1. When we relaunched The Talmud Blog, back in 2011, I set a Google reminder for the word “Talmud.” After all, we claimed to provide “Talmudic news, reviews, currents and criticism,” and what better way to stay current than with handy email reminders from the indexers of the Internet. At the time, the Internet was a simpler place, or at least so it seemed. We may have had our suspicions of the influence of Facebook and ad tech on our lives, but certainly not to the extent that we do now. Rather quickly, however, I discovered that my expectations of the Google alert were rather naïve: the vast majority of the material on Talmud that Google dredged up for me in daily emails could best be described as anti-Semitic drivel. Continue reading
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 (www.jnul.huji.ac.il/dl/talmud) 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).
This is the first of what I hope will be an ongoing series on how to use the various internet databases listed in our “Toolbox” section. Dr. Ezra Chwat of the IMHM helped me put together the instructions listed below.
Arguably the most important room in Jerusalem, the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts (IMHM) at the National Library of Israel only recently received the attention it deserves when it was featured prominently in Yossi Cedar’s film Footnote. Scenes of Professor Shkolink the father working studiously in the room’s dark lighting were more than enough to raise the excitement of philologists who for the first time truly experienced Lacan’s “mirror stage” through film. Yet so much of the information amassed by the Institute’s staff is accessible without having to deal with the odd lighting and clunky microfilm viewers. The catalog of manuscripts on its own holds a wealth of information, from the bibliographical to the codicological. The list allows you to find almost all of the textual witnesses available for the work you may be studying. For example, to find various manuscripts of Bavli Shabbat, all one has to do is click on “כותר המתחיל ב…”, and type in “תלמוד בבלי סדר מועד (שבת)”, and the catalogue immediately lists all of the complete and partial manuscripts of the tractate:
Even more importantly, the list already includes manuscripts reconstructed from various genizah fragments, with information about each part of the textual witness:
Through the advanced search (“חיפוש מתקדם”) one can even search directly for reconstructed genizah manuscripts. Within “מלים” type “מאותו כי”(make sure you don’t put a quotation mark and write כ”י), and then in the second field select “נושא כתב היד” and enter the tractate or other work that you’re trying to find genizah manuscripts for:
Clicking on the number that appears following the words “סך-הכול” will bring you to a list that also includes reconstructed manuscripts of commentators on the tractate you searched for:
Of course, the catalog is just a catalog, and except for textual witnesses available online (which will be hyperlinked from the results), one must get to a library with a microfilmed manuscript collection in order to make full use of the information obtained.