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eBook Treatise Ta`anit of the Babylonian Talmud: Critically Edited and Provided With A Translation and Notes
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Publisher:  Varda Books
Original Publisher:  The Jewish Publication Society
Published:  2002
Language:  English
Pages:   528

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ISBN: 1-59045-611-4

About the Book -- Treatise Ta`anit of the Babylonian Talmud: Critically Edited and Provided With A Translation and Notes


What is needed today is a critical edition of the talmudic text based on a minute collation of all the existing manuscripts and early editions of the Talmud itself, as well as of the Mishnah, Tosefta, the numerous halakic and haggadic Midrashim, the Yerushalmi, and the so-called Minor Tractates; and, what is of equal importance, on a careful examination of the extracts, quotations, and critical data accumulated in the vast post-talmudic rabbinical literature from the time of the Geonim onward, for which, too, manuscripts should, as far as possible, be compared. The text so prepared should be adequately translated and elucidated for the benefit of a wider circle of readers, who are not in a position to study the original.

Strange as it may seem to the uninitiated reader, despite the unequalled career of the Talmud through many climes and ages, no attempt has ever been made to publish even one single page of it according to the method here described. Prior to the discovery of printing, talmudists of various periods often suggested, or actually made, changes on the margin or in the text of their copies, either on the basis of internal evidence or of a comparison with some other manuscript copy, the readings of which seemed preferable. Instances of this kind are well known to every student of the Talmud from the commentary of Rashi and many other works, and need not be further discussed. Often enough such suggestions and even explanatory glosses were subsequently embodied in the text, of which they now form a constituent part, and are no longer recognizable as changes or additions. In later periods men of great talmudic learning and critical acumen, like Solomon Luria (1510– 73), Samuel Edels (1555–1631), and others incorporated in their larger works on the Talmud thousands of textual corrections, which, especially those of Luria, were subsequently embodied by unscrupulous printers in the text of the Talmud. Other talmudists of fame, like Joel Saerkes (1561–1640), Isaiah (Pick) Berlin (1719– 99), Elijah Gaon of Wilna (1720–97), to mention only those best known, wrote special works under the title Critical notes and corrections to the Talmud. These and similar “Annotations” of still later authors (e. g., Z. H. Ch., S. Straschun) are printed in various editions of the Talmud either on the margin or at the end of the tractates and, so far as I know, have not influenced the text proper. Some of the authors, like Saerkes and the Gaon of Wilna, drew upon manuscripts that are no longer in existence, and the enormous material accumulated in their notes must be carefully sifted and examined in preparing a critical apparatus for the talmudic text. It goes without saying that the writings of modern authors dealing with textual criticism of the Talmud, many of which are scattered in Hebrew and German periodicals, are likewise to be utilized for the purpose.

Of the greatest importance, and in a way epoch-making in the field of textual criticism, is the voluminous work Variae lections, Munich-Przemysl, 1867–1897, in sixteen volumes, by Raphael Nathan Rabbinovicz. Here for the first time in the history of the Talmud the received text was minutely compared, first with the famous Munich manuscript, and then with other available manuscripts and rare editions of Mishnah and Talmud, all the variants being systematically recorded. In the extensive notes on the manuscript material, showing the author's amazing familiarity with the entire range of the traditional literature, he endeavors in each case to indicate the significance and acceptability of the given variants as against the less warranted ones, thus laying the ground for a scientific critical edition of the Talmud. Unfortunately, only about two-thirds of the Tal- mud were thus covered, the author's learned career having been prematurely closed by death (in 1888) at the age of 43 years.

The foregoing is a brief survey of the material to be used for a critical edition of the Talmud. An edition of the entire Talmud that would take into account this enormous material, scattered as it is in hundreds of manuscripts and printed volumes, could only be undertaken by an organized body of experienced scholars, who would have to be equipped not only with the necessary talmudic learning but also with a thorough knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic grammar and a keen linguistic sense, which in the last instance is the safest guide through the labyrinths of conflicting and confusing readings. The prospects for such an organization are not bright at present, but this fact should not deter one from making a beginning in that direction. Others may then follow on the same line. So far, nearly all the work in the field of Jewish literature has been undertaken and carried out by individuals, and often it has been work of surprising dimensions.

