English, Reviews

On ed. Katz of Yerushalmi Qiddushin

Katz Yerushalmi

Menachem Katz, Jerusalem Talmud: Tractate Qiddushin, critical edition and short explanation (Jerusalem: Yad Ben Zvi and Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, 2015)

Amit Gvaryahu in conversation with Yedidah Koren*

Menahem Katzedition of Yerushalmi Qiddushin is incredibly useful. It presents the entire tractate divided into sugyot and subsections and a punctuated text and layed out line by line. Katz adds a short commentary, references to parallels, quotes in medieval compendia and commentaries, and collects all the variants. In short, it is a wonderful tool and highlights what is sorely lacking for the rest of Yerushalmi.

As with any edition or study of the Yerushalmi, establishing the text is the most primary and often difficult task. There is only one complete MS of the Palestinian Talmud (Leiden, Scaliger 3). This leaves us searching for genizah fragments, quotations in other works, and parallels in Palestinian midrashim. Katz offers both a synoptic edition at the end of the volume and a concise textual commentary at the end of each sugya. He not only presents all the evidence to readers, he also makes editorial choices about the correct reading (albeit not in the main text).

Katz’ synopsis includes MS Leiden, all genizah fragments, parallels within the Yerushalmi (often useful as a textual witness because of the mechanical transfer of parallels within this Talmud) and a sugya copied in many textual witnesses of Leviticus Rabbah. Katz does not include in his synopses, however, quotations of the Yerushalmi in Yalkut Shim’oni or Midrash ha-gadol. This is a debatable editorial choice.  The synopsis does not contain references to specific fragments: instead they are collated into copies and identified according to the numbers of copies in the synopsis. (The signatures are on pp. ה-ו in nn 17-20). In this age, when any fragment can be called up online with a signature, this can be frustrating. I would prefer that the synopsis note the shelfmark or even FGP number of each fragment, along with the number of the MS. Also debatable is the decision to print a synoptic edition that takes up about half the volume, given that the variants are often minor. Perhaps a critical apparatus in print would have been enough? That said, in my work I have consulted the printed synopsis numerous times and its accessibility and clarity are very useful.

In an online appendix Katz includes a comprehensive list of  quotations of Yerushalmi Qiddushin in medieval Talmudic commentaries. This is an invaluable resource for anyone trying to make sense of the text of the Yerushalmi, as well as for historians of Yerushalmi scholarship.

The text is a diplomatic edition of MS Leiden, and looks a lot like the Historical Dictionary of the Hebrew Language edition of the Yerushalmi (= “ed. Jerusalem”), which also presents MS Leiden. Given the existence of a synoptic edition at the end of the book, it may have been preferable to present a smoother text – with Katz’s suggestions for emendations – and subtly marked departures from MS Leiden.

Sometimes, the decision to present a conservative diplomatic edition presents a patently incorrect text. An example is the following line, which appears on p. 242 l. 21:

מעשה בשפחה בדרום שהיו קורין עליה ערר, ושלח ר’ את ר’ רומינוס לבדקה

A story of a slave-girl in the south, whose lineage was suspect, and Rabbi sent Rabbi Rominos to examine her.

Although not marked as dubious in ed. Jerusalem, the reading שפחה makes no sense. Who would bother questioning the lineage of a slave-girl, whose lineage is known to be lowly? She could never marry a priest in any event. Moreover, the discovery of R. Rominos described in the following line, that one of the elders of the family converted as a toddler, confirms that the story is about a family whose ability to marry priests was called into question. Indeed, two parallels in the Yerushalmi (MS Leiden), y. Bik.1:5 (351 l. 30 – 352 l. 5) and y. Yev. 8:2 (896, l. 26-39) have משפחה for שפחה. These are both duly marked in the synopsis, but not in any of the apparatuses or the main text. The parallel Bavli passage has עיר (b. Kid. 78b). This conforms to the Bavli’s tendency to swap geographic markers for genealogical ones in discussions of lineage. It also provides additional evidence for משפחה. Since the correct reading, corroborated by the parallels, is משפחה, Katz should have noted this in one of his apparatuses (cf. p. 232 l. 3 and p. 220 l. 65 where Katz notes significant variants not represented in MS Leiden), although it is unclear in this instance if Katz noticed this corruption and decided not to correct it in the main text, or whether it escaped his notice completely.

Katz divides the tractate into individual sugyot and sub-sugyot. He gives each a number and a title, and then numbers the lines on each mishnah consecutively. Now we can cite chapter, halakha and Katz line. This is great for reference, and others should consider replicating it. The relevant mishnah is printed before each sugya (“for a didactic reason”, Katz explains in his introduction) and the line numbers begin again at each mishnah unit. The text of the Mishnah is reproduced from MS Kaufmann A50.  (As Katz notes, Yaakov Zussman showed that the Yerushalmi did not originally contain Mishnah or even lemmas of Mishnah). There are four apparatuses: text, commentary, parallels and quotations (in this order). There is also a source index and a subject index at the end of the book. The latter, especially, is useful and important.

Students of Yerushalmi know there is a library of reference books to consult on every passage of Yerushalmi, especially Epstein, Lieberman, Sokoloff and Moskovitz. Constantly checking these authors can feel like consulting a shopping list in a store where you do not know what, if anything, you might find. Katz collects all that literature and synthesizes it into his commentary. It is a one-stop shop for anything written on the text of the sugya (usually in Hebrew). Significantly, he incorporates all of Saul Lieberman’s notes from his entire oeuvre, and builds off them. He also adds more literature and adds discussions of loanwords and terms.

There are, of course, scholarly desiderata that remain after the publication of this edition. There is little treatment of realia; there are no maps or charts (an exception is the chart on p. 241, which illustrates tricky family relationships). Sometimes Katz simply says that place names are place names (p. 225), which can be disappointing in an academic commentary, and will hopefully be addressed in the long commentary.

The commentary in this volume is short and Katz promises a long commentary soon. In my experience, the short commentary is already great. Katz strikes an excellent balance between not saying enough and saying too much. It feels like Rashi on Yerushalmi for the first time. He holds your hand and guides you through the sugyot expertly. By studying Yerushalmi with Katz’s commentary, a learner can understand the flow of the sugya, the terminology, and the central textual debates. Katz also offers short introductions to sugyot, explaining their connection to the Mishnah or to other sources, how they are structured, etc. What this is not is a Steinsaltz or Artscroll for Yerushalmi (the latter is being completed rapidly in both English in Hebrew). After reading the commentary you feel there is still work to be done. I would not use it to ease my way into learning Yerushalmi with no background. But it does make the scholarly study of Yerushalmi easier and more convenient.

Ed. Katz offers a great example of what a proper workspace for the study of Yerushalmi should look like. It allows us to conduct better research – textual, literary and historical – with less legwork. Qiddushin (and parallels in other tractates) is now the most available and best documented tractate of Yerushalmi, because of ed. Katz. For all of our quibbles and corrections, this is a signature milestone in the history of Yerushalmi scholarship for which I am very appreciative.

* This review was written by Gvaryahu, based on notes from a conversation with Koren, whose current project is based in large part on chapter 4 of Qiddushin. The first person statements in this review are Koren’s.


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