Wednesday, January 03, 2007

נבואה בגויים תאמין

מדרש איכה רבה ב' י"ז:

אם יאמר לך אדם,
          „יש חכמה בגויים“ — תאמין.
          „יש תורה בגויים“ — אל תאמין.

R' Gil Student has three posts on this issue:
          1. In Defense of Rabbi Hertz
          2. Torah from Gentiles II
          3. Quoting Christian Bible Commentaries

איגרת תימן
(Maimonides's Letter to Yemen)

Judeo-Arabic (original):

...ואמא כוננא לא נצדק נבווהֿ עמר וזיד, פליס דֿלך מן אגֿל כונהם מן גיר ישראל כמא יטֿן אלעואם, חתי נלתגֿי ללתפקה מן קולה מקרבך מאחיך, לאן איוב וצופר ובלדד ואליפז ואליהוא כלהם ענדנא אנביא ואן כאנוא ליס מן ישראל, וכדֿלך חנניה בן עזור נביא שקר מלעון ואן כאן הו מן ישראל, ואנמא נצדק אלנבי או נכדֿבה מן גֿההֿ דעואה לא מן גֿההֿ נסבה...
פאן קאם נבי סוי מן ישראל או מן אומות העולם ודעא אלי דין משה רבנו ע"ה וחטֿ עליה ולא זאד פיה ולא נקץ מנה, מתֿל ישעיה וירמיה וגירהמא, נטלב מנה אלמעגֿזה...

Hebrew (according to ר' קאפח):

...ומה שאין אנו מאמתים נבואת פלוני ופלוני, אין זה ממת שאינם מישראל כפי שמדמים ההמון, ועל ידי כך נצטרך לדייק מאמרו מקרבך מאחיך, כי איוב וצפר ובלדד ואליפז ואליהוא כולם לדעתנו נביאים ואף על פי שאינם מישראל. וכן חנניה בן עזור נביא שקר ארור ואף על פי שהוא מישראל, אבל מאמתים אנו את הנביא או מכזבים אותו מחמת דבריו ולא מחמת יחוסו...
ולכן אם עמד נביא בין שהיה מישראל או מאומות העולם וקרא לדת משה רבנו ע"ה וזירז עליה ולא הוסיף בה ולא גרע ממנה, כמו ישעיה וירמיה וזולתם נדרוש ממנו מופת...

English (according to Abraham Halkin):

...Our disbelief in the prophecies of Omar [عمر] and Zeid [زيد] (=two random common [Arabic] names) is not due to the fact that they are non-Jews, as the unlettered folk imagine, and in consequence of it are compelled to establish their stand from the biblical phrase from among your own people. For Job, Zophar, Bildad, Eliphaz, and Elihu are all considered prophets by us although they are not Israelites. On the other hand, although Hananiah the son of Azzur was a Jew, he was deemed an accursed and false prophet. But we give credence to a prophet or we disbelieve him because of what he preaches, not because of his descent...
Now, if a Jewish or gentile prophet urges and encourages people to follow the religion of Moses without adding thereto or diminishing therefrom, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the others, we demand a miracle from him...

(credit once again goes to rabbi waxman for the vloggage idea)
runtime: 7:13

errata and omissions:

The reason the "unlettered folk" 'establish their stand' upon the word מִקִּרְבְּךָ is because they understand it to mean that any prophet must be from among your own people. Rambam understands this qualification to mean that prophets fulfill the same function (telling the future) among your own people as fortunetellers and necromancers supposedly do among other peoples.

The name צֹפַר should be accented on the first syllable, not the second.


Blogger tikkunger said...

very cool i like this! IMO makes things much more accessible to someone like me!

1/04/2007 7:52 AM  
Anonymous Mike S said...

A question I was wondering about recently--can a Gentile write Torah? I mean, in the sense of a paper written by a Gentile scholar requiring a bracha before study, bein unsuitable for certain locations etc. I have a specific example in mind. there is a paper by Gauss (the leading mathemetician of the early 1800's) giving an algorithm for calculating the first day of peasch on the civil calendar (actually, the Julian calendar.) In it's essence, it is a translations of several halachot from the Rambam's Kiddush Ha Chodesh (HHodesh for Steg and his regulars) into more modern mathematical notation coupled with a much simpler equivalent for the Julian calendar. It even includes transliterations into German of the rashei taivot used by Rambam for the d'chiyos (I would be surprized if the phase wegen Batu Thakpat occurs anywhere else in the history of Gentile scholarship)

Is this a work of Torah or not?

1/04/2007 9:46 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Is this a work of Torah or not?

When we lern it, it's Torah.

When a non-Jew lerns it, what's the nafke-mine anyway? Are gôyim obligated to recite birkhôth hattôro?

1/05/2007 12:24 AM  
Blogger Elie said...

I grew up reading the Hertz chumash as soon as I could read, and I still love it. It gets a bit too apologetic in places, but overall it's a phenomenal work and a skillful balance of scholarship and Torah - something we see far too little of in this Artscroll generation. I'd love to see a modern chumash translation/commentary for the masses that follows the Hertz chumash model. The closest to this is probably The Living Torah, which actually came out in 1983, just on the cusp of Artscroll's coup de etat. I suspect that even The Living Torah couldn't be published in today's frum world. Very depressing.

1/05/2007 9:29 AM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

Fascinating subject. But you will no doubt understand that I am more interested here in the comments of others than adding my own thoughts...

[Because I read the Pentateuch, of course. I don't engage in prophecy. ;-D]

1/05/2007 4:27 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


Of course, according to Rambam in other places (IIRC), you need to attain intellectual enlightenment before you get to the stage of prophecy, so... ;-)

Mike S:

Hmm, interesting. I think it might very well qualify. But i'm fairly mahhmir on what I consider Torah or 'accesories to Torah'. In college i wouldn't read my Geology textbook in the bathroom because it was too much ma rabu ma‘aseikha H'.
Jewish history definitely also falls into that category.


I'm also a big fan of Hertz. I grew up on Hertz and Hirsch (the single-volume abridged R' Shimshon Refael Hirsch hhumash), and together they shaped much of my Jewish identity and styles of learning.

The Back of the Hill:

In that case, i won't respond to your comment. Woops, already did... or did i?

1/07/2007 2:01 AM  

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