Volume 33 Number 86
                 Produced: Mon Nov 20 20:17:36 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Stan Tenen]
Plural of Tallit (2)
         [Carl Singer, Gilad J. Gevaryahu]
Tallis and Yiddish
         [Mark Steiner]
         [Michael Poppers]


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2000 18:34:54 -0500
Subject: Re: Alephbets

[Note: this is part of a much longer subkission from Stan, I have broken
the submission into two major parts. Here is the part that covers the topic
of how to interpret / accept the Gemarah quoted by Isaac A Zlochower [it
looks very similar to a recent argument by Eli Linus that has been
discussed]. There is a second portion that discusses Ktav Ivri as a form
based on pagen idol symbols that may appear later. Mod.]

>Isaac A Zlochower wrote:

> > However, what I do know of
> > talmud makes his assertion that the Torah was never written in ktav Ivri
> > (ancient Hebrew) a rather bold intrusion into an argument of earlier and
> > later talmudic sages - Tanaim and Amoraim (Bablonian Talmud Sanhedrin
> > 21b, 22a).  There we find three Tanaitic views;  The Torah script was
> > changed by Ezra - R' Yossi, the original script was resurrected by Ezra
> > - R' Yehuda the patriarch, or was never changed - R' Eliezer of Modin.
> > R' Yossi also asserts that the reason the new script was called Ashuri
> > was because it came with the returning exiles from Ashur (Assyria).  R'
> > Yehuda is the one who differs and says that Ashuri means beautiful.

My friend Isaac Zlochower perhaps did not notice my reference to the Talmud 
he quotes.  I stand on the opinion of R. Nosson Scherman, as stated in his 
5-page Appendix to R. Michael Munk's "The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet."

This work is readily available, and I don't believe it's appropriate for me 
to quote it in full here.  But let me quote one or two pieces.

This is from the top of p. 234:

"(B) Rabbi [i.e., R' Yehudah HaNassi] holds that Ashuris was the original, 
sacred script in which the Torah was given to Israel and that it remained 
in universal use for many centuries."

Later in the same paragraph:

"According to Rabbi, the word Ashuris is not at all related to Assyria.  He 
says, [Hebrew text omitted], "Why is it called Ashuris?  --because it is 
the most exalted of all scripts."  As Rambam explains (Comm. to Mishnah, 
Yadaim 2:5), its name implies glory and status.  It is derived from the 
word "Ashrei" [written in Hebrew], meaning praises, fortunate, in the sense 
that Zilpah's second son was given the name Asher: [Hebrew text omitted], 
"In my good fortune! For women have deemed me fortunate!" (Genesis 30:13)"

The following is from the middle of p. 234 (C):

"The final opinion is that of R' Shimon ben Elazar in the name of R' 
Eliezer ben Parta in the name of R' Elazar HaModai, a view that is 
elucidated by four major Amoraim, Rav, Shmuel, R'Yochanan, and R' Ashi. (We 
will see below that the fact that so many sages are involved in this 
opinion is significant.)  According to them, Jews never used any script 
other than Ksav Ashuris for Torah and other sacred scrolls.  They give 
another interpretation of R' Yose's proof-verse and offer other verses in 
support of their view.  The Talmud does not give a reason for the name Ksav 
Ashuris according to these sages, but  it is clear that they would explain 
the name as Rabbi does: it means _not_ Assyrian script, but exalted script.

"Teshuvos HaGeonim (responsum 358, quoted in full by Margolis HaYam to 
Sanhedrin 21b) discusses the three opinions and rules that the correct one 
is the third, which denies that Jews ever used Ksav Ivri.  This ruling is 
based on Scriptural and Talmudic proofs and, finally, on the number of 
Tannaim and Amoraim associated with it.  Three Tannaim give this opinion, 
including R' Elazar HaModai, who was senior to all those who dispute 
him.  Furthermore, the fact that four of the greatest Amoraim, spanning 
several generations, discuss this opinion is of great significance.  One of 
the rules of halachic decision making is that a position that is discussed 
by the preponderance of Amoraim is assumed to be authoritative -- otherwise 
why would they occupy themselves with it?

"It should be noted as well that Rambam, too, states that Ksav Ashuris is 
the script that God used in giving the Torah; its name refers not to 
Assyria, but to its quality (Comm. to Mishnah, Yadaim 2:5).

"Accordingly, the problems raised above regarding Mar Zutra's opinion (that 
Ksav Ashuris originated in Assyria) are only theoretical.   According to 
the accepted opinion, our script is _not_ Assyrian and all the holiness 
associated with the Torah script from time immemorial refers to the only 
script that Jews have ever used for sacred purposes."

R. Scherman goes on with additional detail, and refutes the contention that 
Ksav Ivri was ever used on Torah scrolls.  The only Torah in Ksav Ivri 
would have been for practice by people who only knew Ksav Ivri.  But these 
were not kosher Torah scrolls.

Meru Foundation   http://www.meru.org   <meru1@...>


From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000 09:22:02 EST
Subject: Re: Plural of Tallit

<<  Mr Sero is not completely correct, and neither were some of the other
 posters in this regard.  In standard (academic) Yiddish as it is used
 today, any imported word follows the rules of the language from which it
 is borrowed.  It was not uncommon 100 years ago to spell "shabbos" in
 Yiddish as follows :shin aleph beis ayin samach.  This is no longer
 done.  I believe plurals remain as they were in the original language as
 well.  (This would be similar to pluralizing index as indices in
 English, which used to be the preferred plural, rather than indexes,
 which is more common today.  And this does not just apply to Hebrew;
 there are many Polish words in Yiddish.)

