Thursday, October 29, 2009

Decoding Dead Sea Scrolls Designations


What exactly is 1Q22 I 1-2 ? I know it is from one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but which one, and what do the letters and numbers mean? I also saw a reference to 1QDM – what is that?


To understand citations from Dead Sea Scrolls, it is helpful to segment the elements:

In this example, 1Q22 and 1QDM are two different ways of referring to the same scroll.

The first two elements, 1Q, identify the cave number and location: Qumran cave one.

Knowing the possible cave (or site) abbreviations will help you distinguish the elements of the citation. Here is a selected list of additional sites where Judean Desert documents have been found:

There are multiple methods of identifying the individual manuscripts. Each document found at a site has been assigned a unique number. Thus 1Q22 means manuscript number 22 found at Qumran cave number 1.

An alternate method of identifying a manuscript is by using a standard abbreviation for its contents. This standard abbreviation is often based on a transliteration of the Hebrew name for the text. In this example, DM is the abbreviation for Dibre Mosheh, or Sayings of Moses. In some cases, the abbreviation is based on a description in a European language. In addition, some of Dead Sea Scrolls are also known by a “popular” title.

Here is a sample list of typical names of Dead Sea Scroll texts, and their abbreviations:

Many texts have been found in multiple copies. These copies are distinguished from one another with a superscript after the text designation. For example, these three different copies of Hodayot were all found in Qumran cave 4:

4QHa (also known as 4Q427)
4QHb (also known as 4Q428)
4QHc (also known as 4Q429)

The next element in your citation is Roman numeral I, referring to column one of the scroll. The final element, the Arabic numerals 1-2, refer to lines one and two, within the specified column.

There are many exceptions to these generalities, in part because the field of Dead Sea Scroll research is still actively evolving. For more a more detailed explanation of scroll nomenclature, extensive lists of Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts, and the texts themselves, please consult the following sources:

The Dead Sea Scrolls: Hebrew Aramaic and Greek texts with English translations. James Charlesworth, ed. (1994- )
REF BM 487 A3 1994a
[Document numbers and document names listed at the end of each volume]

Encyclopedia Of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Lawrence Schiffman and James VanderKam, eds. (2000)
REF Oversize BM 487 E53 2000
[Document lists and indexes in volume 2]

The SBL Handbook of Style for Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies. Alexander, Patrick, et al, eds. (1999)
Reserve PN147 .S26 1999
[8.3.5 Dead Sea Scrolls and related Texts, and Appendix F: Texts From the Judean Desert]

Discoveries in the Judaean Desert . Emanuel Tov, ed. (1955-)
REF Oversize BM 487 A1

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Source of Quote

I am trying to locate the source of the following quote which I have heard attributed to the Torah: "One person's candle is the light for many." Can you assist me?

I could not find that exact quote, but while looking in Joseph L. Baron's A Treasury of Jewish Quotations (J. Aronson, 1985) I found a reference (found on p.279 and assigned the number 489.20 in Baron's work) to the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabat, p.122a where it says "ner le-ehad ner le-me'ah" meaning "a candle for one is a candle for one hundred", perhaps that is the quote you are searching for.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Wonder working rabbis" and "Golems"

Would you recommend works that will assist me in learning about "wonder-working rabbis" and/or about "golems"?

In regards to "wonder-working rabbis" (often known as Baale Shem - "masters of the name", referring to their usage of God's name to effect magic), I would recommend the following titles:

- Etkes, I. The Besht : magician, mystic, and leader. [Hanover : Brandeis University Press, published by University Press of New England, 2005].
- Rosman, Murray Jay. Founder of Hasidism : a quest for the historical Ba’al Shem Tov.[Berkeley, Calif. : University of California Press, 1996].

Even though these works deal primarily with Rabbi Yisrael Ba'al Shem Tov, they also give important overviews of the Ba'al Shem phenomenon in general. These items will also have citations which you can trace back to other important sources.

In regards to research on the "golem" phenomenon I would recommend the following titles:

- Scholem, Gershom Gerhard. "The Idea of the Golem" in: On the Kabbalah and its symbolism. [New York : Schocken Books, 1965], p.158-204.
- Idel, Moshe. Golem : Jewish mystical and magical traditions on the artificial anthropoid. [Albany, NY : State University of New York Press, 1990].

