed relationships with such scholarly and literary giants as Gershom Scholem, Yitzhak Baer, Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson and Nobel Prize winner S. Y. Agnon.

Upon his graduation from Harvard he began studies toward a doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, under the guidance of the scholar of medieval philosophy, Harry Austryn Wolfson. His doctorate was on the twelfth century Provençal Talmudist, Rabbi Abraham ben David of Posquières (Rabad), which, when subsequently published under the title Rabad of Posquières: A Twelfth-Century Talmudist, was one of the first academic portraits of a Talmudist written at an American university (Septimus 2005).

A scion of the Hasidic dynasty of Chernobyl, Twersky succeeded his father as the Talner Rebbe of Boston for the last twenty years of his life. He was a son-in-law of Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik. His elder son, Rabbi Mosheh Twersky, is a lecturer at Yeshivas Toras Moshe in Jerusalem. His other son, Rabbi Mayer Twersky, holds the Leib Merkin Distinguished Professorial Chair in Talmud and Jewish Philosophy and is a rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University. His daughter Tzipporah Rosenblatt is a lawyer. She is married to Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Rosenblatt, who serves as the rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center in New York City.

Teaching and research[edit]

Twersky was a pioneer in the introduction of the methodology of the History of ideas, first developed by Arthur O. Lovejoy, into Jewish Intellectual history. He also devoted special emphasis upon the interaction between law and spirituality in the History of Judaism. He founded the Center for Jewish Studies in 1978 and served as its director until 1993.

His research in some respects resembled that of his contemporary and friend Alexander Altmann (Hacker 2005), and his work on Jewish rationalist philosophy brought him into conflict with scholars such as Gershom Scholem and Shlomo Pines, who viewed the medieval rational philosophy typified by Rambam as an alien parasite grafted onto traditional Judaism (Septimus 2005). There has been noted a certain irony in the affection given to this greatest of Jewish rationalists by the descendant of an illustrious Hasidic dynasty (it being the case by and large that Hasidic doctrine has stronger affinity for the mystical over the rational), but Septimus (2005) sees here a coherent and unified search for the spiritual within the rational.

At Harvard, Twersky taught both undergraduate and graduate students. His popular course, Moderation and Extremism, which compared and contrasted the paths to virtue in the works of Aristotle, Maimonides, and Thomas Aquinas, drew over 200 students in 1995, the final year it was taught. Over the course of his thirty years at Harvard, he taught a large number of graduate students. His exacting standards and expectations were legendary. Nevertheless, over thirty individuals completed their doctorates under his guidance. Many of these play leading roles in Jewish studies, both in North America and in Israel. Among these are Morris (Moshe B.) Berger, Edward Breuer (Hebrew University), Bernard Dov Cooperman (University of Maryland), Joseph M. Davis (Gratz College), Lois Dubin (Smith College), Talya Fishman (University of Pennsylvania), Daniel Frank (Ohio State University), Steven Harvey (Bar Ilan University), Carmi Horowitz (Lander Institute, Jerusalem), Eric Lawee (York University), Diana Lobel (Boston University), David Malkiel (Bar Ilan University), Allan Nadler (Drew University), Ira Robinson (Concordia University), Marc Saperstein (Leo Baeck College, London), Mark Sendor, Bernard Septimus (Harvard University), Marc Shapiro (University of Scranton), Michael Shmidman (Touro College), David Sklare (Machon Ben Zvi), Gregg Stern, Adena Tannenbaum (Ohio State University), Joshua Levisohn, and Jeffrey R. Woolf (Bar Ilan University).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Esti Rosenberg, director of Migdal Oz (seminary)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Yitzchok Lichtenstein, Maggid Shiur at Yeshiva Bais Yosef-Novardok Brooklyn branch; mara d’asrah of Kehillas Bais Avrohom, Monsey, NY
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Yosef Dov (Reb Berel) Soloveitchik
 
 
Rabbi Avrohom Yehoshua Soloveitchik
 
 
 
Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein, Co-Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Meshulam Dovid (Reb Dovid) Soloveitchik
 
 
Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik
 
 
 
Rabbi Mayer Lichtenstein, Maggid Shiur at Yeshivat Otniel
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Yosef Dov (HaLevi) Soloveitchik
author of Beis HaLevi
 
Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik
"Reb Chaim Brisker"
 
 
Rabbi Yitzchak Zev (Reb Velvel) Soloveitchik
"The GRIZ"
The Brisker Rov
 
 
Lifsha Soloveitchik Feinstein
 
 
 
Dr. Tovah Soloveitchik Lichtenstein
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Refael Shapiro, Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin yeshiva
 
Lifsha Shapiro
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Refoel Soloveitchik
 
 
 
Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein
 
 
 
Tzipporah Rosenblatt
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik
 
 
 
Dr. Atarah Soloveitchik Twersky
 
 
 
Rabbi Mosheh Twersky, Maggid Shiur at Yeshiva Toras Moshe
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. (Yosef Dov) Soloveitchik
"The Rav"
 
 
 
Rabbi Dr. Isadore Twersky, Talner Rebbe of Boston
 
 
 
Rabbi Mayer Twersky, Rosh Yeshiva at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik
 
 
Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Dr. Haym Soloveitchik
 
 
 
Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik, Rosh Yeshivas Brisk (Chicago); Rav of Kehilas Beth Sholom Ahavas Achim
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Peshka Feinstein Soloveichik
 
 
Dr. Samuel Soloveichik
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Eliyahu Soloveichik, Maggid Shiur at Lander College's Beis Medrash L'Talmud
 
Rabbi Meir Yaakov Soloveichik
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Shulamit Soloveitchik Meiselman
 
 
Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Toras Moshe
 
 
 
Rabbi Yosef Soloveichik
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Anne Soloveitchik Gerber
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Chayim Soloveichik, Maggid Shiur at Yeshivat Reishit; Morah D’Asrah of Kehillat Ohr Sholom, Ramat Beit Shemesh
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik
 
 
 
Rabbi Shmuel Chaim Soloveitchik
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Yitzchok Soloveitchik
 
 
 
Rabbi Yisroel Soloveitchik
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Yisroel Gershon Soloveitchik
 
 
Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik
 
 
 
Rabbi Boruch Soloveitchik
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Soloveitchik
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Daughter Soloveitchik, Wife of Rabbi Shlomo Zev Karlibach
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

References[edit]

  • Hacker, Joseph R. (2005), "Isadore Twersky: Historian of Jewish Culture", in Harris, Jay M., Be'erot Yitzhak: Studies in Memory of Isadore Twersky, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 1–14 
  • Septimus, Bernard (2005), "Isadore Twersky as a Scholar of Medieval Jewish History", in Harris, Jay M., Be'erot Yitzhak: Studies in Memory of Isadore Twersky, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 15–24 

External links[edit]