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Some Useful New Websites

Some new sites have gone up over the past couple of weeks that might be of use to our readers.

The first, brought to our attention by Talmud Blog reader and commentor Zohar, is the Israel National Library’s new website of Rabbinic Manuscripts. This site replaces the old one ( with a new interface and- perhaps most importantly- the Leiden manuscript of the Yerushalmi, browasable by the pagination of the Venice edition.

The site is still in beta version and they are looking for feedback. Feel free to leave your thoughts on the interface here in the comments section and we’ll make sure to pass them on to the library. Personally, I would prefer an option to search the Yerushalmi by chapter and halakha, and also that they list the folio numbers of the manuscripts. Regardless, users should be aware that much higher quality images of the Leiden manuscript are availble on the website of its home library (easily accesable here). The only problems with that site is that it’s hard to navigate and the pictues take a long time to load- ideally one could find the folio that she needs using the NLI interface, and then just open up the bigger picture on the Leiden site if need be. Also, for manuscripts with wide lines (like Leiden), the viewing window is relatively small. [The site still isn’t linked to that of the Munich library, whose manuscripts can be accesed from there or via the NLI catalog].

The Syriacists over at Harvard’s Dumbarton Oaks research institute have compiled a useful site: “Resources for Syriac Studies– an annotated collection of free and open source books, journals, and more related to the study of Syriac.” Kishmo kein hu– the site lists and describes dozens of PDFs of books available for free online that relate to all aspects of Syriac. I haven’t gone through everything yet, but it seems like they did quite a good job of finding all that’s out there. Many of these items should be of interest to Talmudists, from those who are just getting interested in Syriac (for whom I’d suggest starting with Brock’s A Brief Outline of Syriac Literature), and to those who already turn to Syriac frequently (see R. Payne Smith’s Thesaurus Syriacus).



4 thoughts on “Some Useful New Websites

  1. Thanks so much for this, I wouldn’t really consider myself a talmudist, I am a post high school/pre yeshiva student, but I find it really amazing to see ancient manuscripts of Gemaras I’m learning!

    I haven’t had a chance to look at ‘A Brief Outline of Syriac Literature’, but for what reason would you need it when studying Talmud, is it because it is similar to the Aramaic used in Gemara?

    • Zohar says:

      You don’t need Syriac at all for learning the Talmud. It can come in handy as you point out, for advanced lexicographic studies. Also, some scholars actually read the ancient manuscripts of literature in Syriac, Greek, Persian, etc, and then compare and contrast that with the Talmud in its cultural context. Pretty cool, huh?

      • I’d just add that for me, studying Syriac has also helped a lot with understanding the Bavli’s grammar. Brock’s “Outline” is good for the cultural stuff that Zohar mentioned. I think for someone who wants to learn some Syriac on his own I would suggest a book that isn’t availble on that site- Takamitsu Muraoka’s “Classical Syriac for Hebraists”.
        I hope the manuscripts viewing continues in yeshiva…

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