English, Reviews

Straight-up Philology, Served Cold

Robert Brody, Mishnah and Tosefta Studies, (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University Magnes Press, 2014)

The “Jerusalem school” of rabbinics has traditionally avoided writing in any language other than Hebrew. In his introduction to the collected works of J. N. Epstein, Ezra Zion Melammed wrote that his teacher, J. N. Epstein “while living in the exile of Europe, wrote most of his studies in foreign languages, and from the day he ascended to Jerusalem, to teach at the Hebrew University, wrote all his studies in Hebrew […]. He also rewrote his opus magnum, Introduction to the Mishnaic Text, which was written in German and ready for the press, in his clear Hebrew […].” Even in the United States, students of this school published mainly in Hebrew: Saul Lieberman, Israel Francus, Abraham Goldberg, and Shamma Friedman wrote most of their enduring and important works in Hebrew (David Weiss-Halivni is somewhat of an exception to this rule, but the bulk of his scholarship, too, is written in Hebrew). One of Jacob Neusner’s standard complaints was the lack of scholarship in “a European language” –  and the field has seen a sea change in this regard. Most scholars of rabbinics now publish extensively if not exclusively in “European languages,” especially English.


Except, of course, in Jerusalem. Here, Robert Brody is somewhat of an exception. He is the only Hebrew University professor of Talmud who published an important monograph in a language other than Hebrew. Mishnah and Tosefta Studies now joins his The Geonim of Babylonia and the Shaping of Medieval Jewish Culture as an important addition to Brody’s English oeuvre. It is part of a long-term project, which Brody describes in his introduction, of a commentary on Bavli Ketubot out of which grew a commentary on Mishnah and Tosefta Ketubot. In the course of that work, Brody understood that he wanted to “tackle in a more systematic way several topics about which I had thought, and sometimes lectured, over a period of years.” And he wanted to do it in English. The language shouldn’t fool you, thought: Brody might be writing in English, but the book is decidedly Jerusalemite: a crash-course in straight-up philology, clearheaded and free of jargon, served cold.

Brody takes us back to basics: examining all the evidence, sometimes offering simple solutions for complex problems, and sometimes admitting cheerfully that he has none. He moves abruptly from example to example – it seems that he is really interested in presenting examples, and that the niceties of introductions and conclusions are so burdensome that he sometimes does away with them – stopping to point out how they refute this or that scholarly consensus that has solidified over the years.

In the four parts of the book, Brody discusses four scholarly paradigms that have become dominant over the last decades in the field of Mishnah/Tosefta studies. He discusses each one with a series of test cases, through which the reader can grasp Brody’s guiding principle: the evidence is always prime, each case is different, and scholarly paradigms are only as useful as the answers they provide. Each of these paradigms is associated with a scholar or several scholars who introduced them to the scholarly community. In each case Brody discusses the work of those scholars, often pointing out that the paradigms which are named for them are far from their original intent. The four paradigms are:

1. There are two distinct versions of the Mishnah, one influenced by the Bavli and transmitted with the Bavli, the other influenced by the Yerushalmi and transmitted alone. An outgrowth of this paradigm is that the MSS of the Mishnah are considered more “Palestinian” and thus more “authentic” than the Mishnah in the Bavli. This paradigm was developed by Jacob Sussman and David Rosenthal, and is discussed little beyond Jerusalem and its satellites (e.g. Christine Hayes’s Between the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds, which problematizes this thesis as well). While this thesis seems simple enough – and of little importance to non-philologists – it has important implications for the history of the redaction and transmission of the text of the Mishnah, and also emphasizes the fuzziness between redaction and transmission in the first place. As Ishay Rosen-Zvi notes, studies of the orality of the Mishnah, for example, would do well to think of the Sussmanian assertion that the Mishnah was a completely oral text in the formative stages of its creation, as well as note the scholastic changes that the Mishnah underwent while it was being studied in the Talmudic academies which placed it at the center of their curriculum. Or did they? Brody tests Sussman-Rosenthal’s thesis of Talmuds influencing Mishnah text by examining several examples of discrepancies between the two versions of Mishnah which do not match this model. For example, there is no Babylonian Talmud on tractate Shekalim, but the distinction between the two strands of transmission  -independent manuscripts versus Bavli manuscripts – still exists. Additionally, there is no Palestinian Talmud on the order Kodashim, but the distinction still stands. Brody discusses the ways in which we could account for these differences in the absence of a simple model like the one suggested by Sussman and Rosenthal.

2. The Tosefta predates the Mishnah. This paradigm is often attributed to a series of articles which culminated in Shamma Friedman’s Tosefta Atikta (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan Universtiy Press, 2003). Brody agrees that “there is no doubt that Friedman is correct in claiming that the Tosefta sometimes preserves sources which are identical or very similar to those underlying specific passages of the Mishnah.” In Brody’s opinion, however, the operative word is sometimes. Since he has no general preference for one option over the other, he presents himself as an impartial observer, in each case trying to point out which option makes more sense (his treatment of Judith Hauptman’s Rereading the Mishnah, which espouses a similar point of view but makes more far-reaching claims, is somewhat less deferential).

