Page 105 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 30

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K
le in
— P
ro fe ssor
L
ou is
G
inzberg
9 3
Seminary of America in the fall of 1930, Professor Ginzberg
started a class in the Jerusalem Talmud for special students.
Among them I recall Robert Gordis, Ben Zion Bokser, Ralph
Simon, Max Gelb, Theodore Freedman, Jacob Radin and myself.
I am reasonably sure that this was the only such class in any insti­
tution of Jewish higher learning. 1 also recall that, living at the
time near the Yeshivah Torah V ’daat, a group of students from the
higher classes met in my house every Saturday afternoon for study.
What I learned from Prof. Ginzberg during the week I imparted to
them on Saturday afternoon. While normally it would have been
anathema for the Yeshivah to allow their students to learn from
a student of the Seminary, an exception was made here because
there was no other facility where they could study the Jerusalem
Talmud.
Today, because of the establishment of the State of Israel, there
has been a revival of interest in the study of the Jerusalem
Talmud, neglected up to now. Almost a hundred years ago, Dr.
Zechariah Frankel, in his Introduction to the Jerusalem Talmud,
complained that “the roads to the Talmud are desolate, nobody
seeks it because the stone on the mouth of the well is huge and
the erring and the errors are many, there are no shepherds to
remove the stone from the well.”8 Too, unlike the Babylonian
Talmud, with many commentators headed by Rashi to enlighten
obscure passages, the Jerusalem Talmud was always shrouded by
a pall that few penetrated to remove the textual errors that
accumulated with the passage of time. While the Babylonian
Talmud was the subject of study by young and old, the Jerusalem
Talmud was lonely and ignored. When Professor Ginzberg started
his work more than a half-century later, the condition had not
improved; he therefore had to do pioneering work here, too.
Although his work on the commentary on the Jerusalem Tal­
mud started in 1937, his interest in it dates back many years
earlier.9 In 1909 he edited
Seride hci-Yerushalmi,
which was an
edition of fragments from the Genizah. It was recognized as a
pioneering work widely acclaimed in the scholarly world. (It has
been intimated that in the Talmud, Vilna edition of 1922, Prof.
Ginzberg’s work is included but without receiving credit for it,
for understandable reasons.)
Prof. Ginzberg’s formal work on the Jerusalem Talmud con­
tinued all his life. Three volumes were published during his life­
time and a fourth posthumously. There is also material for a fifth
volume. The volumes are large, but only the first five chapters to
tractate Berakhot are covered. It was an herculean task requiring
more years than Prof. Ginzberg had to spare; but he established
eMavo ha-Yerushalmi (Breslau, 1870), p. XIII.
9
Commentary on the Palestinian Talmud (New York,
1941
-
1961
)
4
vols.