12 DECEMBER 1885, Page 35



IL SCHWABE'S rendering of the Jerusalem Talmud, judging from the instalment presented to us, is not a work that English readers are likely to grow enthusiastic over. Harsher critics, and scholars to whom the Syro-Aramaean dialect of the " Yeru- shalmi," as Jews call it, is familiar, will in all probability go further, and say that a more indifferent translation could hardly have been produced. In the first place, it is not, as many will imagine, an original rendering. It is really a transla- tion of a translation ; in fact, M. Schwabe's French version of the Rabbinical compilation in an English dress. So that the Aramaic comes to us in a doubly dilated form. Again, it labours under the disadvantage of being based upon a text which is, admittedly, corrupt and faulty to a degree unparalleled in the whole range of Jewish literature ; for, bad as the Babylonian Talmud is in this respect, it is lucidity itself compared with parts of the Yerushalmi. A scholarly and really useful render- ing demands, at the outset, some amount of critical discrimi- nation on the part of the translator. But M. Schwabe appears to ignore this very obvious consideration altogether; for when he encounters a passage of any difficulty—and of course such abound—he just omits it, and, as we shall presently show, says nothing more about it. Nor is this all that, in our opinion, detracts from the value of the work before us. An English translation of the Talmud, or of the two Tal- mudim, may or may not be among the literary desiderata of the nineteenth century ; but unquestionably, such a translation, if made at all, should be adapted for students to whom the original is inaccessible, and who are unacquainted with the Arammau dialects and Rabbinical literature. And for readers of this class a rendering of the Gemara should be accompanied by full and exhaustive comment, illustrative and explanatory. The Talmud consists exclusively of stray fragments and loose memoranda strung together in some sort of connection by the compilers of the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries. The translation of such a work may be as faithful and bald as the author pleases ; but the translator must act the part of guide and cicerone. He must lead the novice through the involved maze of Talmudic argument ; he must expound the allegories and explain the allusions, indicate the references, and clear up the thousand- and-one difficulties encountered by Western readers in the in- vestigation of an Eastern book so peculiarly sui generis as the Talmud. There is nothing of all this in M. Schwabe's rendering of " Tractate Berakhoth ;" the needful student's apparatus is altogether wanting. The tyro is thrown into the bottomless sea of Talmudic discussion—the " Mayim sh(Ven lahem sof," as the Rabbins term it—and is left to flounder about there, sink or swim as he can or may. We regret to have to speak disparagingly of this, the first attempt ever made to English any portion of the Talmud, the more so as we consider a good transla- tion of the Yerushalmi would prove of no little value to all interested in the history and antiquities of the Jews.

The Palestinian recension of the Talmud, which is generally, though incorrectly, called the Jerusalem Talmud, is not the Talmud about which so much has been written and said. It is distinct altogether from the Babylonian compilation, which is the Talmud pair excellence of modern Jewdom. Though based upon the same Mishnah or text, it embodies the discussions and decisions of the Palestinian sages and teachers, and is the pro- duct of the schools of Tiberias, Lad, and Sephoris, jaat as the " Babli" is the work of the academies of Sara, Mechasya, and Pambeditha, which flourished for seven centuries on Baby- lonian soil. The Yernshalmi was known of old as the "Talmud d'b'ne ma'araba," the "Talmud of the Children of the West ;" and though the older of the two compilations, has never been invested with the authority attaching to the younger and more bulky work. The rivalry and antagonism that existed between the two ancient Jewish schools is amusingly reflected