 The more fundamental point, however, is that adding "im" to the end of a
 word is not how one makes a plural in Yiddish (or German, whence it was
 derived).  The reason "im" was added by Yiddish speakers is because
 their Hebrew was poor; nevertheless they were trying to make a Hebrew
 plural (they just used the wrong gender).  Thus, to say that "talaisim"
 is correct in Yiddish is probably a mistake, since it was an attempt to
 pluralize a Hebrew word using Hebrew endings, albeit incorrectly.  Had
 the Yiddish speakers added a Yiddish (or German) plural ending (like
 indexes adds an English ending to a foreign word) perhaps one could
 argue that that word (shabbosen perhaps, like frauen for frau) would be
 proper Yiddish.  And by the way, there is another correct Hebrew plural
 for talit: taliyot (you can look it up)

 Ben Z. Katz, M.D. >>

Now I see the problem -- Dr. Katz is dealing with some strange thing
called "standard (academic) Yiddish" -- I remember on my infrequent
trips to New York listening to WEVD and a strange language that sounded
more like German than Yiddish where erudite discussions of Shakespeare
and Kant took place.

Yiddish is a street language, with many words and word ending shaped for
effectiveness (pleasantness, harshness, etc.,) of sound with a healthy
disregard for the proper grammer of the host / source languages.

Thus you take a bus to the city, but the plural is not busses, but busim
 - - as in "ich ob gezayne a sach busim nor nicht der grechteh -- a
broch" -- I saw lots of busses, but not the right one -- mild expletive.

It's talaysim, un a frageh (without a doubt).  I speak with the
authority of someone who's never touched a Yiddish language text in his
life, but for whom Yiddish is my first language, learned as a child in
the DP camps in Germany and in my home and on the streets growing up.
Speaking with those a generation older than myself, including an uncle
who grew up in Radin -- in (no adjectives, free and clear) Yiddish it's
talaysim.  (So now you've heard it from both a Polak and a Litvak --
what else could you want :)

Kol Tov

Carl A. Singer,  Ph.D.
(Chuneh Avrum Zynger)

From: Gilad J. Gevaryahu <Gevaryahu@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000 12:05:52 EST
Subject: Plural of Tallit

<<Mark Steiner <marksa@...> correctly quotes the Mishna in
Zovim 4:5,7 which uses as the plural "talliyot".>>

To which Yisrael Medad suggests (v33n84) that the plural could also be
"talitot." Yisarel is correct; the source is B. Shabbat 147a. But with
the influence of incorrect usage even the error becomes the norm,
accordingly, Even Shoshan gives the "talitim" as an optional
pl. (Ha-Milon He-Chadash, p.  458.)

The plurality of words with "it" suffix is sometimes with "yot" and
sometimes with "tot" and occasionally with both. Therefore "tarmit" is
only "tarmiyot" (Rashi, Sanhedrin 109a); but "brit" is only "britot"
since "briyot" was taken already for the plurality of "briya." But for
"ribit" the common pl. is "ribiyot" but I found in Bar Ilan CD/ROM in
Sho"t Avnei Shayish (Morocco, 1739-1809) the usage of "ribitot."

Gilad J. Gevaryahu


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000 18:52:28 +0200
Subject: Re: Tallis and Yiddish

Since I posted my remark about 'taliyos' being the plural of 'tallis' I
have found 'tallisos' in Devorim Rabbah, but my brother (a famous
linguist) tells me that Devorim Rabbah is not a good source for the
"original" grammar of Mishnaic Hebrew.  So, if "earlier is better" I
stick with 'talliyos' (by the way, there's an aleph before the vov in
the ms. I checked).

As for 'talleism' in Yiddish:

1.  There is no question that today this is the plural of Yiddish
'tallis'.  Many forms which were "incorrect" English or Latin for that
matter centuries ago became standard Enlish or Italian today.  But, more
to the point,

2.  One should be careful about labeling Yiddish forms as bad Hebrew, or
based on weak knowledge of Hebrew, without careful checking.  Yiddish is
known to preserve ancient forms of Hebrew, which predate even the
Masora.  It is interesting, for example, that the plural "talleisim"
preserves the "tzereh" under the lamed, and the word we pronounce
"tallis" was probably originally 'talleis' (which is how the word is
vocalized in the Kaufmann Codex of the Mishnah, a vocalized ms. of the
Mishnah regarded as an extremely reliable source).  And there are a
(small) number of cases in rabbinic literature where 'tallis' is
masculine.  I'm not a linguist, and for that reason, I am cautious about
these matters, and I recommend caution also to others.


From: Michael Poppers <MPoppers@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000 13:07:23 -0500
Subject: Re: Tallit

In M-J V33#81, MSavitz wrote:
> I would have thought that "tallit," like most words ending in a tav, is
feminine.  But then why do we refer to a "tallit gadol" and a "tallit
katan"?  I have never heard of a "tallit gedola" or a "tallit ketana." Is
this one of the rare exceptions, like "bayit"? <

I'm privileged to be a member of a mailing list that dealt with this
topic approximately two months ago.  Here is the response of my Rav,
Rabbi EMTeitz, re the author of the Shulchan Aruch alternately referring
to tallis in the masculine (e.g. OC 8:3, as per your post) and in the

"The Mechaber, throughout Hilchos Tzitzis, seems to refer to the generic
garment as feminine, but to the specific mitzvah garments, both gadol
and katan, as masculine -- not just for the size adjective, but for all
purposes.  Perhaps the intent was to distinguish between the garment
known as talis, and the mitzvah object."

All the best from
Michael Poppers * Elizabeth, NJ


End of Volume 33 Issue 86