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Aryeh Kaplan

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Aryeh Kaplan
For the comic-book writer, see Arie Kaplan.
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
Position Rabbi
Synagogue Adas Israel, B'nai Sholom, Adath Israel, Ohav Shalom
Other Physicist
Personal details
Birth name Leonard Martin Kaplan
Born October 23, 1934
Bronx, NY
Died January 28, 1983 (aged 48)
Brooklyn, NY
Yahrtzeit 14 Shevat (next occurs on February 10, 2017)
Denomination Orthodox
Residence Brooklyn, NY
Profession Rabbi, Writer, Physicist


In his earlier years, Rabbi Kaplan went by his secular name, Leonard (Len). His mother, Fannie Kaplan, died on December 31, 1947 when he was 13, leading him to grow up as a "street kid" in the Bronx, as he was expelled from public school after acting out. His family only had a small connection to Jewish practice, but he was encouraged to sayKaddish for his mother. On his first day at the minyan, Henoch Rosenberg, a 14-yearKlausenburger chossid, realized that Len was out of place, as he was not wearingtefillin or opening a siddur and befriended him. The Rosenbergs learned the reason Len didn't use the siddur was because he couldn't read Hebrew and so decided to teach him how to read it.[1] He ended up studying in Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and eventually went to the Mir, in Jerusalem, where he received semicha (rabbinical ordination) from Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel in 1956.[2]

In the late 1950s, Kaplan went to Louisville, Kentucky, where he taught at Eliahu Academy and studied at University of Louisville, where he joinedSigma Pi Sigma, the Woodcock Society, and Phi Kappa Phi and eventually completed his bachelor's degree in Physics in 1961.[3] While in Louisville, he met Tobie Goldstein, whom he married on June 13, 1961 and had nine children with.[2][4]

After completing his bachelor's degree, Kaplan moved toHyattsville, Maryland, where he was in charge ofMagnetohydrodynamicsresearch at the Fluid Mechanics Division of theNational Bureau of Standards. During this time, he received a cooperative graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation[5] and US Air Force for his graduate work at the University of Maryland.[6][7]

On February 19, 1965, Kaplan moved to Mason City, Iowa, where he became the Rabbi ofAdas Israel.[8][9] On August 7, 1966, Kaplan became the Rabbi at B'nai Sholom, inBlountville, Tennessee, a position he held through 1967.[10][11] 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.[2]

Kaplan then moved to Albany, New York, where he became the Rabbi at Ohav Shalom, a Conservative synagogue.[12]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 atUniversity at Albany, SUNY[2][13][14][15]

Kaplan then moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he lived until the end of his life. While there, he had many positions, many of which involved writing and editing religious publications:[2]
Chaplain at Hunter and Baruch colleges (New York), from 1971 to 1972,
Associate editor of Intercom, and Orthodox Jewish Scientists, from 1972 to 1973,
Editor of Jewish Life and publisher of Union Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America from 1973 to 1974, and
Director of publishing at theNCSY from 1974 to 1975

Aryeh Moshe Eliyahu Kaplan (Hebrew:אריה משה אליהו קפלן‎‎; October 23, 1934 – January 28, 1983)[16][17] was anAmerican Orthodox rabbi and author known for his knowledge of physics andkabbalah.[18] He was lauded as an original thinker and prolific writer and is most well known for his translations of the Torah, writings on Kabbalah, and introductory pamphlets on Jewish beliefs and philosophy.[19] His works are often regarded as a significant factor in the growth of the baal teshuvamovement.[20]


Kaplan was born in the Bronx, New York City to Samuel and Fannie Kaplan[21] of the Sefardi Recanati family fromSalonika, Greece.[17] He studied atYeshiva Torah Vodaas and the Miryeshiva in Brooklyn. Kaplan receivedsemicha from some of Israel's foremostrabbinic authorities, including RabbiEliezer Yehuda Finkel, at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem in 1956. He earned his bachelor's degree in physics - with highest honors - at the University of Louisville in 1961[3] and a M.S. degree in physics at the University of Maryland in 1963.[2]