The present edition and translation of a talmudic tractate is the first attempt on the lines above described. The selection of the tractate Ta‘anit for this purpose was made by the late Professor Schechter, obviously because of its great value as a source for Jewish history, liturgy, folklore, and other matters of interest. I mention only the minute descriptions of the institution of public fasts on occasions of national calamities, and of the congregational services connected therewith (pp. 20 ff.); the discussion of Nicanor Day and Trajan Day with reference to the Scroll of Fasts (pp. 260 f.); the detailed information given about the origin of the socalled Mishmarot and Ma‘amadot, i. e., the divisions of Priests, Levites and lay Israelites (see notes 224–230), whose services at the Temple in Jerusalem and in the Palestinian countrytowns were the foundation for the development of the synagogue and the synagogal services of today; the interesting account of the origin of the wood-offerings (pp. 401, 430 ff.), which, to my knowledge, occurs nowhere else in talmudic literature; the historical and legendary data relating to the destruction of the first and second Temples (pp. 402, 432, 440, 442) and to the customs and manners of wooing and betrothals in ancient Israel (pp. 404, 474 f.). There is, furthermore, no other treatise in the Talmud that contains such a collection of beautiful legends about the lives and doings of pious Israelites of the past, as we find in this treatise (pp. 272–320, 334–382). Despite the peculiar Oriental form of these legends—they remind one of the Arabian Nights—no one can fail to recognize the moral lessons they intend to convey, and to admire the goodness and genuineness, the simplicity and nobility of the characters they portray. Medieval authors have properly named this section of the treatise the “Chapter of the Pious”. Even the few halakic portions of this treatise happen to be mostly free from that subtle and perplexing reasoning which is characteristic of the Halakah. It thus seems that the choice of this tractate for publication in the Series of Jewish Classics was well made and requires no further justification.

About the Book


A Note to the New Edition


Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Index of Names

An Excerpt from the Book -- Treatise Ta`anit of the Babylonian Talmud: Critically Edited and Provided With A Translation and Notes

Mishnah: 1. What is the order of procedure on the (last seven) fast days? The ark is carried out into the open  place of the town and woodashes are strewn upon it, upon the head of the Nasi, and the head of the Ab Bet Din, and every one present takes and puts some of it upon his own head. The Elder among them addresses them in words of exhortation, saying: Brethren: Of the people of Nineveh it is not said: And God saw their sackcloth and their fasting, but (Jonah, 3. 10): “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way,” and in the Prophets it is said (Joel, 2. 13): “And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, long-suffering and abundant in mercy, and repenteth Him of the evil.”

2. When they stand up for prayer, they place before the ark an old and experienced man, who has children and whose house is empty, so that his heart may be wholly devoted to his prayer. He recites before them twenty- four benedictions, namely the eighteen that are read every day, to which he adds six more.

3. These are the additional benedictions: the Zikronot, the Shofarot, and Psalms 120, 121, 130, 102. R. Judah said, he does not have to recite the Zikronot and the Shofarot, but, instead, he recites the passages: I Kings, 8. 37–41, and Jer., 14. 1–10. To each of these six he adds the appropriate concluding eulogy.

4. The first benediction he closes with the words: He who answered Abraham on Mount Moriah may answer you and hear the voice of your crying this day, blessed art Thou who redeemest Israel. The second Benediction he closes thus: He who answered our ancestors on the Red Sea, may answer you and hear the voice of your crying this day, blessed art Thou who rememberest things forgotten. The third he closes thus: He who answered Joshua in Gilgal, may answer you and hear the voice of your crying this day, blessed art Thou who hearest the sounding of the trumpet. The fourth he closes thus: He who answered Samuel in Mizpah, may answer you and hear the voice of your crying this day, blessed art Thou who hearest cries. The fifth he closes thus: He who answered Elijah on Mount Carmel, may answer you and hear the voice of your crying this day, blessed art Thou who hearest prayer. The sixth he closes thus: He who answered Jonah in the belly of the fish, may answer you and hear the voice of your crying this day, blessed art Thou who answerest in time of distress. The seventh he closes thus: He who answered David and Solomon, his son, in Jerusalem, may answer you and hear the crying of your voice this day, blessed art Thou who hast mercy on the land.

5. It happened [fol. 15b] in the days of R. Halafta in Sepphoris and R. Hanina b. Teradyon in Siknin that one went before the ark, recited the benediction, and the congregation responded Amen.—“Blow, ye priests, blow!” — He who answered Abraham on mount Moriah may answer you and hear the voice of your cry this day.— "Sound the alarm, ye sons of Aaron, sound!”—He who answered our ancestors on the Red Sea, may answer you, and hear the voice of your cry this day; and so after each benediction. When the matter came up before the Sages they said this procedure was customary only before the eastern gates (of the Temple).

6. On the first three fast days the priests of the guard230 fast, but not to the end of the day, while the priests of the sub-division do not fast; on the second (intermediary) three fast days the priests of the guard fast to the end of the day, while those of the sub-division fast but part of the day; on the seven last fast days both divisions fast to the end of the day; this is the opinion of R. Joshua, but the Sages say: On the first fast days none of the divisions fasts; on the second fast day the priests of the guard fast but part of the day, while the subdivision does not fast at all; on the seven last fast days the priests of the guard fast to the end of the day, while the sub-division fasts but part of the day.

An Excerpt from the Book

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