These texts contain extensive coverage of this topic and can point you to other sources that discuss the matter.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tashlikh on Hoshana Rabah

The Jewish custom of tashlikh is recorded by Rabbi Mosheh Isserles (ReMA) in Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayim, chpt. 583, paragraph 2. Speaking about Rosh ha-Shanah, ReMA says: “[people] go to the river to say the verse ‘and throw (ve-tashlikh) all our sins into the depths of the sea etc.’ (cf. Micah 7:19)”. Mishnah Berurah (ibid., note 8) codifies that tashlikh should be done on the first day of Rosh ha-Shanah after the minhah service but before sunset. Mishnah Berurah also records the custom that if the first day of Rosh ha-Shanah falls on Shabbat, tashlikh should be performed on the second day of Rosh ha-Shanah in order to avoid any danger of transgressing Shabbat by carrying in a public domain. The contemporary expert in Jewish law (posek) Rabbi Gavriel Zinner quotes sources that state that if someone was unable to perform tashlikh on Rosh ha-Shanah they are allowed to do it throughout the Ten Days of Repentance (aseret yeme teshuvah) – see: Sefer Nite Gavriel : hilkhot Rosh ha-Shanah [Yerushalayim : 2001], chpt.69, paragraphs 15-16 and footnotes 25-28, p.424. Furthermore, Rabbi Zinner quotes many sources that indicate a custom to specifically perform tashlikh on the same day of the aseret yeme teshuvah as the penitential prayers (selihot) contain the responsive liturgical poem (pizmon) which incorporates the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (derived from Exodus 34:6-7) into its structure (either the fourth or fifth day of the aseret yeme teshuvah, depending on the year). Rabbi Betsalel Majersdorf, Technical Services Librarian at Jewish Theological Seminary, mentioned to me that he has recently become aware of a practice to specifically wait until after the aseret yeme teshuvah and recite tashlikh on the seventh day of Sukkot, Hoshanah Rabah. Rabbi Majersdorf was unaware of the source for this practice. I searched the literature but have also been unable to locate such a source. We would like to request that any readers of this blog who know of any sources on this matter please note them in the “comments” section. Thank you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reading Genesis Chapter 1 - different rites

Can you please direct us to recordings of the opening chapter of Genesis, creation of the world according to different Jewish rites?

The Library's Field Recordings from the Solomon Rowoswky Collection document recordings done in 1936 and 1938 in Eretz Israel. Rosowsky interviewed and recorded new immigrants and documented their liturgical chants. This collection was digitized and is available through The Library's Digital Library (

For the Yemenite tradition: performed by Shelomoh Hayim Kasar.

For the Kurdish tradition: performed by Barukh Shemu'el Mizrahi.

For the Babylonian tradition: performed by Yehezkel Batat.

For the Sefarad tradition in Jerusalem: There is no performer listed.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The producer of a midwest radio program focusing on religion requested audio or video recordings of Gersom Scholem.

A 9-minute audio segment of Scholem speaking at Agnon's 70th birthday party in 1958 was published with volume 30 (2006) of Alpayim (אלפיים :כתב עת רב-תחומי לעיון, הגות וספרות), a Hebrew-language literary journal published by Am Oved. The recording is in the periodicals collection of the JTS Library.

A recording of a radio interview of Scholem with Dr. Sabine Berghahn, in German, is held in her private archive. This is noted in Creation and Re-creation in Jewish Thought: Festschrift in honor of Joseph Dan...edited by Rachel Elior and P. Schafter, 2005, page, 366, footnote 8.

Should you wish to air one of these audios, please obtain permission from the copyright holder.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Schottenstein edition of the Talmud

Note: The following question is a follow up to the one addressed in my blog-posting of Tuesday, September 29, 2009 entitled: "RaMBaN's commentary on the Pentateuch - a comparison of two English translations"

How does the English translation of the Talmud, published by Artscroll – Mesorah and known as the Schottenstein edition, compare to other English translations of the Talmud? Does Artscroll’s status as a publishing company aligned with Haredi Orthodox Judaism effect their translation?

In my opinion the Artscroll English translation of the Talmud is excellent for helping someone gain a basic understanding of the Talmud. Other translations (e.g. Soncino, Neusner) merely translate the Talmud – little in the way of explanation is given. The Talmud’s style is very terse and idiomatic. The myriad later commentaries on the Talmud often explain the same piece in variant ways. Also, the Talmud assumes that you are already familiar with many of the topics it discusses. Without extensive comments and notes, someone without prior experience who can not read the later commentaries, would be completely lost. The Artscroll edition is more than a translation – it is, as I believe they themselves call it, an “elucidation” that takes you step by step through the Talmud and explains the meaning of each line and how it fits into the discussion as a whole. The notes tell you critical information found in other parts of Rabbinic literature that you need in order to understand the topic at hand. The notes also summarize what the later commentaries say and explain some of the variant ways to understand each subject. No other English translation at present does anything like that (except perhaps for Steinsaltz’s English translation – but that is only available on a handful of tractates).
Of course any work that does what Artscroll does is going to inevitably leave the reader with the impression that their way of translating and interpreting a particular piece of Talmud is the only way. They try to alleviate this by, as I mentioned before, giving a few alternate approaches in their notes. However, they can not possibly give all possible approaches and even what they do give might confuse beginners. Furthermore, they only draw on traditional sources and do not take into account more modern approaches that might use textual and source criticism to facilitate understanding the text.
What I have said about the Talmud translation also applies to Artscroll’s RaSHI on Humash translation (and to their RaMBaN on Humash translation). As long as one keeps in mind the necessary limitations of such works (as mentioned above) they are excellent and unique resources.