Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Unexpected Recanati quote in a 17th century English Hebraica publication.

This little booklet from 1647 is basically a compendium of Biblical Hebrew synoyms transliterated into Latin characters, with the occasional definition given in Latin (authored by John Beaton).

What's quite interesting is the Hebrew motto on this frontspiece, which reads

:אין בתורה אפילו אות אחת שאין הררים גדולים תלויים בה

"There isn't even a single letter in the Torah which doesn't support great mountains."

This is a quote from the Kabbalistic Torah commentary by R. Menachem Recanati (a 13th century rabbi from Recanati, Italy) on Deut. 10:17.

Here is the entire passage in context:

(יז) כי יי' אלהיכם וגו' [שם יז]. כבר הודעתיך כמה פעמים כי אין בתורה אפילו אות אחת שאין הררין גדולים תלויים בה, והבן כי הזכיר כאן כי השם המיוחד תחלה, ואחריו אלהי האלהים, ואחריו אדוני האדונים. וכן במזמור הודו ליי' כי טוב [תהלים קלו, א] אחריו הודו לאלהי האלהים, ואחריו הודו לאדני האדונים. והרמז בהם לג' הויות הראשונות, ועל הראשון הזכיר לעושה נפלאות גדולות לבדו כענין הנאמר בספר יצירה [פ"א מ"א] בל"ב נתיבות פליאות חכמה, ועל השני אמר לעושה השמים בתבונה, ועל השלישי לרוקע הארץ על המים וגו

Interestingly, the English book "corrects" one word, exchanging הררים for הררין, for the latter is a Mishnaic Hebrew form (with it's ן ending)--although it is possible that the Recanati text Beaton saw had הררים. In addition, the text is pointed, almost certainly not the case in the edition the editor of this work read, as it is not the practice among Jews to point texts which aren't biblical (and today, also prayer books, poetry and children's books). I suppose the pointing was meant to display erudition, as an aid the reader but also ideologically driven (see footnote 4 to this post, as well as this post).

There is this nifty poem on the second page, a plea to learn Hebrew and spread Hebrew

At Babels building tongues confounded were,
The gift of tongues doth new-Hierus'lem reare,
By language lost Japhet was forc't to stray
From tents of blessed Sem, the ready way
Of his reduction is for every man
To learne anew the tongue of Canaan.
Lo here, a Scholar of great Broughton brings
Some stones and timber-work, free-offerings
To help the building, if that every one
By his example would but bring a stone,
One single beame, or plank, few yeares would show
Hierusalem high-builded, Babel low.
Few yeares would bring that day when Nations all
Will Hallelu-jah sing at Babel's fall.

(typed out so that Google can index it)

Here is a sample of the work itself

As you can see, these are the 12 stones from Aaron's breastplate (Ex 28:17).

Two more examples. Names of God:

and this one, under the entry that begins with גו, a definition from Ibn Ezra

Yes, "vagina"did mean "sheath" or "scabbard" in Latin.

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