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Ephraim Urbach (Hebrew: אפרים אלימלך אורבך) (born 1912; died 3 July 1991) was a distinguished scholar of Judaism. He is best known for his landmark works on rabbinic thought, The Sages, and for research on the Tosafot. He was an unsuccessful candidate to be President of Israel in 1973.[1]

A professor of Talmud at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Urbach was a member and president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.[citation needed]


Ephraim Elimelech Urbach was born in Białystok, Poland, to a hasidic family. He studied in Rome and Breslau, where he received rabbinic ordination. He immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1937. He served as a rabbi in the British army during World War II. He also took part in Israel's War of Independence and thereafter worked for several educational institutions before joining the Hebrew University faculty in 1953.[citation needed]

Urbach died on 3 July 1991 at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem after a long illness.[2] He is buried at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, near Menachem Begin.[citation needed]

Published works

  • The Sages
  • דרשות חז"ל על נביאי אומות העולם ועל פרשת בלעם "Rabbinic Exegesis About Gentile Prophets And The Balaam Passage" (Hebrew), Tarbitz (25:1956), Urbach explored the interpretation of the rabbis about Gittin 57a where Onkelos raises up Balaam from hell, and concluded that Balaam was not a reference to Jesus in the Talmud.[3]

Awards and recognition

  • In 1955, Urbach was awarded the Israel Prize, for Jewish studies.[4]
  • In 1983, he was a co-recipient (jointly with Nechama Leibowitz) of the Bialik Prize for Jewish thought.[5]

See also

  • List of Bialik Prize recipients
  • List of Israel Prize recipients


  1. "Kneset - Previous Presidential Elections". Archived from the original on January 5, 2006. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 
  2. "Ephraim E. Urbach; Hebrew Scholar, 79". The New York Times. 3 July 1991. 
  3. Matthew Kraus How should rabbinic literature be read in the modern world? p182 "See his article דרשות חז"ל על נביאי אומות העולם ועל פרשת בלעם p281-287, where he refutes a long chain of scholarly opinions (the last being, Lauterbach, supra, ibid., pp. 545ff.) drawing a parallel between Balaam and Jesus. However Urbach tended to accept the anti-Christian sentiments in various rabbinic interpretations of the Balaam episode"
  4. "Israel Prize recipients in 1955 (in Hebrew)". (Israel Prize official website). Archived from the original on June 12, 2012. 
  5. "[List of Bialik Prize recipients 1933–2004"] (in Hebrew) (PDF). Tel Aviv Municipality. Archived from the original on December 17, 2007. 

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