3. The two MSS of the Tosefta present versions of the Tosefta which are independent of each other, and which have their origins in the distant past of the redaction and early oral transmission of the Tosefta. Here Brody really shines as a master philologist. In  his opus magnum, a slim Hebrew book called The Textual History of the Sheiltot (New York and Jerusalem: AAJR, 1991) Brody offers his stemmatic analysis of the relationship between all known textual witnesses of the Geonic work Sheiltot, a compendium of sermons on the weekly Torah reading, based mainly on the Babylonian Talmud. While Sheiltot has nine full MSS and countless more textual witnesses, Tosefta has between three full witnesses and some additional partial ones. Brody transferred his philological acumen from one work to the other to point out some facts that have the potential to revolutionize the textual study of the Tosefta.

First, Brody asserts that all the witnesses of the Tosefta are descended from one single written exemplar. Even the major discrepancies between the manuscripts can be explained according to this model. Thus, unlike the Babylonian Talmud, the Tosefta is best analyzed as a written text, and the variant readings as errors or corrections in the transmission of a written text. Most intriguing is his discussion of what Yoav Rosenthal has termed “changes of place,” when one segment appears in different places in two witnesses not as a part of a list with an interchanging order of segments, but simply on its own. While Rosenthal in a recent article uses these changes to reconstruct a complex redactional history of the Tosefta, Brody is – as usual – skeptical. He prefers to ascribe these changes to insertion of marginal glosses in the wrong column, noting that the gap between the two places where these kinds of segments are located in the two MSS tends to be roughly the size of one column of text or its multiples – 140 words or so (pp. 50-51).

4. Rabbinic texts are best presented in diplomatic editions, according to the “best manuscript” available. Brody “passionately” disagrees, and thus the book ends with an “impassioned plea” to change the dominant practice of printing rabbinic texts as diplomatic editions of one manuscript, rather than making educated editorial statements as to the wording of the original text itself. Two recent editions come to mind – Kahana’s diplomatic edition of Sifre Numbers, as opposed to Milikowsky’s eclectic edition of Seder Olam, which is closer to Brody’s plea.

The plea itself is in fact somewhat less than “impassioned,” as is the rest of the book: Brody is direct and curt. This book has no funny anecdotes about renaissance scholars , no apologies for the relevance of scholarship, and definitely no cultural criticism. In a field that constantly says its texts are indeterminate and fluid while adhering for the most part to whatever can be found in the canonized translations and computerized databases, Brody refreshingly lacks any desire to self-reflect. Words stand in the center of this book, and perhaps out of respect for those same words, they are used sparingly.

The book is generally well-edited, except for the too-common passive constructs and several copyediting glitches – for example, the name Lieberman (as in Saul) is sometimes spelled Liebermann and sometimes not. This could have easily been corrected. I would have also appreciated Hebrew texts as well as the translations Brody provides, but they will probably be in the Hebrew book slated for publication soon. This book is an important contribution to the textual study of Mishnah and Tosefta, an important corrective to comfortable paradigms and rules-of-thumb that dominate rabbinics, and for the first time all of this is available in English. Ignore it at your peril, and assign it to your graduate students.

English, Guest Posts, Reviews

‘Introduction to the Grammar of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic’- A Review

Elitzur Bar-Asher Siegal, Introduction to the Grammar of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, (Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2013) – Reviewed by Aaron Koller

For those interested in the grammar of the Bavli, the past few years have seen a steady stream of important new publications. The book under review here will take pride of place in any serious study of the language, as it is the only volume that presents a full picture of the language. An advanced seminar can now work through Bar-Asher Siegal’s book, pore over Sokoloff’s monumental Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), study Moshe Morgenstern’s Studies in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2011; see my review here), and use the series of high-quality publications of magic bowls (many also with the involvement of Morgenstern),[1] and emerge with a good knowledge of the dialect.


Perhaps more, however, students in such a seminar will emerge with a deep sense of the challenges facing researchers of the dialect. Those challenges are well adumbrated in Morgenstern’s volume, and they are addressed in Bar-Asher Siegal’s book throughout. These challenges also make the notion of an introductory grammar to the dialect somewhat problematic from the outset. So while Bar-Asher Siegal’s book is excellent, as will be detailed below, it should also be said that the problems of genre and audience are serious here. The author himself notes at the outset that because of the nature of JBA and our data, it is “difficult to write an introductory grammar book of the sort available for Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Aramaic, Classical Arabic, Classical Greek, Classical Latin, etc.” (§0.8, p. 33).

One of the strengths of the book is its precision, both philological and linguistic. (There is a seven-page “glossary for linguistic terminology” at the end [251-257], apparently reflecting the author’s understanding of the demands he is making of his readers.) While there are exercises for each chapter (found, oddly, at the end of the book in a single bloc (pp. 259-286)), this can be a teaching grammar only for advanced students. But let me be clear: the rigor reflected on every page of the book is to be applauded, even if it makes things complex. The only alternatives, in the current state of our knowledge, are to forego a serious analysis of the language or to rely on the printed editions in all their glorious corruption.

Bar-Asher Siegal’s book relies on original research in the manuscripts of the Bavli and original grammatical analysis by a scholar who moves effortlessly between Semitic philology and linguistics. This is as good as an “introduction to Jewish Babylonian Aramaic” can be, and it is difficult to imagine anyone producing a better grammar of this type until there are qualitative advances in the field of JBA.

