Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Talmud Torah 4:3
[moderators note: In every classic edition of MT, the glosses of RABD, R.
Abraham ben David of Posquieres, are included. RABD was a contemporary
of R, who lived in Provence. As R was working on the folios of MT, he
would send them out, piece by piece, to the scholarly community in
Provence for their perusal. RABD, who often contested his colleagues in
acerbic terms, wrote glosses on the MT which became so central to any MT
study that they were always included. For a fuller treatment of RABD,
the haverim are referred to Twersky's Rabad of Posquieres, JPS, 1980. We
will include RABD's glosses in our study. They will be preceded with
"RABD" and be included in brackets.]
3: If [the teacher wants to] teach personally, he may do so. If he
[wants to] teach through a *meturgeman* (spokesman), the
*meturgeman*should stand between him and his students. The teacher
speaks to the *meturgeman* and he announces the teaching to all the
students. When they ask the *meturgeman*, he asks the teacher, the
teacher responds to the *meturgeman*, who then responds to the inquirer.
The teacher should not raise his voice above that of the *meturgeman*,
and the *meturgeman*, when he is asking a question of the teacher, should
not raise his voice above the voice of the teacher.
The *meturgeman* is not allowed to detract from, to add to or to alter
[the words of the teacher] unless the *meturgeman* was the father or
teacher of the teacher. [RABD: This is an unheard-of event (that
someone's father or teacher would serve as his spokesman) - the only case
was that of Rav (BT Yoma 20b) who stood as *meturgeman* for R. Shila and
changed and added (to his words) because he (Rav) was greater than him
When the teacher tells the *meturgeman* "Thus said my teacher..." or
"thus said my father, my master...", the *meturgeman*, when transmitting
these words to the people, should quote the statement in the name of the
[original] sage, and mentions the name of the teachers's father or
teacher, and says: "Thus said the sage, (his name)" - even though the
teacher did not mention the name of the sage, since he is not allowed to
refer to his own teacher or father by name.
Q1: What was the function of the *meturgeman*?
JB(Jay Bailey ):
There were two types of Merturgemans (translators/interpreters). The
first is the kind who stood by the Torah reader in the synagogue and
translated into Aramaic as the reader read, verse by verse. It is
mentioned dozens of times in the Talmud; once the Jews were exiled to
Babylon, their vernacular was Aramaic - only the scholars and elders
spoke or understood Hebrew. Thus to make Torah reading understandable, it
was translated. In the same way, the Meturgeman would also sit by the
Rabbi in the synagogue or the study hall. When the Rabbi would share
words of Torah with the congregation or with his students, he would speak
quietly in Hebrew and the trans. would repeat his words in Aramaic.
YE(Yitz Etshalom ):
It seems, from this selection in R, that the Meturgeman was not only a
"translator" but also a "loudspeaker" for the teacher. This could either
be the case if the teacher was too frail (or the study hall too big) for
his voice to reach - or if it seemed more "respectful" to have such a
procedure. R's wording seems to favor the second reason: If he [wants
to] teach through a *meturgeman*etc.
Q2: Why all of the details about not raising the voice higher etc.?
JB: This seems to be an innovation by R. The Talmud (Brachot 45a) only
discusses this in one specific situation: In Torah reading. The source is
that when Moshe spoke to God, God answered him "B'kol", in a voice. The
word seems superfluous, so the Talmud concludes that God answered him
using Moshe's own voice, not to overwhelm him. So too, the Rabbi should
not yell when talking to the Meturgeman. That aside, the Ma'aseh Rokeach
mentions that it is an issue of respect; the Meturgeman should, of
course, yell out so that the students hear him, but when the two men talk
between themselves, it is more respectful to talk quietly.
YE: You raise a good point, Jay - and perhaps R is extending the
Rebbe/Meturgeman relationship from Keriat haTorah (public Torah reading)
to teaching Torah. There are several points in R's dealing with Keriat
haTorah where he seems to make that connection. (see, for instance,
Hilkhot Tefilla 13:6- Rabbi Soloveitchik gave a beautiful explanation to
this Rambam, which I will share when we get to it, IY"H)
Q3: What is the reason for RABD's challenge (where he seems to indicate
that even if the *meturgeman* is not the father or teacher of the
teacher, if he is a greater scholar, he may alter his words)?
JB: RABD challenges for good reason. If the notion of having an
is a Talmudic one, then examples should come from the Talmud. And guess
what? there are NO examples in the Talmud of a greater Rabbi or father
serving as a translator. And the one that RABD mentions, with Rav and
Shila, mentions SPECIFICALLY that Rav was just passing through, and it
happened to be that Shilah had no translator. At the end of the story,
they actually disagree about a word, Shilah excuses Rav when he realizes
who he is (and that he felt uncomfortable being translated by such a
great scholar) and Rav stays anyway, etc. etc. The point is, that there's
only one mention and it obviously is not something practiced traditionally..
Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project