Leonard Martin Kaplan
October 23, 1934
|Died||January 28, 1983 (aged 48)|
|Alma mater||University of Louisville, University of Maryland|
|Profession||Rabbi, Writer, Physicist|
|Profession||Rabbi, Writer, Physicist|
|Synagogue||Adas Israel, B'nai Sholom, Adath Israel, Ohav Shalom|
|Yahrtzeit||14 Shevat (next occurs on January 24, 2024)|
|Buried||Mount of Olives, Israel|
|Semikhah||Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem|
Aryeh Moshe Eliyahu Kaplan (Hebrew: אריה משה אליהו קפלן; October 23, 1934 – January 28, 1983) was an American Orthodox rabbi, author, and translator best known for his Living Torah edition of the Torah and extensive Kabbalistic commentaries. He became well-known as a prolific writer and was lauded as an original thinker. His wide-ranging literary output, inclusive of introductory pamphlets on Jewish beliefs, and philosophy written at the request of NCSY are often regarded as significant factors in the growth of the baal teshuva movement.
Aryeh Kaplan was born in the Bronx, New York City, to Samuel and Fannie (née Lackman) Kaplan of the Sefardi Recanati family from Salonika, Greece. His mother died on December 31, 1947, when he was 13, and his two younger sisters, Sandra and Barbara, were sent to a foster home. Kaplan was expelled from public school after acting out, leading him to grow up as a "street kid" in the Bronx.
Kaplan did not grow up religious, and was known as "Len". His family had only a slight connection to Jewish practice, but he was encouraged to say Kaddish for his mother. On his first day at the minyan, Henoch Rosenberg, a 14-year-old Klausenburger Hosid, realized that Len was out of place—he was not wearing tefillin or opening a siddur—and befriended him. Henoch Rosenberg and his siblings taught Kaplan Hebrew, and within a few days, Kaplan was learning Chumash.
When he was 15, Kaplan enrolled at Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, and at age 18 (from January 1953 until June 1953) was among "a small cadre of talmidim" selected to help Rabbi Simcha Wasserman open Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon, a new yeshiva in Los Angeles.
In January 1956, Kaplan went to Israel to study at the Mir in Jerusalem. That year, he received semikhah (ordination) from some of Israel's foremost poseks, including Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog and Eliezer Yehuda Finkel.
Upon returning from Israel in August of 1956, Kaplan became a Hebrew teacher first in Richmond, Virginia and then in the Bronx, before moving to Louisville, Kentucky. In Louisville, he taught at Eliahu Academy  and beginning in the 1957 fall semester studied at University of Louisville, where he joined Sigma Pi Sigma, the Woodcock Society, and Phi Kappa Phi and eventually completed his bachelor's degree in physics on June 11, 1961. While in Louisville, he met Tobie Goldstein, whom he married on June 13, 1961, and with whom he had nine children.
Kaplan is mentioned in Igros Moshe: he asked of and received a response from Moshe Feinstein regarding the matter of permitting/enabling a youth minyan to which parents would drive children on Shabbos.
Kaplan then moved to Hyattsville, Maryland, in 1961 to study physics at the University of Maryland and begin his first professional position as a research scientist at the National Bureau of Standards's Fluid Mechanics Division, where he was in charge of magnetohydrodynamics research. Kaplan earned his M.S. degree in physics from University of Maryland in 1963. After graduating, Kaplan remained at University of Maryland as a National Science Foundation fellow through the fall semester of 1964.
In 1965, Kaplan switched careers and began practicing as a rabbi. In Encounters, Kaplan wrote that when asked why he switched from his scientific career to the rabbinate, he said "God had a mission for me". His career here divides between pulpit roles initially, and other roles thereafter when based in Brooklyn, New York.
- Adas Israel (1965–1966): On February 19, 1965, Kaplan moved to Mason City, Iowa, where he became the Rabbi of Adas Israel. According to a February 1965 article, "Because of his teaching and study since ordination, this is Rabbi Kaplan's first pulpit."
- B'nai Sholom (1966–1967): On August 7, 1966, Kaplan became the Rabbi at B'nai Sholom, a Conservative synagogue in Blountville, Tennessee. He held the position through 1967.