Bar-Asher Siegal argues, both in the introduction to the book (pp. 28-31) and in an article published in the same year,[2] that there are no really reliable manuscripts for the Bavli. This is against the methodology preached by Yechezkel Kutscher, which has proven so productive for the Mishnah and the Sifra, in particular. Whereas Morgenstern contends that there are such texts, but they are texts not seriously studied by Kutscher – namely, the Early Eastern manuscripts – Bar-Asher Siegal’s claim is that there are no manuscripts that can be utilized as the “primary texts” due to their exceptional reliability. What that means in practical terms is that each and every linguistic phenomenon, from orthography to morphology to syntax, has to be investigated thoroughly and independently in all of the manuscripts. And the result is that many of the paragraphs in the grammar contain references to textual readings in particular manuscripts.[3]

This position comes as something of a disappointment to textual scholars, who would like to be able to study the reliable manuscripts and be confident in the text found therein. Bar-Asher Siegal’s denial that this is the case means there is no text that can be studied to learn the grammar; there is an inescapable circle of reconstructing the grammar and ascertaining the text. If this were a pure circle, there would be no entry point, of course, and there would seemingly be no reliable criteria for determining which witness to follow on any given feature. We need some place to start. While Morgenstern looks to the EEMs, Eljakim Wajsberg has said that there are some “actually good” manuscripts of the Bavli, but apparently is confident in only two: a Yemenite manuscript in Oxford of Sukkah, and a Geniza fragment of Bava Metsia‘.[4] Even if they are not infallible, these texts give us an entry point into the grammar. Here we have mostly reliable manuscripts that provide some of the needed grammatical data. Using this foundation, Bar-Asher Siegal’s method can then be employed: each feature and phenomenon can be studied throughout all of the witnesses in an effort to write a real grammar.

One of the theoretical points made by the author which constantly accompany the analysis is that the text of the Bavli is a problematic witness for JBA. This is for two reasons. First, the Bavli seems to reflect different dialects. This is true not only in the well-known tractates with a somewhat different grammar;[5] randomly distributed throughout the Talmud are features that ought no co-exist within the same dialect. One example is found in §4.2, #6 (pp. 91-92). Here Bar-Asher Siegal discusses forms such as תלמידיך “your student,” where the singular form shows an unexpected yod before the suffixed possessive pronoun, and תלמידך “your students,” where the plural form does not have the expected yod before the suffixed possessive pronoun. He explains how each form may have developed – the former through reanalysis of the yod as part of the suffix rather than a pluralizing morpheme on the noun, and the latter through a sound change of ay > a before a word-final consonant (/_C#). Bar-Asher Siegal then comments:

If this situation reflects the actual forms of JBA, then clearly the two phenomena could not reflect one stage in one language, since either /y/ elided or its morphological role was reanalyzed. Thus, the various forms should either reflect different historical stages or two dialects. This is another example where JBA regularly reflects more than one linguistics system.

Second, however, and more fundamentally, the Bavli may not reflect JBA because scribes often try to mask developments within colloquial language in their written texts. When manuscripts differ between a more archaic and a later form, it often cannot be known whether the text originally had the older form and this was later mistakenly updated, or whether it original reflected the newer form and was then mistakenly “corrected” to the older form. Bar-Asher Siegal explains carefully (and in more detail than the summary offered here) on p. 30 why this is such a far-reaching problem, and concludes, “we may have to be satisfied with the fact that it is not always possible to determine which phenomenon is original. Often it is only possible to raise the various options regarding each and every form.” Fortunately, much of the time Bar-Asher Siegal does reach a conclusion regarding which form is to be preferred, but this caution is indeed found throughout the book.

After the methodological introduction, the book opens with a paragraph introducing orthography, that ends, “The goal of this section is to provide an overview of the different orthographic practices one will encounter in the manuscripts” (§1.1, p. 37). This makes it clear that beginning Talmudists are not the target audience of the book.[6] But this exemplifies the strengths of the book, as well: the grammar of JBA has never received this thorough and sophisticated a study, and anyone, beginner student to advanced scholar, who studies any section of the book will be enriched by it.

Here and there are claims or analyses with which one could quibble. To take one example, Bar-Asher Siegal discusses the pharygealization of the א in words borrowed into JBA. Following Breuer, he identifies this process in the word Ṭayyi’, for example, which appears as טייעא in JBA. Here it may also be that the ע is the result of a folk etymology, however; in many of the other examples he gives of this phenomenon (§3.1.4, pp. 71-72), one wonders whether the presence of a non-etymological ע simply points to the lack of any opposition between א and ע in the dialect, as he discusses in a different example (עדי “these”) later (§, p. 81). This is the level at which the criticisms take place, however: building on the wide-ranging and fundamental work offered in this book itself, it may be possible to offer suggestions in different areas.

