Ephraim Urbach

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Ephraim Urbach (Hebrew: אפרים אלימלך אורבך) (born 1912 – 3 July 1991) was a distinguished scholar of Judaism. He is best known for his landmark works on rabbinic thought, The Sages, and for research on the Tosafot. He was a candidate to presidency in Israel in 1973, but wasn't elected.[1]

A professor of Talmud at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Urbach was a member and president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.[2]


Ephraim Elimelech Urbach was born in Włocławek, Poland,[3] to a hasidic family. He studied in Rome and Breslau, where he received rabbinic ordination in 1934.[3] He immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1938.[2] During World War II he served for four years as a chaplain in the British army.[3][2] Subsequently he served as director of Ma'aleh secondary school in Jerusalem,[3] before joining the Hebrew University faculty in 1953.[4]

Urbach died on 3 July 1991 at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem after a long illness.[2] He is buried at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, near Menachem Begin.[citation needed]

Published works[edit]

  • The Sages
  • דרשות חז"ל על נביאי אומות העולם ועל פרשת בלעם "Rabbinic Exegesis About Gentile Prophets And The Balaam Passage" (Hebrew), Tarbitz (25:1956), Urbach explored the interpretation of the rabbis about Gittin 57a where Onkelos raises up Balaam from hell, and concluded that Balaam was not a reference to Jesus in the Talmud.[5]

Awards and recognition[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kneset - Previous Presidential Elections". Archived from the original on 5 January 2006. Retrieved 4 July 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. ^ a b c d "Ephraim E. Urbach; Hebrew Scholar, 79". The New York Times. 3 July 1991.
  3. ^ a b c d "Urbach, Ephraim (1912-91)." Encyclopedia of Modern Jewish Culture. ed. Glenda Abramson. Routledge, 2004. p. 924.
  4. ^ "העלאות ומינויים באוניברסיטה העורית" [Promotions and appointments at the Hebrew University]. Devar. 6 August 1956. Promoted from lecturer to associate professor in 1956.
  5. ^ Matthew Kraus How should rabbinic literature be read in the modern world? p182 "See his article דרשות חז"ל על נביאי אומות העולם ועל פרשת בלעם p281-287, where he refutes a long chain of scholarly opinions (the last being, Lauterbach, supra, ibid., pp. 545ff.) drawing a parallel between Balaam and Jesus. However Urbach tended to accept the anti-Christian sentiments in various rabbinic interpretations of the Balaam episode"
  6. ^ "Israel Prize recipients in 1955 (in Hebrew)". cms.education.gov.il (Israel Prize official website). Archived from the original on 12 June 2012.
  7. ^ "[List of Bialik Prize recipients 1933–2004]" (PDF) (in Hebrew). Tel Aviv Municipality. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 December 2007.