Monday, November 07, 2005

Onkelos and the Oral Torah

Extensive debates online are hard to execute because they inevitably drift off into tangents that, while necessary for the arguments, are confusing and wearisome. This post is a case in point, which is why I turned this into its own topic.

In two earlier posts (I & II), I argued against the position that the Targum Onkelos contains only a simple translation of the Hebrew text into Aramaic and not any commentary that can be classified as Oral Torah. While this is quite apparent to anyone who has studied the text, I discovered that R. Menahem Kasher devoted volume 24 of his Torah Shelemah encyclopedia to this general topic. The following five examples are just a sample of what is in said volume. I think they make the point quite clearly that Targum Onkelos contains elements of the Oral Torah.

1. Exodus 21:8 (JPS 1917): "to sell her unto a foreign people he shall have no power"
Onkelos: "He shall have no right to sell her to another man" (cf. Mekhilta De-Rashb"i)

2. Exodus 21:9 "he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters"
Onkelos: "he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters of Israel" (cf. Mekhilta)

3. Deut. 22:5 "A woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man"
Onkelos: "A woman shall not bear a man's weapons" (cf. Sifrei; Nazir 59a)

4. Deut. 23:18 "There shall be no harlot of the daughters of Israel, neither shall there be a sodomite of the sons of Israel"
Onkelos: "A woman of the daughters of Israel shall not be for a male slave and a man of the sons of Israel shall not be for a maidservant"

5. Lev. 18:5 "which if a man do, he shall live by them"
Onkelos: "which if a man do, he shall live by them in the world to come" (cf. Toras Kohanim)

There are many more examples but I think the point has been made.

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