Marc B. Shapiro
Marc B. Shapiro (Hebrew: מלך שפירא, born 1966) is a professor and the author of various books and articles on Jewish history, philosophy, theology, and rabbinic literature.
Education and career
Shapiro received his BA at Brandeis University and his PhD at Harvard University, where he was the last PhD student of Professor Isadore Twersky. He received rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Ephraim Greenblatt. Shapiro's father is Edward S. Shapiro, who has published books on American history and American Jewish history.
Shapiro holds the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Chair in Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton. Shapiro is an on-line lecturer for Torah in Motion, for which he also leads Jewish history tours to Europe and Morocco. He often writes for the Seforim Blog.
Shapiro's writings often challenge the bounds of the conventional Orthodox understanding of Judaism, using academic methodology while adhering to Modern Orthodox sensibilities. His publications have had mixed reception, ranging from criticism within the American Hareidi publication Jewish Action, to support throughout the spectrum of Modern Orthodoxy
Shapiro's book, Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, a biography of Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, was a National Jewish Book Award finalist. His second book, The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised, also a National Jewish Book Award finalist, argued against the conventional Orthodox belief that Maimonides Thirteen Principles of Faith are unquestionable dogma. Gidon Rothstein, writing in the Association for Jewish Studies Review, called the book's collection of sources "remarkable."
In 2015, Shapiro's book Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History, was released, documenting the phenomenon of internal censorship in Orthodoxy; where Adam Ferziger said the book "is the outstanding product of a master of rabbinic literature and an extraordinarily sharp-eyed and meticulous scholar." Yair Hoffman, writing in the Hareidi online website Yeshiva World News, criticized the book, saying that "there is a plethora of material that simply should not have been included in the book because it does not back up his thesis." Ezra Glinter, writing in The Forward, praised Shapiro's "evenhanded, evidence-heavy approach" and that he was not a "polemicist," but said "his argument could also have benefited from a more critical thrust."
Continual discussion regarding criticism and associated defenses can be found under his author tag, on The Seforim Blog, of which Marc B. Shapiro himself contributes, regularly interacting with reviewers posts and comments.
Books and articles
- Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884–1966 (London, 1999)
- Collected Writings of R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 2 Volumes (Scranton, 1998, 2003)
- The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised (Oxford, 2004)
- Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox (Scranton, 2006)
- Studies in Maimonides and His Interpreters (Scranton, 2008)
- Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History (Oxford, 2015)
- Iggerot Malkhei Rabbanan (Scranton, 2019)
- Shapiro posts at the Seforim Blog
- Shapiro classes on Youtube
- Ginsberg, Johanna. "Local scholar organizes conference on history of Modern Orthodoxy" Archived 2013-09-16 at the Wayback Machine, New Jersey Jewish News, June 1, 2006. Accessed June 28, 2018. "A West Orange scholar is the co-organizer of the first-ever conference in America on the history of Modern Orthodoxy, to be held June 13–15 in Scranton, Pa. Marc B. Shapiro, who holds the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Chair in Jewish Studies at the University of Scranton, said the conference will take a historical view of the movement in order to explore its meaning for today."
- Leff, Zev. "Dual Book Review: The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised by Marc B. Shapiro and Even Shisiya on the Thirteen Principles of the Rambam by Rabbi Yochanan Meir Bechhofer" (PDF). Jewish Action. Orthodox Union. Summer 67 (2007): 91–110. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
I cannot recommend it to the general public, who can be easily misled by some of the questionable theses in this book. For the discerning reader who will carefully check the sources, this book will provide an interesting historical perspective as to the various opinions surrounding the Thirteen Principles.
- Shapiro, Marc B. (June 1, 2002). Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884-1966. Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, Oxford. ISBN 978-1874774914.
- Shapiro, Marc B. (2004). The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised. The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, Oxford. ISBN 978-1906764234.
- Shapiro, Marc B. "Maimonides' Thirteen Principles: The Last Word in Jewish Theology?". The Torah U-Madda Journal. Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, an affiliate of Yeshiva University. 4 (1993): 187–242. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
- Rothstein, Gidon (2005-04-01). "Marc B. Shapiro. The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised. The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. 221 pp". AJS Review. 29 (1): 169–171. doi:10.1017/S0364009405260099. ISSN 1475-4541.
- Shapiro, Marc B. (2015). Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History. The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, Oxford. ISBN 978-1904113607.
- "Book Review: Marc Shapiro's "Changing the Immutable"". Retrieved 2017-02-26.
- Glinter, Ezra (2015-07-13). "Orthodoxy's Inconvenient Truths". The Forward. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
- Rabinowitz, Dan; Butler, Menachem; Brodt, Eliezer; Steinmetz, Shimon (2020). "The Seforim Blog". seforimblog.com. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
Someone I know currently attends R. Fisher’s weekly shiur on Avnei Miluim, the last half-hour of which is devoted to issues of hashkafah. Interestingly enough, he reported to me that a few weeks ago R. Fisher declared that he believes the Rambam abandoned his system of 13 Principles, the proof being that they are never mentioned as a unit in the Mishneh Torah. In my book, I noted that R. Shlomo Goren held the same view. R. Goren also makes another interesting point, that while in the Commentary on the Mishnah Maimonides requires one to actually believe in certain principles, in the Mishneh Torah he only requires you not to deny any principles. One who has never heard of a principle obviously does not believe in it, which makes him a heretic according to the Commentary on the Mishnah. But according to the Mishneh Torah, since this person does not actually deny the principle, he is not regarded as a heretic.