These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem


Posted on February 8, 2011 by Pious Antic

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Rabbi Yitzhak Frank gave a lecture on Aramaic grammar at Pardes last week.

The casual reader of this blog could be forgiven for failing to leap out of his chair in excitement after reading the above sentence. I, however, was simply giddy when I walked into the beit midrash and saw Rabbi Frank standing there in flesh. I’ve kept my cool with personages orders of magnitude more famous than this scholar, but then again, none of them have been authors of books that I have occasion to consult with such regularity (with the possible exception of Wallace Shawn). The Frank dictionary, which explains the usage of the most common words and phrases in the Talmud, has been an almost indispensable tool in my studies for the past two years.

His lecture covered some of the basics of Aramaic grammar, which are often overlooked or misunderstood by even advanced students of the Talmud. This rather dry topic had me squirming with excitement. As someone whose ability to parse biblical passages is rooted in a strong understanding of Hebrew grammar (Thanks, Rabbi Posner!), I have found it frustrating to muddle through Aramaic texts with little sense of what form or what tense each verb is in. Though most of Rabbi Frank’s lecture was review for me, I was glad to get some ideas for how to go about learning and teaching the subject from the man who literally wrote the book on Aramaic grammar.