A new piece has been added to the mosaic that is starting to take shape on the instigation of the memorandum of understanding for the Talmud Translation, which was signed in Rome in 2011, under the auspices of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, between the Italian Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Education, University and Research, the National Research Council, Union of the Italian Jewish Communities, and Italian Rabbinical College.
After Rosh Hashanah, the first tractate whose translation was completed, and then returned to the Italian audience of Berakhot, Ta’anit, Kiddushin, Hagigah e Beitza, it is now the time of Megillah (Esther scroll). This is also the seventh tractate to be printed, curated by Rabbi Michael Ascoli. “If reading rules exist, it means that there is a scripture to read from. It may sound obvious, but it was not at all for the Megillah”, he points out in an introductory text which already offers us valuable insights.
After all, the tractate disseminates a multitude of them. “For example, in the fourth chapter, which is dedicated to the halakhot for the ceremony at the synagogue”, suggests the Rabbi, who works in Haifa as an engineer and previously was the assistant of the Chief Rabbi in Rome and minister of the Community of Modena. “A very interesting topic – he continues – also thinking to the very particular period that we have just experienced. In fact, with the emergence of Covid, at least in Israel, ceremonies were transferred to the courtyards, to the streets, or to outdoors spaces. Among so many critical issues, there is a positive element to consider: the fact that the tefillah is now something which is even more publicly available. Now, as the emergency has passed, it is right that prayer should come back to the synagogues. Places with their own holiness, “small sanctuaries” as we were taught. But with the challenge to remain as welcoming as we have been until recently. A difficult period that, at least I hope, should have taught us something”.
The second tractate is curated by Rabbi Ascoli. “An exciting and empowering challenge”, he talks about his involvement in this challenge. He is also excited about the plurality that marks it, with many professionals called to make their own contribution and to work as a team”. A one-of-a-kind translation project. “Question, answer, objection, reply. An organized material yield which follows one of the basic premises stated at the beginning. As for the schematization of some pieces: reproductions and synthesis in tabular form are not found in other translations and are perfectly in line with the Italian method to approach and study texts”. A method, as the Rabbi reminds us, “that has always been methodical and rigorous”. Then, a translation, “useful for those who don’t understand the original text, but also for those who understand it and can have a greater understanding than before”.
Other tractates are in the works in recent months by a team of almost 70 scholars among expert translators, translators in training, instructors, content and editorial reviewers, supported by a team of ten IT experts and by an administrative staff of two units. The president of the union for the Talmud translation is rabbi Riccardo di Segni, the Rome Chief Rabbi, while his director is Clelia Piperno. The tractates are published by the publisher Giuntina.
Translation by Erika Centazzo, revised by Maria Cianciuolo, students at the Secondary School of Modern Languages for Interpreters and Translators of the University of Trieste, interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities – Pagine Ebraiche.