There are comparisons made throughout the book to other languages. Generally, these comparisons have one of two purposes. Sometimes there is a historical point being made, or implied; this is the case when the comparison is to Mishnaic Hebrew, Mandaic, Syriac, or North Eastern Neo-Aramaic dialects, for example. In such cases, it is likely that when there is similarity there is influence. Comparisons are also made to Akkadian, Greek, and other languages, presumably just for typological purposes (although Akkadian certainly did leave an impression on Eastern Aramaic, including JBA). Cross-linguistic data is put to good use in understanding how some of the distinctive features of JBA developed and are used. One example are the enclitic forms of the pronouns used on participles. Bar-Asher Siegal is able to observe that across languages, it is not uncommon for co-referential (redundant) pronouns to become a copula or a marker of agreement, and the originally dislocated element gain a central role in the clause, so that an originally marked construction becomes unmarked (§4.5.2, pp. 98-99). This allows for a clear presentation of the development of עדיפנא אנא “I am preferable” from an original אנא עדיף אנא.

Beginning in chapter 5 (p. 111), the book focuses on the verb. It should be noted that there is no artificial division found in this book between morphology and syntax, so never is the student asked to memorize forms without being told what function those forms play. As forms are introduced, their roles in the language are made clear, as can be seen in the Table of Contents (available here). At the back of the book (beginning on p. 334), there is an alternative Table of Contents, however, with the subjects arranged in the order one might find them in a traditional grammar: orthography, phonology (vowels, consonants), morphology (nouns, pronouns, verbs), syntax. In both it is clear that syntax plays a much larger role in this grammar than in most “introductory” grammars, especially in the later chapters. Indeed, although Bar-Asher Siegal is gracious in giving credit to early scholars for describing the syntax of JBA, the reader will find sophisticated discussions of many syntactic constructions here. The student of general Semitics may well benefit from these discussions even if only for comparative purposes.

One of the more ambitious parts of the book is a full presentation of the Tense – Aspect – Mood (TAM) system of JBA (§7.2, pp. 162-168). Here Bar-Asher Siegal parts ways with most older presentations, and denies that the prefix conjugation expresses the irrealis mood; he also argues that the verb הו”י, in different forms, serves to mark the tense of imperfective verbs as past or future. As in some of Morgenstern’s work, there is here a constant interplay between the conceptualization of the grammar (here, the TAM system) and the philological work with the manuscripts. It is of critical importance for the broad theory to ascertain whether the proper verbal form in a passage is איעול or עייל, for example, but the theory itself also provides justification for preferring one form (in this case, איעול), so there is something of a feedback loop here, which needs caution but also strengthens the analysis.

Related to the TAM system is the forms of the verb הו”י, and Bar-Asher Siegal deftly shows (§, pp. 168-170) that the verb went from a fully-conjugated verb in a sentence such as כי הוינן אזלין בתריה דר’ יוחנן “when we were walking after R. Yohanan” (b. Berakhot 23a, in MS M) to being frozen in its 3ms form, such as כי הוה אזלינן בתריה דר’ אלעזר “when we were walking after R. El‘azar” (b. Shabbat 12a). The analysis concludes with the note that cross-linguistically, “loss of agreement is related to cliticization,” and it is therefore possible that הוה had become a tense prefix before the participle, rather than a real verb.

There are stimulating proposals and analyses in every section. Those who put the most into the book will get the most out of it. Following the exercises and the vocabulary sections will enable students to feel quite comfortable with JBA as a language. There are some typographical errors which will hopefully be corrected in future editions, but none that I noticed could create obstacles for learning.

I mentioned earlier that this is the best introduction to JBA with the current state of the field. The field is at a high point now, in terms of the quality, quantity, and sophistication of the research being produced. But it is also now clear what would be needed to usher in a new era of JBA studies: a full critical edition of the Bavli. This would, in light of the discussion above, need to be an eclectic edition, and producing such an edition would perforce generate new linguistic and philological insights at every turn. It would also continue the feedback loop: as our texts get better, the grammar will get better, and as the grammar gets better, both the texts and how well we understand them will improve.

Bar-Asher Siegal’s text ends, rather abruptly, with a quotation from Mo‘ed Qaṭan 28a: רבה הוה קא יתיב קמיה דרב נחמן, חזייה דקא מנמנם “Rabbah was sitting in the presence of Rav Nahman, and saw that he was dozing off.” For anyone with an interest in the Bavli, it will be difficult to doze off in the middle of this book. The rigor and thoroughness make for intellectually stimulating and productive study, and open up new avenues in grammatical and linguistic analysis of the Bavli, that most cherished and most challenging of texts.


[1] See Shaul Shaked, James Nathan Ford, and Siam Bhayro, with contributions from Matthew Morgenstern and Naama Vilozny, Aramaic Bowl Spells: Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Bowls (Leiden: Brill, 2013).

[2] See also Bar-Asher Siegal’s more systematic discussion in “Reconsidering the Study of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic- Five Decades After E. Y. Kutscher and his Influential Methodology,” Zeitschrift der Deutschen  Morgenländischen Gesellschaft  163 (2013), 341-364.

[3] It should be noted that the book does not contain a list of the manuscripts used or the abbreviations utilized to refer to them; the reader is sent to Sokoloff’s Dictionary for that. While Sokoloff’s foundational position in the study of JBA makes this not unreasonable, it still would have been convenient to include the list in the book.

[4] See Eitan Pinsky, “הגרמטיקליזציה של הפועל הוה בצירוף הוה+בינוני בארמית של התלמוד הבבלי” (MA thesis: Hebrew University, 2013), 10 n. 43.

