In the Mishna, Megillah 1:8, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel is quoted as having said that Greek is the only language, other than Hebrew, in which it is permissible to write sifrei Torah. Commenting on this, the Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah 71c) says that the sages checked and discovered that Greek is the only language into which it is possible to translate the Torah with its exact meaning.

Source: an answer to Translation to Greek

But why not Aramaic? I remember reading somewhere that it had "sparks" of holiness, the proof being that it is the language of the Gemara. It's also linguistically more similar to Hebrew than Greek, so it should be possible to get a good translation.

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    Presumably it just can't. I don't think there are rules for determining which languages can capture translations more fully than others.
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 18:44
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    Rav Hutner zt"l, in his "Pachad Yitzchok" on Chanukah, gives a drush on this. Too long to summarize, but it's very interesting his explanation of why both the Septuagint was a fast-worthy event according to our Sages, when several days of darkness decended upon the world, and also why the Sefer Torah can only be written in Greek instead of Hebrew. Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 10:26
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    Incidentally, in case you didn't know, there are Aramaic translations of the Torah. Onkelos's translation is printed in most printed editions of the Torah, along with Rashi's commentary on the Torah. It just isn't used for Sefer Torahs. (Nor is Greek, as the Greek the sages talked about is no longer extant as a language according to poskim.) Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 10:30
  • @PloniAlmoni Targum Onkelos isn't an exact translation, there are plenty of cases of "commentary"
    – warz3
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 20:17
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    Perhaps the Gemara did not know about the sparks of holiness...
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 20:34

2 Answers 2


Your question appears to be asking why it would not be kosher to use an Aramaic Torah scroll in lieu of a Hebrew one. You may want to reword your question. Throughout Jewish history and up until the present, Aramaic targumim have been recited in the synagogue alongside the traditional Hebrew Torah. Currently the Jews of Yemen read from Targum Onkelos during the Torah reading. However, the practice of solely reading from a scroll written in a language other than Hebrew, such as Aramaic or Greek, was never common practice. There are many reasons for this, a few of which are given below.

  • The Talmud [Sotah 33] discusses praying in Aramaic instead of Hebrew and states that the angels do not understand Aramaic. The message here is that Hebrew is preferable over Aramaic since it allows the person reciting it to have a closer connection to heaven.
  • This notion is further reinforced by the practice שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום [Berakhot 8a]. This is referring to the practice of twice reading the weekly Torah portion in Hebrew with the congregation, while reading once from the Targum.
  • There is a general concept in Rabbinic writings that Hebrew is the holy language in which the Torah was given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Therefore, as a general rule we should be using Hebrew over any other language.
  • 1) I know that a Hebrew scroll is preferred. 2) Why then is Greek allowed?
    – Scimonster
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 10:56
  • My understanding is that even a Greek scroll written using the Greek you mentioned above would not be kosher as a complete substitute for a Hebrew scroll. Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 2:14
  • that's correct, it's forbidden to write Sefer Torah in Greek
    – havarka
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 11:41
  • @havarka See the answers linked to in the question; I'm not sure you're right.
    – MTL
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 17:05

Well, I have a semi-personal connection with Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, and when he was down here in my town visiting, I asked him the same question. Basically, he told me that when Rabbi Gamliel II says a Torah scroll can be written in Greek, it does not mean that a Torah written in Greek is kosher for use in shul, public reading, etc. What it means is that Greek is the only language the Torah can be accurately translated into, since Greek shares the same expressions and influctions as Hebrew. As a studious Hebrew and Ancient Greek learner, I know this for a fact. Greek and Hebrew are extremely similar in grammar! I know this isn't what you were asking, but what I'm meaning to say is - Aramaic is also very close in relation to Hebrew. So Aramaic makes a good targum language, but doesn't mean it can make a kosher Sefer Torah.

  • As a studious Hebrew and Ancient Greek reader, I know that this is false. Greek and Hebrew have markedly different syntax, morphology, verb systems, and so on. Just look at the Septuagint, and how it doesn't correspond faithfully to the Masoretic Hebrew text.
    – magicker72
    Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 14:30

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