Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday miscellanies

Here's a couple of nice tidbits from Bartolocci's Bibliotheca Magna Rabbinica (volume 1, 1675).

The first is a useful comparison of the alphabets, Arabic and Hebrew, as used for writing Arabic.

This entry is amusing because of the Latin name he assigns to this (and other) Karaite scholars: R. Beniamin Ben Mosis Hæreticus Karræus. Gee, nice of him to take sides.

And here's an excerpt from his essay on the works of R. Eliyahu Bachur (Levita). This is from his Masoret ha-Masoret, and relates - inadvertently - to a popular legend about Rashi in Spain.

Masores Hamasores (third introduction) quoted the unpreserved Sefer Hasmadar by one Rabbi Levi ben Joseph which is the actual source for the observation that "שלמה" can produce the following sentence: "שֶׁלָמָה שַׁלְמָה שְׁלֹמֹה שַׂלְמָה שְׁלֵמָה."

Ginsburg's translation is:
R. Levi b. Joseph, author of the book Semadar, says, at the beginning of his work, as follows: "If any one should ask, Whence do we know that the points and accents were dictated by the mouth of the Omnipotent? the reply is, It is to be found in Scriptures, for it is written, ' And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly' (Deut. xxvii. 8). Now, if the points and accents, which make the words plain did not exist, how could one possibly understand plainly whether שלמה means wherefore, retribution, Solomon, garment, or perfect? " Thus far his remark. I leave it to the reader to judge whether this is reliable proof.
Here is R. Yehuda Leib Maimon's version of the legend, in Sinai 17 (1954):

Speaking of Ginsburg, to read Louis Ginzberg on C.D. Ginsburg, click here.


  1. Did the word “heretic” have the meaning “sectarian”? (And of course “sectarian” is also pejorative.) From the etymology of the word it seems plausible that Bartolocci is just identifying “the Karaite sect”.

  2. R' Shimshon of Ostropolia9:27 AM, September 25, 2011

    Have you ever seen the tables of alphabets in the beginning of Abraham Portaleone's שלטי הגיברוים?

  3. Nice to see that the Encyclopedia Brittanica takes sides as well;

    There it calls Anan ben David a "heretic"...

  4. Joel,

    I was being facetious about him taking sides. From the point of view of Judaism, as understood by Bartolocci (certainly as a Catholic), Karaism is a Jewish heresy. See here for how the word was understood in Latin. I don't think he meant to be pejorative, just factual.

    R' Shimshon,

    Yes. Nice idea for a post.

  5. Very interesting that the "proof" offered to show that the points and accents are from God is that otherwise, how could one read the words? We see this type of proof offered time and again in other contexts. How do we know shechitah is from the Torah? Because otherwise what would it mean "slaughter as I have told you". How do we know the shabbos laws are from the Torah? Because otherwise how could anyone be put to death for "melacha". How we do know the lex talionis is from the Torah? Because otherwise it would not be "equal" to put out the eye of one man who happened to have only one eye, vis a vis knocking out the eye of a two-eyed man.

    Is there a word for this type of rhetoric? All of these "proofs" are not really hard proofs. They are mostly arguments from silence, or logical arguments - but not proofs.

  6. If you're interested in this subject, you should really read Masoret ha-Masoret, which is available in translation if that would be helpful.

    Among other arguments, Levita points out that when in Rome he met some visiting Chaldaic Christians whose ecclesiastical language is Syriac. He noticed that they did not use points, and he asked them how they are able to read it. They replied that they become accustomed to reading it from their youth (kind of like we do? the vast majority of rabbinic texts are unpointed.)



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