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Old Jewish Commentaries on the Song of Songs I

The Commentary of Yefet ben Eli- Edited and translated from Judeo-Arabic by Joseph Alobaidi

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Joseph Alobaidi

The commentary of Yefet ben Eli the Karaite (second half of the tenth century) on The Song of Songs is example of an exegetical work obeying two imperatives: The explanation of the divine message of Salvation mixed with the assiduous Karaite effort to prove wrong their adversaries, the Rabbanites, with the help of the Bible. In so doing Yefet ben Eli wrote a thoughtful and original commentary on the very symbolic Song of Songs. Indeed, according to Yefet ben Eli nothing in the Book should be taken realistically. The ability of Yefet to replace symbols by historical events is one of the many marks that show Yefet’s mastery and the originality of his commentary.

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Yefet’s translation of the Song of Songs 1

Extract

Masoretic text of the Song of Songs With Yefet ben Eli’s translation The English text is the translation of Yefet ben Eli’s rendering of the Song of Songs and not the translation of the masoretic text. Yefet’s understanding may differ greatly from our usual understanding of the Song of Songs. Adjusting the Karaite interpretation of the Song of Songs to a modern interpretation will never express Yefet goal in commenting this poem, a commentary directed against the Rabbanites. Sometimes more than one translation is given in the lemma of the same verse. Other times a new translation is given during the commentary on the verse. With very rare exceptions, the Judeo-Arabic text is not vocalized. 1:1 `hmo)l{v.li rvmi ֹדלאו לגא ךתאדדות ןאפ היפ לבק ןמ ינלבקי רמכלא תאדות ןמ He kisses me. Your delights are greater and sweeter than the delights of wine. 1:3 `^Wb)hea] tAmïl'[] !KEß-l[; ^mn: %B'‘hx'm.f.nIw ברטנ הרודֹכ ךלמלא ינלֹכדא רֹצאחנ ךארו יתח ינבֹדגארכֹדנ ךב חרפנו ֹכלא תאדדות ןמ לגא יה יתלא ךתאדדותמאקתסאלא לעפב רמ]ה [ךובחא . Yefet ben Eli 22 Draw me after you so we can be together, the king introduced me to His chambers, we will rejoice and be happy because of you, remembering your love, sweeter than Wine delights, they love you because of your righteousness. 1:5 `hmo)l{v tA[ßyrIyKi rd"êqe yleäh\a'K. ~÷Il'_v'Wry> tAnàB. hw"ëan"w>) ‘ynIa] hr"ÛAxv.. בראֹצמ קאקש ןסח ינסחו רדק בראֹצמ דאוס לכאשי ידאוסו םלשורי תאנב אי הלימגו אנא אדוס המלש. I am Black, but beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem. My blackness resembles the blackness of the tents of Qedar, but my Beauty is the beauty of the curtains of Solomon’s palaces. 1:6 yMiäai ynEôB. vm,...

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