R. David Zvi Hoffmann

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R. D"Z Hoffmann
R. D"Z Hoffmann
R. David Zvi Hoffmann
ר' דוד צבי הופמן
LocationHungary / Germany
WorksCommentaries on Bereshit, Shemot, Vayikra, Devarim, ספר מלמד להועיל, ראיות מכריעות נגד ולהויזן
Exegetical CharacteristicsRelationship between peshat and derash, Responds to source criticism
Influenced byR. Azriel Hildesheimer, Maharam Schick, R. S.R. Hirsch, R. Y.D. Bamberger
Impacted on



  • R. David Zvi Hoffmann was born in Verbo, Hungary, in 1843.
  • He studied under R. Moshe Schick and R. Azriel Hildesheimer.
  • R. Hoffmann wrote his doctorate on Mar Shemuel at the University of Tubingen.
  • He taught in the rabbinical school in Hochberg and then in R. S"R Hirsch's school.
  • In 1873, R. Azriel Hildesheimer founded his rabbinical school in Berlin and invited R. D"Z Hoffmann to join the faculty and teach Talmud, Halakhah, and Tanakh.
  • Upon R. Hildesheimer's death, R. Hoffmann became the head of the Seminary. He served in this position until his death in 1921.1


  • Biblical commentaries
    • Commentaries on Bereshit, Shemot, Vayikra, Devarim – R. D"Z Hoffmann wrote a commentary on Sefer Vayikra based on his lectures from 1873-1874 and 1876-1877. He began writing his commentary on Devarim but died in the middle. His commentaries on Bereshit, Shemot, and Devarim were edited by others posthumously, based on his (German) lecture notes.
    • The Main Arguments Against the Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis (ראיות מכריעות נגד ולהויזן) – R. D"Z Hoffmann's work against biblical criticism published in 1904 (in German).
  • Rabbinics
    • Talmudic novellae
    • Halakhic codes
    • Responses to the works of others
    • Responsa – Melammed LeHoil (ספר מלמד להועיל) – A collection of R. D"Z Hoffmann's responsa and novellae, published posthumously from his notebooks.
  • Jewish thought

Torah Commentary

Combats the Documentary Hypothesis

  • Proofs that the Torah was written in the time of Moshe – details in the Torah that would be illogical if the Torah was written later.
    • Laws whose formulations match life in the desert but not life in the land of Israel – Bereshit 23:2, Bereshit 12:1 (p. 205), Introduction to Vayikra pp. 11-13, Devarim 17:16 (p. 332).
    • Extra details that would be unlikely for an author to remember a few hundred years after the fact when they are no longer relevant – Introduction to Vayikra (pp. 12-13), Introduction to Vayikra 8-10 (pp. 189-190).
  • Explanations of stylistic or content differences – R. D"Z Hoffmann explains that these are a result of context:
    • Contradictions – Bereshit 3:22-24 (p. 91), Devarim 1:22.
    • Names of God – Bereshit 2:4, Bereshit 22:10-12.
    • Names of Yaakov – Bereshit 35:22, 37:3.

Responds to Textual Criticism

R. D"Z Hoffmann argues for the complete fidelity of the Masoretic Text – Introduction to Vayikra (pp. 7-8).

  • Keri ukhetiv (קרי וכתיב) – Both the keri and the ketiv originate from the time that Tanakh was written – Introduction to Vayikra (p. 7).
  • Primacy of the Masoretic Text over other versions – Bereshit 5:3-5, Bereshit 11:10-26.

Relationship between peshat and derash

He attempts to reconcile differences between peshat and Midrash Halakhah, but does not feel bound by Midrash Aggadah.

  • כתוב שלישי – Introduction to Vayikra pp. 3-4.
  • אסמכתא – Sometimes the stated Rabbinic source is just a textual hint, but the Midrash is not claiming that this is the plain meaning of the verse.
  • דיבר הכתוב בהווה – The simple meaning of the verse is the meaning for the generation of the wilderness, but Rabbinic law translates the law to make it applicable for future generations – Shemot 22:30, Devarim 12:8-14, Devarim 13:7-12, Devarim 14:21.

Broad scope

He presents a broad scope analysis of Torah, starting from the book as a whole and breaking it down into pieces.

  • Introductions – He introduces the book as a whole and then gives separate introductions for each section.
  • Structure
  • Order


He relates to apparent contradictions between science and Torah – Bereshit 2:1-2, Bereshit 5:3-5.


  • Verse by verse / Topical
  • Genre
  • Structure
  • Language
  • Peshat and derash



Textual Issues

  • Manuscripts
  • Printings
  • Textual layers


Significant Influences

  • Earlier Sources
  • Teachers – R. Moshe Schick, R. Azriel Hildesheimer, R. S.R. Hirsch, R. Y.D. Bamberger
  • Foils

Occasional Usage

Possible Relationship


Later exegetes