- Adath Israel (1967–1969): In 1967, Kaplan became the Rabbi at Adath Israel (now known as Adath Shalom), a Conservative synagogue in Dover, New Jersey. He kept this position through 1969.
- Ohav Shalom (1969–1971): Kaplan then moved to Albany, New York, where he became the Rabbi at Ohav Shalom, a Conservative synagogue. During this time, he also functioned as the president of the AJCC (Albany Jewish Community Center) and the Hillel Counselor to the B'nai B'rith Hillel Counselorship at University at Albany, SUNY.
In 1971 Kaplan moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he lived until the end of his life (1983) . Kaplan did not hold any positions there as a pulpit rabbi, but had many other roles which involved, chiefly, writing and editing religious publications:
- Chaplain at Hunter and Baruch colleges (New York), from 1971 to 1972
- Associate Editor of "Intercom", of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, from 1972 to 1973
- Editor of Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America's Jewish Life magazine from 1973 to 1974
- Director of publishing at the NCSY from 1974 to 1975.
In the 1970s, Kaplan served in the unofficial capacity of the spiritual advisor for NCSY's Brooklyn region. He would converse with teenagers and answer their questions, whether in his home or at drawn-out NCSY conventions where "Aryeh Kaplan was the last adult standing."
He would also deliver lectures at his home in Kensington, which many locals would regularly attend.
He also served as the rabbinic consultant for the play "Yentl", after the director met him on the Staten Island Ferry. When asked about his association with a play containing nudity and a woman dressed as a man, Kaplan was quoted to have said "It is an abomination, but so what?"
Kaplan was involved with NCSY as an author, speaker, and spiritual mentor.
I first encountered this extraordinary individual when by chance I spotted his article on "Immortality in the Soul" in "Intercom," the journal of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, and was taken by his unusual ability to explain a difficult topic - one usually reserved for advanced scholars, a topic almost untouched previously in English - with such simplicity that it could be understood by any intelligent reader. It was clear to me that his special talent could fill a significant void in English Judaica. I always counted as one of my greatest z'chusim (a spiritual merit granted by God) to have had the privilege of "discovering" Rabbi Kaplan. And once we met, we became lifelong friends. When I invited Rabbi Kaplan to write on the concept of Tefillin for the Orthodox Union's National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), he completed the 96-page manuscript of God, Man and Tefillin with sources and footnotes from the Talmud, Midrash and Zohar - in less than 2 weeks. The book - masterful, comprehensive, inspiring yet simple - set a pattern which was to characterize all of his succeeding works.
Kaplan produced works on topics as varied as prayer, Jewish marriage and meditation. His writing incorporated ideas from across the spectrum of Rabbinic literature, Kabbalah, and Hasidut, all without ignoring science. The concise and detail-orientated character of his works have been described as reflective of his physicist training. In researching his books, Kaplan once remarked "I use my physics background to analyze and systematize data, very much as a physicist would deal with physical reality."
From 1976 onward, Kaplan worked to translate Me'am Lo'ez (Torah Anthology), which was originally written in Ladino and in time edited for Hebrew (1967). Kaplan was described as working with his typewriter, "the Me’am Loez in Ladino on one side of him and the Hebrew version on the other side, and he'd look from one to the other and back again, comparing and contrasting and typing away furiously the entire time." Shortly before his death, he completed The Living Torah, an original translation of the Five Books of Moses and the Haftarot.
Kaplan was described by Rabbi Pinchas Stolper, his original sponsor, as never fearing to speak his mind. "He saw harmony between science and Judaism, where many others saw otherwise. He put forward creative and original ideas and hypotheses, all the time anchoring them in classical works of rabbinic literature."
His works continue to be read, and his extensive references are used as a resource.
In 2021, NCSY republished Kaplan's works.
The Aryeh Kaplan Academy day school in Louisville, Kentucky, is named in honor of Kaplan.