His major influence was Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld (1922–1978), who single-handedly introduced the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslovto American shores beginning in the 1950s, inspiring many students atBrooklyn yeshivas, especially Torah Vodaas. Working together, Kaplan and Rosenfeld translated and annotatedRabbi Nachman's Tikkun (based on theTikkun HaKlali). At Rosenfeld's suggestion, Kaplan also produced the first-ever English translation of Sichot HaRan ("Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom"), which Rosenfeld edited. He also translated and annotated Until the Mashiach: The Life of Rabbi Nachman, a day-to-day account of Rebbe Nachman's life, for the newly established Breslov Research Institutefounded by Rosenfeld's son-in-law, Chaim Kramer. Kaplan's later writings further explored Hasidut, Kabbalah andJewish meditation. (Kaplan himself utilized the meditative form of Kabbalah on a daily basis.[22]) From 1976 onward, Kaplan's major activity was the translation into English of the recently translated (Ladino into Hebrew, 1967) anthology, Me'am Lo'ez. He also completed The Living Torah, a new translation of the Five Books of Mosesand the Haftarot, shortly before his death.

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 reflect his physicist training—concise, systematic, and detail-oriented.[19] His works continue to attract a wide readership, and are studied by both novices and the newly religious, as well as by scholars where the extensive footnotes provide a unique resource.

Kaplan died of a heart attack on January 28, 1983, at the age of 48.[4] He was buried on the Mount of Olives, inJerusalem, Israel, off Aweiss street, in the part known as "Agudas Achim Anshei America" "Chelek Alef" (Portion 1).
Professional lifeEdit

Before becoming well known as an author, Kaplan held rabbinic and leadership positions in many states. He began his first professional position after completing his bachelor's degree, as a research scientist at the Fluid Mechanics Division of the National Bureau of Standards, where he was in charge of Magnetohydrodynamicsresearch. During this time, he received a cooperative graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation[5] and the US Air Force for his graduate work at the University of Maryland.[6][7]

Kaplan then changed career paths, becoming the Rabbi of Adas Israel inMason City, Iowa (1965),[8][9] B'nai Sholom, in Blountville, Tennessee(1966), Adath Israel (now known asAdath Shalom a Conservative synagogue in Dover, New Jersey(1967)), and Ohav Shalom, a synagogue in Albany, New York (1969). While in Albany, Kaplan 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.[13][14][15] In 1971, Kaplan moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he lived until the end of his life.[2] In Brooklyn, he held many positions, all of which involved religious leadership or writing and editing religious publications:
Chaplain at Hunter and Baruch colleges (New York), from 1971 to 1972,
Associate editor of Intercom, and Orthodox Jewish Scientists, from 1972 to 1973,
Editor of Jewish Life and publisher of Union Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America from 1973 to 1974, and
Director of publishing at the NCSYfrom 1974 to 1975

