I have heard that Alter Halpern, a Rabbi in England, published an article or kuntres presenting issues with Marcus Jastrow's Dictionary (for the Talmud, midrash, targum), i.e Sefer HaMilim.

What were his specific issues, and does he go so far as to assur it?

I know that Rav Yaacov Kaminetsky said that it was okay to learn from it.


2 Answers 2


The article was published by R. Salomon Alter Halpern in Hamoreh (according to here the Jewish Observer, may be the same thing) in 1970 and was called "Some Facts About Marcus Jastrow's Dictionary." I got a hold of the article from here. Here is a short summary:

  • The article is not coming to proclaim the dictionary prohibited or forbidden, it is coming to supply data to those who would make those decision.
  • The author did not go through the dictionary thoroughly, but he did leave out some of the more complicated examples in his article.
  • The article breaks up the critiques into 9 categories, with a total of 17 examples.
    • A) typos
    • B, C) when quoting a sentence in order to show the translation of the entry to the dictionary, Jastrow often mistranslates other words in the sentence, even contradicting his own dictionary entry for the mistranslated word elsewhere in the dictionary.
    • D) brings an example to illustrate that Jastrow will prefer translations by non-Jewish scholars, over traditional Jewish sources such as the Aruch, and will neglect to mention that there are different opinions in Traditional Jewish sources.
    • E) This entry was hard to read in the copy. It is titled, 'Over-reliance on "Scientific" information'
    • F) Jastrow invents new meanings to words that don't stand up when reading the source material
    • G) Section is titled, Yidishism?, and accuses Jastrow of translating a talmudic word based on its Yiddish use, and accuses Jastrow of "departing from tradition for the sheer fun of it"
    • H) Brings an example where Jastrow's philosophy causes him to give a natural explanation to something the Talmud describes as a miracle, even though his natural explanation makes no sense.
    • I) Questions Jastrow's method of Etymology
  • did you email him to get the login information in order to find this?
    – jj2
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:47
  • yes, I emailed him and he sent me the article.
    – Menachem
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 0:55
  • I emailed him and waiting to hear back. Could you email it to me, or post it somewhere and link?
    – jj2
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 17:23
  • nevermind, he sent it to me. For point D above, note he does quote the Aruch in his response, and that indigo actually is blue-purple, so in fact Jastrow is agreeing with the Aruch, albeit with more simplistic terminology.
    – jj2
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 1:34

A contribution to an answer - This article on Reb Alter z”l has the following paragraph:

Another of his original projects was the publication of a pamphlet which demonstrated some of the glaring mistakes in understanding gemoras made by Dr. Marcus Jastrow, author of the then widely used Talmudic dictionary. The booklet's entries were arranged in exactly the same format as the dictionary. In one of London's shops for sifrei kodesh, it was sold together with the dictionary.

So his issues seem to have been with errors in understanding gemoras. The article does not specify which gemoras.

From the facts that the booklet was arranged in the same format as the dictionary and it was sold together with it in one bookshop, we might deduce that he did not forbid the use of the dictionary.

  • Or perhaps he couldn't force them to stop selling it, so he (or others) convinced them to sell it with his book as well.
    – Menachem
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 17:25

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