- The Living Torah, Rabbi Kaplan's best-known work, is a translation into English of the Torah, and one of the first to be structured around the parshiyot (the traditional division of the Torah text). It includes maps and diagrams, and incorporated research on realia, flora, fauna, and geography (here, drawing on sources as varied as Josephus, Dio Cassius, Philostratus and Herodotus). The work features frequent footnotes, which also indicate differences in interpretation amongst the commentators, classic and modern. Rabbi Kaplan called this book his 10th child, since it took him exactly nine months to complete. (Moznaim, 1981, ISBN 0-940118-35-1)
- "The Handbook of Jewish Thought," produced early in his career, is a wide-ranging treatment of Judaism's fundamental beliefs in two volumes, the first of which was published in Kaplan's lifetime. A chapter titled "Creation," in which Rabbi Kaplan "presents evolution as part of the basic tenets of Judaism," was omitted from publication.
- "Torah Anthology," a 45-volume translation of Me'am Lo'ez from Ladino (Judæo-Spanish) into English. Rabbi Kaplan was the primary translator.
- "Made in Heaven: A Jewish Wedding Guide" (Moznaim, ISBN 978-0940118119)
- "Tefillin: God, Man and Tefillin"; "Love Means Reaching Out"; "Maimonides' Principles"; "The Fundamentals of Jewish Faith"; "The Waters of Eden: The Mystery of the Mikvah"; "Jerusalem: Eye of the Universe" — a series of highly popular and influential booklets on aspects of Jewish philosophy and various religious practices. Published by the Orthodox Union/NCSY or as an anthology by Artscroll, 1991, ISBN 1-57819-468-7.
- 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" launched his writing career. He was also a frequent contributor to The Jewish Observer. (These articles have been published as a collection: Artscroll, 1986, ISBN 0-89906-173-7)
- "The Real Messiah? A Jewish Response to Missionaries" at the Wayback Machine (archived May 29, 2008).
- Sichot HaRan ("Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom"), edited by Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld who had requested Kaplan translate this. Kaplan also translated and annotated Until the Mashiach: The Life of Rabbi Nachman, a day-to-day account of Rebbe Nachman's life, for the Breslov Research Institute. In conjunction with Rosenfeld, Kaplan translated and annotated Rabbi Nachman's Tikkun (based on the Tikkun HaKlali).
- Kaplan translated and annotated classic works on Jewish mysticism — Sefer Yetzirah, Bahir, and Derekh Hashem — as well as produced much original work on the subject in English. His Moreh Ohr, a Hebrew-language work, discusses the purpose of Creation, tzimtzum and free will from a kabbalistic point of view.
- "If You Were God," his final work, was published posthumously in 1983. It encourages the reader to ponder topics concerning the nature of being and Divine providence.
|The Living Torah||June 1, 1981|
|The Handbook of Jewish Thought [Volume 1]||1979|
|The Handbook of Jewish Thought – Volume 2||1992|
|Torah Anthology (Me'am Lo'ez Series)||June 1, 1984|
|Made in Heaven: A Jewish Wedding Guide||June 1, 1983|
|Love Means Reaching Out||1977|
|The Real Messiah? A Jewish Response to Missionaries||June 1, 1973|
|If You Were God||1983|
|Meditation and Kabbalah||Jan 15, 1986|
|Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide||1985|
|Meditation and the Bible||June 1, 1978|
|Innerspace: Introduction to Kabbalah, Meditation and Prophecy||June 1, 1991|
|Waters of Eden: The Mystery of the Mikvah||1976|
|Sabbath: Day of Eternity||1976|
|The Aryeh Kaplan Reader: The Gift He Left Behind : Collected Essays on Jewish Themes from the Noted Writer and Thinker||June 1, 1986|
|Tzitzith: A Thread of Light||1993|
|Jerusalem, Eye of the Universe||1976|
|The Infinite Light||1981|
|Until the Mashiach: The Life of Rabbi Nachman||May 6, 1985|
|The Light Beyond: Adventures in Hassidic Thought||June 1, 1981|
|A Call to the Infinite||Dec 1, 1986|
|Faces and Facets||Jan 1, 1993|
|Rabbi Nachman's Stories||Apr 1, 1985|
|Encounters||Jun 1, 1990|
|Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation||March 15, 2004|
|The Bahir||September 1, 1990|
While a graduate student at the University of Maryland, Rabbi Kaplan published two academic papers:
- Oneda, S.; Kim, Y.S.; Kaplan, L.M. (1964). "Final-state interactions in η 0 → 3π decay". Il Nuovo Cimento. 34 (3): 655–664. Bibcode:1964NCim...34..655O. doi:10.1007/BF02750008. S2CID 121217695. Archived from the original on March 16, 2016.
