What Talmudic Manuscripts Tell Us

The Talmud and its commentaries and related texts are famously difficult to understand. Adding to the difficulty are the multiplicity of versions: the oldest part of the Talmud, known as the Mishnah (from the early 3rd century CE) is mirrored by a parallel text, probably composed about a century later, called the Tosefta, which contains much identical material and a host of variations. Then there is the Jerusalem Talmud (or Yerushalmi), compiled around 400 CE and later largely supplanted by the 7th-century Babylonian Talmud. And each of these texts stems from manuscripts that themselves vary. Tamar Marvin provides an introduction to the subject:

There is something astounding about coming to know that the texts we take for granted, that we tend to see as stable and fixed, have a history of being handed down that is intimately connected to the lives of individual humans. We often don’t have much information to color our understanding of these individuals, but their handwriting serves as testimony to their presence and efforts. In most cases, the textual histories of even foundational texts hangs on a thread, resting on a small number of textual witness. (Textual witnesses are just what they sound like: manuscripts that serve as early evidence for the modern printed texts, or postmodern digital texts, that we see before us.)

There are, of course, plentiful manuscripts as a whole of such texts, but most are copies of each other (or of similar texts, no longer extant). In other words, there are few early exemplars that serve as “witnesses” to the version of the text coming out of antiquity, often, as for the Mishnah and Tosefta, out of orality and into textuality.

Read more at Stories from Jewish History

More about: Manuscripts, Mishnah, Talmud


Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security