Wednesday, October 4, 2006
The first volume of a new annual (well, new to me...), called Ginzei Qedem, has appeared last year. Its aim is to publish hitherto unpublished texts from the Geniza as well as research articles in various fields of study concerning the Geniza. It will be accepting articles in Hebrew, English, German and French. This is really good news for anyone who is interested in Geniza.
The annual is published by Yad Ben-Zvi, and from what I understand it is financed by the Friedberg Genizah Project, which is doing a great job financing Geniza publications. This is the annual’s webpage, but it is not as informative as it should be. Here is the table of contents:
Fragments of Hermetic Literature in the Genizah
‘Visit Your Land with Rain’: Poetic Fragments of Early Shiv‘atat for Rain
‘Who Made One’: The Six Days of Creation and the Six Orders of the Mishnah in a Poetic Grace after Meals by Joseph ibn Abitur
Yehoshua Granat and Avi Shmidman
The World of Sorrow and Mourning in the Genizah: Transformations of Literary Genres
Criticism of Maimonides in a Pietist Text from the Genizah
Paul Fenton (Yinnon)
Kesirah = Ewe: A Study in Midrashim and a Genizah Fragment
An Anonymous Genizah Commentary on Joel 1:1-12 and Biblical Symbols of the Four Kingdoms
Meira Polliack and Karina Shalem
She’iltot Fragments from Ravenna
Reconstructing Jewish Magical Recipe Books from the Cairo Genizah
From Private Devotion to Communal Prayer: New Light on Abraham Maimonides’ Synagogue Reforms
Y. Tzvi Langermann
Saturday, September 23, 2006
I haven’t been to a synagogue since, but I remember very well how overwhelming the services of the “High Holidays” are, with all their special prayers and poems.
One of the most impressive poems of Rosh ha-Shana is called עת שערי רצון להיפתח “The time has come for the Gates of Favour to be opened”. It is recited at the end of the Shacharit-prayer, before blowing the Shofar.
When the community reaches the impressive final lines of this poem: “Say to Zion: ‘the time for redemption has come, I am sending you Yinnon (=the Messiah*) and Elijah’”, you could feel people had something stuck in their throats; it still sends shivers down my spine, even now as I’m writing this.
So, for old time’s sake, I post here the first and the last stanzas of the poem, accompanied by an audio file of its recitation.**
עֵת שַׁעֲרֵי רָצוֹן לְהִפָּתֵחַ
עֵת אֶהְיֶה כַפַּי לְאֵל שׁוֹטֵחַ
אֹמַר זְכֹר נָא לִי בְּיוֹם הוֹכֵחַ
עוֹקֵד וְהַנֶּעְקָד וְהַמִּזְבֵּחַ
לִבְרִיתְךָ שׁוֹכֵן זְבוּלים שִׁבְעָה
זָכְרָה לְעֵדָה סוֹעֲרָה וּנְגוּעָה
וּשְׁמַע תְּקִיעָה תּוֹקְעָה וּתְרוּעָה
וֶאֱמֹר לְצִיּוֹן בָּא זְמַן הַיְשׁוּעָה
יִנּוֹן וְאֵלִיָּה אֲנִי שׁוֹלֵחַ
עוֹקֵד וְהַנֶּעְקָד וְהַמִּזְבֵּחַ
The poem was written by Jehuda Ibn ‘Abbās (Morocco, 12th century), and as usual in this kind of poems, it is a masterpiece of embedded midrashim, linguistic puns and “twisted” biblical verses. I think that a philological commentary on the complete poem -- if ever one should be written -- might very easily take the form of a small book.***
* Yinnon, in Jewish tradition, is the name of the Messiah; see e.g. Bavli Psahim 54a (it’s a midrashic interpretation of Psalms 72:17).
** The tune is Italian, a bit different than the Portuguese. I took it from the excellent Hebrew Liturgy site, now also available in English. Note how the ע is pronounced as ‘ng’: this pronunciation tradition is common to the Jews of Italy, France, and Portugal (=Amsterdam).
*** You can see the complete poem here. I looked for an English translation in the library, and couldn’t find one; I suspect it has to do with the fact that this poem is only recited by Sephardic Jews, who usually don’t use translations.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Some months ago I promised that I will dedicate a special post to my dissertation, and here it is.