[5] On which see most thoroughly Yochanan Breuer, “The Babylonian Aramaic in Tractate Karetot according to MS Oxford [Bodl. heb. b. 1],” Aramaic Studies 5 (2007), 1-45.

[6] Even advanced students will have to work hard to follow what is being said in passages such as, “Locative PPC [= predicative possessive construction]. In this type of PPC the PR [= possessor] is encoded as the place where the PD [= possessed] is located. The common construction is structurally an existential sentence with the PD behaving as its subject, and the PR as the location. In JBA the PR follows the preposition ב ‘in’ (§, p. 107).” The first example given is then לית ביה מיא “It does not have water” (B. Qam. 61a), which seems much simpler than the analysis provided.

Aaron Koller is associate professor of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University. His most recent book is Esther in Ancient Jewish Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Guest Posts, Reviews, עברית

‘מכילתא דרשב”י פרשת נזיקין’

מחר, ה-30 ליוני, יתקיים האירוע השנתי לזכר ד”ר ליאורה אליאס בר-לבב ז”ל בספרייה הלאומית בירושלים. הערב יוקדש לצאת ספרה מכילתא דרשב”י פרשת נזיקין: נוסח, מונחים, מקורות ועריכה, ירושלים 2013. לרגל הארוע אנו מפרסמים כאן ביקורת על הספר מאת אסף רוזן-צבי.

ספר זה הוא עיבוד קל של עבודת הדוקטור של ליאורה אליאס בר-לבב ז”ל שהושלמה לאחר פטירתה. הספר עוסק בעריכתה היצירתית של המכילתא דרשב”י. לצערנו עבודה זו נקטעה ונזקקה בעצמה למעורבות פעילה של עורך לצורך התקנתה לפרסום. זכתה אליאס בר לבב בכך שעבודת עריכה זו תיעשה בידי פרופ’ מנחם כהנא שהוא האדם המתאים ביותר לכך הן מההיבט האישי והן מההיבט המקצועי.

מלבד העיסוק החשוב בשאלת אופי עריכתה של המכילתא דרשב”י והיחס למקבילותיה תרומתו הגדולה של הספר היא בניתוחים הבהירים ובפרשנויות המחודשות הרבות שבו לקטעים שונים מהמכילתא, שלא זכתה, כידוע, לפירושים רבים. ככזה, ספר זה הינו חובה עבור כל מי שעוסק במדרשי התנאים בכלל ובקטעי המכילתא דרשב”י על פרקים כא-כב בספר שמות בפרט. את עיקרי חידושיה סיכם כהנא במילים הבאות (עמ’ יא):

שורה ארוכה של חידושים פרשניים מאירי עיניים בהבנתן המילולית של דרשות המכילתא, בהארת מובנם המדויק של מונחים מדרשיים, בחשיפת הזיקה הספרותית העמוקה של המכילתא למשנה ובייחוד לתוספתא ואף בפיתוח תובנות מתודולוגיות מחודשות על דרכי העריכה של המכילתא דרשב”י בפרשת נזיקין.

וזו מסקנתה של אליאס בר-לבב בנוגע לעריכת המכילתא (עמ’ יג):

המכילתא דרשב”י בחלקים גדולים שלה אינה מדרש מקורי אלא עיבוד, לא תמיד מושכל, של מקורות קודמים לה שעמדו לפניה.

כהנא מסתייג בפתח הדבר מתיאור זה בעיקר ביחס לתיאור הצרימות והחספוסים כעבודת עיבוד ‘לא מושכלת’ והוא מעלה את האפשרות לראות בכך מוסכמות ספרותיות שונות של עריכה.


הפרק הראשון עוסק בנוסח המכילתא דרשב”י ובהצעות חילופיות לנוסח שפורסם במהדורת אפשטיין ומלמד. נוסח מתוקן של המכילתא דרשב”י לדיני נזיקין (שמ’ כא, כח – כב, ה) מופיע כנספח לספר.

הפרק השני סוקר את המונחים המדרשיים של המכילתא דרשב”י והוא עבודה חלוצית ובסיס נתונים חשוב ביותר. במהלך הספר עושה אליאס בר-לבב שימוש רב בהבנה המדוייקת של כל מונח ומונח ומראה כיצד פכים קטנים אלו מהווים בסיס לניתוח הדרשות, הבנת יחסן למקבילות ומגמת עריכתן. כך לדוגמא, הקיצור יוצא הדופן של המונח ‘(אין לי אלא) Y, X מנין?’ או ההיכרות עם המבנה השונה של המונח ‘לרבות X’ בהשוואה למונח ‘לעשות… כיוצא ב-X’ מאפשרים לה לזהות בין הדרשה המקורית לזו המועברת (עמ’ 253-258). בחינה מדוקדקת של מונחי הדיון יכולה היתה לשמש גם בסיס לשאלות הרמנויטיות רחבות יותר. לדאבוננו מעיד כהנא שעיוניה של אליאס בר-לבב בדרכי המדרש ובקנוונציות המדרשיות לא הושלמו ועל כן לא פורסמו בעבודת הדוקטור.

