Tuesday, October 25, 2011

To answer a 123 year old question . . .

Here is an interesting letter from H. Guedalia to the Jewish Standard (December 7, 1888) concerning the hymn Bar Yochai. He asks whether anyone knows if it was ever translated into another language. So after five generations I answer H. Guedalia's question and I say, yes, it was. Oluf Gerhard Tychsen translated it to Latin in 1763, an "Elegia elegans e terra Israel" in honor of "R. Schimenois Filii Iochai,"and he should see my post (link).

He also has some interesting comments about how he supports memorial celebrations like Lag B'omer.


  1. Thanks!
    Actually, Bar Yochai was translated previously into Latin by the Swedish Hebraist from Uppsala, Andreus Norrelius (a disciple of the Jewish Sabbatian convert, Johannes Kemper, formerly, Moshe ben Aharon ha-Cohen of Krakov(. Norrelius published his translation, with the Hebrew original, in the introduction to his Posphorus Ortodoxae Fidei Veterum Cabbalistarum, published in Amsterdam 1720. In the early 20th century, Norrelius introduction, including the song, was translated into French by the notorious French translator of the Zohar, Jean de Pauly (under the title Aurore de la Foi Orthodoxe des Anciens Cabbalistes) and published by Paul Vulliaud in Le Voile d`Isis vol. 8, 1933.

  2. It would be interesting to see you post on the origins and spreading of this song.
    There are numerous unconventional ideas, like saying Rashbi was greater than his contemporaries, something that even if true doesn't smell right. Just imagine a song with lyrics how Rashi was greater than his friends. It would sound petty, undignified and unusual.

  3. Dr. Huss, thank you so much for that important addition!

    Of course there must be at least several other translations in various 20th century siddurim.

    Chaim, you are right, but style is a matter of time. We don't say things like that today. At the time of its composition Rabbi Shimon was at the height of his 'popularity.'

  4. Come to think of it, as a kid, when my rabbeim would tell us the story of Rabbi Shimon and his contemporaries (probably every year, near Lag B'omer), Shabb. 33b, the implication was of course that he was wiser and more correct, since he was the star, although of course the Gemara does not say that.

  5. Chaim
    There is a much more radical saying in praise of Rashbi in the Poem - נעשה אדם נאמר בעבורך (let us make a man - was said for your sake).
    But actually, the Zohar goes much further in his praises of Rashbi -
    מאן פני האדןן ה' - דא רבי שמעון בר יוחאי (זוהר ח"ב, לח ע"א)



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