Monday, August 29, 2011

The Neturei Karta takes on Umberto Cassuto

Here's an interesting review of the Jerusalem Bible (edited by Prof. Moshe David/ Umberto Cassuto) published in משמרת חומותנו in 1956. Click the images to enlarge.

The tenor of the article is contempt that unbelievers are involving themselves in a job that is not theirs, by producing a Bible. This edition is edited by "some professor" and the title page proclaims that it is according to the Masorah of Ben Asher. It goes on to explain the Masoretic studies is all but a lost art, but nevertheless the greatest sages were proficient in them, including in recent times. It is they and they alone who took great care to investigate and preserve the correct text down to the letter. It gives a basic overview, starting with the relevant gemaras, Rambam, and the leading masoretic scholars throughout the ages. It then derides the use of "random" manuscripts from "random genizas," which disagree with the pesak halacha, the accepted rulings. This is kefirah. The author is particularly bothered by the claim on the title page that it makes use of manuscripts and represents the masorah according to Ben Asher. But we cannot improve on the accepted text established by the great sages, who used very exact manuscripts. So what if they found new manuscripts according to Ben Naftali or which otherwise contravene halacha? The editors err further when they write that they did not make use of the scrolls found by some Arabs near the Dead Sea, because "It is still unclear if these texts are older than the masoretic text." That is, they don't rely on the masorah because they believe in it. They use it like an archaeologist, and are trying to establish which is the oldest text. Therefore they are untrustworthy, because they don't believe in the truth of the Torah and the received masorah.

Then follows two criticisms of glaring flaws. One is regarding the way the sedarim are marked with a samech in the margin. This is not traditional. A word of explanation. The Jerusalem Bible produced under the auspices of Hebrew University by Prof. Cassuto is based on the Ginsburg Bible (more on that below) and improved, at least in theory. Here is what Ginsburg's Bible looks like, with regard to the samech:

Each seder is marked with a samech (and an inverted seghol) corresponding to the old Triennial Cycle of reading. Why did Ginsburg mark his Bibles this way? He explains
The Sedarim of the Triennial Pericopes exhibit the second division of the text. The Grammatico-Massoretic Treatise which precedes the Yemen MSS. of the Pentateuch distinctly declares that the Sedarim are the Pericopes of the Triennial cycle which obtained in many communities. "There are," it says, "places where they read through the law in three years. Hence the Pentateuch is divided into one hundred and fifty-four Sections called Sedarim, so that on Seder is read on each Sabbath. Accordingly the Law is finished at the end of every three years.
He continues to explain that as this was a very old practice, almost no manuscripts give the sedarim, although they generally do state at the end of each book how many sedarim are in it. He quotes Jacob ben Hayim's introduction to the Second Rabbinic Bible (commonly called Mikra'os Gedolos) where he states that if he had access to a list of the sedarim then he would have followed it, instead of the Christian chapter divisions! Eventually he did discover such a list, but only at the end of all his work, so it was printed separately (at the beginning of the Bible) rather than incorporating it into the work itself. As you can see, he felt that this is valid masoretic information, and it should be printed so that it isn't lost. Actually, he would have marked it in the Bible itself instead of the Christian chapter divisions.

As for the samech marking, this is not Ginsburg's innovation, but he followed a certain manuscript (British Museum Or. 2201 (1246)) which not only contained a list of the sedarim but also marks each one with a samech, which is important because it shows that it agrees with its own list and leaves no doubts. It should be noted that while the critique we are discussing is opposed to using "random manuscripts," this is not a random manuscript. It is a Spanish manuscript of the kind described by the later pillars of the masorah as "very exact and corrected."

(Chapter IV of Ginsburg's Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Bible pp. 32-35).

Continuing the critique, it allows that it presumably marks the parshios (i.e, sedarim) listed in the masorah at the end of each book, but points out that such a practice is not mention by the Talmud or the Rambam. (Now you know where the author stands on the question of the age of the masorah.) The Tur mentions it and other poskim do too, but they do not see it as binding. It grudgingly allows that there is the existence of such sedarim, as Wolf Heidenheim mentions them but says that he didn't print them. So what gives some professor the right to think that he can decide a Torah matter? (Actually, although Heidenheim doesn't print the sedarim divisions when he mentions them he really criticizes the Christian chapter divisions, saying "החלוקה הזאת בלתי מקובלת אצלינו ולא יפה עשו המדפיסים האחרונים להכניס חולין בקדש." This can be found in the essay at the end of Heidenheim's Chumash Meor Enayim, Roedelheim 1818)

It then points out that "anyone who knows a little bit about printed Bibles" will realize that this edition is a facsimile of a missionary Bible (i.e., Ginsburg). This Bible however imposed its corrections on top of it, which meant that the original had to be literally cut up and mounted to be edited and photographed. If so, it is impossible for them to not have erased God's name many times, since it is printed on both sides. Imagine, that this Tanach was produced by erasing God's name hundreds of times!

