Monday, November 07, 2011

Targum on Berit Bein Habetarim Notes Iran's Downfall

Both the Kol Emunim newsletter (p.1, left column) and (from 5 years ago) note how Iran's downfall is noted by what's known as the Targum Yonatan on Parshat Lech Lecha.  (I linked to it 5 years ago too.)

If you see the Targum inside, it appears that the Targum Yerushalmi agrees to the Targum Yonatan that Iran's downfall is noted. notes from the wording of the Targumim that not only will its downfall occur, but its downfall will be such that it will never rise again.  Also, from the wording of the Targum Yonatan at least, it will cause the rise of the nation of the house of Israel.  May this occur speedily in our days.

Update: Some commenters (Anonymous and Josh) have pointed out that the original manuscript of Targum Yonatan had "Edom" instead of "Persia" and that some versions have "Persia" due to the censors.  I commented that it could be that the censors prophecied not knowing what they prophecied.  One possibly could use the same reasoning in this post which comes from Vayikra Rabba.


At Mon Nov 07, 09:35:00 PM 2011, Blogger Leah said...

May it be His will.

At Tue Nov 08, 07:13:00 AM 2011, Blogger joshwaxman said...

The alternation with the four galuyot mentioned in Bereishit Rabba (44:17) is interesting:

"And behold, a great, dark fear fell upon him." "'Fear' refers to Babylonia ... 'dark' refers to Media. ... 'great' refers to Greece.... 'fell upon him' refers to Edom.'"

Note the switch between Edom and Paras as the last of the exiles. And how Maday appears in both, and encompassed Paras and Maday, where Maday were an Iranian people. (And are often linked together as a single galus Paras UMaday.)

Perhaps this tells us something about the date of authorship of Targum Pseudo-Yonatan (and the related Targum Yerushalmi), that they list the last exile as one ruled over by Paras?

Nowadays, of course, we would not really consider ourselves to be in an exile ruled over by Iran. While they are a force in the region, and are trying to develop nuclear weapons, they are comparatively a nothing-country.

I wouldn't consider this Tg Yonasan to be prophecy, but rather an interpretation of prophecy. And one that is irrelevant, since we are surely past the galus Paras.

kol tuv,

At Tue Nov 08, 12:34:00 PM 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Medrash Yalkut Shimoni on Yeshaya perek 60-61 also identifies Persia (Iran) as a leading source of world conflict.
It also narrates retrospective view of after Moshiach has come and the Persians are the only nation singled out for apparant vilification ("Haparsayim Hareshoim").

Based on the Medrash, Iran is the last significant adversary of the Jewish people.

Also, ironic, as hinted in the blog you linked to, is that the Persians are a spiritual continuation of the Germans YM"S, as they legally changed the country's name from Persia to Iran (signifying Aryan) recently in the Twentieth Century.

At Tue Nov 08, 12:50:00 PM 2011, Blogger joshwaxman said...

Interesting. Yalkut Shimoni is also fairly late.

yaak -- do you know of any earlier sources which give Paras as the last galus?

At Tue Nov 08, 01:07:00 PM 2011, Blogger yaak said...

Avoda Zara 2b
Yoma 10a

I'm not sure how early it is, but Vayikra Rabba at the end of Shemini has a bunch of examples of זו בבל זו מדי זו יון, and the last one is זו אדום, but on one of them, it's זו פרס.

Here are a few links from my blog you can look at:




At Tue Nov 08, 02:03:00 PM 2011, Blogger yaak said...

Also, another possible source is the gemara in Megilla 14a - אכתי עבדי אחשורוש אנן.

At Wed Nov 09, 01:14:00 PM 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. In the handwritten transcripts of Targum Yonatan, it is Edom and not Paras which falls, never to arise again.

2. The Ramban at Breishit 28:12 also writes that the fourth exile is Edom.

3. Also in Pirkei D'Rabi Eliezer, in chapters 28 and 35, it's brought down that Edom is the one who falls and does not get up.