בפרק השלישי, העוסק ביחס למקבילות במשנה ובתוספתא, מראה אליאס בר-לבב באופן משכנע מאוד כיצד דרשות קשות במכילתא דרשב”י מתבארות מתוך השוואה למשנה והתוספתא ולאור הבנת הדרשות כעיבוד (לא תמיד מוצלח, לדעתה) של המקורות הללו. בחלק מהמקרים החספוס נוצר מתוך ניסיון שלא צלח לאחד הלכות שונות ובמקרים אחרים (והמעניינים יותר בהקשר של הבנת הז’אנר המדרשי) מתוך ניסיון לעגן ולקשר את ההלכות למילות הפסוק. בדרך זו נוצרו ‘מדרשים מלאכותיים, לאקוניים מאוד ונטולי בהירות הלכתית’ (עמ’ 239). חידוש חשוב נוסף הוא ההבחנה שדווקא התוספתא, ולא המשנה, היא המקור ההלכתי העיקרי ששימש את עורך המכילתא דרשב”י בציטוטיו. אמנם גם המשנה עומדת ברקע דרשות רבות. בהקשר זה מנתחת אליאס בר-לבב את חטיבת הדרשות הארוכה על נזקי האש (שמות כב, ה) וטוענת שהיא עיבוד מורכב של רצף ההלכות במשנה ב”ק פרק ו.

בפרק הרביעי עוסקת אליאס בר-לבב בדגמים שונים של שכפול דרשות והעברתן. תופעה זו מוכרת בכל מדרשי התנאים ובעיקר בשתי המכילתות על פרשת נזיקין, הן בעקבות הדינים החוזרים על עצמם שבפסוקים והן בעקבות הניסיון ליצור מערכת משפטית אחידה. אליאס בר-לבב טוענת שהתופעה רחבה הרבה יותר במכילתא דרשב”י אולם מהעיון בדוגמאות נראה שהייחוד איננו רק בכמות אלא גם באיכות. תופעה נוספת הנידונה בפרק היא הצמדה ושילוב של מדרשים סותרים היוצרת את הרושם המוטעה שכוונתם זהה.

אביא כעת בקצרה אחת מהדוגמאות שבהן עוסקת אליאס בר-לבב (עמ’ 162-164 בספר) הממחישה באופן משכנע כיצד פתרון הקושי שבדרשה נובע מחשיפת העיבוד של המדרש לאור המקבילה בתוספתא. הפסוק בשמ’ כא, כח עוסק בשור שנגח אדם והרגו, שדינו סקילה – ‘סקול יסקל השור’. על מילים אלו מופיעה במכילתא דרשב”י הדרשה הבאה, עמ’ 178:

אין לי אלא אלו בלבד, מנין לרבות ולדותיהן ועריבתיהן? ת”ל סקל יסקל.
ולא יהא מסקלו מיד אלא כונסו לכיפה עד שעה שימותו
ור’ אלעזר בר’ שמעון אומ’ <<כולהן>> היו נסקלין

בשורה הראשונה מחדש המדרש שני עניינים: א. גם ולדות הבהמה שנולדו לאחר שנידונה ליסקל ולפני סקילתה בפועל – יומתו עמה. ב. אם הבהמה שנידונה ליסקל נתערבבה בבהמות אחרות ולא ניתן לזהותה – כולן יסקלו. בשורה השניה נאמר שכונסים את כל הבהמות (מדובר במקרה שהתערבבו עמה) למקום הסגר עד שימותו בעצמן ובשורה השלישית מובאת דעתו החולקת של ר’ אלעזר בר’ שמעון שבמקרה זה כל הבהמות (שהתערבבו) נסקלות. אליאס בר-לבב מצביעה על שני קשיים מרכזיים בקטע: א. הדרשה הראשונה מתייחסת לשני מקרים (ולדות ונתערבו) ואילו בהמשך מתייחסים רק לדין נתערבו. ב. היחס שבין השורה השניה לבין מה שלפניה ולאחריה – אם כונסן לכיפה עד שימותו הרי שהן אינן נסקלות כלל! אך מהמשפט ‘ולא יהא מסקלו מיד אלא…’ משמע שההמשך מסכים עם דין הסקילה?!

הפתרון שמציעה אליאס בר-לבב הוא לאור המקבילה שבתוספתא ב”ק ה, ה:

נתערבו באחרין ואחרין באחרין – כולן אסורים בהנאה.
מה יעשו להן? כונסין אותן לכיפה עד שעה שימותו.
ר’ אלעזר בי ר’ שמעון אומ’ כולהן נסקלין.

בנוסח התוספתא אין כל קושי – היא עוסקת במקרה של נתערבו בלבד ודעת ת”ק היא שלא סוקלים אותן אלא כונסין לכיפה בלבד. לפי אליאס בר-לבב, העורך ציטט את המחלוקת מילה במילה מהתוספתא והקדים לה את המשפט ‘ולא יהא מסקלו מיד אלא…’ שמטרתו לגשר בין הדרשה הקודמת במכילתא דרשב”י שדין בהמות שנתערבו הוא סקילה לבין דעת ת”ק שבתוספתא שדינן כינוס בכיפה. התוצאה היא ששיטת ת”ק מוצגת כהסתייגות מדין הסקילה שלפניה, בעוד שהיא למעשה דעה חולקת. דומני שהצעתה של אליאס להסבר דרך עבודתו של העורך משכנעת ביותר, גם אם לא ברור האם נכון לכנות עיבוד מעין זה כ’לא  מושכל’.

