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Queen for a Day

The rabbis who reasoned about the day of rest also celebrated it. Plus: The Talmud on iPad and in translation.

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(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo Library of Congress.)
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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.


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murielr says:

what a pleasure to read your talmud columns, Adam Kirsch.

Helena says:

Thank you for the article. Perhaps you will find it of interest – 5 years ago we started Talmud Illuminated – Summary of Talmud’s page as it is learned in the Daf Yomi cycle – illustrated with world’s best art.

And what about the women who busted their humps to prepare for the Sabbath?

SiegelAcevedo says:

Much as I love physical books—e.g., there is no possible digital substitute for reading a musty, yellowed vintage paperback on a spring afternoon’s park bench— it seems to me that the nested texts of Talmud and chumash would be the prime playground for cutting edge e-book design. So far, it hasn’t been the case. Koren fell back on the klunky PDF format when they digitized their Talmud Bavli—which preserves their elegant print layouts, but makes the iPad experience a bit tortuous. On the other hand, the very existence of a portable Talmud makes a few extra pinches and swipes worthwhile, I suppose.

I’ve enjoyed reading your Talmud articles as this is my first Daf Yomi cycle and I’m pretty much doing it solo. I’m also pleased that you mentioned Koren’s Talmud Bavli. I’ve pretty much switched, wherever possible, to their publications that are so much more than Art Scroll. The whole notion of working with an Art Scroll Talmud almost killed the prospect of proceeding until I found Koren’s print version
As fancy as electronic versions of Siddurim, etc. are I find them highly objectionable – let alone personally difficult to navigate through. Plus, almost everyday someone in my Minyan receives an email “beep” during Shacharit.

Helena says:

Perhaps you will find it of interest – 5 years ago we started Talmud Illuminated – Summary of Talmud’s page as it is learned in the Daf Yomi cycle – illustrated with world’s best art.

Eliezer Pennywhistler says:

Dunno. What about them?

Maybe they could have used a little help from their husbands who peeled some potatoes instead of arguing endlessly over ritual.

Tamar says:

So happy that you have entered the digital realm to access this set among the earliest hyperlinked texts! The sheer weight and price of the print edition have made a convert of me! Go, Koren Talmud Bavli English Edition (print and iPad versions).

Grigalem says:

Or, they were out sunrise-to-sunset selling commodities, selling spices, repairing metal tools, doing tailoring, planting crops, hoeing crops, harvesting crops, being judges, making sandals, butchering meat, teaching children, being doctors, fishing, cleaning fish, selling cleaned fish, digging trenches, dealing with garbage and waste, doing carpentry, repairing wagons, hauling items in wagons, unloading items from wagons, and one or two other things that are much harder to do than peeling potatoes.


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Queen for a Day

The rabbis who reasoned about the day of rest also celebrated it. Plus: The Talmud on iPad and in translation.

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