Kaplan produced works on topics as varied as prayer, Jewish marriage andmeditation; his writing was also remarkable in that it incorporated ideas from across the spectrum of Rabbinic literature, including Kabbalah andHasidut. His introductory and background material contain much scholarly and original research. 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."[23] This ability enabled him to undertake large projects, producing over 60 books.[19] His works have been translated into Czech,French, Hungarian, Modern Hebrew,Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Religious worksEdit
The Living Torah, Rabbi Kaplan's best-known work, is a widely used, scholarly (and user friendly[19]) translation into English of the Torah. It is noteworthy for its detailed index, thorough cross-references, extensive footnotes with maps and diagrams, and research onrealia, flora, fauna, and geography (here, drawing on sources as varied asJosephus, Dio Cassius, Philostratus andHerodotus). The footnotes also indicate differences in interpretation amongst the commentators, classic andmodern.[24] It was one of the first translations structured around theparshiyot, the traditional division of the Torah text. (Moznaim, 1981, ISBN 0-940118-35-1)
"Handbook of Jewish Thought," produced early in his career, is an encyclopedic and systematic treatment of Judaism's fundamental beliefs.[25]Because of the work's structure and detail, the references, with the index, can serve as a research resource across almost all of rabbinic literature. (Moznaim, Vol. 1, 1979, ISBN 0-940118-49-1; Vol. 2, 1992, ISBN 0-940118-79-3)
"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 which span the entire spectrum of Jewish thought, as well as various religious practices. Published by the Orthodox Union/NCSY[23] or as an anthology byArtscroll, 1991, ISBN 1-57819-468-7.
Five booklets of the Young IsraelIntercollegiate 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)
"If You Were God," his final work, published posthumously in 1983. Moving beyond superficiality the slender book encourages the reader to ponder topics concerning the nature of being and divine providence.[26]
Kaplan translated and annotated classic works on Jewish mysticismSefer Yetzirah, Bahir, and Derekh Hashem— as well as produced much original work on the subject in English. HisMoreh Ohr, a Hebrew-language work, discusses the purpose of Creation,tzimtzum and free will from a kabbalistic point of view.

He wrote three well-known books onJewish meditation. These works revive and reconstruct ancient Jewish practices and vocabulary relating to meditation. He also wrote and translated several works related toHasidic Judaism in general and to the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslovin particular.
Academic papersEdit

While a graduate student at the University of Maryland, Rabbi Kaplan published the following 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. doi:10.1007/BF02750008.
Personal lifeEdit

Rabbi Kaplan married Tobie Goldstein on June 13, 1961, with whom he ultimately had nine children.[2][4]
See alsoEdit


^ Embracing a Street Kid, Seltzer, Nachman (June 21, 2010). One Small Deed Can Change the World. Shaar Press. pp. 252–255.ISBN 9781422609897.
^ a b c d e f g h Who's Who in the East, 17th edition. 1979. ISBN 978-0837906171.
^ a b "File:Aryeh Kaplan BS.JPG". University of Louisville.
^ a b 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
^ a b "They came from Maryland"."Mason City Globe Gazette" (Mason City, Iowa). April 3, 1965. p. 8. Retrieved2014-11-11.
^ a b "Physicist Is Rabbi For Area"."Kingsport Times" ("Kingsport, Tennessee"). July 22, 1966. p. 13. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
^ a b "Rabbi arrives in Mason City"."Mason City Globe Gazette" (Mason City, Iowa). February 20, 1965. p. 26. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
^ a b "Weekend worship in Mason City's churches". "Mason City Globe Gazette" ("Mason City, Iowa"). November 20, 1965. p. 5. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
^ "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 2014-11-11.
^ Baruch Frydman-Kohl. "H-net Discussion Networks - Aryeh Kaplan"."Humanities & Social Sciences Online". Retrieved 2014-11-11.
^ a b "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.
^ a b "Albany State U Administration Refuses to Close School for Passover; Students Vow Boycott". "Jewish Telegraphic Agency" ("Albany, New York"). April 17, 1970. Retrieved2014-11-11.
^ "Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's gravesite". Retrieved 2014-11-11.
^ a b 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. p. 13.ISBN 0-89906-173-7.
^ Kahn, Rabbi Ari (2005-01-27). "Age of the Universe". Retrieved 2014-11-11.
^ a b c d "Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan: Words to live by". New York Jewish Week. 21 September 2010. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
^ "A Tribute To Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan". 1983. Retrieved2014-11-11.
^ Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940; Assembly District 5, Bronx, New York City, Bronx, NY; roll T627 2476, page 10B, line 47. Retrieved on 2015-05-20.
^ "Collectible: Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan Interview". History Preservation Project. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved2014-11-11.
^ a b "Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan". June 14, 2006. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
^ See for example R. Kaplan's noteconcerning "Azazel" (Lev 16:8) and hisnote concerning the 4th plague עָרוֹב. (Ex. 8:17)
^ "If You Were God?". Mesorah. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
External linksEdit

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