Abaye says that Rava’s resolution does not make sense. According to Rava if the scroll is written in their script, then it is valid if it is in Hebrew (or more precisely, its original language). But this contradicts the baraita itself which says that it must be written in Assyrian script. Even a Hebrew text written in Hebrew is invalid unless written with the Assyrian script.
Abaye, or the Talmud, now offer a new resolution. The Mishnah which says that they can be written in any language is the opinion of the rabbis who allow Torah scrolls to be written in any language. The baraita is the opinion of R. Shimon b. Gamaliel does not allow any language.
This is an obvious problem. How can the baraita disqualify all other languages when R. Shimon b. Gamaliel does allow scrolls to be written in Greek.
The Talmud attempts another resolution. Torah scrolls can be written in any language (mishnah), but mezuzot and tefillin which include the verse from the Shema “and they shall be” must be written in their original language (baraita).
There is some Aramaic in the Torah. Therefore, it can make sense why the Torah would say that the Aramaic portion of the Torah must be written in Aramaic. But why would we need to say that about the mezuzah or tefillin—texts in which there are no Aramaic words!
Therefore, the Talmud offers yet another resolution. The baraita which allows only the original refers to Megillat Esther, where it is eluded to that it must be written in its original language. The mishnah which allows any language refers to all other books of the Bible.
The amoraim point out some Aramaic words in Esther: pitgam—saying, or letter, and yekar—honor. Both of these words must be written in their original Aramaic and not translated to Hebrew.
Ashi offers yet another resolution. The Torah may be written in any language. But the other books of the Bible may not. In tomorrow’s section we will see a baraita that explains why. So stay tuned!
This section is a direct continuation of yesterday’s sugya. R. Ashi resolved the conflict between the baraita and the Mishnah by ruling that the Torah may be written in any language but the other books of the Bible may not. The baraita that prohibited other books from being written in other languages is here attributed to R. Judah. But first we must deal with that baraita on its own terms.
The first version of this baraita seems to say that the rabbis allowed tefillin and mezuzahs to be written in Greek. The problem with this is that we earlier interpreted the Torah itself as mandating that these scrolls which include the Shema be written in Hebrew. Therefore, the Talmud emends the baraita as referring to scrolls—books of the Bible—and not tefillin and mezuzahs.
After another slight emendation the conclusion is that the rabbis allow scrolls to be translated only into Greek, whereas the “first tanna” allows them to be written in any language.
The Talmud now shows how the Greek elders translated the Torah. The central idea here is that the elders changed the verses to avoid various interpretive or theological problems.
Due to the nature of this passage I have lined it up in a table. The middle column is what is written in the Talmud. On the left is the translation of the purported Septuagint. The right side is the actual Hebrew text. I have not translated the Hebrew original but you should be able to understand it from my explanation below.
Genesis 1:1: Here they changed the order of the words around. According to Rashi the original order might give the impression that an entity named “Bereshit” created God. The change in order might also serve to emphasize that God preexisted the world.
Genesis 1:26: The plural form, which gives the impression of a multitude of gods, was changed into singular.
Genesis 2:2: The original is confusing—did God complete creation on the sixth day or on the seventh day? The revised version makes more sense.
Genesis 5:2: In the original it sounds like two humans were originally created. The emendation changes the word to the singular.
Genesis 11:7: The original is plural and has been emended to the singular.
Genesis 18:12: In the Torah, both Abraham and Sarah laugh when told that they will have a child, but God gets angry only with Sarah. This is puzzling. To fix this problem, the translation reads that Sarah laughed in front of her relatives. Abraham laughed only to himself, and that is why God was not angry with him.
Genesis 49:6: In the original, Shimon and Levi are accused of killing a person. This is emended so that they only killed an ox.
Exodus 4:20: It is a bit dishonorable that Moses has no better vehicle for his wife and kids than a donkey. No horse, no camel! Therefore, the verse is emended.
Exodus 12:40: 430 years is emended to 400 years.
Exodus 24:5, 11: These verses are problematic because one verse says “the youth” and the other verse says “the nobility.” Therefore, both have been emended to read “the elect” a group more appropriate to be sent to greet God.
Numbers 16:15: In the original Moses says he did not take a single “donkey.” This could imply that he did take other objects. To correct this, the emendation reads “valuable item.
Deuteronomy 4:19: The original makes it sound like God created the sun, moon and stars so that non-Jews could worship them. The emended version says that they are just for light.
Deuteronomy 17:3: The original makes it sound like God didn’t command that the sun and stars should even be created. This would give the impression that they were created on their own or by another god. The emended version clarifies that God didn’t command that people should worship them.
According to this legend, Ptolemy’s wife’s name sounded like the Hebrew word “arnevet” which means “hare.” The Jews didn’t want Ptolemy thinking they were mocking him, so they changed it to “beast with small legs.” From a search on the web her name was actually “Arsinoe”—close to arnevet.