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Evyatar Marienberg, La Baraita deNiddah : Un sur texte les juif lois pseudo-



relatives à la menstruation (The Baraita de-Niddah: A Pseudo-Talmudic Jewish Text about the Religious Laws Brepols, ISBN

Concerning Turnhout

Menstruation), 2012 (228


9782503545370, 55€)


The Baraita de-Niddah (BdN) is a pseudo-talmudic tractate dealing mostly, but not solely, with issues related to the laws of niddah: the rabbinic regulations regarding menstruation. It was published for the first time in 1890, by Chaim Horowitz, using a manuscript he had found in Italy. More recentlty, in 2012, Evyatar Marienberg published a new edition.


Horowitz, a prolific scholar and editor of rabbinic sources, added an extensive introduction to the long text he found, and also appended to it several shorter, related texts. Marienberg’s edition, among other differences, uses more textual witnesses, dissimilar methodological assumptions about rabbinic texts, and very different style—obviuolsy to be expected when comparing a nineteenth-century edition to one from the twenty-first. Moreover, the new edition provides the first full translation of this text to another language (in this case, French), and synopses comparing textual variants. The long text published by Horowitz (called “BdN-a” in Marienberg’s edition) is a peculiar one, to say the least. Among other things, it discusses at length the possible consequences for descendants of couples who are less than careful regarding the laws of niddah, as well as the rewards for those who are fully meticulous. Again and again, the BdN-a tries to persuade its readers that strict observance of these laws will ensure their having clever, healthy, and beautiful sons, while negligence may result in offspring deficient in body and spirit. The BdN-a also discusses ways by which the impurity of the niddah can be transmitted via her breath, nails, hair, saliva, touch, clothes, food, etc. In many respects, the BdN-a is more severe than the canonical Talmudic literature, and tries to relate itself to an ancient authority by claiming links to the more severe teachings of Bet Shammai, against Bet Hillel—the school generally endorsed by Talmudic literature. Horowitz hesitated on the authenticity of the text, as well as its origins. Maimonides, in his Guide for the Perplexed (3:47), many centuries earlier had declared practices similar to those found in the BdN as non-Jewish. Horowitz finally opted for a rabbinic origin, and concluded that it had been composed around the fourth century, in Palestine. He based this dating especially on the correct insight that all sages mentioned were Palestinians, and that the latest among them was Rabbi Tanhuma of the fourth century. Although this is an interesting fact, the language and the content of the BdN seem to offer strong evidence that it is a later composition. It seems reasonable to suggest that the core of the BdN-a was composed in Palestine (which might explain its lack of Aramaic and its absolute fidelity to Palestinian sages), or at least by an author (or authors) with a strong admiration for Palestinian sages, maybe from other centers of Hebrew scholarship, such as Italy, during the latter part of the first millennium CE.


The BdN has been mentionned in scholaly works many times in recent years, but was never studied in depth. It was the topic of four encyclopedic articles (in the Jewish Encylopedia, in 1902; in the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, in 1972; in Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, in 2006; and in the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, in 2007). A master’s thesis by Joanne E. Seiff, from 2001, provided an English summary of the contents of the BdN. A French translation of a short version (BdN-f in the current edition) was published by Marienberg in 2003. The new edition includes a lenghty introduction to the work and its various witnesses, translations into French of three of these witnesses, and transcriptions of ten witnesses in their original Hebrew. This short manual attempts to explain to those who do not know French how to draw some benefits nevertheless from this new edition. The following is an English translation of the Table of Contents of the new edition:
Table of Contents Abreviations Used in This Volume Preface and Acknowledgements Foreward Important Remarks The Baraita de-Niddah : An Introduction Medieval Proofs Horowitz, the Pioneer of the BdN The Name of the Text, and a New Division The BdN in Its Multiple Witnesses The Structure of the Different Witnesses Regrouping of the Witnesses of the BdN The Sages in BdN-a and BdN-b The Halakaha of the BdN Exempla Incorporated in the BdN 1. The Two Twin-Sisters 4

5 7 9 13 15 17 21 24 25 31 34 40 44 45 45

2. The Two Friends (or : “The Pious Man and the Tax-Collector’s Son”) 3. The Birth of Rabbi Ishmael Conclusions Regarding the Origins of the BdN The Diffusion, Impact, and Current Status of the BdN The Baraita de-Niddah in French Some Words Regarding the Translation Version a (Horowitz) Version b (De Rossi) Version f (Shaʿarei Dura) Hebrew Texts BdN-a (Horowitz) BdN-b (De Rossi) BdN-c (Kol-Bo) BdN-d (Likkutei ha-Pardes) BdN-e (ha-Roke’ah) BdN-f (Shaʿarei Dura) BdN-g (British Library, ms. or. 1389) BdN-h (British Library, ms. Add. 27129) BdN-i (A.I.U. III , B 239) BdN-j (Vatican, ms. ebr. 285) The Birth of Rabbi Ishmael : Three Additional Witnesses The Synopses Synopsis I : The Baraita de-Niddah Synopsis II : The Birth of Rabbi Ishmael Synopsis III : The Two Twin-Sisters Synopsis IV : The Two Friends Bibliography 5 48 52 60 69 75 77 79 135 139 141 144 158 160 162 164 165 166 167 170 172 173 175 177 207 214 215 217

As can be seen, beside the prefatory portions (pp. 5–14) and the bibliography (pp. 217–225), the edition is composed of four distinct parts: Part I: Introduction to the BdN Part II: French translations of three versions of the BdN Part III: Transcriptions in Hebrew of ten versions of the BdN, as well as three related texts Part IV: Synopses of the BdN and some related texts (pp. 141–173) (pp. 175–215) (pp. 15–73) (pp. 75–140)

In the following pages, each of these four parts will be briefly explained, with special attention to the ways those who do not mater French can use and benefit from them.

