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Katzburg, David Tsevi

(1856–1937), rabbi and editor. Born in the Hungarian town of Nagybörsöny, David Katzburg studied at several yeshivas and was a favored disciple of Simḥah Bunim Sofer, the head of the Pressburg (Bratislava) yeshiva. After Katzburg married, he worked in the business world, though without success. Between 1884 and 1891, he served as a rabbi in two small towns. Katzburg then moved to Waitzen (Hun., Vác), a centrally located town with an active Jewish community that was, in his mind, sufficiently removed from the rush of larger cities. Soon after his arrival, he began to publish Tel Talpiyot, modeled on the first Orthodox periodical Shomer Tsiyon ha-ne‘eman (the latter had appeared between 1846 and 1856). The first issue was produced in the winter of 1891.

Katzburg—by nature a modest person—feared that his new initiative might not be successful, so he sought advice from Yesha’yah Zilbershtain, one of Hungary’s most influential rabbis at the time. Although Zilbershtain commented on specific articles and even wrote frequently for the paper himself, in both theory and practice Katzburg was the editor and publisher. After World War I, Zilbershtain’s name no longer appeared on the cover of the publication, probably by mutual consent, though he continued to write for it.

Tel Talpiyot was devoted to theoretical and practical discussions of halakhah and agadah. Rabbinical and scholarly circles received it favorably; indeed, its early issues sold out soon after they were published, requiring second printings. The widespread distribution of Tel Talpiyot may be attributed, first and foremost, to the fact that it was one of very few religious periodicals at that time. Additionally—or most significantly—its success may be credited to the considerable space and importance that Katzburg assigned to current halakhic issues. Moreover, Hasidic rabbis were among its contributors. At the outset of its third year (1893), Katzburg noted with satisfaction that “even the prominent geniuses and scholars, who had initially shaken their heads [with disapproval] as in the case of all innovations, have come to smile [upon us].”

Tel Talpiyot was issued twice a month, enabling prompt feedback from its readers, who without delay could see responses to topics that had been brought up just two weeks earlier. The overall response to the journal was excitement; the halakhic issues it addressed triggered widespread discussion; and its format represented a major innovation for the rabbinic and academic realm. As editor, Katzburg added his personal commentary to many articles. Contributors included a broad range of scholars, mostly from Hungary, but also from Galicia, Germany, Palestine, Russia, and America.

Tel Talpiyot also contained book reviews as well as commentaries on current trends. Of particular historic value were its discussions on Zionism in the Orthodox world, a widely debated topic introduced into its pages by Rabbi Akiva Yosef Schlesinger in 1898. The question arose again in 1904 in the months prior to the first Mizraḥi conference, when Zionism was again strongly condemned by Yesha‘yah Zilbershtain and others.

With the outbreak of World War I, Tel Talpiyot experienced significant difficulties, as its links with writers and subscribers in other countries were disrupted. Nonetheless, Katzburg made every effort to ensure that the publication would continue to appear. Political and economic circumstances in Hungary after the war forced him to discontinue publishing Tel Talpiyot from late 1921 until January 1923. As of that date, the publication was limited to just once a month, and it continued to be issued until February 1937.

Suggested Reading

Nathaniel Katzburg, “Tel Talpiyot ve-‘orkho,” in Tel Talpiyot . . . Mafteaḥ ha-‘inyanim, p. 13 (Bene Berak, 1998).



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann