Nathan ben Abraham I

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Nathan ben Abraham
TitlePresident of the Academy
נתן בן אברהם

late 10th century CE
Diedcirca 1051 CE[1]
  • Abraham (father)
Jewish leader
PositionAv Beit Din

Nathan ben Abraham, known also by the epithet President of the Academy (Hebrew: רבינו נתן אב הישיבה) in the Land of Israel (died ca. 1045 – 1051),[1] was an 11th-century rabbi and exegete of the Mishnah, a compendium of Jewish oral law, whose original Judeo-Arabic commentary of the Mishnah served as the basis for a later recension made by a 12th-century anonymous author and copyist,[2][3] believed to be of Yemenite Jewish provenance.[4][5] It is doubtful that his work would have survived, had it not been for the faithful copyist, whose innovation was to interweave in the existing text the divergent views held by several geonim and the explanations given by them for words and passages in the Mishnah. The author's introduction reads: "I found the commentaries of Rabbi Nathan, the President of the Academy, [which he made] for explicating the different language usages in the Mishnah, and I have seen fit to add thereto others besides, drawn from the commentaries of Israel's sages."[6] Rabbi Nathan's work is one of the first known commentaries of the Mishnah, ranking with that of Rabbi Hai Gaon's commentary on Seder Taharot in the Mishnah (and is the oldest existing commentary encompassing the entire Six Orders of the Mishnah).[7] Among commentaries, scholars have ascribed a unique place unto the commentary of Rabbi Nathan, saying that by virtue of its composition in the Land of Israel, the interpretations of R. Nathan Av ha-Yeshivah are believed to embody an unbroken Palestinian-Jewish tradition on the meanings of difficult words. The treatise also sheds light on the diachrony of Hebrew words. The entire work was rendered into a Hebrew translation by Rabbi Yosef Qafih, with an abridged first edition being published between the years 1955 and 1958, and the second edition in 1965. Even so, the work has not seen widespread circulation.[8]


The manuscript was retrieved in ca. 1927 by Rabbi Yihya al-Qafih, from the place used by the Jewish community in Sana'a to bury old and worn-out sacred literature (genizah), within the Jewish cemetery itself on the outskirts of the city.[9] Three copies were made of the original manuscript, before it was sold to a certain Shelomo Halevi Busani (later of Tel-Aviv), who, in turn, sold the manuscript to the Schechter Library in New York. Today, the original manuscript is housed at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, under JTS Rab. 1492.[10] One of the three remaining copies, copied in 1930 by Qafih's grandson, was acquired by the Hebrew University library,[11] from which a comprehensive study was made of the text by Professor Simcha Assaf who published his findings in the periodical Kiryat Sefer, in 1933.

The British Museum possesses a partial copy of Nathan ben Abraham's Judeo-Arabic commentary of the Mishnah (with only the Mishnaic Orders of Zera'im, Mo'ed and Neziqin).[12]

Among the manuscripts and incunabula collected by David Solomon Sassoon is a two-page Judeo-Arabic copy of the Introduction taken from Rabbi Nathan's commentary, believed to have been singled-out because of its more profound nature.[13] Rabbi Yosef Qafih has provided a Hebrew translation of the Introduction in the Mishnah published by El ha-Meqorot.


Anonymous copyist[edit]

The anonymous copyist is said to have lived between 1105 – 1170 CE, making him a contemporary with Rabbi Isaac Alfasi and Nathan ben Jehiel of Rome, the author of Sefer Arukh.[14] He is the first to introduce the work as being a commentary of the Mishnah, written by "Rabbeinu Nathan, Av ha-Yeshiva" (the President of the Academy), whom he calls "the son of Abraham ha-Ḥasīd" (Abraham the Pious). This last epithet is believed to have been an error by the copyist, who mistook its true author, Nathan ben Abraham (of the 11th century), with Nathan ben Abraham II, the grandson of the former.[15] He then proceeds to bring down a long introduction wherein he spans the history of the written and oral Laws, writing in Judeo-Arabic and commencing with the words, qāl ğāmiʿuh (= "So said the gatherer [of the sayings of the fathers]," etc.), covering the Torah's reception at Sinai and how it was transmitted down throughout successive generations, naming some thirteen generations from the time of Israel's return from the Babylonian exile to the time of Rabbi Judah HaNasi who compiled the Mishnah in 189 CE. In all this, he never once mentions his own name, but chooses to remain anonymous. He also explains some of the terminology used in the Talmud, such as when a saying is meant to be understood as an external teaching (Baraitta) outside of the Mishnah, and when it is to be understood as a teaching strictly derived from the Mishnah compiled by Rabbi Judah HaNasi. He then mentions the redaction of the Babylonian Talmud under Rav Ashi as occurring in the year 841 of Seleucid era (corresponding with 530 CE), and names the great exegetes that followed this period, namely: the author of Halakhot Ḳetu'ot and Halakhot Pesuḳot, Rabbi Yehudai Gaon; the author of Halakhot Gedolot, Rabbi Shimon Kiara; the author of the Beramot (a term applied to the book Sheëltot of Rav Aḥai, the Gaon of Shabḥa); Rabbi Hai Gaon; Rabbi Isaac ibn Ghiyyat of Lucena; Rabbi Nissim, the author of Sefer ha-Mafteaḥ, Rabbi Samuel ben Ḥofni, Rabbi Hananel, and Rabbi Isaac Alfasi. A certain book entitled Kitāb al-Ḥāwī ("the Compendium") is cited four times, composed by a certain R. David b. Saadiah.[16]

Three of the author's more extensive commentaries exist for the tractates Berakhot, Shevu'ot and Avot. Since the anonymous copyist makes use of other sources in the original work bequeathed by Rabbi Nathan, it is not uncommon for him to give one explanation for a word in one tractate, but in a different tractate give a different explanation for the same word. The anonymous copyist deviated from the set order of the Mishnah, bringing down the order as follows: (Seder Zera'im) Berakhot, (Seder Mo'ed) 'Eruvin, Pesahim, Sheqalim, Kippurim, Sukkah, Betzah, Rosh Ha-Shannah, Ta'anith, Megillah, Hagiggah, Mo'ed Qatan, etc.

Rabbi Nathan[edit]

A critical analysis of the time-frame in which the author of the Judeo-Arabic Mishnah commentary lived places him in the early 11th century. Assaf suggests that he was Rabbi Nathan the second, the son of Rabbi Abraham who was called the Pious, a contemporary of Rabbi Abiathar, who served in the geonate of the Land of Israel in 1095 CE.[17] This view has been rejected by more recent scholars, such as Gil (1983), Friedman (1990), Danzig (1998), Amar (2011) and Fox (1994), who put him two generations earlier. In around 1011, Nathan travelled to Qayrawan, to attend to his family inheritance, and while there he studied under the illustrious Rabbi Hushiel ben Elhanan, one of the greatest Jewish scholars of the time.[18] During this time he would travel to Fustat (Old Cairo), in Egypt, where he had certain business engagements, and where it was that he'd meet his future wife, the daughter of Mevorakh ben Eli, a wealthy citizen of Fustat. Nearing the age of forty, he returned to his native Palestine and, after settling in Ramleh where he vied with a certain gaon Solomon ben Judah of Jerusalem between the years 1038 and 1051 over the position of gaon, he was eventually appointed the Av Beit Din (President of the court) in Palestine, a position only second to that of the gaon,[19] and which post he held until his death.[20] During his years of public service, Rabbi Nathan had garnered the support and backing of Diaspora communities, although Solomon ben Judah had secured the backing of the local community, as well as the Fatimid governor of Ramleh.[21] In Palestine, he compiled a commentary on the Mishnah, which commentary enjoyed widespread circulation in the Jewish world in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.[22]

An early reference to Nathan ben Abraham's Mishnah commentary is brought down by Rabbi Moses ben Nahman (1194–1270), who cites the commentary in his own Talmudic commentary (vide Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashannah 10a), saying: "Likewise, I found written in the glosses of old copies of the Mishnah composed in the Land of Israel where they explained the meaning of sippūq (Heb. ספוק) as having the connotation of adā, in the Arabic tongue, [meaning], he that grafts a tree upon a tree." The reference here is to Nathan's commentary in Tractate Orlah (1:5).

Methods of exegesis[edit]

Rabbi Nathan's method of elucidation is mostly similar to that of Maimonides' Mishnah Commentary - the two often complementing each other, but differs in several key areas. A comparative study gives readers a glimpse into words that carried different connotations in that period, with occasional words whose identification can have a significant halachic bearing, depending on how they are explained.[23] There are above one-hundred entries of plants mentioned in the Mishnah that have been identified by Rabbi Nathan. In some entries, two different explanations are given for one word, the one perhaps under the authority of another rabbinic sage.

Comparative study of Mishnaic words
Mishnah Hebrew Word Nathan ben Abraham Maimonides Sefer Arukh[24] Hai Gaon
Uktzin 2:2 אזוב אלצעתר
Marjoram (Majorana syriaca)[25]
Marjoram (Majorana syriaca)[26][27]
אברתא בר המג
(Aḇarta bar hemaj)[28]
Kila'im 5:8[29] אירוס אלחלק
Cissus spp.[30]
Mentha spp.[31]
“a tree whose name in the Gallian tongue is erusa[33]
Nedarim 6:8 (6:10)[34] אספרגוס מי סלק
(“beet water”)[35]
“the water in which any vegetable has been boiled, especially Kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala)”[36] “taken from the kinds of karūb (Brassica) which were steeped in wine and called by them asparagos[37] “taken from the kinds of karūb (Brassica) which were steeped in wine and called by them asparagos[38]
Shabbat 21:3[39] אפונין אלחמץ
Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum)
Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum)[40]
(Arabic: אלחמץ)
Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum)
Yoma 3:9[41] אשכרוע אלבקס
Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)
Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)[42]
(Arabic: בקס)
Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)[43]
Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)
Niddah 9:6[45] בורית אשנאן
Saltwort (Seidlitzia rosmarinus)
al-ghāsūl (alkali substance)
“its essence is from a plant”[48] זאתא
(zātha [zitha])[49]
Shevi'it 5:1[50] בנות שוח אלמוז
Banana (Musa paradisiaca)[51]
Sycamore figs
"a kind of sycamore fig"[52] "white figs" ---
Demai 1:1 גופנין “grapes that are unfit for being made into raisins”[53] “a species of vegetables similar to dill, but there are those who say Assyrian plum[54] lambrusco; what appears at the end of the [grape] harvest” ---
Kila'im 1:2 דלעת מצרית בטיך' אלחבשי
Cultivar of Cucumis melo[55]
אלדלאע אלמצרי
Egyptian gourd[56]
Castorbean plant (Ricinus communis)
Kila'im 1:2[57] sing. חזרת
pl. חזרים
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)[58]
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)[59]
Shevi'it 7:2 חלביצין אלראזק
unidentified "egg-shaped seeds that issue from the fennel (Ferula)"[61] ---
Shevi'it 9:1 חלגלוגות[62] זהראת אלנבאת
(zahrāt al-nebāt)
Herbal flowers[63]
“a kind of purslane whose leaves are large and whose stalk is long, being al-baqla al-ḥamqa[64]
(Portulaca oleracea)
Arabic: אלפרפחין[65]
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
Arabic: בזר רגלה
“the seed of purslane”[66]
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
Uktzin 3:5 חמס[67] ריחאן
Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Cinnamomum cassia[68]
"Ginger; others say דארציני which is cinnamon" דארציני
Cinnamomum cassia
Pesahim 2:6 חרחבונה[69] אלחנדקוק
Sweet clover (Melilotus ssp.; Trifolium ssp.; Trigonella ssp.)[70]
others say אלקרצעונה (Eryngium creticum)
(Eryngium creticum)[71]
Kila'im 1:1[73] טופח אלגֻלבאן
Vetchling pea (Lathyrus ssp.)
אלקרטמאן [74]
Chickling vetch[75]
--- גולבאן
“a kind of legume; in Arabic jūlebān[76]
(Lathyrus ssp.)
Shevi'it 9:1[77] ירבוזין אלגרבוז
Pigweed (Amaranthus blitum var. silvestre)[78]
Pigweed (Amaranthus blitum var. silvestre)[79]
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)[80]
Menahot 10:7[81] כוסמין אלעלס
Wild emmer (Triticum dicoccum)[82]
Vetch (Vicia ervilia)
אלקמח אלברי
Wild wheat[84]
--- ---
Shevi'it 7:6 כופר אלכאפור
Henna (Lawsonia inermis; L. alba)[86]
Clove (Caryophyllus aromaticus)
Uktzin 1:6[87] כליסין אלתאלוק / אלכ'נס
Sycamore figs
(Ficus sycomorous)
"a type of thin figs" כלס
Wild Syrian pears (Pyrus syriaca)[89]
Kila'im 1:3[90] כרוב אלכלם[91]
Kohlrabi (Brassica var. caulorapa)
Kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala)[92]
Niddah 2:6 כרכום אלזעפראן
Saffron (Crocus ssp.)[93]
Saffron (Crocus sativus)[94]
כורכמא / מוריקא
Saffron (Crocus sativus)
Saffron (Crocus ssp.)[95]
Sheviit 5:2 לוף אלקלקאס
Taro (Colocasia esculenta)
Cuckoo-pint (Arum palaestinum)[96]
“a kind of onion”[97][98] קאולוקאס"ו
Taro (Colocasia esculenta)
(Arabic: קאלקס)[99]
“similar to colocasia, and of its kind; bearing broad leaves”[100]
Sheviit 7:6 לטום[101] שאה בלוט
Chestnut (Castanea sativa)[102]
שאה בלוט
Chestnut (Castanea sativa)[103]
(Arabic: בלוט)
Kila'im 1:3 לעונין שרשי הסלק
Beet roots[104] (Beta vulgaris var. cicla)[105]
Sorrel (Rumex acetosa); Orache Atriplex hortensis[106]
אטריצפ"י[107] ---
Kila'im 1:5 לפסן כתאה
Garden Rocket (Eruca sativa)[108]
Charlock mustard (Sinapis arvensis)[109]
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)[111]
Kila'im 1:2[112] מלפפון אלכ'רבז
Muskmelon (Cucumis melo)
“one of the kinds of watermelon whose smell is sweet”[113]
Cucumber (Cucumis sativus)[114]
Kila'im 1:3 נפוס אלגזר
Carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus)[116]
פג'ל שאמי
“Syrian radish”
Rape (Brassica napus)[117]
Radish (Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. sativus)
Parsnip (Pastinaca)
"hemā in the language employed by the rabbis; these are elongated"[118]
Shevi'it 7:1 נץ החלב נואר אלמחלב
Blossom of the St. Lucie cherry (Prunus mahaleb)
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum)[119]
"white flowers; a weed from
which exudes latex when cut"
Thistle (Silybum marianum);
(Cynara scolymus)[120]
Avodah Zarah 1:5 נקליבס גוארשין
millet (Panicum miliaceum)[121]
"one of the [cereal] grasses"[122] --- ---
Uktzin 2:2[123] סיאה אלסאיה
(a generic word for aromatic plants of the family Lamiaceae)[125]
צתרי, which is פוליו = pennyroyal (?); but others say
Uktzin 3:4 עדל --- אלשיטרג
Pepperwort (Lepidium latifolium)[128]
“that which is similar to radish, but there are those who say Satureja (potherb)”[129] סיטרג דרקונת
“a potherb, similar to radish; Dragon pepperwort”[130]
Demai 1:1[131] עוזרר[132] אלזערור
Hawthorn (Crataegus aronia)
Hawthorn (Crataegus aronia)[133]
(Crataegus aronia)
Hawthorn (Crataegus aronia)[135]
Tamid 2:3[136] עץ שמן אלצנובר
Pine tree (Pinus halepensis)[137]
--- “a genus of אלצנובר (pine tree)
which are the Pine nut [bearing trees] called Pino[138]
Eruvin 2:6 (2:8)[139] עקרבנין[140] “a bitter plant called ʿaqrabitha אלעקרבאן
Hart's tongue (Asplenium scolopendrium)[141]
“herbs with which one fulfills his obligation at Passover, and which sprout around the date-palm tree, and [which] Rabbi Hai Gaon explained as meaning `a very thick plant, having that which resembles needle points`”[142] (see explanation in Sefer Arukh)
Shevi'it 9:1[143] פיגם אלשד'אב
Rue (Ruta chalepensis)
(Ruta chalepensis)
Rue (Ruta chalepensis)[145]
(Ruta chalepensis)[146]
Kila'im 1:3 פלוסלוס כשד
Lablab bean (Lablab purpureus)[147]
אלתרמס אלברי
Wild lupine[148]
Wild lupine
Shevi'it 2:7 פרגין ד'רה
Sorghum (Sorghum vulgare)[149]
Poppy seeds (P. somniferum)
Poppy seeds (Papaver somniferum)[150]
Poppy seeds (Papaver somniferum)
Shabbat 2:1 פתילת העידן[151] “that which resembles wool between the wood and bark of the willow, but others say it is the Sodom apple (Calotropis procera)”
(i.e. bast wick)
“a woollen [fibre] that appears in one of the herbal species” עמרניתא דערבה
(Wool-like bast of the willow tree)[152]
Shabbat 2:1 פתילת המדבר[153] --- “herbal leaves that can be twined and lit”[154] --- ---
Uktzin 2:2[155] קורנית[156] סאחיה
al-ḥāšā, very popular among the physicians, and which is a herb among the Lamiaceae[158] אוריגנו, but others say סדוריא
(Oregano, others say Satureja [=savory]”)[159]
Shevi'it 7:6 קטף אלאסטיראק
Oleoresin of the Styrax officinalis[160]
עוד אלבלסאן
Balsam (Commiphora gileadensis)[161]
Balsam (Commiphora gileadensis)
Kila'im 5:8[162] קינרס[163] אבאדנגאן
Aubergine / egg plant (Solanum melongena)[164]
Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus)[165]
--- ---
Kila'im 5:8[166] קנבס אלקנב
Hemp (Cannabis indica)
Hemp (Cannabis indica)[167]
Hemp (Cannabis indica)
Kila'im 5:8[168] קסוס[169] אללבלאר
Bindweed (Convolvulus ssp.)[170]
Bindweed (Convolvulus ssp.)[172]
Ivy (Hedera)
(a thorn)
Uktzin 1:2[174] קפלוטות[175] אלכראת' אלשאמי
Syrian leeks (Allium ampeloprasum var. kurrat)
אלכראת' אלשאמי
Syrian leeks (Allium ampeloprasum var. kurrat)[176]
Greek: קיפאל"י
Head [of leeks]
Kila'im 1:4[177] קרוסטמלין אלכמת'רי
Pear (Pyrus syriaca)[178]
Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)[179]
Pear (Pyrus syriaca)[180]
pear; small apple
"little apples resembling galls"[181]
Terumot 3:1[182] sing. קשות
pl. קישואין
Egyptian cucumber (Cucumis melo var. chate)[183]
Egyptian cucumber (Cucumis melo var. chate)[184]
Arabic: אלכיאר[186]
(Cucumis sativus)
(Cucumis sativus)[187]
Demai 1:1[188] רימין אלנבק[189]
Christ's thorn jujube (Ziziphus spina-christi)
סדר; אלנבק
Jujube (Ziziphus spina-christi)[191]
פולצרק"י[192] ---
Shevi'it 7:2 רכפה הֻרד[193]
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)[194]
Weld (Reseda luteola)[195]
שגר מרים
Root of the tree Shejar Maryam[196]
Menahot 10:7[197] שבולת שועל סנבלת אלת'עלב
Fox's spike[198]
סנבל אלת'עלב
(שעיר ברי)
Wild barley[199]
Rye (Secale cereale)
Others say בינ"א[200]
Kila'im 5:8 שושנת המלך אכליל אלמלך
Sweet clover (Melilotus)
שקאיק אלנעמאן
Anemone (Anemone coronaria)[201]
--- ---
Menahot 10:7[197] שיפון אלסאפה
Oats (Avena sterilis)[202]
Ovate goatgrass (Aegilops geniculata)
“a kind of wild barley”
Avena or Aegilops[204]
Spelt (Triticum spelta)
Kila'im 1:1 שעועית אלעתר
Field pea (Pisum sativum)
Cowpea (Vigna sinensis)[205]
פסילתא[206] ---
Kelim 14:5 שעם
Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris)
Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris)[208]
“wood bark, which is: שגמין[209] similar to: כיזוראן
Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris)[210]
Kila'im 2:5[211] תלתן אלחלבה
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)[212]
Arabic: חולב"א
Pesahim 2:6 תמכה אלשילם
Endives (Cichorium endivia)[215]
or Wild chicory (Cichorium divaricatum)
(cardo = Thistle)
others say מרו"ו[216]
Kila'im 1:3 תרופתור[217] אלקרנביט
Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea botrytis)
“a wild cabbage (kale) whose stalks are thin”[218] Arabic: קרנביט