• The Talmud of Jerusalon. Translated for the first time by Dr. Moses Schwabe, of the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. Vol. I., " Heraklion." London: Williams and Norgate. 1885. in many of the sayings extant of the Palestinian teachers. 0 Why is Babel (Babylon) so-called?" asks Rabbi Jochanan, to whom the redaction of this Talmud is traditionally ascribed. " Because," he replies, playing upon the word " Babel," " the Rabbins there are confused in the Law, the Mishnah, and the Gemara" (Tractate Synhedrin, 28 a.) "Why," inquires Rabbi Chanina, (Tractate Shabbath, 145 b)," do the Babylonians make themselves conspicuous in their attire ?" " Because," it is added, " they are not really learned men." " In the disputations of the Palestinian schools," runs another passage, " the sages conduct themselves with courtesy and consideration. In Babylon they are coarsely personal, and demean them- selves with violence one towards the other." The teachers, Rabba and Abaya were two of the most renowned of the Babylonian masters ; so the Yerushalmi (Tractate Succah, 28 a.) takes occasion to say, "An important matter is the vision of the chariot in Ezekiel "—this was deemed to have a mystic and philosophic significance—" but a contemptible matter is the disputation of Rabba and Abaya." So high did ill-feeling run between the rival academies of East and West, that the Babylonian teachers appear to have been openly insulted in Palestine. When Rab, who was something of a mystic, visited the Holy Land it is related that people mocked him in the streets, and called after him derisively, " What is going on in Heaven just now, old man ?" The next day he called upon the Nasi or Prince, and asked a question, —" If a man have a mother and a step-mother, a mother who treats him unkindly and a step-mother who treats him well, with which should he dwell ?"—" With the one that is kind to him," was the response, and the Rabbi returned to Babylon. This ungenerous depreciation of the teaching of the rival Amoraim apart, the Jerusalem Talmud, it must be admitted, undoubtedly embodies an older and, in some important respects, a more reliable tradition than the Babli. The dialect in which it is written is more antiquated and rather more difficult. The style is more concise and brief, and the discussions are more compact and lucid than in the case of the Eastern com- pilation. And as the ancient laws, customs, and ceremonies of the Jews were observed in Palestine for fully three hundred years after the destruction of the Temple, the Palestinian recension is the better authority iu such matters. Indeed, we agree with Dr. Schiller-Szinuessy, the Professor of Rabbinic Literature at Cambridge, that, in all save size and correctness of text, in age, in conciseness, and in the value of its contents, the Yernshalmi is in every way superior to the Babylonian Talmud.

The two great enemies with which the Palestinian Talmud has had to contend are neglect and indifference. The decay of the Western Rabbinical academies in the third century dealt the older tradition a blow from which it never recovered. Year by year, as the Babylonian schools increased in numbers and reputation, the Babli grew in bulk and in authority ; and pushing its way to the front, it gradually displaced altogether the rival compilation, which sank more and more into the background. And as the dialect in which the latter was written grew obso- lete and its teachers died out, it became more and more neglected and forgotten, until in the time of the " Geonim," or Heads of the Eastern Academies, so little was known of it, that the greatest of the Rabbins, Saadyah Gaon, had actually to learn a portion of its contents from the anti-Rabbinical, or Karaite, Jews. The Jerusalem Talmud further labours under the curious disadvan- tage of never having been persecuted or proscribed like the Babli. For some inexplicable reason, its contents were deemed inno- cuous and inoffensive to Church and State. While the Baby- lonian Gemara was publicly burnt in the market-place, and its possessors were hanged by the score, no exception was taken to the Palestinian recension ; and many a Jewish and non-Jewish scholar saved himself and the obnoxious volumes by the simple device of writing outside them Talmud Hiero- solymitanum. That persecution begets popularity was true in the case of the Talmudim, as in other matters. The proscribed book was more zealously stiuBed than ever, while the Yerushalmi was less thought of than before. And this comparative neglect of the older authority continues to this very day ; for whereas the Babli has been written about ad nauseam almost, and is the theme of articles, essays, and pamphlets without number, there is not a single work extant in any modern language treating of the Palestinian recension. Dr. Frankel wrote au introduction to the Yerushalmi—the " Mebo Hayernshalmi "—but it is in Hebrew. There is a brief account of the work in Dr. Wiinsche's German translation of the Agadic portion of the Talmud of Jerusalem ; and Dr. Schiller Szinnessy has a short—too short—notice in

his Hems Bakthuvim ; or, Occasional Notes of Hebrew MSS." Beyond this there is nothing to which we can

