Shabbat 115 When to Save the Scriptures?
Interestingly, the Mishnah says that “even if they are written in any other language,” when worn out they should be hidden away in a geniza [see our discussion on Shabbat 90] – more confirmation that there were Biblical translations in use among Jews in this period. Many have heard of Targum [into Aramaic] and of the Septuagint [into Greek], but our page also mentions Egyptian, Median, and Elamite – interestingly, one is not allowed to read any of them but the Targum, even though ! There is a debate between Rabbi Huna and Rabbi Hisda as to whether Biblical translations can be saved from a fire – are they THAT holy? The question is not finally resolved, but it is comforting to know that even in Rabbinic times many needed to resort to a translation to understand the Bible.
Kitve ha-kodesh were clearly on another level from other writing involving the divine name – blessings that have been written down and amulets, even though they include God’s name and passages from the Scriptures, should not be saved from a fire. And a scroll that has become so worn out that one cannot find 85 legible letters in it may no longer be saved – who has the time to count in a burning synagogue, I don’t know. And though we would love more information on HOW those translations that may or may not be saved from a fire on Shabbat were used in those days, the Talmud is not a history book.
Rabbi Adam Chalom