ניתן היה לסכם את מחקרה של אליאס בר-לבב בהצבעה על המאפיינים הייחודיים של המכילתא דרשב”י בעיבוד החומר התנאי שלפניו ובכך שחלקים גדולים מהמדרש אינם מקוריים אלא פרי של יצירה משנית (עמ’ 337). אולם סיכום מעין זה מעביר את הרושם המוטעה שממחקר המכילתא דרשב”י לא ניתן להסיק למדרשי ההלכה האחרים, ולא היא. אליאס בר-לבב עצמה מציינת כי המכילתא דרשב”י היא מדרש תנאי אותנטי המגלה קרבה גדולה למדרשים האחרים מדבי ר’ עקיבא (ספרא וספרי דברים) כפי שניכר באופן השימוש שלו במונחי הדיון (146-147). במקומות שונים משווה אליאס בר-לבב את התופעות שהיא מזהה במכילתא דרשב”י גם למדרשי הלכה אחרים, אולם אין היא עושה זאת באופן שיטתי. דומני שהשוואה מעין זו תלמד שבמכילתא דרשב”י קיימת הקצנה של תופעות עיבוד שונות הקיימות גם במדרשי ההלכה האחרים. מוקצנותן של התופעות במכילתא דרשב”י מקלה על זיהויין וניתוחן ועל כן מחקר זה ראוי להוות בסיס לבחינה של תופעות אלו גם במדרשים האחרים.

השאלה המרכזית שהעסיקה את אליאס בר-לבב היא זיהוי דרכי העריכה והעיבוד של המכילתא דרשב”י – מנין נוצרו הצרימות במדרש הקדום והמאוחר (המקורי והמעובד) וכן בין המדרש למקבילותיו. כמו כן עסקה בפירוש מחודש לקטעי מדרש קשים לאור חשיפת המקורות והעריכה. אולם עבודתה הפרטנית הרחבה יכולה וראויה לשמש כבסיס לשאלות רחבות נוספות, שאליאס בר-לבב לא זכתה לפתח. ואדגים כאן רק שלושה עניינים כאלו:

א. הרמנויטיקה – ההבחנות הרבות בין דרשות מקוריות לבין עיבודן יכולות לשמש בסיס לשאלות חשובות של קדום ומאוחר בהקשרים פרשניים. כך לדוגמא ניתן לבחון האם קיימים מאפיינים שונים לדרך הלימוד ממילות הפסוק בדרשות המקוריות לעומת דרכי המדרש המשתקפות בדרשות המעובדות.

ב. היחס שבין מדרש ומשנה – אליאס בר-לבב מראה כיצד המכילתא לוקחת הלכות העומדות לפניה ומעבדת אותן לדרשות באמצעות עיגונן במילות הפסוק. תופעה זו, שיש לבחון אותה גם במדרשים אחרים (ונראה שיימצאו בכך הבדלים בין דבי ר”י ודבי ר”ע), יכולה להיות קיימת כבר ברובד הקדום של המדרש ויש בה חשיבות גדולה להבנת הפרוייקט המדרשי כולו והיחס שבין המדרש וה’משנה’.

ג. המדרש המקורי והשוואה לדבי ר’ ישמעאל – לאחר הזיהוי של דרשות רבות כעיבוד של מקורות תנאיים מקבילים ניתן לשאול מה הם החומרים המדרשיים המקוריים שעמדו בפני עורך המכילתא דרשב”י. שאלה זו מעניינת במיוחד לצורך השוואה בין חומר מדרשי קדום זה לבין המדרש המקביל מדבי ר’ ישמעאל. שאלה נוספת היא עד כמה ניתן למצוא דמיון או מחלוקת בין שני בתי המדרש לא רק ביחס לחומר הדרשני וההלכתי אלא גם ביחס לדרכי העיבוד והעריכה שלהם.

לסיום מילה על ההיבט האישי שמאחורי ספר זה. לצערי הרב לא זכיתי להכיר את ליאורה, אך יצא לי לשמוע את שבחה ממכרים משותפים שונים. כעת יכול הקורא להתוודע למעט מדמותה בפתח הדבר המרגש שכתב פרופ’ כהנא שהיה בקשר קרוב עמה במשך שנים, הנחה אותה בעבודתה ואף ערך את הספר לדפוס. מתוך העיון בתוכנו של הספר ניכרים דבריו על הכוח הפרשני, הברק האינטלקטואלי והיצירתיות יוצאת הדופן של ליאורה ועל כן חזקה שאין גוזמה גם בתיאורו את אישיותה המופלאה והאצילית.

סוף דבר, ספר זה גדוש בחידושים הן ביחס לקריאה ופרשנות של דרשות המכילתא והן ביחס להבנת דרכי העיבוד והעריכה של מדרשי התנאים. אמנם העיון הפרטני בסוגיות הלכתיות סבוכות בהלכות נזיקין אינו קל לקריאה למי שאינו מצוי בעולם זה, אך הניסוח הבהיר והקולח מצליח להקל את עמל הלימוד במידת האפשר. צער גדול הוא שהמחברת לא זכתה להשלים את מחקרה אולם דומני שגם חוסר שלמות זה מעורר את הקורא להמשיך ולהפך בעניינים החשובים הנידונים בו.