refer the general reader who desires to know more of the volume. Encyclopaedias which devote pages to the Tal- mud—the Babli, of course—dismiss the older and more valuable work in a brief dozen lines or so. This, however, is likely to be remedied in the course of a few years ; for

as people begin to study the Talmud less for polemical and controversial purposes, and more for the light it throws on the history, laws, and antiquities of the Jews, the value and superiority of the Palestinian tradition will receive proper recognition, and more will probably be heard of it than has hitherto been the case. We may here point out that M. Schwabe, in the version before us, nowhere gives the reader a hint that the Talmud he is translating is not the Talmud,

properly so called, but a work quite separate and distinct from it.

The Tractate "Berakhoth "—the opening tractate of both Talmudim—is devoted to prayers and blessings. It discusses how, when, and where they may be said, which are obligatory, and the circumstances under which they may be omitted. To use M. Franck's words—quoted by AL Schwabe in his single-page preface—the version of the Berakhoth carries us into,—

" The bosom of a society, and a creed in which everything is a subject of blessing and prayer. God is blessed for the bread and wine, for the fruit plucked from the trees, and the produce of the earth. Light and Sre, the rainbow, the storm, the lightning, the new moon, were so many reasons for blessing God. Every action and event in life was the occasion of blessing and prayer to God ; on rising in the morning, on retiring at night, in repose or in labour, at a birth, marriage, or death, in passing a cemetery, on seeing a prince or a king. Once the principle admitted, all possible inferences must be drawn from it."

Of these " inferences " we shall leave the readers of the Tractate to form their own opinion, merely stating that they lay down what prayers may be said standing and what sitting, what blessings may be said when one happens to be seated on the branch of a tree or engaged on the roof of a house, what one may interrupt when threatened by robbers or in danger from wild beasts, and even how one should place one's feet and bend

one's body.

Of the manner in which M. Schwabe has translated the Treatise we would now speak more fully. After pronouncing the rendering unsatisfactory, it is but right we should marshal some evidence in proof of it. We shall not do M. Schwabe the injustice of selecting some two or three-score words which, in our opinion, are incorrectly translated, nor shall we pick out a half-dozen obscure passages of unusual difficulty, to point our remarks. We shall just take a passage of the average kind, neither involved nor awkwardly constructed, and show, in a manner to be understood of those unacquainted with Aramman and unfamiliar with the original, how the translation has been done. The following is such a passage, which we select for quite a variety of reasons ; it relates to one of the greatest Jews of the first century, Gamaliel, giving us some idea of the nature of the man, and affording us an interesting glimpse into the rela- tions that existed between the Doctors of the Law in those days ; and, as rendered by M. Schwabe, is a fair sample by what it has, by what it omits, and what it should have, of his translation of the entire Tractate. It is from page 81 :-

" A disciple once asked R. Yoshna his opinion about the evening prayer, and he answered that it was optional. Having addressed the same question to R. Gamaliel, he was told it was an obligation. But, said the pupil, R. Yoshna said it was optional. When I enter the Assembly to-morrow, arise, and ask the question again. The next day the disciple did so, andrepeated his question regarding the even- ing prayer. It is an obligation, said R. Gamaliel. But, answered he, R. Yoshua tells me it is optional. R. Gamaliel, addressing himself to R. Yoshua, said : Is it true that you expressed this opinion P No. Then arise, said R. Gamaliel, and let them bear witness against you. R. Gamaliel remained seated and explained the subject, whilst R. Yoshna was standing. The assembly (shocked by this act of authority) murmured, and said to R. Hootzpith, the turgueman (drogman), that he must close the lesson. Then all the assembly rising, said to R. Gamaliel,—All have felt the effects of thy pride ! And immediately R. Elazar b. Azaria was named Nassi instead of R. Gamaliel ; he -was then sixteen years old, but (by the effects of a miracle) hie bead became in that day filled with the wisdom of old age, his hair became white."