4. The reason why Edom was omitted was because of censorship.

At Wed Nov 09, 01:33:00 PM 2011, Blogger yaak said...


What you say is very plausible.

1) Do you have a link to these handwritten transcripts so I can see it inside?

2) The Ramban does, in fact, say Edom.

3) I could not find it in these locations of Pirkei dRibbi Eliezer. Are you sure these are the correct locations?

Usually, "Edom" was changed to "Aram" by the censors - not Paras. It could be that different censors in different time periods used different nations.

I personally think that Paras could be the original - as the gemara in Avoda Zara and Yoma can be used to understand it.

Furthermore, if what you say is true, one could also say that those who censored ניבאו ולא ידעו מה ניבאו.

At Wed Nov 09, 02:37:00 PM 2011, Blogger joshwaxman said...

not a manuscript, but a critical edition based on manuscripts:

has edom:

regarding the censors editing out edom, see whar sarati bamedinot sys, citing emes leyaakov:


At Wed Nov 09, 02:53:00 PM 2011, Blogger yaak said...

Thank you - very interesting.

At Wed Nov 09, 07:46:00 PM 2011, Blogger joshwaxman said...

Yachol lihyot that they prophesied not knowing what they prophesied (note spelling, btw -- something stressed by one or two of my Navi teachers).

Though i am reluctant to attribute prophecy to apostates.

But more than than, I don't think that galus Paras really applies at all here. We are arguably in galus Edom, with Christendom as the heirs of the Holy Roman Empire and the West as the heirs of Christendom. But galus Paras? Yes, I, too, am worried about the possibility of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. But at present, compared to true empires, they are a dinky little nothing-country. How would the downfall of this country be the downfall of galus Paras?

So, if it was prophecy, then it was one which happened long ago, or which will happen quite a deal of time in the future. We surely don't have to attribute accidental ruach hakodesh to apostate censors if even the prophecy (if it ever comes to be) will be a kvetch.

Still, aside from all this, hopefully indeed Iran will fail and fall, and mashiach should come.

kol tuv,

At Wed Nov 09, 08:02:00 PM 2011, Blogger joshwaxman said...

In terms of Avodah Zara 2b, I don't see it. I see these two mentioned, as forces that will exist until mashiach. And in Yoma 10a as well, as (what they thought in those times) that Rome would fall to Persia or vice versa. While admittedly **close**, that still isn't the same as it being the last of the official four galuyot, chasing out the rather prominent galus Edom (and associations with Esav, with Rivkah) as an entity.

I wonder now about that Vayikra Rabba as well -- if it is not as Etz Yosef suggests, that it was a mere kinuy for Edom, but rather that it was the work of a censor.

At Wed Nov 09, 08:19:00 PM 2011, Blogger joshwaxman said...

I looked into Vayikra Rabba, and here is what I found.

In this early edition of Midrash Rabba,

מדרש רבה. ת"א. אמשטרדם
ספר רבות : ... על חמשה חומשי תורה ... וחמש מגילות... עם פי' ... נקרא בשמו מתנות כהונה ...
אמשטירדם : דפוס עמנואל בנבנישתי, ת"א.
printed in 1641,

it indeed has Edom rather than Paras. So that lends credence to the idea of it being the word of a censor. (or, as Etz Yosef said, a kinuy, but from a censor.)

There is a synoptic version of Midrash Rabba online, here, which compares various versions to one another:

But alas, the particular page has its encoding all messed up:


At Wed Nov 09, 11:20:00 PM 2011, Blogger yaak said...

I am willing to attribute unknowing prophecy to apostates. That's often when ניבאו ולא ידעו מה ניבאו is used. For example, Rashi Bereishit 45:18 refers to Par'oh. This book has an example that refers to the Egyptian magicians.