As an aside, I don't know who gave them a heter to use Arabic numerals. What on earth is "7 המשך בעמוד"?

He then gets to "the main point" which is changes in Tanach itself. He gives one example, but says there are many more. When all is said and done, how brazen some professor is to allow himself to decide against many books and decisors. How chutzpahdik of him to change the nusach of the Torah in such a way that would render a Torah passul! (I would note that all Chumashim are filled from beginning to end with things that would make a Torah unfit.) A second example is in a word in Isaiah, where the Radak writes that there the books disagree on this particular word, with most writing it as two separate words. On the other hand, a minority write it as one, which agrees with Targum Jonathan's translation. Yet Cassuto goes against the majority and wrote it as one. He must have extra special inspiration to know how to decide this. Furthermore, by doing this he is also impugning all the other Bibles which write it as two words.

He gives one more example, and then he concludes by citing Psalm 50:16, "What hast thou to do to declare My statutes, and that thou hast taken My covenant in thy mouth?" In a nice piece or irony, the writer actually changes the masoretic spelling of a word in this verse. חֻקָּי is written defective, and he writes it חוקי!

All in all it is a substantial critique, even though it is filled with invective that I think most readers of this blog will regard as insubstantial (such as negating the right of Cassuto to edit a Bible).

Please see this earlier post which, amazingly to me was posted exactly five years ago today, where I posted some communications between איזה פרופסור Cassuto and Paul Kahle on this very Bible. Note which Bibles he refers to which he made use:
Of the Codices of Cairo, London and Leningrad I have with me complete photographs, and of that of Aleppo as much as I could copy at the place.
I don't know much about this Bible, although I know that it was not well received in the community of Bible scholarship either. Someone told me that he obtained a copy having found one in a shemos box in a shul. He asked the rabbi's son if he could take it, and after looking at it the reply was "Cassuto? Doesn't sound very Jewish. I have to see." In other words, he was only willing to let him take this discarded Tanach if he could be sure that it was a kosher edition. Having received such an assurance from his father, he let my friend take it.


  1. Based on your description, I didn't find anything "substantial" about it at all. What am I missing?

  2. I just meant that there's substance, it's not all "He's an Eye-talian." The three separate examples given are reasonable, if not entirely compelling (or maybe they are). The first involves not making a parashah at the beginning of Vayetze which does not seem justifiable.

  3. If we're already on the subject of Bible, d'you know anything about this (and who is David Cahana, anyway?):

    ויזל, ערן
    חיבור התורה והתגבשות הנוסח שלה לדעת דוד כהנא : פרק בדמותה של ביקורת המקרא היהודית-אורתודוקסית במזרח "אירופה בתקופת ההשכלה.
    Source "ליישב פשוטו של מקרא" (תשעא) 248-274"

  4. I'm not sure what that's about specifically, but David Kahane (1838-1915) was a writer and chachmat yisrael scholar. Perhaps the reference is to his book מסורת סיג למקרא which takes a very conservative stance on textual criticism, and attacks Graetz.

  5. I feel the need to fill in some blanks regarding HaRav Moshe David Cassuto and the "תנך הוצאת ירושלים."

    The plan of Caasuto and Hebrew University was to put forth the first תנ"ך printed from start to finish under Jewish auspices.

    In his book, ספרות מקראית וספרות כנענית - כרך א, Cassuto prints ספר יונה as a sample of what the new תנ"ך will look like. This includes a new typeface designed by אליהו קורנגולד.

    In an introductory paragraph, Cassuto mentions his trip to חלב (Aleppo) and his analysis of the כתר. This includes his famous conclusion that the כתר was not the book mentioned by the רמב"ם (see Shneur Leiman's insights into Cassuto's error). Cassuto was planning to use the Codex Cairensis as the base text for the נביאים. He was most probably going to use Codex Leningrad for the תורה and כתובים.

    Unfortunately, Cassuto passed away in 1951 before he could complete his mission. In effort to put out "something", Hebrew University decided to use David Christian Ginsburg's work and to overlay Cassuto's comments on top of it. Despite their statements in the introduction: "... הולך עתה בית-ההוצאה בדרך שהציע המנוח סמוך לפטירתו: פרי עבודתו המרובה שובץ ביד-אמנים לתוך אחת ההוצאות הקיימות, שנראתה בעיניו מתאימה לשמש יסוד להתקנת ההוצאה שלו עפ"י הכה"י של בן-אשר ..." This was certainly not Cassuto's intention. The net result is a תנ"ך very close to Codex Leningrad.

    The idea of a Jewish תנ"ך stayed with the designer of the new font, אליהו קורנגולד who later changed his last name to קורן. He worked on refining the font and in 1961 published what was the first published Jewish תנ"ך. Unfortunately, this תנ"ך was missing Cassuto's scholarship. It the works of Breuer and Ofer that have finally realized Cassuto's original dream.

  6. Raz, thank you for that very welcome synopsis.



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