Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Can the Zohar teach us about acceptable Targumic Aramaic?

Summary: Maamar brings it as a counter-proof to Shadal, but would Shadal accept this as evidence?

Post: I couldn't help but chuckle as I read Maamar's counterproof to Shadal's Ohev Ger on parashat Bamidbar. First, the setup -- the Targumic text, and Shadal.

The text of Targum Onkelos:

ב,ב אִישׁ עַל-דִּגְלוֹ בְאֹתֹת לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם, יַחֲנוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:  מִנֶּגֶד, סָבִיב לְאֹהֶל-מוֹעֵד יַחֲנוּ.גְּבַר עַל טִקְסֵיהּ בְּאָתְוָן לְבֵית אֲבָהָתְהוֹן, יִשְׁרוֹן בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:  מִקֳּבֵיל, סְחוֹר סְחוֹר לְמַשְׁכַּן זִמְנָא יִשְׁרוֹן.

Shadal writes, in Oheiv Geir:

באותות is rendered be'atin (in מא"ד and יא"ר -- see definitions here and here), and in a few sefarim in in קע"א (=Codex 1411) as be'atyan, and in some of them, be'atvan. And the first is primary based on what is found in sefer Daniel, while the second in the translation of sheva shanim ba'ot.

To elaborate, he means that in parashat Miketz, we find:

מא,כט הִנֵּה שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים, בָּאוֹת--שָׂבָע גָּדוֹל, בְּכָל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.הָא שְׁבַע שְׁנַיָּא, אָתְיָן--סִבְעָא רַבָּא, בְּכָל אַרְעָא דְּמִצְרָיִם.

so it is the translation of the verb, 'are coming'. Meanwhile, if we look to sefer Daniel perek 6, we can see Biblical Aramaic, and find:

כח  מְשֵׁיזִב וּמַצִּל--וְעָבֵד אָתִין וְתִמְהִין, בִּשְׁמַיָּא וּבְאַרְעָא:  דִּי שֵׁיזִב לְדָנִיֵּאל, מִן-יַד אַרְיָוָתָא.28 He delivereth and rescueth, and He worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth; who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.'

This seems correct, as a matter of dikduk as well.

Maamar comments:

"באתת, Onkelos translates באתון. The polymath, Rabbi Shmuel David Luzzato, has already discussed in his precious sefer Ohev Ger that in a few sefarim is written באתיין (be'atyan) and in a few of them באתין. And he wrote that so (באתין) is primary, based on what is written in Daniel (6:28). And it is possible that there is no difference between atin and atvan {Josh: which was another girsa Shadal had mentioned}, for it is fairly prevalent in the sefer HaZohar. For if not, it is fitting to correct in place of atvateih (Devarim 11:3) to be as it is in all the sefarim, atohi, since it is found in Daniel אָתוֹהִי כְּמָה רַבְרְבִין (Daniel 3:33). And also, one who says atyan is not making an error, and so is it in a Anvirsa (=Antwerp) Polygot I have in my possession, from the year 332 {=1572}.  (The words of the printer.)"

What I found somewhat funny is the suggestion, made towards Shadal, that evidence from the Zohar could be used to establish Targumic Aramaic. For, as Shadal writes in his Vikuach al Chochmat HaKabbalah:
And let us set aside the testimony of the sefer haYuchsin. Does not the sefer haZohar's language testify about it that it is a forged sefer, for in truth it is not Biblical Hebrew, nor Mishnaic Hebrew, nor the language of Daniel and Ezra {=Biblical Aramaic}, nor the language of Onkelos and Yonatan {=Bablylonian Aramaic}, nor the language of Targum Yerushalmi {= Galilean Aramaic}, nor the language of the Talmud Bavli, nor the language of the Talmud Yerushalmi, nor the language of the midrashim, nor the language of the Geonim, nor the language of the mefarshim {medieval Biblical commentators}, nor the language of the poskim {decisors of Jewish law}, nor the language of the philosophers, but rather a ridiculous language, mixed from all the aforementioned languages, and this is the language which comes of its own accord on the lips of anyone who desires to write in the language of Talmud and does not engage in it as much as is required.

And I know in truth a certain man who learned a little smidgen of Talmud, and wished to write in the language of the Talmud, and the only thing which arose in his hand was the language of the Zohar.
Still, Maamar's other proofs might be good. Perhaps one cannot prove Targumic Aramaic from Biblical Aramaic. I would point out that in Daniel, the word אָתוֹהִי , and in the previous pasuk, אָתַיָּא, take the word as `ot, with the kamatz being equivalent to a Hebrew cholam. It is a masculine ending in both cases. Meanwhile, atvan looks to me like a feminine ending; and that the root would have a vav in it. (Not impossible. See Jastrow.)

In terms of the pasuk in Devarim, it seems like this is a modification off of otot, as in the Hebrew:

יא,ג וְאֶת-אֹתֹתָיו, וְאֶת-מַעֲשָׂיו, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, בְּתוֹךְ מִצְרָיִם--לְפַרְעֹה מֶלֶךְ-מִצְרַיִם, וּלְכָל-אַרְצוֹ.וְיָת אָתְוָתֵיהּ, וְיָת עוֹבָדוֹהִי, דַּעֲבַד, בְּגוֹ מִצְרָיִם--לְפַרְעֹה מַלְכָּא דְּמִצְרַיִם, וּלְכָל אַרְעֵיהּ.

If the root is taken as אתת or אתות, then perhaps the possessive singular would be atveteih and the possessive plural would be atvateih. {?} Why select one base form over another might be a good question, but I am not so convinced that one would necessarily be overridden by the other.

{Update: whereas here in Bemidbar, someone say the ot ending of be'otot and took it as proof that ot was feminine, and appended the feminine plural ending to it.}

So maybe this is a valid defense, but for the reasons above, I am not convinced.

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