Parsahat מטות Numbers 32:3 – Twice as written and once in Targum

Numbers 32:3 “Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Sebam, and Nebo, and Beon,”

Berachot 8a: Ataroth, and Dibon … Rav Huna the son of Judah said in the name of Rabbi Ami: “A person should always complete his weekly Torah portions with the congregation – twice as written (in Hebrew) and once in Targum (in Aramaic translation) even Ataroth, and Dibon.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #1:

Rashi comments: even Ataroth, and Dibon, which have no Targum (they read the same in Hebrew and Aramaic).  Tosafot questions why the gemarah specifically mentions Ataroth, and Dibon as opposed to names such as Reuben, Simon, etc.  This question aside, the verse referring to Ataroth, and Dibon has the Jerusalem Targum[1] [which is also cited by Onkelos on this verse].  Tosafot explain that since Ataroth, and Dibon only have a Jerusalem Targum and no well-known one, one might think that one should read the verse in Hebrew three times.  Therefore the gemarah states that it is better to read it a third time in the Aramaic translation.  This explains the difficulty, albeit, their original question remains unanswered.  The Mesoret Hashas emends the gemarah to refer a verse in at the end of parashat Massei that refers to Dibon and Ataroth.  This verse has no Targum, however, this emendation does not answer the question of Tosafot regarding names.  Many of the commentators tried to explain this.

I wonder what led our rabbis to say that the gemarah was emphasizing once in Targum, for it appears clear to me that the intention equally applies to twice in Hebrew.  The explanation is that this verse (referring to Ataroth and Dibon) is not connected to the previous verses nor to the subsequent ones.  One could skip this verse without detracting from the meaning and continuation of the current section.  Here, one could skip from verse 2 to verse 4 without missing anything as it appears.  They said to Moses … (verse 2). The land which the Lord smote … (verse 4).  One might think that in such cases, there is no obligation to read this verse twice in Hebrew and once in Targum, rather once could skip the verse or read it only once.  The gemarah teaches otherwise, that his verse is like every other verse in the Torah, which one must read three times.

This shows the deep understanding of Chazal and their sensitivity.  Such a verse, which, as described above, has no necessary connection to the current section, such that, by omitting it one detracts nothing from the matter at hand.  Even such a verse is treated as individual and unique in the entire Torah.  Take note.

Editor’s Note: If one skips a word or an entire sentence when publicly reading the Torah, the reader must go back to correct the mistake, even if the omission does not detract from the current section.  A Torah scroll is not kosher if even one letter was omitted.  Lest one think that this does not apply to the daily study of Torah, the Torah Temimah shows the sensitivity of Chazal to every verse in the Torah.  Every verse in the Torah is unique and special.  Even if the verse seems superfluous, one must review it three times: twice in Hebrew and once in translation.


[1] There are two versions of the Jerusalem Targum: a fragmentary one and a more complete one.  The more complete one is sometimes incorrectly associated with the translation of Yonatan Ben Uziel whose translation only accompanies the prophets and Hagiographia.  Both of these provide a more homiletic translation than Onkelos who provides a more literal translation

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