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Megillah, Daf Tet, Part 2

 

Introduction

This section is a direct continuation of yesterday’s sugya. R. Ashi resolved the conflict between the baraita and the Mishnah by ruling that the Torah may be written in any language but the other books of the Bible may not. The baraita that prohibited other books from being written in other languages is here attributed to R. Judah. But first we must deal with that baraita on its own terms.

 

ורבי יהודה היא. דתניא: תפלין ומזוזות אין נכתבין אלא אשורית, ורבותינו התירו יונית.

והכתיב והיו! אלא אימא: ספרים נכתבים בכל לשון, ורבותינו התירו יונית.

התירו? מכלל דתנא קמא אסר! אלא אימא: רבותינו לא התירו שיכתבו אלא יונית.

 

And it follows the view of R. Judah, as it has been taught: Tefillin and mezuzahs are to be written only in Assyrian, but our Rabbis allowed them to be written in Greek also.

But is it not written, and they shall be? Say, Scrolls of the Scripture may be written in any language, and our Rabbis permitted them to be written in Greek.

They permitted! This would imply that the First Tanna forbade it! What I must say therefore is, Our Rabbis permitted them to be written only in Greek.

 

The first version of this baraita seems to say that the rabbis allowed tefillin and mezuzahs to be written in Greek. The problem with this is that we earlier interpreted the Torah itself as mandating that these scrolls which include the Shema be written in Hebrew. Therefore, the Talmud emends the baraita as referring to scrolls books of the Bible and not tefillin and mezuzahs.

After another slight emendation the conclusion is that the rabbis allow scrolls to be translated only into Greek, whereas the "first tanna" allows them to be written in any language.

 

ותניא, אמר רבי יהודה: אף כשהתירו רבותינו יוניתלא התירו אלא בספר תורה, ומשום מעשה דתלמי המלך. דתניא: מעשה בתלמי המלך שכינס שבעים ושנים זקנים, והכניסן בשבעים ושנים בתים, ולא גילה להם על מה כינסן. ונכנס אצל כל אחד ואחד ואמר להם: כתבו לי תורת משה רבכם. נתן הקדוש ברוך הוא בלב כל אחד ואחד עצה, והסכימו כולן לדעת אחת.

 

And it teaches: R. Judah said: Even when our teachers permitted Greek, they permitted it only for a scroll of the Torah. This was on account of the case of King King Ptolemy, as it has been taught: It happened that King Ptolemy brought together seventy-two elders and placed them in seventy-two [separate] rooms, without telling them why he had brought them together, and he went in to each one of them and said to him, Translate for me the Torah of Moses your master. God then gave each one of them wisdom and they all conceived the same idea.

 

Rabbi Judah says that only the Torah scroll may be written in any language. The other scrolls must be written in Hebrew. This is due to the original translation of the Torah, done by King Ptolemy in the third century B.C.E. The baraita tells the Jewish version of the story of the miraculous translation which we call the Septuagint. The king gives the task to seventy (two) elders and miraculously each of them arrives at the same Greek translation.