Regarding Paras being a Galut, there's another angle that both of us have overlooked. I've blogged before how Rav Saadia Gaon and others have mentioned a Galut Yishmael. Paras is part of Yishmael (see the previous link where Rav Yoel Schwartz equates the 2). Also, see the Tosafot Rid and Mahara"l mentioned in this post.

Thanks for doing the added research into the Vayikra Rabba.

At Thu Nov 10, 01:54:00 AM 2011, Blogger yaak said...

There are many other sources for Paras having to do with Mashiah - see here. Summarized briefly in English here.

At Thu Nov 10, 07:16:00 AM 2011, Blogger joshwaxman said...

great. so if Paras means Yishmael, and thus, Islam in general, then don't read it here as a specific reference to Iran.

I agree to the existence of ניבאו ולא ידעו מה ניבאו. And this on a peshat level, even. We find it in great English literature as well. It is a type of foreshadowing, where a character says something, **often to his own detriment**, about the future, unwittingly. Consider the Cask of Amontillado, where the eventual murder victim says " I won't die from a cough." To which the murderer replies, 'true, true.'

The Torah is Torah miSinai, but it is also literature, and not every single thing a person historically said has to be recorded. We can say that this was included for a purpose. Especially where we see that it eventually DOES come true later in the Biblical narrative.

That is a far cry from saying that every taus sofer and every tangling with the text of a Rabbinic source by an apostate was done as a sort of nevuah. There is no impetus to say this. Indeed, it seems more like an attempt to salvage, and adds an additional layer of kvetch to the entire enterprise.

Why do so many modern geulah-oriented interpretations involve a layer or three of kvetch?

At Thu Nov 10, 07:19:00 AM 2011, Blogger joshwaxman said...

in terms of 'overlooking', btw, it was indeed in the back of my mind. this is what i meant when i said, above:

Perhaps this tells us something about the date of authorship of Targum Pseudo-Yonatan (and the related Targum Yerushalmi), that they list the last exile as one ruled over by Paras?

that it was written after the Arab conquest. this would fit with other details in Tg Pseudo-Yonatan. a similar idea would apply to Rav Saadia Gaon. though I expect that Rav Saadia Gaon, nowadays, would not really be speaking of a galus Yishmael.

kol tuv,

At Thu Nov 10, 08:42:00 AM 2011, Blogger joshwaxman said...

a relevant post, by the way, about interpreting censored texts.

At Thu Nov 10, 09:22:00 AM 2011, Anonymous S. said...


"I commented that it could be that the censors prophecied not knowing what they prophecied."

Does such an undisciplined approach really satisfy you? In my opinion this approach makes it impossible to differentiate our own holy texts from any other religion's (or, frankly, any text at all). It's just emunah, emunah, emunah - however disconnected with the facts. The entire Torah could have been falsified using this reasoning, and it still wouldn't matter?

At Thu Nov 10, 09:39:00 AM 2011, Blogger yaak said...

It is not undisciplined, Has Veshalom.

Hashem controls the world and wanted some texts to make it to our generation.

It very much satisfies me. We know the censored version and the uncensored version nowadays. We see how Yad Hashem is in everything. It is not disconnected from facts - it happened for a reason and nothing is a coincidence.

And Josh, who is Kvetching here? I agreed with you that it could be censored. And it still is irrelavent as Hashem put this girsa in our world today to show us something. THOSE *ARE* THE FACTS.

At Thu Nov 10, 09:58:00 AM 2011, Blogger joshwaxman said...

the kvetch is not in the facts. the kvetch is in deciding to establish as 'prophecy' like a censored text, by applying an idea from elsewhere about Biblical characters giving negative prophecy about themselves / countries.

and the kvetch is in applying a text which seems to be about an entire Galus (/Empire) of Paras to a dinky little country of Iran, where there is no evidence that the application should be to today's events as opposed to last century's or next century's.

let us talk in general. my sense (not from you in particular, but in general) is that any rationalization to maintain some belief will be seized upon and adopted as a firm, "obvious" belief. and then labeled a non-kvetch. while i don't know in any conversation what particular kvetch will be offered. but the human mind is capable of coming up with all sorts of rationalizations, such that a kvetch is inevitable. and such that the particular kvetch will not be viewed as a kvetch.