אסף רוזן-צבי הוא דוקטורנט בחוג לתלמוד והלכה באוניברסיטה העברית. עבודת הדוקטור שלו, בהנחייתו של פרופ’ מנחם כהנא, היא על מסכתא דכספא שבמכילתא דר’ ישמעאל והיא עוסקת בין השאר בשאלות של פרשנות, עריכה והרמנויטיקה מדרשית.

English, Guest Posts, Reviews

Between Furniture in the Mishnah and the Mishnah on Furniture

Between Furniture in the Mishnah and the Mishnah on Furniture: On Karen Kirshenbaum, Furniture of the Home in the Mishnah (Hebrew; Bar Ilan University Press, 2013)- by Yair Furstenberg

It has recently become quite common to find families moving their Pesach Seder from the dining room table to the living room couches. At least in part this step is motivated by a keen interest in conducting what seems to be a more authentic Seder, as shaped by the rabbis two millennia ago along the lines of the Greco Roman symposium. Consequently, the stiff seating arrangement around the alter-like table is replaced by a more liberated recline at small personal ones. Continue reading

English, Guest Posts, Reviews

Outside Aphrodite’s Bathhouse

Outside Aphrodite’s Bathhouse: On Rachel Neis, The Sense of Sight in Rabbinic Culture: Jewish Ways of Seeing in Late Antiquity, Cambridge University Press, 2013, by Zachary Braiterman

NeisAs a devoted reader, I was flattered by Yitz and Shai’s invitation to review for The Talmud Blog the new book by Rachel Neis, arguably the first full length study ever on “rabbinic aesthetics” or “rabbinic visual culture.” As a scholar trained in modern Jewish thought and philosophy, I have explored in my own work the intersection of art, philosophical aesthetics, and Jewish culture.  It’s on that basis that I was asked to read Rachel Neis’ book. Why not?

Continue reading

English, Guest Posts, Reviews

A Review of Eyal Ben-Eliyahu’s “Between Borders”- Guest Post by Hanan Mazeh

Eyal Ben-Eliyahu, Between Borders: The Boundaries of Eretz-Israel in the Consciousness of the Jewish People in the time of the Second Temple and in the Mishnah and Talmud Period, Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2012, 348 pp. $27.

Eyal Ben-Eliyahu‘s Between Borders is the kind of book which deals with such fundamental questions that it makes you wonder how it is that they had not been seriously addressed before.  Based on his 2007 Hebrew University dissertation, the book aims to examine the territorial borders of the land of Israel as reflected in a wide array of Palestinian texts – from biblical books through the Amoraic era – and tries to formulate the different concepts of “Eretz Israel” that these borders represent.

Continue reading

English, Guest Posts, Reviews

A Review of Weiss Halivni, The Formation of the Babylonian Talmud- Guest Post by Zvi Septimus

halivni picDavid Weiss Halivni, TheFormation of the Babylonian Talmud (trans. and ed. Jeffrey L. Rubenstein; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). 312 (+35) pages

David Weiss Halivni began work on his Talmud commentary, Sources and Traditions, in 1968 with the publication of a volume on Seder Nashim. In the forty-five years since, Halivni has published an additional seven volumes, covering Seder Moed and Seder Nezikin. Continue reading

English, Guest Posts, Reviews

Fair and Fowl: A Review of ‘Tractates Tamid, Middot and Qinnim’ by Dalia Marx – Guest Post by Ilana Kurshan

marx reviewDalia Marx, Tractates Tamid, Middot and Qinnim. A Feminist Commentary on the Babylonian Talmud, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013,  XII + 258 pages. €89.

A few weeks ago I was learning daf yomi while nursing my daughter when I came upon the following Talmudic passage, which begins with a quote from the Song of Songs: “‘Our little sister has no breasts.’ Rabbi Yohanan said: This refers to Eilam, who merited to learn but not to teach” (Pesachim 87a).” My infant daughter was lying bare-skinned on my breast, and I looked down at her as I puzzled over this passage. Why is having no breasts analogous to learning but not teaching? Continue reading

English, Reviews

A Collector’s Item: Shamma Friedman’s Le-Toratam Shel Tannaim

friedman20tannaitic0011[1]Shamma Friedman, Studies in Tannaitic Literature: Methodology, Terminology and Content. Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2013. Hebrew. XVII+534 pp. NIS 111.

Shamma Friedman is a didactic master. His aptitude for explaining and teaching complex matters in simple and concise language is impressive -and useful. His articles were the first ones I read in Talmudics and they were accessible enough for me to say, “I could probably do that.” (I have since learned that I probably cannot, at least not with Friedman’s panache). It is thus no surprise that many of his models have become the new standard in the field and were adopted (sometimes overzealously) by both his students and his wider readership. Continue reading

English, Reviews

Daf Yomi 4 Kids: A Simulacrum of a Simulacrum of Talmud Study- Guest Post by Yoel Finkelman

dafyomikids1Recently, my seven-year old son was invited to his friend’s house on a Shabbat afternoon for a siyum. I asked this child’s father what the siyum was on. “Oh,” he responded, “He finished Berakhot in daf yomi.” My jaw dropped. He’s a bright kid and all, but I hadn’t realized what kind of a rare talmudic genius my son was playing soccer with.  Continue reading