Occasionally, Nathan ben Abraham relates to the practical usages of plants in the Land of Israel and in Greater Syria, writing, for example, that either St. John's wort (Hypericum ssp.) (Judeo-Arabic: דאד'י) or violets (Viola odorata) (Judeo-Arabic: אלבנפסג) were placed in flagons of wine to impart their flavor, while rose florets (Rosa) were used to impart flavor to olive oil and to sesame seeds.[219]

Modern Hebrew usages[edit]

In Modern Hebrew nomenclature, some of the plant identifications have changed since medieval times. For example, the Modern Hebrew word for cucumber is melaphephon (a word formerly used for "melon"). The word kishū’īm (formerly "cucumbers") is now applied to zucchini squash (Cucurbita pepo var. cylindrica), a plant native to the New World. In modern colloquial Hebrew, the word ḥazeret (formerly "lettuce") is now used to denote horseradish (Armoracia rusticana). Karkūm, formerly used in Hebrew to denote only saffron, is now used also for turmeric. Lūf (formerly Arum palaestinum) is now used in modern colloquial Hebrew to denote the broadleaf wild leek (Allium ampeloprasum). Modern botanists in Israel now call Clover (Trifolium) by the name tiltan, which word formerly meant "fenugreek" (Trigonella foenum-graecum).[220] Modern Hebrew now calls cork (Quercus suber) by the name "sha'am," although in Rabbi Nathan's day it had the meaning of "bamboo." Afūnna (der. of afūnnin) is now used in Modern Hebrew as a generic word for all kinds of garden peas, when formerly it was used strictly for chickpeas (Cicer arietinum).[221] Cauliflower is now called krūvīt in Modern Hebrew, but which formerly was known as therūḇtor. In many cases, Arabic names are used to identify plants. Most Hebrew speakers will call the frothy relish made from fenugreek by its Arabic name, ḥilbah. So, too, the biblical hyssop, eizoḇ, is now popularly called by its Arabic name, zaatar.[222] The Arabic word sabōn which is now used for soap (borit) is related to the Aramaic word ṣap̄ona = ܨܦܘܢܐ (soap). In other cases, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda invented new words, such as ḥatzilīm (egg-plants; aubergines), to take the place of Hebrew words long forgotten, but what Nathan ben Abraham understood as being called qīnras.


The earliest modern-day printing of Rabbi Nathan's work came in 1955, when the El Meqorot publishers of Jerusalem printed the Hebrew translation of Rabbi Nathan's commentary, yet only as a supplement to other commentaries. In 1958, the same publishers published a single edition, edited by Mordechai Yehuda Leib Sachs. A third edition was published by them in 1965. The Harry Fischel Institute in Jerusalem published the Mishnaic order of Zera'im. In 1973, Me'orot publishers of Jerusalem published an edition of the commentary, although it too was not an exclusive edition, but incorporated other commentaries.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Friedman, Mordechai A. (1990a), p. 44 [16]
  2. ^ Schlossberg, E. (2005), p. 281
  3. ^ Simcha Assaf (Kiryat Sefer 1933) presumes that the copyist and redactor lived between the years 1105 CE and 1170 CE, based on the fact that the last of the exegetes mentioned by the copyist is Rabbi Isaac Alfasi (1013–1103), while not mentioning at all in his work the explanations given by Maimonides (born 1135), who also compiled a Judeo-Arabic commentary on the Mishnah (see: Nathan ben Abraham (1955), vol. 1, Preface written by Mordecai Yehudah Leib Sachs, appended at the end of the book).
  4. ^ Such is the opinion of Rabbi Yosef Qafih and others, based on the author's choice of Arabic words and which tend to show a dialect of Arabic used in Yemen, as well as the manuscript's place of discovery, viz. Yemen. However, this conclusion is not agreed upon by all, since many of the words brought down by Qafih to prove this point and which, according to him, are of a "pure" Yemeni dialect, are also Arabic words used in Iraq. Simcha Assaf, however, has presumed that the copyist was originally from Egypt.
  5. ^ Qafih, Y. (2018), pp. 28–29
  6. ^ Nathan ben Abraham (1955), vol. 1, p. 13 [7a] (end of introduction), appended at the end of the book.
  7. ^ Amar, Z. & Kapah, E. (2011b), p. 11
  8. ^ Besides the Harry Fischel Institute that has reprinted sections of the invaluable work, namely, the entire Mishnaic Order known as Zera'im (Seeds), the commentary is relatively unknown among the Yeshivas.
  9. ^ Rabbi Yosef Qafih, recalling the event, describes it as follows: "There is a custom had among most of the people who assume oversight over the synagogues in Yemen that any book that has become worn-out or become very old they'd store it away in the vault situated beneath the hekhal (Ark) and this is its genizah. From time to time, when a sufficient quantity of books, fragments of books, pages and worn-out leaves [of books] has been amassed there, they collect them, place them inside earthenware jars and bury them in the cemetery, near one of the righteous men, and occasionally there are buried books, pages and leaves of valuable worth, which the same person who is meant to oversee [the affairs of the synagogue] has not fully appreciated their worth. To our happiness, many times the grave diggers are too lazy to dig deep, well beneath the earth. Wherefore, occasionally, after the rainy season, especially in the years that are blessed with plenty of rain, the heads of these jars are exposed because of rain erosion, where it eroded and made thin the upper layer of earth. My grandfather who is now deceased, the Rabbi Yihya Qafih, of blessed memory, would complain about the overseers of the synagogues and reprimand them over burying in the genizah things which contain pearls of great beneficial use, and of invaluable worth, without allowing for a man who is more adept [than he] and who knows how to examine them first and to determine what is worthy of being buried and what is still worthy of being used by the coming generations, so as to give some merit to the congregation. He commanded one of the caretakers of the cemetery that, in the event that the heads of the jars such as these should ever be exposed, he was to inform him, before he proceeded to dig deeper in order to bury them once more. I remember when I was about ten years old, the man came to inform my grandfather, of blessed memory, that such [a jar] that had been buried was now exposed. I remember that it was on a Thursday, before nightfall. On the next day, on Friday morning, my grandfather took me with him, and we went out together to the place of the genizah, according to where the informant had directed us. Now since my grandfather, of blessed memory, was already old, above eighty years in age, and it was difficult for him to bend down, I was the one who took out books and fragments of books, and ordinary pages that were wet and moldy, dusty and muddy, both hand-written manuscripts and printed texts; my grandfather, of blessed memory, sitting throughout all this time upon a stone, examining them and sorting them, one by one, until the early afternoon, and then we returned the rest inside the jar and covered it up. We took with us what we had sorted and returned to the city. At the departing of the Sabbath, my grandfather sat down to sort through his spoils, to take-apart the pages [of books] that had already stuck together because of the wetness from the rains that had penetrated within the jar. In this genizah we found hand-written pages from the Babylonian Talmud, and also fragments from Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed, from Mishnah commentaries, from the commentaries of Rabbi Saadia Gaon, from the Midrash Hagadol, and many more. Whatsoever our hook brought up on that blessed day is today in my possession. Some of them still show upon them the vestiges of the soil and clay to this very day. Among the spoils, we found an old hand-written book, the majority of whose pages were already sticking together, clumps upon clumps. My grandfather sat a long time, slowly soaking them in water and with great patience, after he had checked and saw to his satisfaction that the letters were not being erased by soaking them in water. I still remember how the pages were strewn across the entire room of my grandfather's workshop, of blessed memory, so that they could dry. After drying and arranging the pages, it was clear that this was the very Mishnah commentary which we now present before our readers. This book was the only surviving sort of its kind in the world, which, had it not been for this action, it would have been lost to the world. The book was missing a few pages, in the Order known as Moed, at the introduction to Tractate Shabbat, it was missing perhaps one page, and in Tractate Pesahim it was again missing perhaps one page, as also in Tractate Yoma it was missing perhaps one page, but the remainder of the book, to our delight, was found altogether complete, from beginning to end" (See Nathan ben Abraham (1955), vol. 1, s.v. Appendix: Perush Shishah Sidrei Mishnah [Introduction], p. 6).
  10. ^ Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Microfilm 6008. A microfilm of the same is available at the Hebrew University National Library (Manuscripts Department), listed as Microfilm no. F-35334. The pages of the MS., however, show some disorder.
  11. ^ A Judeo-Arabic copy of the original; three microfilm copies can be seen at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem: microfilm # F-4850, F-72437 and JER_NLI_593=38. See library's Permanent Link
  12. ^ British Library, Or. 11117. A microfilm of the same is available at the Hebrew University National Library (Manuscripts Department), listed as Microfilm no's. F-6639 and F-8333. Unlike the disordered pagination in the Yemenite MS., the British Library MS. is collated in its proper order, although part of the Introduction is missing.
  13. ^ Sassoon, D.S. (1932), pp. 1061–1062. Sassoon dated the copy to the 15th-century, but not knowing the full nature of the work, thought it to be an Introduction to the Talmud, and which he surmised was written by Joseph ben Judah ibn ʿAḳnin.
  14. ^ Assaf, S. (1933–1934), pp. 383–384
  15. ^ Such is the conclusion reached by a host of scholars, as mentioned by Zohar Amar (2011).
  16. ^ Assaf, S. (1955), pp. 319–322 (= Kiryat Sefer, X [1934], 542–545); Friedman, Mordechai A. (1990a), p. 41 [13]–42 [14]. Simcha Assaf and Mordechai A. Friedman are in dispute over whether it was Rabbi Nathan or his Yemenite copyist who quotes from R. David.
  17. ^ Assaf, S. (1933–1934), p. 383; Encyclopaedia Judaica (3rd edition), vol. 12, Jerusalem 1974, s.v. Nathan Ben Abraham II; Pirushei ha-Rishonim (Tamid - part 1), Benei Barak 2001
  18. ^ Friedman, M. (1990a), p. 44 [16], note 37
  19. ^ Gil, Moshe (1983), pp. 582–583, 604.
  20. ^ Stillman, N.A. (2010), pp. 558–559
  21. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica (3rd edition), vol. 12, Jerusalem 1974, p. 858 (s.v. Nathan ben Abraham I).
  22. ^ Friedman, M. (1990a), p. 43 [15], note 37
  23. ^ See: Amar, Z. & Kapah, E. (2011b), p. 13 (note 24), who brings down the classic example of one of the five grains, shibbolet shu'al (Heb. שבולת שועל), mentioned in Mishnah Pesahim 2:5 and in Mishnah Menahot 10:7, whose leaven is prohibited during Passover. While the Talmudic exegete, Rashi, holds this to be oats, and Maimonides holds it to be a type of "wild barley," Rabbi Nathan called it by its Arabic name sunbulat al-tha'alib (Fox's spike). Another one of the five grains whose leaven is prohibited at Passover is the shiffon (Heb. שיפון), which Rabbi Nathan explains in Mishnah Menahot 10:7 as meaning al-sāfeh (Judeo-Arabic: אלסאפה) and which word, according to Amar, is synonymous with the Arabic word dowsir (Ar. دوسر) - i.e. either one of the cultivated oats (Avena sativa) or Ovate goatgrass (Aegilops geniculata). It is to be noted that Rashi, in his commentary on the Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim 35a), thought that the Hebrew word shiffon meant שיגל"א (= seigle), or what is actually rye (Secale cereale), a grain crop that is not endemic to Israel.
  24. ^ Compiled by Nathan ben Jehiel of Rome (c. 1035 – 1106)
  25. ^ Kapah, E. (2007), p. 22
  26. ^ The Mishnah, with Maimonides' Commentary, Nega'im 14:6
  27. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 43.
  28. ^ Cites Hebrew sources, without explaining what the herb is.
  29. ^ Also in Mishnah Ohelot 8:1.
  30. ^ Amar, Z. & Kapah, E. (2011b), p. 14
  31. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 44–45. Amar (ibid.) thinks that the original Judeo-Arabic word may have been related, etymologically, to the Iris plant: sisan (= iris) + bar (= wild). In any rate, according to Amar, Maimonides held the "erus" to be a type of "wide-leaved mint," rather than the iris plant itself, since the upper stem of the "erus" plant exists in both winter and summer, unlike the iris that exists for the most part only in winter. According to Amar, the Arabic word sayasnabir was used in the Middle-Ages to describe various plants of the Lamiaceae family. In some Arabic dictionaries, the name is applied to wild bergamot mint (Mentha citrata).
  32. ^ Rabbi Solomon Sirilio, in his commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud (Kila'im 5:7[8]), explains: “Erusa. In the Arukh it has been explained as susimbro, in the foreign tongue, they being kinds of condiments that are put in the cooked dish, although others explain that it is an herb; whenever it yields seed the seed rattles as a sort of bell, this being the principal [opinion].” Cf. Smith, William (1872), p. 899, who writes on the sisymbrium (σισύμριον): "...there can be no doubt that it was a species of mint, probably the Mentha sylvestris, as Anguillara contends. The other species is unquestionably the Nasturtium officinale, or Water-cress." Ibn al-Baitar (1989), p. 186, wrote that this plant was the water-cress (Nasturtium officinale).
  33. ^ Thus explained by Rabbi Hai Gaon in his commentary on Mishnah Ohelot 8:1. Rabbi Hai Gaon's explanation follows the explanation given in the Jerusalem Talmud (Kila'im, end of chapter 5), which, in the Leiden MS. of the Jerusalem Talmud, is written as אירסיה. The Vatican MS. of a late 13th-century, early 14th-century copy of the Jerusalem Talmud (Vat. ebr. 133) [folio 88v], however, writes in the margin for the same word אירוסה.
  34. ^ Cf. Tosefta Demai 4:5
  35. ^ The sense here is to a concoction made from boiling the stripped leaves and stalks of vegetables (still in the ground), used medicinally, but especially for warding off the effects of drunkenness. Not to be confused with the vegetable Asparagus officinalis, although derived from its Greek name.
  36. ^ Yosef Qafih (ed.) Mishnah with Maimonides' Commentary, Mossad Harav Kook: Jerusalem 1965, s.v. Nedarim 6:8 (p. 97) [Hebrew].
  37. ^ See frame f.6r in Sefer ῾Arukh - A talmudic lexicon, s.v. אספרגוס, British Library (Add MS 26881). The author of the Arukh brings down this teaching in the name of Rabbi Hai Gaon. Compare the Tosefta (Demai 4:5) which states: "Rabbi Jose says: Karūb whose stripped edges were taken up to make thereof asparagos and to be discarded thereafter are permitted (i.e. without the necessity of separating therefrom the Demai tithe)."
  38. ^ The original source is now unknown, but cited by the author of Sefer Arukh, Rabbi Nathan ben Jehiel, s.v. אספרגוס.
  39. ^ Also in Mishnah Peah 3:3; Kila'im 3:2.
  40. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 47–48.
  41. ^ Also in Mishnah Nega'im 2:1.
  42. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 51.
  43. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. אשכרע, British Library (Add MS 26881).
  44. ^ Rabbi Hai's Commentary on Mishnah Nega'im 2:1
  45. ^ Also in Mishnah Shabbat 9:5.
  46. ^ “a generic term [used in Arabic] for several kinds of saltwort”
  47. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 53.
  48. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. אהל (describing borith)
  49. ^ Hai Gaon (1924), p. 114 (note 25), on Mishnah Niddah 9:6. According to Jastrow's Dictionary, this is an Aramaic word meaning "an alkali used for cleansing."
  50. ^ Also in Mishnah Avodah Zarah 1:5 and in Demai 1:1
  51. ^ According to Mordechai Yehuda Leib Sachs, one opinion states that the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, had eaten from the fruit of the banana tree, and that it is alluded to in the Talmud (end of Berakhot 40a) when it speaks of "figs" being the fruit that they were commanded not to eat, insofar that many years ago they used to call bananas by the name of "figs of Eve" (A Commentary of the Six Orders of the Mishnah, vol. 1, p. 48, note 1).
  52. ^ In yet another place, Maimonides explains the fruit banoth shuaḥ as "a kind of white figs who produce fruit once in every three years" (Amar, Z. (2015), p. 165).
  53. ^ Rabbi Nathan's description of this word follows that of the Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 40b, where it is described as “the very last (late-ripening) grapes on the vine.” The same view is held by the great commentator on the Jerusalem Talmud, Rabbi Moses Margolies.
  54. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 57–58. Amar thinks that the sense here is to Florence fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), being the identification given for this plant in the Jerusalem Talmud (Demai 1:1). The same view is held by the great commentator on the Jerusalem Talmud, Rabbi Solomon Sirilio, who calls it "fennel" (Sp. hinojo).
  55. ^ It stands to reason from Rabbi Nathan's explanation that although this fruit is merely a cultivar of melon, it was facetiously called in the Hebrew tongue an "Egyptian gourd," or "Egyptian pumpkin," by way of belittling the fruit's outward appearance. The teaching in Mishnah Kila'im comes to warn about the "Egyptian gourd" being a diverse kind with the Grecian gourd, although they are similar in appearance.
  56. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 64.
  57. ^ Also in Mishnah Pesahim 2:6; Uktzin 1:2, et. al
  58. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 77.
  59. ^ Thus explained in Rabbi Hai Gaon's Commentary on Mishnah Uktzin 1:2 [3]
  60. ^ Identity uncertain. The Mishnah seems to be referring to the root of such a plant, and which root is not used as livestock fodder, nor for human consumption. In Tosefta Kila'im 3:12 a teaching states that it is forbidden to maintain this plant in a vineyard, because of the prohibition of diverse kinds. Zohar Amar, in Rabbi Yosef Kafiḥ's Notebook on the Plants of the Mishna (Jerusalem 2005, p. 43, note 47), writes in the name of 'Aissa, p. 89, that the name al-rāziq is "one of the names given for the cotton plant." The word rāziq, in some dialects of Arabic, refers to the leaves of a plant that are said to be similar to sage, with the same medicinal properties, used as an infusion in teas and drunk to help soothe upset stomachs. The leaves are said to be thick like those of sage (Salvia).
  61. ^ In the Jerusalem Talmud (Shevi'it, ch. 7) it was asked: "What are ḥalbiṣin (חלביצין)?" To which question, the answer was given: "They are the eggs of neṣ ḥalab (נץ חלב)." This too is explained by Solomon Sirilio as meaning, "the egg-shaped roots of the neṣ ḥalab."
  62. ^ A word synonymous with הרגילה of Mishnah Shevi'it 7:1.
  63. ^ The reference here probably to the yellow inflorescence of Portulaca oleracea.
  64. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 79–80.
  65. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. חלגלוגות
  66. ^ Hai Gaon (1924), p. 143 (on Mishnah Uktzin 3:2).
  67. ^ Variant spelling, חמם.
  68. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 83.
  69. ^ Variant spelling: חרחבינא
  70. ^ Modern Arab lexicographers have explained al-ḥandaqūq / al-ḥindaqūq as being of the Legume family of plants (Fabaceae, also called Leguminosae), and which word in Arabic applies to various species of clover. See: Kapah, E. (2007), p. 48.
  71. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 88.
  72. ^ a b Cites Hebrew sources, without explaining what the vegetable is.
  73. ^ Also in Mishnah Tebul Yom 1:2; Peah 5:3; ibid. 6:7
  74. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 91–92; 128. Amar explains that טופח was one of the legumes, similar to Lathyrus; cf. Maimonides' commentary on Mishnah Peah 5:3
  75. ^ Explained by Rabbi Yosef Qafih, editor of Maimonides' Commentary on the Mishnah (Kila'im 1:1) as being a subspecies of Lathyrus.
  76. ^ Thus explained by Rabbi Hai Gaon in his commentary on Mishnah Tebul Yom, chapter 1:2
  77. ^ The Mishnah specifically speaks about ירבוזין השוטין, literally, "wild yarbūzīn," to distinguish from the cultivated variety. In any case, both are yarbūzīn. Rabbinic literature brings down conflicting opinions as to the identification of this one herb. Rashi, in Sukkah 39b (s.v. הירבוזין) opines that it is הנפל"ש, meaning sorrel (Rumex), and that what all other commentaors understood to mean "wild" (Heb. שוטין) was understood by Rashi to mean "asparagus". Maimonides explains yarbūzīn as meaning a type of wild Goosefoot (Blitum virgatum and Chenopodium murale), to be distinguished from the cultivated variety, Amaranthus blitum var. silvestre. Sefer Arukh and Moses Margolies, in his commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud (Shevi'it 9:1; Ma'aserot 5:3), have explained the yarbūzīn to mean "wild asparagus" (Asparagus aphyllus).
  78. ^ Amar, Z. (2000), p. 278. Amar cites Ibn al-Baitar's “Tafsīr Kitāb Diāsqūrīdūs”, who writes that the Greek term for this same herb is blita = (Modern Greek: βλίτα), (Amaranthus blitum var. silvestre). Today, the name is also applied to Goosefoot (Blitum virgatum and Chenopodium murale).
  79. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 94.
  80. ^ The intent here is to the cultivated variety, although Mishnah Shevi'it 9:1 refers specifically to "wild asparagus" (Asparagus aphyllus), endemic to the Land of Israel.
  81. ^ Also in Mishnah Kila'im 1:1; Kila'im 1:9; Peah 8:5; Hallah 1:1, et al.
  82. ^ Amar, Z. (2011a), pp. 45–48. According to Amar, the word may also apply to Spelt (Triticum spelta). Amar (ibid.) brings down a description of the grain in Ibn Sidah's 11th century Arabic classical vocabulary, Kitāb al-Muḫaṣṣaṣ (Cairo 1901), the translation of which follows: “Al-'alas ---- a fine wheat whose color is dark brown; very difficult to separate its husks [from the grain] and it cannot be separated except in a mortar. The bread made therefrom is tasty and its flour is like unto qurshiyah (?). The flour produced therefrom is fine, and its spike is fragile; despite which, it produces meager fruit. Some say that the kernels of [grain known as] ʿalas are joined together two by two; they are not separated one from the other until they are pounded in a mortar, being the mahārīs; meaning, one cannot separate the husks from the grain [with ease], or pound it [with ease]. It is like unto wheat in terms of its foliage and stalk.” According to the editor of Tafsīr Kitāb Diāsqūrīdūs, - A commentary of Dioscorides' "Materia Medica," by Abu Muhammad 'Abdallah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Baytar de Malaga, Beirut 1989, pp. 174–175 (item no. 75), the grain known as al-ʿalas may apply to both Triticum dicoccum and Triticum monococcum.
  83. ^ This word follows Saadia Gaon's Judeo-Arabic translation of the word כסמת in Exodus 9:32, which he translated as אלכרסנה (= vetch). The 15th-century Bible exegete, Sa'id ben David al-Adeni, who wrote one of the earliest commentaries on Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, has cautioned his readers about confusing כוסמין, i.e. the grain known as wild emmer (Arabic: al-`alas), with אלכרסנה (vetch), saying in chapter 3 of Hil. Berakhot that כוסמין is al-`alas, but it is not אלכרסנה (vetch).
  84. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), p. 96. According to Amar (ibid.), Maimonides' intention here is either to Emmer (Triticum dicoccum), or to Spelt (Triticum spelta).
  85. ^ The resinous pitch which exudes from the Storax tree (Styrax officinalis); not to be confused with the modern-Arabic word for camphor.
  86. ^ It is to be noted that Maimonides' view here mirrors that of Rabbi Saadia Gaon in his Judeo-Arabic translation of Song of Songs 1:14, who explains "a cluster of kofer" as meaning a "cluster of henna."
  87. ^ Also mentioned in Mishnah Terumot 11:4.
  88. ^ a b Cites Hebrew sources, without explaining what the fruit is.
  89. ^ It is worthy of note that the 11th century Yemenite commentator on Rabbi Isaac Alfasi's commentary of Tractate Hullin also explains kelisim as having the connotation of al-anabrud (= pears).
  90. ^ Also mentioned in Mishnah Nedarim 6:8
  91. ^ The sense here is to קלם (kalim).
  92. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 100, 172.
  93. ^ The sense here is to the flower from which is extracted the stamens which are dried and used as a spice. The kind of saffron which is endemic to the Land of Israel is Crocus hyemalis.
  94. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 102–103.
  95. ^ Thus explained by Rabbi Hai Gaon in his commentary on Mishnah Kelim, chapter 15:2.
  96. ^ According to Amar, most scholars today hold that the "luf" of the Mishnah also refers to Cuckoo-pint (Arum palaestinum), which is endemic to the Land of Israel and of the same family as colocasia. The cuckoo-pint (Arum) is also called "luf" in the Arabic dialect. See: Amar, Z. (2015), p. 107 (note 494).
  97. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 107.
  98. ^ According to Amar, in Maimonides' earlier writings he identified this plant with Colocasia antiquorum, but in his later writings he simply wrote that it was "one of the species of onions."
  99. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. לוף, British Library (Add MS 26881).
  100. ^ Rabbi Hai's Commentary on Mishnah Uktzin 3:4
  101. ^ Variant spelling, לוטם; לוטס.
  102. ^ Nathan ben Abraham's commentary makes note, elsewhere, that the לטום was believed to be a cross-breed between an oak tree and a terebinth tree. In any rate, from an etymological standpoint, the word has undergone changes in meaning over the years. According to Marcus Jastrow's A Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Babli, Talmud Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature, s.v. לטום, the word may have formerly meant a type of tree resin, such as gum-mastic or rosin, although by the 5th-century CE it was understood as being a fruit, and which fits the Talmudic description in Niddah 8a which alludes to all the named products being fruits of trees, excepting קטף. The Aramaic Targum of Onkelos, on Genesis 43:11, translates לט as לטום, and which same biblical word is explained by the Greek LXX as being "stacte," a Greek word meaning any gum resin that exudes in drops from certain trees, such as rosin.
  103. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 105–106.
  104. ^ Also known as "chard."
  105. ^ Elsewhere, Rabbi Nathan explains leʿunīn as "a species of beet." Talmudic exegete, Solomon Sirilio, thinks that this may have been spinach.
  106. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 108.
  107. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. לעין, British Library (Add MS 26881)
  108. ^ Amar, Z. & Kapah, E. (2011b), p. 19.
  109. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 109.
  110. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. לפסן, British Library (Add MS 26881)
  111. ^ Based on Solomon Sirilio's identification of this word in the Jerusalem Talmud, Kila'im 1:5, where he writes for לפסן = marrubio (מארוביו).
  112. ^ Also mentioned in Mishnah Terumot 2:6.
  113. ^ Kapah, E. (2007), p. 74. The Hebrew word used here is a Greek loanword, מלפפון (melephephon). The Jerusalem Talmud (Kilayim 1:2) relates an ancient belief that if one were to take a seed from a watermelon and a seed from an apple, and then place them together in an impression made in the earth, the two seeds would fuse together and become diverse kinds. "It is for this reason," says the narrator of the Talmud, "that they call it (i.e. the fruit) by its Greek name, melephephon. The old Greek word for "melon" was actually μήλο = mêlo(n) apple + πεπόν = pépōn melon, meaning literally "apple-shaped melon" (see: Random House Webster's College Dictionary, s.v. melon). This fruit, muskmelon (Cucumis melo), was thought to be a cross-breed between a watermelon and an apple. Maimonides, however, calls "melephephon" in Mishnah Kilayim 1:2 and Terumah 8:6 by the Arabic name, al-khiyyar, meaning "cucumbers" (Cucumis sativus) – far from being anything related to apples and watermelons. Nevertheless, today, in Modern Hebrew, the word melephephon is now used to denote "cucumbers," based on Maimonides' identification.
  114. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 111.
  115. ^ Talmudic exegete, Solomon Sirilio (1485–1554), mentions in his commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud (Kila'im 1:2) that Maimonides explained melephephon to mean in Spanish pepinos = cucumber (Cucumis sativus), which, in the opinion of an early Mishnaic exegete, Rabbi Isaac of Siponto (c. 1090–1160), was really to be identified as “small, round melons” (Cucumis melo), since Rabbi Yehudah in our Mishnah holds that it is a diverse kind in relation to kishūt (a type of cucumber). Moreover, had the melephephon simply been a subspecies of kishūt, explained by Maimonides as having the meaning of al-fakous (Egyptian cucumber = Cucumis melo var. chate), they would not have been considered diverse kinds with respect to each other, similar to a black ox and a white ox that plough together are not considered diverse kinds.
  116. ^ Although Rabbi Nathan ben Abraham identifies nafos as being al-jazar (Arabic for carrot / parsnip), he may have actually been referring here to Brassica napus, which vegetable has roots similar to those of carrots (See next two footnotes).
  117. ^ Although the vegetable known as nafos was called by Maimonides by its idiom, "Syrian radish," it was actually not a radish at all, since it is listed in Mishnah Kilaim 1:5 as being a diverse-kind (kila'im) in relation to the true radish (Heb. צנון). Zohar Amar suggests that it may have actually been Brassica napus (see Amar, Z. (2015), p. 113). One is to bear in mind that Brassica napus has roots resembling those of carrots, for which reason medieval Hebraists and philologists would have classified the vegetable as a carrot. It is to be noted, furthermore, that in foliage, Brassica napus and turnip (Brassica rapa) have similar leaves, for which reason they are not considered diverse-kinds with respect to each other.
  118. ^ Thus, he explained, in Mishnah Uktzin 1:2.
  119. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 114.
  120. ^ So explained in Mishnah Uktzin 3:2
  121. ^ Amar, Z. & Kapah, E. (2011b), p. 19. Such explanation is also found in the Judeo-Arabic lexicon compiled by Rabbi Tanḥum ben Joseph Ha-Yerushalmi (c. 1220–1291), entitled Murshid al-Kafi, where he explains נקלבס as meaning "a very precious type of grass used in worship," but adds that some say that it is "a thing mixed with spices, while others explain its meaning as גוארשן (i.e. millet)."
  122. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 114–115.
  123. ^ Also in Mishnah Shevi'it 8:1 and Ma'aserot 3:9
  124. ^ Identity uncertain. However, si'ah (Heb. סיאה) is explained in the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 128a) as having the connotation of the Aramaic word צתרי. This word, in turn, is explained by Payne Smith, J. (1903) in her Thesaurus Syriacus (p. 485, s.v. ܨܬܪܐ) as having the meaning of satureia thymbra, a view shared by Marcus Jastrow (Dictionary of the Targumim, s.v. צתרי), who, citing Immanuel Löw and William Smith, writes that the word has the meaning of Satureia (=savory).
  125. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 115.
  126. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. סאה, British Library (Add MS 26881).
  127. ^ According to Pliny the Elder (Natural History, Book XX, ch. XCI), the word Sisymbrium was related to a kind of savory (Latin: thymbraeum). Cf. Smith, William (1872), p. 899, who writes on the sisymbrium (σισύμριον): "...there can be no doubt that it was a species of mint, probably the Mentha sylvestris, as Anguillara contends. The other species is unquestionably the Nasturtium officinale, or Water-cress." Ibn al-Baitar (1989), p. 186, wrote that this plant was the water-cress (Nasturtium officinale).
  128. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 117.
  129. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. עדל, British Library (Add MS 26881).
  130. ^ Thus explained by Rabbi Hai Gaon in his commentary on Mishnah Uktzin, chapter 3:4
  131. ^ Also in Mishnah Kila'im 1:4
  132. ^ In some texts, there is a variant spelling, עוזרד; עזרר
  133. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 118.
  134. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. עזרר, British Library (Add MS 26881).
  135. ^ Thus explained by Rabbi Hai Gaon in his commentary on Mishnah Uktzin, chapter 1:6
  136. ^ Also in Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 2:3. The words, עץ שמן, not only appear in the Mishnah, but also in the Hebrew Bible, in three places: Isaiah 41:19, I Kings 6:23, and Nehemiah 8:15.
  137. ^ The Arabic word, al-ṣanawbar, may also refer to any of the other pine nut bearing trees, such as the Pinus pinea. Some Talmudic scholars thought that עץ שמן was to be identified with oleaster (Elaeagnus angustifolia), based on an earlier Greek translation of one of the Apocryphal books, but Amar, Z. (2012), pp. 167–168, contends that this identification is in error, since the tree is very rare in Israel, and can only be found in a valley near Akko and in the Mount Hermon region. Moreover, Amar cites a reference to the עץ שמן in the Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 2:3), where it says that the tree is the same as the dadanim, a Greek loan-word said to have the meaning of Pinus.
  138. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. עץ, British Library (Add MS 26881).
  139. ^ Also in Mishnah Shevi'it 7:2
  140. ^ Variant spellings: ערקבנין and עקרבלין.
  141. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), p. 122, who writes that this plant is Hart's tongue, having the taxonomic name of Phyllitis sagittata, which is a synonym for Scolopendrium hemionitis. Amar's identification follows that of Ibn al-Baitar (died 1248 CE), in his seminal work, “Tafsīr Kitāb Diāsqūrīdūs” (ed. Ibrahim Ben Mrad), Beirut 1989, chapter 3, section 129 (p. 258), who identifies the asplênos mentioned in Dioscorides' Materia Medica (Book 3, § 121) with what is called in Arabic ʿaqrabān, which is hart's tongue (Scolopendrium vulgare). Ishtori Haparchi (1280–1355), in his seminal work Kaftor Vaferach (vol. 3), Chapter 48, Jerusalem 1999, p. 172, also brings down the Spanish name for the plant עקרבן, which he calls סקולו פנדריון (Scolo pendrion).
  142. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. אצווה, British Library (Add MS 26881). In the printed edition of Sefer Arukh, published in Venice in year 1531, the words, "being aṭan in the Arabian tongue," were added by a later hand at the end of its description, a plant identified with the Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense), and other related thistles, such as the Silver Thistle (Carduus argentatus).
  143. ^ Also in Mishnah Uktzin 1:2 and Kila'im 1:8
  144. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 129–130.
  145. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. פגם, British Library (Add MS 26881).
  146. ^ Thus explained by Rabbi Hai Gaon in his commentary on Mishnah Uktzin, chapter 1:2
  147. ^ Amar, Z. & Kapah, E. (2011b), p. 16
  148. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 130.
  149. ^ In the book, Halachot Eretz Israel from the Genizah, Chapter of Zera'im, (Jerusalem 1973, p. 165), Prof. Jehuda Feliks argues effectively in favor of this identity, saying that peragin are mentioned alongside of rice, millet and sesame, and that all of them are plants grown in the summer months, which would rule out peragin as being poppy seeds (Papaver somniferum) since the genus known as Papaver grow in the winter months. Moreover, he notes that in the Syriac language, the word peraga = ܦܪܓܐ means "a type of millet" (cf. Payne-Smith, Syriac Lexicon, p. 457), and since the growing season for peragin in the Genizah manuscript is given at six-months, it would eliminate ordinary millet (Panicum miliaceum) and Setaria italica whose growing seasons are merely at two months. Sorghum vulgare does, however, have a growing season of six months.
  150. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 132.
  151. ^ Variant spelling, פתילת האידן.
  152. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. עמר, British Library (Add MS 26881).
  153. ^ Literally: "desert wick," and which is explained in the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 20b) as having the meaning in Aramaic of שברא (Aramaic: shavra), and which word has been explained in J. Payne Smith's Syriac Dictionary as: "Peganum harmala, Syrian rue used for wicks, a wick."
  154. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), p. 134, and which Amar suggests could have been one of many herbal wicks, such as mullein (Verbascum ssp.) and lampwick plant (Phlomis ssp.). Elsewhere, Zohar Amar and Avivit Shwiky write in Bamme Madlikin (Bar-Ilan University, 2003, pp. 54–55), that certain of the geonim have identified the plant with שברא, said to be harmal (Peganum harmala).
  155. ^ Also in Mishnah Shevi'it 8:1 and Ma'aserot 3:9
  156. ^ Transliterated, qūrnīth.
  157. ^ Identity uncertain. Thought by many to refer to a kind of Thyme (Solomon Sirilio). The Hebrew word (qūrnīth) and the Arabic word used in Israel/Palestine (qūrniyya) are cognate words, from which latter word's meaning one may learn about the former. In the Arabic language spoken in Palestine the name is applied to the herb White-leaved Savory (Micromeria fruticosa). See Witztum, A. (1992), p. 149.
  158. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 140.
  159. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. סאה, British Library (Add MS 26881).
  160. ^ The anonymous copyist writes in this case: "The kofer is like a gum resin (Ar. as-samigh), while the qaṭaf (oleoresin of the Styrax officinalis) itself is the most important of all the chief aromatics, and its manner is to harden and form into [smaller] pieces, and when it spoils it no longer hardens but remains in the liquid-state, and is called `the oil of al-kāffūr`." Earlier, in the same tractate, either by the authority of Rabbi Nathan, the President of the Academy, or by the authority of the copyist himself, the same word qaṭaf is explained as balsān (balsam).
  161. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 141–142.
  162. ^ Also in Mishnah Uktzin 1:6
  163. ^ Variant spelling קרנס.
  164. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. עכביות, explains, at the end of chapter 'He that brings flagons of wine' (Betza 34a), that it has been cited: "...but they make palatable the kinras and the ʿakaviyyot, meaning, vegetables that are bitter and require being made palatable by the fire, [or] through boiling, for although they are unfit for eating before they are made sweeter, he is [still] permitted to carry them in order to make them palatable for eating." Rabbi Samson of Sens, in his commentary on Mishnah Uktzin 1:6, also cites from the Sefer Arukh on the meaning of the word kinras and its preparation before eating. The sense here of אבאדנגאן (aubergine) may have been to the "wild aubergine" (Solanum elaeagnifolium) which is also native to the Middle East.
  165. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 143.
  166. ^ Also in Mishnah Kila'im 9:7; 2:5
  167. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 144–145, who explains the Judeo-Arabic word אלקנאב as meaning hemp (Cannabis sativa).
  168. ^ Also in Mishnah Sukkah 1:4.
  169. ^ Variant spelling, קיסום
  170. ^ The Judeo-Arabic word לבלאר is also used for ivy (Hedera). Zohar Amar has written that the Arabic word לבלאר is a generic word for many different climbing vine-like plants, which would include the common ivy (Hedera helix) and the lablab bean (Dolichos lablab). See Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 143–144. At least sixteen species of Convolvulus are known to grow in Israel, one of the more common being Convolvulus arvensis.
  171. ^ Al-ʿalfiq is a provincial Arabic name given for a plant similar to treebine (Cissus rotundifolia) and which grows in the area of Taiz, in Yemen.
  172. ^ The Judeo-Arabic word לבלאר is also used for ivy (Hedera). Zohar Amar has written that the Arabic word לבלאר is a generic word for many different climbing vine-like plants, which would include the common ivy (Hedera helix) and the lablab bean (Dolichos lablab). See Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 143–144.
  173. ^ Printed editions erroneously reads הילבאנא. Corrected here to read חולבאנא. So explained by Rabbi Hai Gaon in his commentary on Mishnah Ohelot 8:1
  174. ^ Also in Mishnah Maaser Sheni 2:1, Nedarim 6:9, et. al
  175. ^ A Greek loanword, χεφάλωτον (chefáloton), meaning, "leeks"; "chives"
  176. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 101, 146.
  177. ^ Also in Mishnah Uktzin 1:6.
