Getting the word

Many people not in the know are surprised to hear that that the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud are not written completely in Hebrew but mainly in Aramaic.

word disk88 (photo credit: )
word disk88
(photo credit: )
Word by Word: Aramaic/English Dictionary, a CD-ROM by TES in Monsey, New York ( requires Windows XP for PCs, online price $89.95 or shekel equivalent. Rating: ***** Word by Word: Bible Dictionary and Conconrdance, a CD-ROM by TES, requires Windows XP for PCs, special price $43.34 or shekel equivalent Rating: ***** Many people not in the know are surprised to hear that that the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud are not written completely in Hebrew but mainly in Aramaic. Even religious youngsters who start learning Talmud may be overwhelmed by the need to learn a new language (or at least a considerable amount of vocabulary) to understand it. There are various printed Aramaic/Hebrew dictionaries, and the Jastrow edition is a well-known Aramaic/English dictionary. But for these, you have to know word roots to find translations. Now Jastrow, which is thousands of pages long, has been put on a disk for instant translation from English to Aramaic and from Aramaic to English. Part of a group of Semitic languages with a 3,000-year history, Aramaic was the language of literature and liturgy and of the administration of empires. Today, it is spoken as a first language by a handful of dispersed communities, especially the Assyrians, but it nevertheless is regarded as an "endangered" tongue. Although the promordial Aramaic alphabet was based on Phoenician script, the Israelites and other ancient peoples of Canaan adopted a squarish script for this alphabet, which is known as the Hebrew alphabet today. Not only the two versions of the Talmud and some official texts, prayers and songs (such as the Ketuba wedding contract, the Kaddish, Ya Ribon Olam on Shabbat and Had Gadya on Pessah) are in Aramaic, but also parts of the Bible, including parts of Jeremiah, Ezra and Daniel, and sections of the Zohar. When you install the program, you can remove the disk from your drive and call the translation feature up at any time without inserting the disk. A splash screen appears while the program loads the Aramaic word lists. If you want to have the whole Jastrow dictionary at your fingertips and search according to specific pages in that volume, you must insert the disk itself. For each Aramaic word, you can also see the full Jastrow entry, which may be printed out or copied and pasted into other applications. Instead of typing in Aramaic words from your computer keyboard, you can easily click on Hebrew letters from a virtual keyboard that makes them appear automatically in the proper spot for translation. When you enter a word, the list will scroll to the first match and that word will be highlighted; if you type only part of a word and the word you want is highlighted, you don't need to type any more, just press the enter key, and the full word will be entered in the English Search area. If the word you type is not in the list, it will scroll to the closest word without highlighting, indicating that the word is not listed. With a total of 166,895 words and definitions in Aramaic or English, this program is convenient and rich; the only shortcoming is that unlike a book, religious Jews can't use it on Shabbat and holidays (although they can print out material in advance to study then). There are several biblical concordances on disks, but this is the most user-friendly I have seen. Built on the same format as the above-reviewed Aramaic/English disk, it enables users to translate a Hebrew or English word or phrase from the Bible, browse the dictionary, cross-check a translation, view synonyms, scan the concordance and within seconds of searching get a complete picture of any word in the Bible. Here, too, a virtual keyboard allows quick entry of words. The concordance displays the biblical verses in which your search word was found, and you can view just the Hebrew or the English or both by clicking on the appropriate categories. In addition to finding them in a split second, it is fun to call up Hebrew names (including your own or those of your loved ones) to search for their meaning and reference in the Bible.