Megillah, Daf Tet, Part 4



This section continues to discuss translating the Torah into other languages.


רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר אף בספרים לא התירו שיכתבו אלא יונית.

אמר רבי אבהו אמר רבי יוחנן: הלכה כרבן שמעון בן גמליאל.

ואמר רבי יוחנן: מאי טעמא דרבן שמעון בן גמליאלאמר קרא +בראשית ט‘+ יפת אלהים ליפת וישכן באהלי שםדבריו של יפת יהיו באהלי שם.

ואימא גומר ומגוג!

אמר רבי חייא בר אבא: היינו טעמא דכתיב יפת אלהים ליפתיפיותו של יפת יהא באהלי שם.


R. Shimon b. Gamaliel says that books [of the scripture] also are permitted to be written only in Greek.

R. Abbahu said in the name of R. Yohanan: The halakhah follows R. Shimon b. Gamaliel.

R. Yohanan further said: What is the reason of R. Shimon b. Gamaliel?

Scripture says, "God will enlarge Yapheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem" (Genesis 9:26); [this means] that the words of Yapheth shall be in the tents of Shem.

But why not say [the words of] Gomer and Magog?

R. Hiyya b. Abba replied: The reason is because it is written, "Let God enlarge [yaft] Yapheth": let the beauty of Yapheth be in the tents of Shem.


R. Shimon b. Gamaliel says that the books of the Bible cannot be translated into any other language besides Greek. R. Yohanan rules that this is the halakhah. He then explains it by referencing Genesis 9:26. Yapheth is the progenitor of Greece and Shem is the progenitor of Israel. According to R. Yohanan’s midrash, the words of Yapheth, meaning Greek, shall dwell in the tents of Shem, meaning in the Torah of Israel. But not just any of the words of Yaphet, such as those of Gomer and Magog, evil kings that descended from Yapheth. Only the beautiful words (a play on the word Yapheth, which is similar to the word "yafeh" meaning beautiful, can dwell in the tents of Shem. Any other language is not "beautiful"; therefore the Torah can be translated only into Greek.