Thursday, July 31, 2008

Youthful textual criticism of the Targum to Joshua 9.4 by R. Yaakov Kamenetsky

Here's an interesting excerpt from the Artscroll biography of R. Yaakov Kamenecki, Reb Yaakov: The Life and Times of HaGaon Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky by Yonason Rosenblum Based on the research of Rabbi Nosson Kamenetsky (NY, 1993), pg.53:

The following is from the Slabodka period, which begun in 1906.

Another time he used his knowledge of Aramaic to refute aspersions cast by maskilim on the accuracy of the Masoretic text that we have today. In Yehoshua (9:4) the word וַיִּצְטַיָּרוּ appears. Rashi interprets the verb as referring to making oneself an agent. But the maskilim pointed to the Targum ואזדודו which means to load oneself with provisions and is the Aramaic for the Hebrew ויצטידו Thus they concluded that our text is corrupt and that the Hebrew letter reish, ר replaced a dalet, ד. But Reb Yaakov noted that by changing only one letter in the Targum it would become ואזדגדו, which is the Aramaic translation of our text and conforms perfectly to Rashi's understanding. Thus the error was in the Targum not the text of Yehoshua.

Incidentally, the King James Version translates according to Rashi: "and made as if they had been ambassadors."

However, Gesenius, notes the problem:

See also what Emanuel Tov writes on pg. 168 of Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible:

Note that some Masoretic manuscripts do read ויצטידו, and also that "all the ancient translations" translate "provisions" as against the masoretic text, a point which is not mentioned in the book, which makes it a purely a Targum vs. Masoretic text issue.

Furthermore, although the solution is brilliant (especially considering his youth) it may or may not be the case that the error was in the transmission of the Targum (that is, the Targum originally read ואזדגדו but a textual corruption caused it to read ואזדודו , which happened to agree with all the other ancient translations - Septuagint, Vulgate, Peshitta - but not the Masoretic). Conversely, this may be what happened after all. Either way, it's a good example of responsible - some would say maddening - conservatism in textual criticism of the Bible. However, it must be noted that this conjectural emendation comes at the expense of a less than conservative attitude toward the Targum, coming against the manuscripts and against other witnesses, of the Targum.
Incidentally, the prior paragraphs in the book read:

The Alter built up individuals to such an extent that they could even reject his advice. He once walked into a room as Reb Yaakov was demonstrating to Reb Laizer Yudel, the Alter's son, that if he knew the trop (cantillation) on the first two words of any verse in Tanach he could work out the trop for the rest of the verse. The Alter grew furious at what he considered to be, at best, a diversion from more important Gemara studies.

Yet the Alter's displeasure did not deter Reb Yaakov from continuing to pursue his studies in Biblical grammar. Many of his published chiddushim reflect his unparalleled knowledge of this subject. He once amazed the students in Torah Vodaath by reading the Haftarah flawlessly from a scroll without prior preparation. One time he showed Rabbi Joseph Elias how a respected posek had erred with respect to an issue of the correct halachic measure because of a failure to distinguish between an etzba beinoni, the finger of an average sized person, an an etzba beinonis, the middle finger.

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