Outside of the Teimanim I am not aware of any other segments of Judaism that still employ a meturgamen (translator) during kriat ha'torah. Why has this practice fallen into disuse?

  • I've always assumed it's because it's now so easy to follow along in the chumash, which you can do in your preferred language. – Monica Cellio Mar 1 '12 at 16:57
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    +1 on the question. I've asked it before when I was in yeshiva, and the answers I got were weak. "We don't need someone to say each pasuk in Aramaic, nobody here speaks Aramaic." 1) That doesn't stop us from reciting "Yekum Purkan" 2) Fine, so have the meturgaman say each verse in English (or whatever the vernacular is in your country). – user1095 Mar 1 '12 at 17:00
  • Moshe and @Will, I actually know a group of people who, for Parashath Zachor, translate into English (and I think also read Targum Onkelos, though I can't remember for sure). – Seth J Mar 1 '12 at 17:05
  • There are smaller communities who are not Teimanim who still would like to do the translations on a regular basis, as well as return to smaller parshiot per week. – avi Mar 1 '12 at 17:07
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    @AdamMosheh, these days anybody who wants access to the English can get it. Do you know of congregations (in English-speaking countries) that are so universally Hebrew-literate that a visitor would be unable to find one chumash with English? – Monica Cellio Jun 13 '12 at 21:32

The Shulchan Aruch OC 145:3 says that:

האידנא לא נהגו לתרגם, משום דמה תועלת בתרגום כיון שאין מבינים אותו:
And nowadays the custom is not to translate [to Aramaic] because what benefit is there to do so since we do not understand it.

Additionally, the Tur there quotes a Yerushalmi that says that the meturgeman is not me'ackeiv (prevents the fulfillment of the mitzva of reading the Torah).

Also, Tosfot (Megillah 23b sv Lo) learns from the gemara there that even at the times of the gemara, only some places had meturgemanin and some did not, implying that it was only a custom, not an obligation. This helps explain why we can just drop it when it doesn't serve it's intended purpose.

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    +1. Tur there also says that the Aramaic targum was written with ruach hakodesh (so we can't replace it with any other translation which was not). – Alex Mar 1 '12 at 17:10
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    interesting, but we still have a mitzvah of shteiyim mikrah which can be fulfilled with the aramaic translation? – none Mar 1 '12 at 17:12
  • @Moshe If you assume you can/should use onkelus for shnayim mikra, then you have to distinguish between obligations (shnayim mikra) and customs (meturgeman). Alternatively, the above is saying that the general populace doesn't understand Aramaic; but if you do, you can certainly use it for shnayim mikra! – Double AA Mar 1 '12 at 17:14

I'm told there are Sephardic communities in which an Arabic translation was read until not long ago.

I've heard that Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveichik proposed the following reason for the cessation of translation in Ashkenazic communities: in many towns in Medieval France & Germany, there weren't that many knowledgeable people around, so the translator himself would have had to rely on a printed translation into Old French or the like. The only (prevalent?) such translations were Christian ones which may have pushed a very Christian understanding. Hence the practice of translation was discontinued.

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    See Alex's comment to my answer. That Tur is quoted in both the Mishna Berura and the Aruch HaShulchan. – Double AA Mar 1 '12 at 17:19
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    that seems in conflict with Alex's citation from the tur above judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/14864/… – none Mar 1 '12 at 17:19
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    @Moshe I wouldn't say conflict. Just different opinions. Also, if Shalom's claim that historically people did for a time use Arabic, Old French or other vernacular targumin is true, then he's right for bringing another reason! – Double AA Mar 1 '12 at 17:24

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