- Kaplan, L.M.; Resnikoff, M. (November 1967). "Matrix Products and the Explicit 3, 6, 9, and 12-j Coefficients of the Regular Representation of SU(n)". Journal of Mathematical Physics. 8 (11): 2194–2205. Bibcode:1967JMP.....8.2194K. doi:10.1063/1.1705141. Archived from the original on 2013-04-11.
- "Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's gravesite". Briskodesh.org. Archived from the original on 2015-01-09. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- Kaplan, Aryeh (1983). The Aryeh Kaplan Reader: The gift he left behind: Collected essays on Jewish themes from the noted writer and thinker. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Mesorah Publications, Ltd. ISBN 0-89906-173-7.
- Kobre, Eytan (January 25, 2022). "A Living Torah". Mishpacha (896). Retrieved February 1, 2022.
- "A Tribute To Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan". bible.ort.org. 1983. Archived from the original on 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- "AN APPRECIATION OF RABBI ARYEH KAPLAN + VIDEO". ncsy.org. 13 May 2014. Retrieved 2016-11-13.
- Shmuel, on monument
- Feiga, on monument
- Sixteenth Census of the United States, United States census, 1940; Assembly District 5, Bronx, New York City, Bronx, NY; roll T627 2476, page 10B, line 47. Retrieved on 2015-05-20.
- Who's Who in the East, 17th edition. Marquis Who'sWho. 1979. ISBN 978-0837906171.
- Embracing a Street Kid, Seltzer, Nachman (June 21, 2010). One Small Deed Can Change the World. Shaar Press. pp. 252–255. ISBN 9781422609897.
- "Rav Mendel Weinbach" (PDF). p. 13.
In 1952, Rabbi Simcha Wasserman .. to found a yeshivah in Los Angeles.. asked Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr .. Torah vodaath, to give him a small cadre of talmidim. .. Nisson Wolpin, Meier Weinberg, and Aryeh Kaplan
- "File:Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's Semicha from Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel.jpg". Mir Yeshiva (Jerusalem). June 28, 1956.
- "Rabbi starts service in Mason City". Mason City Globe Gazette. Mason City, Iowa. February 27, 1965. p. 4. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
- See this article for the school's history
- "File:Aryeh Kaplan BS.JPG". University of Louisville. 23 August 2012.
- "Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, 48, Dies; Wrote Books on Jewish Topics". The New York Times. 1983-02-02. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- Answer: definitely not, but R'Moshe suggests speaking to youngsters, one at a time/in private, so that those few who walk can have positive influence on the rest. https://kavvanah.blog/2012/01/30/lost-rabbi-aryeh-kaplan-part-ii
- National Science Foundation (1963). The Thirteenth Annual Report of the National Science Foundation (PDF) (Report). p. 322. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
Kaplan, Leonard M., Hyattsville, Physics
- "They came from Maryland". Mason City Globe Gazette. Mason City, Iowa. April 3, 1965. p. 8. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- "Physicist Is Rabbi For Area". Kingsport Times. Kingsport, Tennessee. July 22, 1966. p. 13. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- Kaplan, Aryeh (1990). Encounters. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Moznaim. ISBN 9780940118577.
- "Rabbi arrives in Mason City". Mason City Globe Gazette. Mason City, Iowa. February 20, 1965. p. 26. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- "Weekend worship in Mason City's churches". Mason City Globe Gazette. Mason City, Iowa. November 20, 1965. p. 5. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- "Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities - Bristol/Johnson City/Kingsport, Tennessee". Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
- "B'nai Sholom To Have Installation, Reception". Kingsport Times. Kingsport, Tennessee. August 7, 1966. p. 21. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- "CONGREGATION B'NAI SHOLOM RECORDS". East Tennessee State University, Archives of Appalachia. Retrieved 2018-01-21.
