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The Fasts of Tevet

While many people are familiar with tomorrow’s fast on the tenth of Tevet (see also this by Jeffrey Woolf), there happen to be two lesser-known fasts from Tevet. The more well-known Megillat Taanit lists days on which it is forbidden to fast, while the less well-known Scroll of Fast-B (מגילת תענית בתרא) list days on which one is obligated to fast. Today, the ninth of Tevet, is mentioned in the Scroll of Fast-B, although no reason is given there for fasting. See Menachem Butler’s post for more info about the this fast day. Also mentioned was yesterday, the eighth of Tevet. The reason given for fasting on this day is that the Septuagint, the translation of the Torah into Greek was completed (see Avakesh). I don’t know much about the Septuagint, but I suggest reading both this informative post by Iyov about A New English Translation of the Septuagint and the interesting comments on his post. As I said, I am far from a knowledgeable person about the Septuagint, but I do remember reading some interesting comments about it from the French scholar Joseph Meleze Modrzejewski. According to Modrzejewski, in the royal courts of Egypt the Septuagint “became a ‘civic law’ for the Jews of Egypt.”

For the Jews, this decision had still another meaning. When they immigrated to Egypt, the Greek‑speaking colonists did not import their ancestral laws. The Jews did: they are the one exception of whom we surely have knowledge. In accordance with the royal diagramma, the Torah of Moses, ‘the Books of the Law of the Jews’ (του νόμου των ‘Ιουδαίων βιβλία) as the Letter of Aristeas (§30) calls it, was a politikos nomos, applicable to Jewish litigants by the royal justice. In other words, the Septuagint became a ‘civic law’ for the Jews of Egypt.

One of my first exposures to the Septuagint was a lecture many years ago by Louis Feldman, a man who has had a profound influence on scholars for many years. Maybe one of these days I’ll get around to learning Greek, in the meantime the translation discussed by Iyov looks to be about as far as I’ll get.

For Modrzejewski’s views see his article “Jewish Law and Hellenistic Legal Practice in the Light of Greek Papyri From Egypt” and his book The Jews of Egypt: From Rameses II to Emperor Hadrian.

2 Responses to “The Fasts of Tevet”

  1. 1
    Menachem Butler:

    see, as well, http://michtavim.blogspot.com/2007/12/azariah-de-rossi-on-chad-gadya.html

  2. 2
    poiuytre:

    See this: http://dovbear.blogspot.com/2007/12/lost-in-translation.html and the comments, too

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