The subject of my PhD dissertation is the Greek and Latin loanwords in the Mishna. The most important work dealing with these words is Samuel Krauss’ Griechische und Lateinische Lehnwörter, published in 1899. This book is still in use but it is outdated in practically every aspect.
My intention is to compile a list of all Greek and Latin loanwords in the Mishna (some 400 words), and:
- Study their orthography and vocalization according to the best manuscripts available;
- Study their background by using modern linguistic tools, such as new concordances and text editions of both Hebrew and Greek;
- Study their meaning by using the lexical literature that has been discovered since Krauss’ work, such as Judeo-Arabic glossaries found at the Geniza;
- Study the tradition of their vocalization in manuscripts of different Jewish communities, such as Yemen, Spain and Ashkenaz.
Many other points of research have come up in the last year, and I’m sure many more will come up in the future. For more details take a look at my Research Proposal (in Hebrew). I hope to finish it by 2009.
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
On the last minute, and as I feared, my military service – planned for next week – was cancelled. It seems my unit has to “rearrange” itself after the war. Well, maybe they should have done that two months earlier. But enough about that. The result is that I have some spare time, and I hope to dedicate some of it to the blog. So for a starter, something about the new Leshonenu issue.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Modern Study of Mishnaic Hebrew: Achievements and Challenges
The Aramaic Dialect of the Palestinian Traditions in the Babylonian Talmud – Part C
Alexey (Eliyahu) Yuditsky
New Readings of MS 039 from the Ambrosiana Library
Chaim E. Cohen
Mishnaic Hebrew as Reflected in Ashkenazic Prayer Books
Traces of Masora in Poetic Works
Mordechai E. Kislev
The Meanings of the Hebrew Word Hovnim: A Reconsideration
Esther Borochovsky Bar Aba
Nuances in the Meaning of Verbs: General Meaning, Contextual Meaning, and Figurative Meaning
The Consecutive Modal Verb Construction in Israeli Hebrew
’Abū al-Faraj Hārūn’s al-Kitāb al-Kāfī: A Critical Edition and English Translation
Abraham Ibn ’Ezra’s Sefer Moznayim: A Critical Edition
Remarks and Replies
Foreign Words in Sefer Rushaina
Needless to mention, all articles are in Hebrew. My favorite article is that of Chaim E. Cohen, and I quote from the English summary:
Based on the extensive comments and proposed corrections found in the seventeenth-century prayer book of Rabbi Shabbethai Sofer of Przemysl (c. 1565-1635), this article investigates the forms that occur in the mishnaic chapter איזהו מקומן (Zebahim 5). By and large, Shabbetai corrected the forms he considered erroneous according to biblical grammar, inserting them into the text of his prayer book.
His notes, however, reveal existing forms, derived both from prayer books and from the general public pronunciation, to wit, the accepted pronunciation in his environment. What arises from this examination is that the forms that Shabbethai considered mistaken are consistent with good traditions and reliable manuscripts of the Mishna and other rabbinic literature.
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Call for active military duty.
Actually this call was scheduled shortly before the current war. They asked me if I could come for a week in September and I agreed. But it has been a couple of years since I was last called from reserve, and under the circumstances I really don't mind seeing the army again. I just hope they won't cancel it.
Monday, July 17, 2006
I'm now reading a book which describes the language of a 12th century manuscript, containing the commentary of the Rambam (Maimonides) to the Mishna. It is far from being fascinating (linguistic descriptions rarely are), but here and there interesting details come to light.
One of these has to do with the pronunciation of the shwa.
There seems to be some mystery regarding its pronunciation in the middle ages. We know that it was pronounced as an 'a'-sound in Tiberian Hebrew (7th cent.), and as an 'e'-sound in Europe after the middle ages up to our modern Hebrew.
The Author, Talma Zurawel, has discovered that in this manuscript (Spain, 12th cent.) the shwa was pronounced as an 'a'-sound. She bases her conclusion on "the many examples of patah instead of shwa" (p. 40). She also gives a very interesting summary of the research on this issue (pp. 39-41).
This is not a big discovery, since we have already some evidence of 'a'-shwa's in Europe even later, but it is always nice to have some more light in this obscure corner of Hebrew Grammar.
תלמה צורבל, מסורת הלשון העברית של הרמב"ם, עדה ולשון כ"ה, ירושלים תשס"ד