- Baruch Frydman-Kohl. "H-net Discussion Networks - Aryeh Kaplan". Humanities & Social Sciences Online. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- "Project to Rediscover Jewish Values Launched by Students at State University of N.Y." Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Albany, New York. July 7, 1970. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- "Albany State U Administration Refuses to Close School for Passover; Students Vow Boycott". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Albany, New York. April 17, 1970. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- "File:Aryeh Kaplan's Citation of Service from the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundations.jpg". B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation. June 2, 1971.
- "Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan Dead at 48". JTA.org. February 2, 1983.
- Hadda, Janet (2003-03-24). Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Life. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 191. ISBN 978-0299186944.
- Ari Z. Zivotofsky (Fall 2016). "What's the Truth About . . . the Age to Study Kabbalah". Jewish Action (OU).
One of America's greatest experts on kabbalah was Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (1934-1983). And while he lived past age forty, it was not by much. He clearly had begun studying kabbalah before the age of forty.
- "The Age of the Universe: A Torah-True Perspective by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan" (PDF).
- "as long as we keep a firm grounding in our seforim ha-kadoshim and our sacred texts, there are really no conflicts."
- Kahn, Rabbi Ari (2005-01-27). "Age of the Universe". aishdas.org. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- "Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan: Words to live by". New York Jewish Week. 21 September 2010. Archived from the original on 2014-10-28. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- "Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan". ou.org. June 14, 2006. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- "כרטיס נפטר:הרב אריה משה אליהו קפלן". mountofolives.co.il. Retrieved 2022-09-21.
- "Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan - Words to live by". Jewish Week. September 21, 2010.
- "The Legacy of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt"l". ncsy.org.
- "Changing Places: Scouting a variety of out-of-town relocation options at OU Jewish Communities Fair offers a lesson in choosing" (PDF). ou.org. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
- See for example R. Kaplan's note Archived 2012-06-12 at the Wayback Machine concerning "Azazel" (Lev 16:8) and his note Archived 2015-02-15 at the Wayback Machine concerning the 4th plague עָרוֹב. (Ex. 8:17)
- "Recommended Reading List—6. Philosophy". Ohr Somayach Interactive. 1998. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- This initial volume was retroactively referred to as Volume 1 following the posthumous publication of Volume 2.
- Made available online by Brill, Alan.
- Brill, Alan in Aryeh Kaplan on Evolution- A Missing Chapter of The Handbook of Jewish Thought (October 2019). In this chapter, annotated by an editor to be of questionable propriety, Rabbi Kaplan argues that "there is overwhelming evidence from astronomy, geology, radioactive dating, and fossils, that this initial creation took place billions of years ago" (first page, 15:5 [see source for citation's endnotes, omitted from above quotation]). He acknowledges that there are those who would reject the scientific evidence, but asserts that it's an "inconceivable" argument that God would mislead mankind in presenting a creation older than its true age (ibid.).
- The second volume, posthumously published, references Kaplan's "1967-1969 manuscript that consisted of 40 chapters," 13 of which were "published in 1979 as the Handbook of Jewish Thought;" and that of the remaining chapters (which were clearly "set aside with the thought of eventually preparing them for publication"), only 25 are printed in Volume 2. This "indicates that 2 chapters of the original 40 were suppressed" (Brill, Alan in Aryeh Kaplan on Evolution- A Missing Chapter of The Handbook of Jewish Thought).
- Gelbach, Sharon (November 14, 2018). "Like His Own Children". Mishpacha (735). Retrieved January 31, 2021.
- "If You Were God?". Mesorah. Archived from the original on 2014-11-11. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
- Online Living Torah by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan at ort.org Archived 2010-08-13 at the Wayback Machine
- Online Sabbath - Day of Eternity by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan at ou.org
- Collected Writings on aish.com
- Lecture on Jewish Mysticism by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
- "Kabbalah and the Age of the Universe" speech given by Rabbi Kaplan in 1979 (posthumously published online as The Age of the Universe: A Torah True Perspective)
- Gravesite of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
- Rabbi Dov Meir Eisenstein's sefer 'Morah Or' has a two-page biography