He is a modest and unassuming person. Yet the illumination of Rabbi David Fuchs’ scholarship shines as a benefit to all.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of his association with Koren Publishers through which he’s shared with us, for the high holidays and three festivals, a refined presentment of the laws of Jewish liturgy and a unique commentary on the tractates of the Mishnah that’s associated with them.
Rabbi Fuchs’ biography is the subject of this week’s essay, which is based on personal discussions and an email interview.
Born in Haifa in 1971, David was to serve three years in the IDF as an auxiliary in a combat regiment, and then served in a reserve regiment until being discharged in 2011. He attended Hebrew University, studying physics, and mathematics, and graduated with distinction.
From 1994 to 2007 he studied with Rav Yehuda Amital, and Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, both now of blessed memory, at Yeshivat Har Etzion, where he received his semicha, was one of the first members of the advanced Iyyun Kollel, and edited Ma’alin Bakodesh.
In 1999 he married Tirtsa, a lawyer. They have five children and have been living in Alon Shevut in the Gush ever since.
Rabbi Fuchs describes himself as Modern Orthodox, however please consider this:
“This term is very inclusive and broad, and I do not fit neatly into any of the sub-divisions I know of. I firmly believe in the Torah as the manifestation of G-d’s will, and that it was handed down, ‘l’avdah u’leshamrah.’
“I am also a religious Zionist in the simple sense of the term — believing in G-d as the director of history, I see the state of Israel as another manifestation of His will, and since on balance, it has greatly improved the lot of the Jewish people, I am very thankful for it.”
When questioned about his literary goals, Rabbi Fuchs responded:
“The simple answer is that I set myself none — at least, as long as I am a Koren employee, the ultimate decision as to what I write rests with my superiors. But, when I write about any halachic, hashkafic, textual (by which I mean the reading of canonical texts), grammatical, literary, historic, philosophical and so on,I have to try to present as many of them as necessary in the most concise and lucid way.
“At the present, I am working on a new edition of the High Holidays machzorim in Hebrew, and was asked to write a new commentary on the piyutim. The relevant prisms are multiplied there, as the Kalir [Eleazar ben Killir] wrote his piyutim in the context of a certain order of prayer, but they were adopted by the Ashenazic communities as a part of a quite different one, and in recent generations many of them are omitted. …
“Quite often the verses on which the Kalir based his piyutim have been understood differently by his readers, through the commentaries of Rashi and Ramban, the teachings of Rambam, and many others. And, in recent generations, modern commentaries on the siddur and machzor offer new perspectives, which are often more relevant to contemporary readers.”
Rabbi Fuchs demonstrates a mature grasp of the world and of Jewish prayer and the laws governing its daily practice, thus making his work relevant to all.
I conclude with the following observation by Rabbi Fuchs:
“As I make no claims to Torah greatness, I rely heavily on contemporary summaries, footnotes in books, and the recently developed electronic search devices. Of course, much care needs to be taken when proceeding in this method, and I make a point of checking the sources referred to, and I have needed to develop an intuition both to where to look, and how to sift the important from the less relevant ones. I am sure much of my work could be bettered.”
Until that time, Rabbi Fuchs represents one of the finest scholars in Jewish commentary and study in the world today. I am proud to know him, and learn from him through the use of the Koren siddur and machzor all year round. I highly suggest that you do likewise starting with this holiday season.