Was The Hatam Sofer An Extremist?

Here’s some background on the 18-19th Century rabbi the Hatam Sofer.

Professor Marc B. Shapiro blogs: The Hatam Sofer is often portrayed as both a religious extremist as well as lacking a critical sense. The first assumption, that he was an extremist, is absolutely false and is a creation of the nineteenth-century Reformers. I won’t go into it here, but suffice it to say that the Hatam Sofer was often a very lenient posek, the exact opposite of what people mean by “extremism”.

As for not having a critical sense, this too is false. I am not saying that he viewed matters as did R. Zvi Hirsch Chajes or R. Solomon Judah Rapoport,[17] but the quotation from Neusatz shows that the Hatam Sofer was much more complex than he was caricatured by his opponents. There are numerous examples that could be cited to illustrate this. In Limits of Orthodox Theology I mentioned that the Hatam Sofer leaned towards Ibn Ezra’s view that the entire last chapter of Deuteronomy was not written by Moses. He also wondered whether the Targum on Ruth was of Sadducean origin.[18] Another example relates to what was discussed in this post regarding the Jerusalem Talmud’s view that there is a mistake in the book of Jeremiah. (I neglected to mention that the J. Talmud there also states that there is a mistake in the book of Ezekiel.) According to the Hatam Sofer, the mistake in our book of Jeremiah is due to an erroneous emendation that dates back to biblical times.[19]

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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