As already noted by Dr. Marc Shapiro, Rabbi Elias Soloweyczk (Soloveitchik) wrote a sort rabbinic commentary on the Book of Matthew [and also Mark]. Although it was written in Hebrew (titled Kol Kore), I haven't seen it. However, I have seen the French and German translations. (An earlier, anonymously published version exists, but it is different in content.)
I thought it would be worthwhile to print the substance of his introduction to the French edition (Kol Kore La Bible, le Talmud et l'Évangile, tr. par L. Wogue. Évangile de Marc. Évangile de Matthieu Paris 1875). Note that his purpose is to show that the New Testament and the Talmud do not oppose each other.
But before I do, here are some worthwhile images. This is the "haskamah" to his edition of the Mishne Torah printed in England in in 1863, collected in 1857, signed by various rabbis, and written by R. Jacob Oettinger of Berlin. As you can see, it makes mention of his grandfather, "Rabbi Chajim Wolozin."
Here is our author, who was blind and very poor in the period under question:
Here is the substance of his forward to Mark (from the French translation).
In the preface to my first volume of Kol Koreh I promised to show that the New Testament, contrary to popular belief, is neither in disagreement with the Old or even with the Talmud. I fulfilled my commitment regarding the first Gospel, and now I work on the second.A few words of explanation. Many people of high intelligence of rank applauded my work, either because they agreed with me in advance or were persuaded after having read them. This encourages me.But what a pity, there are extremists, and also those who laugh at what they think is an attempt to reconcile opposing views. Aside for the positive feedback, I was also assailed by Jews and Christians, and I think it is useful to answer their objections.My fellow Jews said "To mention the Gospel and the Talmud together? What brazeness this author has! Doubtlessly there are good things in the former, but we do not know its source, or what the authority for such things are. By contrast, in the Talmud nothing is anonymous, everything is stated by name and by tradition, going back to Moses, from God - or else it contains the views of individuals who are known to us, respected rabbis, and tradition tells us their names and [scholarly] lineage, often going back to a very remote period. "All their words are like fiery coals" (Avoth 2:15) and this author is not afraid to destroy it! His book is an attack on the holiness of the Talmud, to blend it with the New Testament; it is sacrilege.In parallel, my fellow Christians say the same thing. The New Testament is the Word of God, the Talmud is a human work. Not only human, but full of contradictions and inconsistencies. What one doctor disputes, another defends. One says with, the other says black. The New Testament is very different, a single doctrine, very beautful, holy and so beneficial to man that it could only come from God.This is what they say, and here is what I answer. Jewish Brothers, I know the sanctity of the Talmud, like you. It's value is high. I have been raised on a diet of Talmud since childhood, and I learned to revere it. But believe me, these arguments do not glorify it, and our doctors would disavow them, were they alive. Those men were fair and impartial, they rarely condemned either a man or a book, and even to that which they comdemned, they knew how to do it in a just way. Look at what they say about Ben Sira (Sanhedrin 100b) "It is (generally) not permitted to read books of heretics. Rab Joseph said, this refers to Ben Sira" (Ecclesiasticus, because, Rashi said, foolish and exaggerated things are in it). However, says R. Joseph, the good things in [Ben Sira] may be read and expounded. So a book which the Talmud forbids reading, yet it does not reject that which is good in it, and it even approvingly cites it a number of times, which is evidence that it accepts the good and true whenever it encounters it. Doesn't this [approach] bring peace and harmony between people? The same Talmud which you think is a cause for discord, doesn't it contain the most beautiful sentiments? To cite but one example, we read in Sukkah 53b that ""If, for the purpose of establishing harmony between man and wife, the Torah said, Let My name that was written insanctity be blotted out by the water, how much more so may it be done in order to establish peace in the world!" This is precisely my goal, the goal that all friends of the Torah should aspire, to, every Jew and every man worthy of the name, and you my brothers, you condemn me for my effort? I say, this is not the talk of the wise.And you, my Christian brothers, who claim that it is an offense to put the Gospel on the same footing as the Talmud, do you not know that the Talmud has a right for your gratitude, and that without if the name of your Christ may have fallen into oblivion? Many famous writers have denied the existence of Jesus Christ, and many deny it today, lacking knowledge of the Talmud which, as we shall say, excplicitly affirms his existence. . .As for your disdain of comparing the Talmud and the Gospels, you should know that the Talmud is a unique monument of jurisprudence, deep legal reasoning and wisdom? Allow me to explain . . . (He goes on to describe Maimonides and the Mishne Torah - noting that he published the first five sections with a Hebrew commentary and German and English translation [although he doesn't note that the English translation was by Hermann Hedwig Bernard]). He suggests that he is willing to supply a French translation of any part of the Mishne Torah that one would like. One could compare those Talmudic laws with the laws of any European nation on the same subject, and see if the Jewish laws do not fare well by comparison. They will be amazed at what was produced nearly 2000 years ago, by the sheer force of the intelligence of these doctors, so abused by [these] Christians!He ends his introduction by repeating that the Jews and Christians are unfounded in their attacks upon him. He refers to Ex. 16:8 "(your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord") saying that he is no one, and they are not complaining against him, but against truth and peace, his only goals! He cites David in Psalms "Ani shalom vekha adabber hemmah lammilchama", which he explains as "All my desire is for peace, and even when I make war" it is only for peace. The same with me, he says, if I have come to do battle with the ancient interpreters of the New Testament, it is to bring peace and understanding between people, for false doctrines have long divided them.He prays that he succeeds in his holy enterprise, that the favor of the Lord descend upon his work, that that it produces much and wholesome fruit in the heart of readers, and that with one spirit they embrace the worship of one God, and that it could help accomplish the words of the Prophet (Zephania 3:9) "For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent."Rabbi Elias Soloweyczsk
A few years later he printed a German translation, with another preface. In this one, he again addresses critics, but this time he includes a translation of a source which evidently he had discovered, and he feels will adequately answer them. He quotes R. Yaakov Emden ("foremost authority," "known for his tremendous piety and learning") in his edition of Seder Olam (Hamburg 1757):
"For thirty [sic] years the abominable sect of Shabbetai Zevi has newly arisen, and caused more evil than the Flood. God forbid that this accursed sect should ever mix with our Christian brethren. The principles of the Christian religion is a strict morality, even stricter than ours, for it prohibits things allowed by Mosaic law, e.g., marriage among cousins. These principles drive them from excess, self-denial and forgiveness for wrong, and their true saints are characterized by their exemplary virtues. We would be glad if Christians would, as we would, scrupulously observe their own law, if they (as we) would follow the good examples of their virtuous kings and saints and all their ways. People know that I flatter no one, have never lied, and that my zeal for the Jewish religion has never hindered me from acting justly. I will repeat what I have said often, that Jesus has done a double act for manking. On the one hand he has confirmed all the teachings of Moses, he explained that he did not come to abolish them or to change one iota, he claimed with equal vigor that the law is eternal and unchanging."
Although Soloweyczk does not quote the other hand, and I do not have the time to look it up now (but it is on this page, I imagine it says something positive about what Jesus's teachings did for Christians. He continues that he has just developed this idea further, and once again, that his purpose is to effect a reconciliation of the two Testaments, and two peoples, and that we should see the joyful day when Jews and Christians will shake hands and fulfill the words of the prophet, "On that day the Lord and his name will be one."
There may be a part II to this post, where I discuss the content of his work.