Monday, December 17, 2007

An excellent emendation of a Talmud text by R. Saul Lieberman

It must be very satisfying for a textual critic to see a conjectural emendation justified by a manuscript, especially an excellent manuscript.

Here is an interesting example of such.

The Talmud Yerushalmi Kiddushin 1:1 refers to ר' יוחנן דצפרין, Rabbi Yohanan of Sepphoris.

Here is the passage, with translation1:

הרי למדנו גוים אין להן קידושין מהו שיהא להם גירושין ר' יודה בן פזי ור' חנין בשם ר' חונה רובה דציפורין או שאין להן גירושין או ששניהן מגרשין זה את זה ר' יוחנן דצפרין ר' אחא ר' חיננא בשם ר' שמואל בר נחמן (מלאכי ב) כי שנא שלח וגו' עד את ה' אלהי ישראל בישראל נתתי גירושין לא נתתי גירושין באומות העולם

Lo, we have learned that gentiles are not subject to the laws of consecrating a woman as betrothed [through money]. What about their being subject to the laws of divorce?

R. Judah b. Pazzi and R. Hanin in the name of R. Huna the Great of Sepphoris: "Either they [gentiles] are not subject to the law of divorce at all, or [unlike Israelite practice] each issues a writ of divorce to the other."

R. Yohanan of Sepphoris, R. Aha, R. Hinena in the name of R. Samuel bar Nahman: "For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel' (Mal. 2:16).

"Among Israelites I have framed the law of divorce, and I have not given the law of divorce to the nations of the world."

Something didn't add up to certain scholars. Rabbi Yohanan is not otherwise identified with Sepphoris, rather he is known for living in Caesarea, קצרין. Since there is a known Amora of Sepphoris, sometimes called ר' חנינה דציפורין, in this passage called by the diminutive חנין, Hanin, Wilhelm Bacher emended יוחנן דצפרין to read חנן דצפרין, "Hanan of Sepphoris," חנן or חנין both being a diminutive form of חנינה that is found.

However, R. Saul Lieberman had another idea. He noticed that the word "of Sepphoris," דצפרין is spelled here defective, that is missing the י between the צ and the פ. This does not occur in other places where Sepphoris, ציפורין is mentioned. So he thought that this might be a copyist error. Recalling Genesis Rabbah 18:62 he thought that instead of ר' יוחנן דצפרין the text should read: ר' יוחנן אמר דיופרין, and should be joined to the passage from before.

Instead of it reading:

"[unlike Israelite practice] each issues a writ of divorce to the other."

[new paragraph] R. Yohanan of Sepphoris...

It should read:

[unlike Israelite practice] each issues a writ of divorce to the other; R. Yohanan said [a gentile woman gives] a double payment.3

What had happened? The copyist had before him a text where the י and ו were joined together (=יו) and it appeared to him as a צ. The phrase ר' יוחנן אמר דצפרין did not make sense to that scribe, so he deleted the אמר and copied it as it appeared, leaving the sensible but highly suspect ר' יוחנן דצפרין.

This emendation was proposed in R. Lieberman's תיקוני ירושלמי in Tarbiz 2:2 (1931). It turned out that ר' יוחנן אמר דיופרין was the reading in the 13th century MS Leiden, Scaliger 3; the only complete Yerushalmi manuscript.

See Ha-Moreh by Eliezer Shimshon Rosenthal, PAAJR, 31 (1963) pg. 34.

1 Qiddushin: A Preliminary Translation and Explanation by Jacob Neusner.
2 אמר רבי יוחנן אשתו מגרשתו ונותנת לו דופורון. "R. Johanan said: His wife can divorce him and she gives him a double dowry." (Trans. by Maurice Simon, on the basis of Rashi.)
3 In other words, by Jewish law only the husband can divorce the wife, and he must give her an alimony payment. However either the husband or wife can divorce the other if they are gentiles, and the one that initiates the divorce pays the other.

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