Let us assume that the prohibition printed in Shulchan Aruch of eating fish and milk is indeed a taus sofer, as many poskim say. Why do they not then say that this was a form of Divine revelation, with the mechaber (or rather printer) accidentally prophesying, such that we should establish a prohibition of fish and milk, even though initially it was erroneous?

All sorts of errors cropped up in siddurim, which in some cases led to chiruf vegidduf. And poskim write to correct the girsa. Should we really darshen every single taus sofer as meaningful?

kol tuv,

At Thu Nov 10, 10:03:00 AM 2011, Anonymous S. said...


"Hashem controls the world and wanted some texts to make it to our generation."

Then why do we need a masorah (=critical apparatus to protect the text, masores syag le-torah)? Why do we need disciplined halachos of safrus? It's all good, Hashem wants us to have the text we have. None of that would be necessary.

At Thu Nov 10, 10:14:00 AM 2011, Blogger yaak said...

Listen, there's a meaning for everything. If fish and milk is a Ta'ut Sofer (like the Taz says), Hashem, for whatever reason, wanted us to go through hoops to eventually find out that it is a Ta'ut Sofer. (Turkish Sepharadim, BTW, do eat fish and milk together. Most Sepharadim do not.)

The same with any Hiruf VeGidduf. It could be a test. It could be to sharpen us. You want to call such rationalizations a "kvetch"? Go ahead. I'll call them seeing Yad Hashem in everything.


Of course we have a Mesorah which is what we follow, but the mistakes are meaningful too. Edom is the correct girsa here, but Paras is meaningful too.

At Thu Nov 10, 10:25:00 AM 2011, Blogger joshwaxman said...

yes, i know that most sefardim do not. i've also seen rejections of the claim that it is a taus sofer. rather, rationalizations (or explanations) are presented as to why it really is an issur. nobody (that I know of, at least) says: yes, it is a taus sofer, but let us establish it anyway as halacha, since it was revelation.

how do you know that this galus Paras is not a test as well? or that it was necessary in order to jump through hoops in previous generations, but not necessary now that we know the real girsa?

At Thu Nov 10, 10:28:00 AM 2011, Anonymous S. said...

I'm not sure we're communicating properly. מסורה, (or מסורת to be accurate) in this context, doesn't mean "tradition," it means "safeguard." In fact, many believe that the root of מסורת is אסר, to bind, rather than מסר, to transmit. See Ezekiel 20:37, where that's exactly what the word מסרת means.

Therefore, what was I asking? I was asking what the point of the מסורת was. Why is 'masores syag le-torah'? Why did people count every letter in Tanakh, why did they note every instance of every word, with every nikkud and every trope, as it appears? Why do any of that, if in any case whatever text we have is what God wants us to have? On the one hand you are positing a high degree of Divine hashgacha even over our texts. On the other hand, ein ba'ayah, mistakes and errors are all good, they're also God's plan - even if they were created by apostate Jews or other Church censors. I just don't see where the human effort goes into preserving the text. I mean, the Christians have no masorah for their Bible, and it worked out okay for them. So why do we need one, when we have the advantage that they don't, namely Divine will guiding and sanctifying even our mistakes?

At Thu Nov 10, 10:38:00 AM 2011, Blogger yaak said...

Josh, I already explained in many comments why Paras is also correct here. See all the links I provided.

S, there's an Ikkar and a Tafeil, but the Tafeil is also Yad Hashem. Nevertheless, the Ikkar needs to be preserved.

At Thu Nov 10, 10:44:00 AM 2011, Blogger joshwaxman said...

i read many of the links. i agree that one COULD produce some sort of connection. i also think it is a kvetch in this instance, both in terms of context of the rest of the Targum and in terms of application to the real world.


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