  178. ^ See Maimonides' explanation for same word. Rabbi Nathan ben Abraham's commentary brings down two different explanations. Since the Mishnah mentions אגסים and קרוסטמלין as not being heterogeneous to each other, and since אגס is largely recognized as being a pear, it follows that קרוסטמלין must also be a kind of pear, hence: כמתרי = "wild Syrian pear." On the other hand, since in other dialects אגס is a plum, and since it is not heterogeneous to קרוסטמלין, it follows that the latter is apricot.
  179. ^ Kapah, E. (2007), p. 106
  180. ^ The example given is a case where the name of a fruit has changed in meaning over the years. Maimonides explains that in the colloquial Arabic of his time the same fruit known as al-kummathra was also called אלאנג'אץ (al-anğās = pear). Rabbi Yosef Qafih thinks that the old usage of the word in Egypt was exactly as it was used in Yemen, saying that the word al-anğās was used to denote the plum (Prunus domestica). According to the Mishnah in Kila'im 1:4, agasim (believed by Rabbi Qafih to be a plum, but by others said to be a pear) and krustomelin (said by some to be apricots, but by others a kind of pear) were not considered as diverse kinds, and could therefore be grown together.
  181. ^ Thus explained by Rabbi Hai Gaon in his Commentary on Mishnah Uktzin 1:6.
  182. ^ Also in Mishnah Terumot 2:6, Uktzin 2:1, et al.
  183. ^ Kapah, E. (2007), p. 102; Amar, Z. (2000), p. 286
  184. ^ Thus explained by Maimonides in his Commentary on Mishnah Kila'im 1:2 and in Mishnah Terumot 2:6. See: Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 111, 149
  185. ^ Thus explained by Maimonides in his Commentary on Mishnah Uktzin 2:1, which is also a type of cucumber.
  186. ^ Thus explained by Sefer Arukh, s.v. כשות (although here corrected from the copyist's error, who wrote אלנואר instead of אלכיאר, when explaining Mishnah Uktzin 2:1).
  187. ^ Thus explained in Rabbi Hai Gaon's Commentary on Mishnah Uktzin 2:1 [2]
  188. ^ Also in Mishnah Kila'im 1:4, et al. Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:4 mentions different pairs of trees, such as the peach tree (Prunus persica) and the almond tree (Amygdalus communis; syn. Prunus amygdalus), and the trees known in Hebrew as shizǝfīn (Ziziphus jujube) and rīmmīn (Ziziphus spina-christi), saying that "although they are like each other, they are considered diverse kinds (kila'im)."
  189. ^ The sense here is to Christ's thorn (Jujube), not to be confused with another species, called simply Jujube (Ziziphus jujube).
  190. ^ Thus explained by Rabbi Nathan in Mishnah Demai 1:1, which is another Arabic word for nabaq (Jujube)
  191. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 150.
  192. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. רמי, British Library (Add MS 26881).
  193. ^ Variant spelling, אלבחם.
  194. ^ Amar, Z. & Kapah, E. (2011b), p. 17
  195. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 150–151.
  196. ^ Possibly the absinthe wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
  197. ^ a b Also in Mishnah Kila'im 1:1.
  198. ^ Literal translation of the Arabic. Possibly what the Bedouins in Israel call shaʿir ḥusseini (Jackal's barley), being Hordeum spontaneum K.Koch. In tractate Kila'im, either Nathan ben Abraham or the anonymous copyist explains: "Barley (השעורים) and fox's spike (שבולת שועל), [being] al-shaʿir and sunbulat al-thaʿalib, respectively, are permitted to be sown together, since all of them are barley, only that the one is pointed at its two sides, while the other at its four sides." Note: In Modern Hebrew, the words shibbolet shuʿal are now used for oats (Avena), which is a carry-over from Rashi's explanation of this grain in his commentary of the Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim 35a), where he wrote אביינ"א (= avoine), oats. Maimonides and Nathan ben Abraham, disputing Rashi's view, say that שיפון (shiffon) is rather to be understood as oats (Avena) or goatgrass (Aegilops).
  199. ^ Amar, Z. (2011a), p. 62 (note 184); 113–116, believed to be Hordeum spontaneum.
  200. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. שבל, British Library (Add MS 26881).
  201. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, p. 156.
  202. ^ Amar, Z. & Kapah, E. (2011b), p. 17.
  203. ^ Thus explained by Maimonides in Mishnah Kelim 9:8
  204. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 157–159.
  205. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), p. 160. Amar notes that in Modern Hebrew, the word שעועית is now used for "beans" (Phaseolus) and which were mostly endemic to the American continent. David ben Yeshaʿ Halevi, in his 15th-century lexicon, al-Ǧāmaʿ (ed. Shalom Gamliel, Jerusalem 1988), explains Maimonides' use of the legume אללוביא for שעועית as having the connotation of דגרה (= Vigna sinensis).
  206. ^ The Aramaic word given for שעועית.
  207. ^ Rabbi Nathan brings down its variant spelling, "shegamin"; cf. Jastrow's Dictionary, s.v. שעם (var. שגם)
  208. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 163–164.
  209. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. שעם, British Library (Add MS 26881).
  210. ^ Rabbi Hai's Commentary on Mishnah Kelim 14:5
  211. ^ Also in Mishnah Terumot 10:5; Orlah 3:6; Niddah 2:6, et. al
  212. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 168–169.
  213. ^ Sefer Arukh, s.v. תלתן.
  214. ^ Although an edible herb, the Arabic word used here is largely unidentified. The Arabic word shaylam (Ar. الشَيْلَم) is often used to refer to darnel (Lolium temulentum), but it is thought to have been a generic word for tares or weeds. See: Amar, Z. (2011a), p. 56. It is worthy of noting that the Jerusalem Talmud (Pesahim 2:5 [18a]) calls the תמכה by the name גנגידין (Gingidium), which, according to Dioscorides (Book II-167) - as explained by late horticulturalists - is said to be a kind of chervil, and can apply to any of the following genera: Chaerophyllum, Anthriscus, Chaetosciadium and Scandix. Of these, the most commonly grown chervil in Israel is Chaetosciadium trichospermum. Ibn al-Baitar (1989), p. 189, citing Galen, explains Gingidium as rather meaning a species of wild carrot (e.g. Daucus gingidium, or something similar), and rejected the opinion of Aṣṭifan ben Basil who said that the word Gingidium meant Shah atarj ("the king's herb"), in Arabic, or what is known as fumitory (Fumaria officinalis). In any rate, chervil and wild carrots are both umbels (Umbelliferae) and bear similar foliage, which may have added to the confusion. A sixth-century drawing of the Gingidium in Dioscorides' De Materia Medica (the Juliana Anicia Codex of 512), now in the Austrian National Library in Vienna, shows what appears to be the wild carrot (Daucus gingidium), also known as the Cretan carrot. Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (Book XX, ch. XVI), wrote: "In Syria very great pains are taken over kitchen-gardens; hence the Greek proverb: 'Syrians have plenty of vegetables.' They sow a vegetable called by some gingidion that is very like staphylinus (=parsnip; carrot), only it is slighter and more bitter, though its properties are the same. It is eaten, cooked or raw, with great advantage to the stomach, for it dries up all its humours, however deep these may lie."
  215. ^ Amar, Z. 2015, pp. 169–171.
  216. ^ The author of Tosafot Yom Tov (c. 1579–1654) thought this word to mean cren, or what is known in English as horseradish (Armoracia rusticana).
  217. ^ Variant spelling: תרובתור
  218. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), p. 172. Amar notes that, according to Maimonides' description, he may have been referring to the regular headed cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata), and that it is only called "wild cabbage" insofar as the cultivar was less favorable than the leafy variety, especially kale (Ar. karnub). [Alternatively, Maimonides may have simply been referring to cauliflower, and which formerly was far less cultivated than cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata)].
  219. ^ Nathan ben Abraham (1955), vol. 1, s.v. Shevi'it, ch. 7, p. 26a [51]
  220. ^ The first to propose that tiltan may be clover (Trifolium) seems to have been Ephraim Rubinovich (Plant Names of Ereẓ Israel שמות צמחי ארץ ישראל, Jerusalem 1917, p. 20), who presumably based his identification on the Hebrew root, tiltan = "consisting of three" and which was believed by him to be the three-leaf clover, albeit, with disregard to the early rabbinic tradition on the plant's identification.
  221. ^ Rabbi Nathan, President of the Academy, on Mishnah Shabbat 21:3. See also Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 47–48; Sefer Arukh, s.v. אפונין; Maimonides (1963), s.v. Peah 3:3 and Shabbat 21:3, who writes that the word means garbanzo beans (Cicer arietinum), and who uses the Judeo-Arabic word אלחמץ (garbanzo beans) for this plant.
  222. ^ Based on the Judeo-Arabic translation of the word in the works of Rabbi Saadia Gaon (in his Tafsir, a translation of the Pentateuch, Exo. 12:22), David ben Abraham al-Fasi (in his Hebrew-Arabic Dictionary of the Bible, known as `Kitāb Jāmiʿ al-Alfāẓ`, vol. 1, s.v. אזוב), Rabbi Jonah ibn Janah (Sefer HaShorashim - Book of the Roots, s.v. אזב - aleph, zayn, bet), Maimonides (in his Mishnah Commentary, Nega'im 14:6) and Nathan ben Abraham I in Mishnah Uktzin 2:2. The problems with identification arise from Jewish oral tradition where it expressly prohibits Greek hyssop, and where the biblical plant is said to have been identical to the Arabic word, zaatar (Origanum syriacum), and which word is not to be associated with other ezobs that often bear an additional epithet, such as zaatar farsi = Persian-hyssop (Thymbra capitata) and zaatar rumi = Roman-hyssop (Satureja thymbra). See: The Mishnah (ed. Herbert Danby), Oxford University Press: Oxford 1977, s.v. Negai'im 14:6 (p. 696); Parah 11:7 (p. 711).


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