Friday, June 24, 2005

The Value of Learning Ktav Ivri

Apropos Missisipi Fred Macdowell's question (click through to see his picture) whether there is any value of non-academic types knowing Ktav Ivri (Paleo-Hebrew), I would say yes. The more familiar one is with realia, the better one can understand gemara and Tanach as it was intended.

There is a discussion of how in the Ten Commandments, engraved through and through on two tablets, the samach and mem sofit were miraculous, in that the middle portion had to have floated (Shabbat 104a and Megilla 2b-3a). How to understand the Yerushalmi that has instead "ayin and tes?" You need to know Ktav Ivri (in which these two letters are circular - the ayin looks like a samach, and the tes looks like an X inside an O, in what seems a modification of the letter tav) - to really understand this - and it is clear that Chazal knew Ktav Ivri.

Also, to understand Yechezkel 9:4 and 9:6 about the "mark," the "tav" made on people's foreheads. Does this mean a random mark? Does this mean something that looks like the Ktav Ashuri ת? It makes a lot more sense when you know the Ktav Ivri Tav looks like an X.

You never know when arcane knowledge can be useful.

Update: Plus, everyone should be able to read Joseph of Aramathea's inscription on the cave wall in Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail! :)

5 comments:

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Thanks for giving concrete examples.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

You wouldn't happen to know where we could find a copy of Joseph of Aramathea's cave wall inscription on the web, would you? :-)

joshwaxman said...

nope. closest I got is the following, from a second before or after:

http://www.intriguing.com/mp/_pictures/grail/small/HolyGrail192.jpg

josh said...

can you please tell me where to find the reference in the yerushalmi for the ayin and tes?

joshwaxman said...

it has been a while, so i did not recall offhand. but see mississippi fred macdowell's comment on this post.

kt.

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