Queen for a Day
The rabbis who reasoned about the day of rest also celebrated it. Plus: The Talmud on iPad and in translation.
As for the text itself, I’ve gotten used to the Schottenstein Edition’s way of interpolating the Hebrew/Aramaic original with the English translation phrase by phrase. This has enabled me to get to know some of the key phrases and vocabulary of the original, and it serves as a reminder that the English version is in fact a translation, a substitute. And I find that the Schottenstein strikes a good balance between direct translation, which appears in bold type; paraphrase and expansion, which appears in the main text but in roman type; and longer explanations of concepts and cross-references, which are in the footnotes.
This week, I turned to a newer translation of the Talmud in an older medium: the print edition of the Koren Talmud Bavli. Immediately I realized how much I miss the sense-experience of the printed page; and this is an especially beautiful page, with clean type, a good amount of white space, and color illustrations in the footnotes. (For instance, when the Gemara mentions dill in the story about Caesar, there is an illustration of the plant. This isn’t indispensable, but it adds to the pleasure of the book.) The Koren Talmud, too, uses bold type for direct translation and roman type for expansion and paraphrase. But my impression so far is that it uses paraphrase more often than the Schottenstein; that is, more explanation is worked directly into the text, so that the footnotes are much sparser. The commentary, by the great scholar Adin Steinsaltz, is less detailed than in the Schottenstein, but generally clearer and pithier.
Finally, the Koren Talmud separates out the English, which runs down the center of the page, from the Hebrew/Aramaic, which runs in a parallel column in the margin. This separation, plus the way the Koren breaks up the English text into paragraphs, makes it considerably easier to read—at the price of making it easy to simply forget about the Aramaic. Overall, the Koren feels like a more open, accessible text—which part of me mistrusts, since I want to respect the Talmud’s foreignness. But I am enjoying reading it and hope to use the two editions in tandem as I go forward.
Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.
My grandmother set me up with a cute, Jewish girl. We had a lot in common—including our family tree.