Monday, March 12, 2007


Hopefully I'll have time to write more soon, but for the time being here is a vignette from Jews in the Woods.

After hearing the first aliyah read i needed to use the bathroom. On my way back i got into a conversation with Joe Gindi. In the next minute i noticed something odd coming from the next room where the torah reading was taking place. it certainly wasn't english, but it didn't sound quite like Hebrew either. A closer listen indicated it was Aramaic. Soon as I figured out the Aramaic, it was back to Hebrew. Curious, to figure out more precisely what was happening, i went back to the torah reading. Lev, would read a line in hebrew, and then using the same cantillation patters, BZ would read the translation in Aramaic using a targum. Prior to entering the room, i had only a vague idea that this practice ever existed, let alone in contemporary Judaism.

Apparently, many Yemenite communities continue to use the Aramaic chanting model today. The practice dates to the point at which Aramaic was still the language spoken by Jews (technically, they began being referred to as Jews centuries later). In ancient times Torah was read publicly and texts where scarce as were their translations. To make the reading more accesible the reader stopped after each sentence and another reader would translate into Aramaic so the audience would understand the reading.

Following the LN/BZ simul-targum display the next aliyah was translated into yiddish, and finally ASL. I have not been to a JitW where i didn't learn of some new funky Jewish practice. In this case, i was happy to see a practice, that aside from use in the Yemenite community, hasn't been in common usage in well over a millennium.


At 3/12/2007 , Anonymous rebecca m said...

there was also an english (JPS) targum before that (Sophie/Shalom).

As far as I could tell, it was an amazingly creative response to realizing the sefer torah was pasul and we had to switch to layning from chumashim.

At 3/12/2007 , Blogger bpt said...

Bring on the 3 hour Torah reading!

At 3/13/2007 , Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 3/13/2007 , Blogger Yael said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3/13/2007 , Blogger Yael said...

What could our lineup have been if we had known the Torah to be passul from the get-go? Here's what I'm thinking:
1- Tanakh/English
2- Tanakh/Targum
3- Tanakh/Septuagint
4- Tanakh/Vulgate
5- Tanakh/Yiddish
6- Tanakh/Esperanto
7- Tanakh/Klingon
Maftir - Tanakh/Pig Latin? That's the best I can come up with for Shabbat Parah.

At 3/13/2007 , Blogger BZ said...

Klingon would be appropriate for the 7th aliyah, since that's where we read about the things growing out of Moses's forehead!

At 3/16/2007 , Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der ┼íteg) said...

I used to go to a particular Yemenite shul in Southern Jerusalem frequently for Friday Night... only went there once during Saturday Morning, though, because not only did i start at 7am, but leining with Tarjum took SO LOOOOOONG...

I think when it comes to Tarjum languages, priority should be given to Judeo dialects, such as Yiddish and Ladino, before thinking about the Vulgate. Then there's the Septuagint, which was originally from a Jewish context, and there could be both Unqelos *and* Peshitta (or other Jewish Aramaic/Syraic translations).


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