Part I: Introduction to the BdN (pp. 15–73) This part opens with a discussion of the medieval mentions of the BdN (pp. 17–21). It then follows the personal story of Chaim Horowitz, and the circumstances that led to his edition of 1890 (pp. 21–24). The very title of the text is considered, and a new division of the texts—into short, manageable units—is suggested (p. 24–25). Then, ten versions, or “witnesses,” of the BdN (BdN-a to BdN-j) are analyzed, including their physical condition (in the case of the manuscripts) (p. 25–31), and their structure (pp. 31-34). They are then regrouped into two main families of texts (pp. 34–40). The following section examines the names of the sages mentioned in the two most important versions, BdN-a and BdN-b (pp. 40–44). After briefly discussing the possible halakhic status of the BdN (pp. 44–45), a rather lengthy section examines three stories (The Two Twin-Sisters, The Two Friends, The Birth of Rabbi Ishmael) that appear in the BdN-a (pp. 45–60). The introduction ends with some thoughts and conclusions about the origins of the BdN (pp. 60–69), as well as its impact and current status (pp. 69–73). Although, of course, we cannot summarize here this entire section, English-language readers can find some of its main points covered in an earlier article on the BdN, written in English by the author of the new edition, here:


Part I includes five important tables that are worth explaining. The first one, on p. 25, is the key to the system of division used in this edition. The text that was published by Horowitz, called BdN-a in Marienberg’s edition, was divided in the manuscript into three chapters, the first two of which had seven sub-sections each, and the third (an incomplete chapter) had four. Marienberg’s edition divides BdN-a into 191 units. Using this table, one can move from one system of division to the other. Thus, for example, Marienberg’s paragraph 123 is in Horowitz’ chapter 2, subchapter 6.



major table is found on pp. 32–33. In this

table, one can see the structure of the ten versions analyzed.

BdN-a, to which all others are compared, naturally includes

units 1–191. This table shows which equivalent units appear in all other versions, and in what order. By using various fonts, it emphasizes similarities between various versions.


A table on p. 39 suggests a division of all versions into two distinct families: an Ashkenazi

one and an Italian one, with some texts



This division is based on lengthy considerations

explained on pp. 34–40.

The fourth major table in this section is on pp. 41–43, and part of it can be seen here. In this table, all sages ([A]moraim & [T]anaim, [B]abylonians & [P]alestinians) mentioned in the two most important versions—BdN-a and BdN-b—are arranged chronologically, paragraphs mentioned. in with which a list each of sage the is


Part II: French translations of three versions of the BdN (pp. 75–140) This lengthy part provides, as its title indicates, translation into French of three versions: the longest version (BdN-a: pp. 79–133; corresponding Hebrew text: pp. 144–157); the one that best represents the short recension of the BdN (BdN-b: pp. 135–138; corresponding Hebrew text: pp. 158–159); and the version that was most widely known in the Middle Ages (BdN-f: pp. 139– 140; corresponding Hebrew text: p. 165). The translations are accompanied with close to five hundred footnotes, commenting on many aspects of the texts. Internal references between paragraphs are marked with the symbol §.

Part III: Transcriptions in Hebrew of ten versions of the BdN, with three additional texts (pp. 141–173) In this part, the reader can find the transcription of the ten versions of the BdN (BdN-a to BdN-j) used in this edition. Where available and relevant, versions are based on early prints (c, d) or manuscripts (b, f, g, h, i, j). On the last page of this section (p. 173), three additional versions of the story of the birth of Rabbi Ishmael are provided.

Part IV: Synopses of the BdN and some related texts (pp. 175–215) The last part of the book includes four synopses. The first one (pp. 178–206) compares all known and significant versions of the BdN to one another. Here again, the longest version, BdN-a, is the one to which all other nine are compared. Considering the fact that long sections that exist in the BdN-a do not have parallels in any of the other versions, such sections are not included, but marked with arrows (see an example on the right).


Following the first lengthy synopsis, one can find a second synopsis, comparing six versions of the story of the birth of Rabbi Ishmael (pp. 207–213). At the end of the fourth part, there are two additional short one-page synopses: one comparing two versions of the story of the two twin-sisters (p. 214), and one comparing two versions of the story of the two friends (p. 215).

© Evyatar Marienberg, 2012. The (great) idea to name this manual “BdN for Dummies” was of Ephraim (Effie) Shoham-Steiner. For questions and comments: / The most updated version of this manual can be found, with additional information about the book, at