A Rare Translation of the Mishnah into Judeo-Arabic

Among the manuscripts found in the Cairo Genizah are fragments of a translation of the Mishnah—the older stratum of the Talmud, compiled around 200 CE—into Judeo-Arabic. This dialect, which is Arabic written in Hebrew characters, was the everyday tongue of Jews in North Africa and parts of Spain and the Middle East for much of the last millennium. David Wasserstein describes the fragments and their significance:

Translations of the Bible into the vernacular . . . are widely known and preserved in hundreds, if not thousands, of manuscript copies [in the Genizah]. Less well-known, and less frequently found, are translations of important rabbinic texts. . . . Jacob N. Epstein published this and another related fragment [of the Mishnah] in 1950. As he pointed out, the translation demonstrates that the Mishnah was being studied by people who needed a version in their daily language. The format reminds us of modern-day Loeb editions of Greek and Latin texts, with Greek or Latin on the left-hand pages facing English versions on the right. . . .

Since then, however, several more fragments from what seems to be the same manuscript have turned up in the Genizah. . . . The spread of passages, from six tractates in all, across three of the six orders in the Mishnah provides additional support for Epstein’s belief that the entire Mishnah was included in this manuscript.

These are not the only fragments of Judeo-Arabic versions of mishnaic tractates, but they all come from a single manuscript and for that reason may have much more to tell us than we might learn from isolated fragments of other manuscripts. On the basis of the pages we have, we can . . . compute that the entire Mishnah, with its translation, in this single manuscript must have filled nearly 6,000 pages, making for an enormous and, in view of the thickness of the paper, unwieldy, multivolume copy of the text. . . .

Epstein [dated] it to the 10th or 11th century, suggesting that it was copied in North Africa or Spain, with what looked like a preference for Spain reflecting the magnificence of the Golden Age. More recently, however, Edna Engel . . . has suggested a later date, and that in its turn may hint rather at a North African provenance.

Read more at Taylor-Schechter Genizah

More about: Cairo Geniza, History & Ideas, Jewish language, Mishnah, Translation

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University