23 February 2006

My Foray Into Talmud Textual Variants Begins to Begin

Okay, so I am in no way claiming that my scholarhood in this field is really beginning (though that'd be pretty cool), but today I took a look at a couple of statements of Shmuel's on sleep. I did so because in the course of my collecting data for my interest in sleep in the Talmud (part of my larger interest in sleep in the Jewish tradition), I came across a couple of somewhat puzzling statements made by him in Aramaic(!). While this may not seem strange, it's important to keep in mind that Shmuel and his cohort, Rav, almost always speak in middle Hebrew (the Hebrew of the Mishnah), at least in formal halakhic statements, whereas when they are quoted in other contexts, Aramaic sometimes creeps in (though one has to be careful that they are, indeed, their words). In any event, I had mentioned these two statements of Shmuel's to my teacher of Academic Talmud, which is being taught this semester at yeshiva, by Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Milgrom (I think I spelled his name correctly), and he had suggested to me that I check the Lieberman textual variants CD. So I did today.
While one of the texts (found on Yoma 78b) didn't have anything really much different from each of the others, the other (found on Berakhos 62b) did. There were only four texts, but each of them different(!):
The Vilna printed edition which we commonly use has the following:
אמר שמואל שינה בעמוד השחר כאסטמא לפרזלא יציאה בעמוד השחר כאסטמא לפרזלא
The Soncino printed edition (רמ"ד) has the following:
אמ' שמואל שינה בעמוד השחר כאסטמא לפרזלא יציאה בעמוד השחר כאסטמא לפרזלא
However, and this is where it gets exciting - in the manuscripts(!). There were only two on the CD and they are the Paris 671 ms and the Oxford (366) Opp. Add. Fol. 23 ms. The Paris ms has the following:
יציאה בעמוד השחר כסטומא לפרזלא
and the Oxford ms has
שינה בעמוד השחר כסטומא לפרזלא יציאה בעמוד השחר כסטומא לפרזלא

Granted, the two printed editions has no significant difference between them, but WOW are the mss different(!). Neither of them have Shmuel saying them, and in the Paris ms, sleep isn't mentioned.
Before jumping to conclusions about this text, I would like to see other manuscripts on this text. I see that Hebrew University has something up online, but I am having difficulty with it.
Oh well, I'm excited for more....
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Voice From The Hinterlands said...

To use the Hebrew U thing, you should be using Internet Explorer, not Firefox. I don't know if that is what's causing your difficulty, but it was a 20 minute learning experience for me...

Drew Kaplan said...

Aha.... I love Firefox, but I guess it's not perfect - I will definitely use IE on it. Thanks for the advice. :)

Anonymous said...

I am close to being an old lady (white and Christian from far west of New York) and I happened upon your site by seeking comments from Tulane students about New Orleans.

This and the blog about your school, written by team members,are fascinating to me. The discussion about women in the school blog caught my eye. And I am wondering about the reference to sleep in your studies. Okay, I am not wondering; I just didn't expect it.

Okay, I am out of here.

Drew Kaplan said...

Anonymous Lady,
Thank you for letting me know your comments about your interaction with my blog. Feel free to keep reading....

Anonymous said...

um you do realize that those "differences" arent differences at all...

in every case the language is identical albeit missing some of the words of the complete phrase found in the vilna edition. therefore finding incomplete manuscripts means nothing, its simply an error in transcription. i dont know why that instructor told you to search for alternate versions. If he knew anything he would have taken you through the major commentaries. My advice is try to find a Maharal on that gemara, and if that doesnt work try to find a commentary on eyun ya'akov in that section. also try maharsha and if that doesnt work ask a rabbi what it means (the vilna edition is the complete version mind you and the only one we need deal with here.) or where you can find the meaning at in the commentaries.

im only bothering to type this because you sem to have genuine enthusiasm, and by virtue of being jewish you have intelligence also. thats a winning combination and id hate to see your "beggining" wasted because of foolish professors who fail to instruct you in the proper method of learning gemara. although trully this is aggada and it isnt so cut and dry, nevertheless telling you to look at alternate versions was a waste of your time, as we clearly see here all you found were fragments of the identical statement made in the vilna edition. that will be the case 999 times out of 1000 and that other one time will be easily explained by the commentaries to clarify any dificulties.

so good luck my friend, be persistent and if you dont find an answer dont be content with it.

Drew Kaplan said...

Firstly, he certainly does know a thing or two. Different MS versions doesn't mean that they were incomplete, per se - it is only from our vantage point we could even think of saying a thing like that. However, for those who studied that version, that was what they had. Also, the problem with ignoring MSS and just heading straight over to commentaries is that they may not have had these other versions. When you say that "the vilna edition is the complete version", I'm hoping you mean that for this particular sugya, this is the most expansive of the various textual witnesses.
As to the "the proper method of learning gemara", there isn't such a thing. The Briskers have their way, various yeshivos have their own ways, the various academics (my personal academic rebbe, Elman, as well as Weiss-Halivni, Shamma Friedman, and, lehavdil, Neusner) have their own ways. Although I hinted at my method of learning gemarra (being a simple historical perspective) recently in one of my postings, I would say that I aim to get at the most accurate understanding of the gemarra, though I recognize that others have their own ways of approaching the text.
"although trully this is aggada and it isnt so cut and dry" - I will agree with you that it isn't so cut and dry, I will disagree with you that it is aggadah. It's true that Shmuel isn't using formal halakhic language like he usually does, but there is still a prescriptive element to his statement.