First, then, of the rendering of the text. M. Schwabe has not translated, he has paraphrased the passage in his own fashion. The peculiar conciseness and characteristic brevity of the original are thus altogether lost. Thus, " Having addressed the same ques- tion" is in the text simply Ba v'sh'al, "he went and asked." Halacha never under any circumstances means a " question ;" on the contrary, it signifies a " decision " settled beyond any doubt whatever. " The disciple did so " is in the original, " that disciple rose and asked." The remark of the disciple, " R. Yoshua tells me it is optional," is in both cases in the form of an interrogation ; it begins with v'ha. The reply of R. Yoshua should be attributed to him as in the original, which reads Antar 14 16, " and the other said, ' No.' " Similarly, " Is it true that you expressed this opinion ? " is in the text, At hu omer r'shuth," Are you the one who declares it optional ?" "R. Gamaliel remained seated and explained the subject," does not even paraphrase the original, which states that "Gamaliel sat still and went on with his exposition," thus insulting R. Yoshna; for if he had explained the matter the people could not have resented his conduct. " Shocked by this act of authority," is M. Schwabe's idea ; there is no such remark in the original. " That he must close the lesson" does not look much like the Aramaean, heftar eth, "dismiss the people." And then comes a characteristic omission. In the original, after the word " people," or, as M. Schwabe renders it, "lesson," there occurs the following sentence,—Omno l'rabi Zinon ha-chazan enzor hithclzayl v'amar hithchaylu. It is awk- wardly constructed, and is not easy to translate as it stands but it is by no means obscure. However, M. Schwabe leaves it out altogether, says not a word about it, and proceeds with all the equanimity of a translator who has done his best with a diffi- cult reading. There is no hint that "all have felt the effects of thy pride" is a quotation from the prophecies of Nahum, chap.

v. 19. "And immediately R. Elazar was named" is altogether wrong; it was not "immediately," but after long discussion, that they " went and appointed "—holchu v' minu—Elazar ben Azariah, President of the Academy. The last sentence of the pas- sage is grossly incorrect ; " by the effects of a miracle " is entirely due to M. Schwabe's imagination—as though there were not miracles enough in Talmudic literature !—and the remainder of the verse, " his head became in that day filled with the wisdom of old age, his hair became white," represents the four single words v' nitmaleh kol rosho sebuth,—" his head was filled with ripeness." Sebak means " age," " maturity," and also "grey hair ;" but it cannot mean everything at once. However, the passage is a fair sample of the way M. Schwabe has dealt with the text ; and readers who are unacquainted with the original can now decide for themselves as to the accuracy in general of his translation of Tractate " Berakhoth."

A word or two, in conclusion, as to the annotation such a passage requires. As it stands it is far from clear, and tells us very little. By the use of the materials ready to hand in the Babylonian Talmud, the narrative could readily have been made instructive and intelligible. It seems that Gamaliel was ex- tremely proud and overbearing, and had a strong objection to R. Yoshua, who was only a poor needle-maker of humble extraction. The hostility between them, we gather from the Babli, was of old standing. They had quarrelled before about the calendar, when R. Gamaliel had, as Nasi, taken the extreme step of ordering his opponent to attend him on the day which, according to the reckoning of the latter, was the Day of Atonement. This matter is referred to in Tractate " Rosh. Hashannah," fol. 25 a. On another occasion, Gamaliel plagued his adversary on account of an opinion he ventured to express about the first-born, mentioned in " Bechoroth," fol. 36 a. And on the occasion referred to in the passage we have cited, the people saw the culminating act of oppressive intolerance towards an opponent ; hence their anger, and the deposition of their eminent chief. Another thing, the "sixteen years ". (the age of Elazar ben Azariah) is an error of the Yerushalmi which ought to have been indicated. We know that he was—as the Babli states—" eighteen years " old on the very day of his election ; he consulted his wife about it, too, and eighteen he must have been to be married at the time. As to the miracle about the hair turning white, the Babli says that, in response to a remark made about his youth, he asserted that he had found eighteen grey hairs on his head. We need, however, not dilate further upon this matter. And sufficient, we believe, has been said to justify our remark that M. Schwabe's rendering of "Berakhoth" is not a work that English readers are likely to get enthusiastic over.