Tisha B’av at the University of Leipzig

Interesting Tisha B’av story: honored Rabbi Leopold Greenwald meets the hero of his youth, Jewish scholar Isaac Judah Goldziher, who tells him of his encounters with Christian Franz Delitzsch during one Tisha B’av.

We studied Talmud and Codes at the yeshiva because we often had to debate the meaning of talmudic passages with the very learned Christian scholar, Professor Franz Delitzsch. Indeed, we studied with great diligence in order to be able to answer him. Professor Delitzsch would frequently visit our quarters carrying an over-sized tome of the Talmud, sometimes several tomes. Often we simply had to laugh when we saw this Christian struggling along with several volumes of the Talmud under his arm in order to engage us in debate. While a devout Christian, Delitzsch was also a philo-Semite in the fullest sense of the term. I learned much from him; I learned especially from him how to properly commemorate Tisha’ah be-Av…

Read the full translation here.

Hat tip to Aaron Eby.


  1. Although not Jewish himself (so you may want to correct your post), Franz Delitzsch is one awesome example of a Christian with a deep love for the Jewish people. Although he was a director of Jewish Missions that sought to convert Jews to Christianity, one can sense that what he really was after is to simply introduce them to their Messiah (but not make them like himself - a German Lutheran). In his work Delitzsch didn't reject or ever harbored animosity against the Jewish people for their obstinacy in coming to Messiah, but loved and defended them from antisemites in every turn - and many Jews responded with deep appreciation of the man and were willing to lend them their ears and open their hearts to his message.

  2. Judah,

    Good morning and shalom to you.

    Thank you for posting this article that strengthens the awareness and substance of this great man. I wanted to make a minor correction to your short post.

    You state, "Jewish Christian Franz Delitzsch." Delitzsch was not Jewish. Some biographers are confused in this area--the confusion stems from Delitzsch's connection with Jewish people, his knowledge of Jewish sources and a unique relationship the he had with his life long benefactor Hirsch Levy whom he called "Uncle Hirsch."

    This small point becomes and important issue. It is recorded,

    "But the great majority of the theological academicians and churchmen saw his work with Jews as an eccentric hobby, a hobby that one could overlook when Delitzsch might even have Jewish blood in his veins.”

    Again, Delitzsch was not Jewish in his own brief autobiography he highlights this. He was a man that had a deep love and respect for the Jewish people, was aware of the Semitic origins of his faith, understood God's continued relationship with and devotion to his people, and the fundamental necessity of understanding our faith and Scriptures within their proper cultural (Jewish) contexts.

    The more I learn of Delitzsch the more I am moved by the character and restless dedication he had to his mission.

  3. @Gene. We must have posted our comments at simultaneously.

    He was very progressive in his approach to Jewish missions.

    He did not prioritize his personal doctrines, agenda, or beliefs to make Jewish believers conform to his Lutheran identity or practice. This explains why he had no rush to baptize his mentor, Hirsch Levy, using his conversion as some sign of victory or badge of validation. He empathized with the difficulties, cultural struggles, and rejection of Jewish believers. He was laboring towards something greater that single conversions. He was a missionary that trusted in God beyond his own limited theologies, he knew that Jewish believers did not fit his mold.

  4. I sincerely hope and pray that we can all mourn together for each other's losses on this day and one day unite with each other under the Messiah. Blessings.