Hebrew Translation
June 15, 2010 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I found an old parchment scroll while looking through my old family papers. There is Hebrew written in black ink on it, and it is dated 1896.

From the English that is also written on it, I know that is is some kind of appreciation for my Great Grandfather who was a doctor, but I would love to know what the Hebrew portions of the scroll says, and would appreciate your assistance!

I have uploaded a high resolution photo to my flickr page here:

(click all sizes for larger views)

Thanks AskMefites!!
posted by elis to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
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posted by Think_Long at 8:39 AM on June 15, 2010

Best answer: The first large line is from Exodus 21:19: ורפא ירפא
…and he shall provide for his cure.

The second, smaller, line is from the Talmud, Bava Kama: מכאו שניתן רשות לרפא
[One can learn] from here, [that he] is given permission to heal. (I.e. man's ability to heal comes from this verse.)

The first line on the bottom right is פי ימלא תהלתך, which is from Psalms 71:8, and means 'May my mouth be filled with your praise,' and is an introduction to the praise which follows.

The rest is poetic, with some references to Biblical works:
איש לו יאות
תקף הדר גאות
נעים ונעוה מדבריך
ארכת חיים כוחך
מחיה עצמת ינשת

Somewhat loosely translated, and Hebrew is not my first language:
A man considered
rightly of proper pride
your speech is pleasant and nice
long days (life) is your strength
livening bones (people) ????

The left side says
קבל מנחתי הדל
מאיש אסיר תודה
על חסדו וטבו

Again, loosely:
Accept my meager offering
from a grateful man
for his kindness and goodness

The bottom right corner is a date and place
כ"א סיוון תרנ"ו באסטאן
21st of Sivan, Boston
(Corresponding to June 2, 1896)
posted by mhz at 9:44 AM on June 15, 2010

Best answer: Maybe it was a gift from a poetic and religiously-knowledgeable, but poor (and corny), patient, after receiving free treatment.

The part in big letters is a fragment of a verse from the Bible: "and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed." Underneath is a comment from the Talmud in smaller letters: "From this, you can derive that healing is permitted."

The context of the biblical fragment is as follows:

"And if men contend, and one smite the other with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keep his bed; if he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed."

'Shall cause him to be thoroughly healed' means payment of medical bills. The comment from the Talmud is saying you might think that the practice of medicine goes against religion (taking the place of god? a form of witchcraft? a lack of faith?), but if the verse legislates that medical costs are owed to an injured party, then, inter alia, we see that medical treatment, in general, is okay.

At the bottom right corner is a rhymed poem, which translates (roughly):
"My mouth is filled with praise for you // a man to whom is fitting // the power of the beauty of pride // pleasant and comely is your speech // length of days is in your spirit // one who enlivens bones [can't make out last word]."

At bottom left it says:
"Accept the gift of a poor man, from one bound by gratitude, for your kindness and goodness."
posted by Paquda at 9:47 AM on June 15, 2010

I think it's a license to practice medicine - from old times. Or could be a segulah - though I'm thinking more the former.
posted by watercarrier at 10:56 AM on June 15, 2010

Response by poster: thank you so much for helping me out - this means a lot to me!
posted by elis at 11:02 AM on June 15, 2010

I find it odd that the writer used nekudot (vowel demarcation) on the text; this isn't normally present in Hebrew. My guess is that the writer copied the text from a machzor with nekudot and did his very best to copy the lettering from it; it's not the kind of calligraphy that a sofer would use, it's the kind of lettering you'd find in print.

However, given that the English was written with a fountain pen, I'm guessing that's what the Hebrew writer used as well, in which case it would have been very difficult to get the lettering that size and that clean (even if not perfect). Whoever wrote this clearly put a lot of effort into it.
posted by holterbarbour at 5:13 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

mhz and Paquda have gotten it pretty much right already - just a few additional notes that may be helpful.

The connection between the Exodus verse and the excerpt from the Talmud is as follows:
The Exodus piece contains a verb which consists of a "doubled" root [it's pronounced “v’rapoh yirapeh” - you can hear the alliteration]. We usually read these "doubled" verbs as coming to indicate emphasis; most modern translation of the Bible would render that phrase as something like "You shall surely heal" or "he shall be thoroughly healed."

When the rabbis of the Talmud came along, however, they did a little bit of creative rereading, and they suggested that this "double" verb indicates that there are two lessons to be learned when a person is injured:
* First, that in the case of negligence, there is a commandment to compensate the injured parties for their medical bills.
* Second (and this is key), that human beings are permitted to practice medicine - in other words, we need not rely solely on God's intervention to heal the sick.

According to modern Jewish thought (by way of Nachmanides, in his work Torat Ha-Adam), this one piece of rabbinic commentary on the Torah is the only reason that medicine can be considered a legitimate profession at all (even though, he says wryly, it doesn't always work!).

And just one more missing piece to fill in:
I think that mhz misread one letter in the last word in the section on the bottom right - that's a vet, not a nun. The correct phrase is "One who enlivens dry bones" [see Ezekiel 37] - in other words, he's offering high praise to the doctor who, like God himself, enables the dry bones to rise up and live!

It's really a wonderful document - and in great shape, considering its age! Treasure it.
posted by AngerBoy at 3:08 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

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