Thursday, May 17, 2012

On that Arabic Talmud

Recently the new kind-of-cool, kind-of-creepy Arabic translation of the Talmud has gotten a lot of attention. Obviously. (link)

Talmud--Arabic-01.jpg (1000×750) 
It it surprising to me that no one seems to reference the alleged Arabic translation of the Talmud - if that's what the source means - by R. Joseph ibn Abitur, about 1000 years ago, as reported in Sefer Haqabbalah and another source.

"Rabbi Moses of Cordoba had many disciples, among them Rabbi Joseph bar Isaac ibn Satnas (?), known as Abitur; he [explained? translated? wrote a digest?] all of the Talmud into Arabic for the Ishmaelite caliph, known as al-Haqim."

So, we can now consider it mentioned.


  1. You can read the press release here (try Google Translate)

    (yes, that's right, pubication)

    It raises all sorts of interesting issues --

    It appears that in the entire academic world of Arabia there is not even one "Jewish religion scholar" who knew what the Gemara was - it took them TWO YEARS just to find a copy! (here's a neat trick . . . ) That would be analogous to an American scholar of Islam who didn't even know where to find a Hadith collection.

    Its also not clear (the press release goes back and forth) but were they decided in the end whether the Talmud is written in Aramaic or Hebrew? Would be like sending a scholar of modern French poetry to translate Beowulf and feigning surprise that they can't figure it out.

    Also, they seemed to have dived in straightaway to Talmud Yerushalmi and Bavli. Wouldn't it have made sense to start with Mishna, and work their way up from there?

    How can you possibly 'split up' such an endeavor by folks who are clearly new to Talmud. How are the allusions to kodshim (zman she'kohanim nichnasim) and taharos (tvul yom, etc . . .) on Brachos 2a going to make sense?

    They refer to it a couple of times in the press release (google translate garbles it as Balasraúillat), but what role did the hallucinogenic description of Judaism contained in the Israiliyyat play in their translation?

    Soncino is out of copyright(?) If so, why not just do a straight translation from there?

    The political goals described in the announcement make absolutely no sense; unless they're trying to read the tea-leaves of the UTJ party in Israel - what possible political gain do they see from this project?

  2. Ḥakim with a q??

  3. Note that it purports to be an explanation, not a translation. I suspect that it's a RIF-like summary. In any case, he probably wrote him a Rashi, not an Onqelos (with a q ;-)

  4. BTW, I'd say that the explanation of the difficulty involved in finding a copy of the Talmud, etc is a means of justifying their delays and the vast sums they were able to extort from their sponsors, who wouldn't know any better.

  5. نظرا لأنها ربما لا تقرأ هذا بلوق

  6. "note that it purports to be an explanation, not a translation."

    Like Artscroll's elucidation, also not a translation?

  7. I don't think it's fair to say what it purports to be, since I don't know that Ravad would have used a definite translation word, like תרגם. Can you targum something written in targum?

    I agree that it certainly might mean something other than translate, but I'm not sure we have enough info to know just what. For example, how would one go about to "elucidate" the entire Talmud without someone having a translation of the Talmud itself?

  8. In some of the postings here regarding various translations (I don't have time to dig them up) the term "l'ha'atiq" is used instead of "l'targem". Is there a distinction there that applies here, too? Certainly nobody would say that MESC "taitched" the shas into leshon Ishmail. Or would they?

  9. I stayed away from "lehaatik" since I'm not sure how old it is, or if it would have been an exclusive term for translating used then, as it is today.

  10. The paytan Daniel bar Yeḥiel of Montealzino (12th century, perhaps?) uses להעתיק to refer to the translation of the Septuagint.

  11. If it's Arabic translations we're askinan then, more to inyana d'yoma, see the following translation (lifted from comments to Onesh):

    בעיתון ירדני פורסם תרגום של "ירושלים של זהב" לערבית במדור "אשנב לספרות הציונית המודרנית". המתרגם: סמיר צאבע':

    اورشليم مدينة الذهب
    ﻧﻌوﻤﻲ ﺷﻴﻤﺮ

    هواء الجبال نقي كالخمر
    وشذا الصنوبر
    تحمله رياح المساء
    مع رنين الاجراس.
    وتحت هجعة الشجر والحجر
    تقبع سجينة حلمها
    المدينة المعزولة
    وفي قلبها يمتد سور.

    يا اورشليم
    يا مدينة الذهب, والنحاس, والنور.
    ها انني كمانا لكل اشعارك.

    لقد جفت آبار المياة
    وبقيت ساحة السوق فارغة
    وليس هناك حارس على جبل الهيكل
    في المدينة القديمة.
    وفي المغرات التي في الصخر
    تولول الرياح
    وليس من يهبط الى البحر الميت
    عن طريق أريحا.

    يا اورشليم,
    يا مدينة الذهب والنحاس والنور,
    ها انني كمانا لكل اشعارك.

    وحين جئت اليوم لاغني لك
    ولربط التيجان على راسك
    وقد اصبحت وكانني اصغر ابنائك
    وآخر الشعراء.
    ليخرق اسمك شفتي
    كقبلة افاعي السماء
    اذا نسيتك يا اورشليم
    يا مدينة الذهب.

    يا اورشليم,
    يا مدينة الذهب والنحاس والنور,
    ها انني كمانا لكل اشعارك.

    لقد عدنا الى آبار المياة,
    الى السوق والساحة,
    وها هو البوق ينفح على جبل الهيكل
    في المدينة القديمة
    وفي المغرات التي في الصخر
    تشرق آلاف الشموس
    نعود لنهبط الى البحر الميت
    عن طريق أريحا

    يا اورشليم,
    يا مدينة الذهب والنحاس والنور.
    ها انني كمانا لكل اشعارك

  12. Well, I doubt that it was an Artscroll-like elucidation. Probably more like RIF or some boring intro to talmud they make undergrads read in some elementary jewish studies course.

    Did you notice the similarity between "ibn Satnas" and "ave satanas"?

  13. Is it true that one of the biggest mitzvos in Judaism is to spend $5,000 in order to place a dead rat on one's head on the Sabbath?

  14. Several Years ago I shipped a complete Soncino Talmud to Iraq, I now wonder if perhaps the receiver was an editor.
    There is already an Arabic translation to the Mishnah done in Cairo in 2009 I believe.
    Contrary to what people believe, there is a large population of Arabs genuiney interested in Jewish culture and texts. I know of several and have a regular customer in Dubai who seems to know what he is buying and a Professor in California of Islam that could pass for a Yeshiva Bochur of today with his knowledge. The percentage is small, but with 300,000,000 Arabic speakers, you get all types.
    I would love to get hold of a copy, if anyone knows where they sell it, please post.



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