R. Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (Netziv)

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R. Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (Netziv)
ר' נפתלי צבי יהודה ברלין (נצי"ב)
Dates1816 – 1893
LocationRussia / Poland
WorksHa'amek Davar on Torah, Commentaries on Midreshei Halakhah and Sheiltot, Meromei Sadeh, Shut Meshiv Davar
Exegetical Characteristics
Influenced byVilna Gaon
Impacted on



  • Name
    • Hebrew name – ‏ר' נפתלי צבי יהודה ברלין (נצי"ב)‏
    • Yiddish name – R. Hirsch Leib
  • Dates – 1816 – 1893
  • Location – Born in the Lithuanian town of Mir, lived his adult life in Volozhin.
  • Education – Little is known of the Netziv's early childhood. He entered Yeshivat Etz Chaim at Volozhin at the age of 14 ½.2
  • Occupation
    • By the age of 25, the Netziv had replaced his father-in-law in giving the daily shiur at the Volozhin Yeshivah.3
    • The Netziv became assistant Rosh Yeshivah at Volozhin in 1849, under his brother-in-law R. Eliezer Isaac Fried. When the latter died in 1853, the Netziv was appointed Rosh Yeshivah,4 a position he held until the Yeshivah's closing in 1892.5
    • As Rosh Yeshivah of the preeminent Jewish educational institution of the era, the Netziv was also a prominent leader of Lithuanian Jewry.
  • Time Period
    • During the Netziv's lifetime, Lithuania and Poland were controlled by Imperial Russia, with the Netziv's formative years lived under the oppressive legislation of Nicholas I (1825-1855), which sought to encourage the acculturation of the Jews.6
    • Defining movements of 19th century Judaism had their beginnings, or saw significant development, during this period, including the Haskalah, Hasidism, the Musar movement, and Zionism.
  • World outlook – The Netziv had a nuanced attitude toward secular studies, the Haskalah, and its literature.7 He was active in the Chibbat Tziyyon movement.8
  • Family – The Netziv's father, Yaakov Berlin, was a textile merchant descended from a rabbinic family. His mother was Batya Mirel of the Eisenstadt family.9 The Netziv's first wife was Rayne Batya,10 and his second wife was his niece Batya Miryam.11 R. Chaim Berlin12 was his son from his first marriage, and R. Meir Bar-Ilan13 was his son from his second marriage.14 The Netziv had several siblings, many of whom were part of the Torah world.15 R. Baruch Epstein16 was the Netziv's nephew, and R. Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk married the Netziv's granddaughter.
  • Teachers – 
  • Contemporaries – R. Yitchak Elchanan Spektor, R. Yosef Baer Soloveitchik
  • Students – The Netziv influenced thousands of students at the Volozhin yeshivah, including many of the religious and intellectual leaders of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.


  • Biblical commentaries
    • Ha'amek Davar17 – The major portion of a Torah commentary based largely on material originally presented in the Netziv's daily Parashat HaShavua shiur in the Volozhin Yeshivah. A separate section of the commentary, entitled Harchev Davar, presents more extensive discussions.
    • Rinah Shel Torah18 – A two part work consisting of a commentary on Shir Hashirim (Metiv Shir) and an essay on the roots of anti-Semitism (Shear Yisrael).19
    • Devar HaEimek20 – A collection of excerpts from the Netziv's writings related to verses in Neviim and Ketuvim.
  • Rabbinics
    • Talmudic novellae – Meromei Sadeh21
    • Commentaries
      • Ha'amek She'elah22 – Expansive commentary on the Geonic work Sheiltot DeRav Achai Gaon.23
      • Eimek HaNetziv24 – Commentary on the Halakhic Midrash Sifre.25
      • Birkat HaNetziv26 – Commentary on the Mekhilta
      • Notes on Torat Kohanim27
      • Imrei Shefer28 – Commentary on the Haggadah shel Pesach
    • Responsa and letters
      • Meishiv Davar29
      • Iggerot HaNetziv30

Torah Commentary


  • Verse by verse / Topical – 
  • Genre – 
  • Structure – 
  • Language – 
  • Peshat and derash
    • The commentary exhibits the Netziv's extensive knowledge of Hebrew grammar and syntax, and displays the Netziv's commitment to the method and content of Midrash Halakhah31 and to the teachings of the Oral Law in general.32
    • The commentary is significantly influenced by the Netziv's Lithuanian Mitnagdic focus on the religious significance of Torah study.
    • In his introduction to the commentary, Kidmat HaEimek,33 The Netziv sets forth a view of peshuto shel mikra based on the understanding that the Torah is generally meant to be interpreted more as poetry than as prose. Since poetry clearly intends for the reader to employ a subtle, less obvious kind of interpretation, readings that otherwise might be viewed as derash can actually be considered peshat.


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Textual Issues

  • Printings
    • Ha'amek Davar was initially brought to press by the Netziv himself, and published in 1879-80. From that point until the end of his life, the Netziv recorded additional commentaries and notes (mostly written in the margins of his personal copy of Ha'amek Davar).
    • In 1938, a second edition was published by R. Meir Berlin (Bar Ilan), which included some 1500 additions.34
    • In 1999, a new edition of Ha'amek Davar was published that incorporated the additions into the body of the commentary, and included further comments not included in the 1938 edition, taken from a manuscript the Netziv had written near the end of his life in preparation for republishing the work.35
    • From 2006-2011, a new annotated edition was produced by R. Mordechai Copperman.
  • Textual layers – 


Significant Influences

  • Earlier Sources – 
  • Teachers – 
  • Foils – 

Occasional Usage

Possible Relationship


Later exegetes