A Note on the Opening Sentence of Pirqei Avot in Two Eighteenth-Century Yiddish Editions of the Tract

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The opening sentence of Pirqei Avot evokes a history of Torah transmission which is also of particular importance in legitimizing the existence and roles of the Oral Torah as an integral section of Torah. Up to the end of the eighteenth century, Yiddish translators of the tract frequently expanded the original Hebrew text while following the strategy of Yiddish translations of the Bible known as Khumesh mit khiber, or ‘a Yiddish rendition with additions’: a Yiddish version of the Hebrew text aimed at providing its reading public a coherent text to understand in their Ashkenazi vernacular. As may be expected, the boundaries between translation and commentary were consequently blurred, but the Yiddish version was nevertheless considered as a translation of the original Hebrew text.

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