יום שישי, פברואר 16, 2007

 

Medlar runners

In last week's Haftarah for Sh'mot, at Isaiah 27:6, there is a reference to a medlar tree. Or at least there is in the Plaut II translation (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, revised):

Jacob shall come to take root,
Israel shall blossom and bloom.
They shall fill the earth with fruit
like a medlar when it sends forth runners.

There is a footnote to this passage, which reads as follows:

Like... runners. In the translation, this phrase has been moved up from verse 8, for clarity.
Medlar. A form of apple tree

Well, now that is taking some liberties, and I am not talking about the moving of a phrase from one verse to another. I am talking about the medlar, which is no more closely related to apple than is a raspberry. (Both are part of the rose family, which is vast and includes many fruiting and non-fruiting plants.)

Medlars come from Persia, and certainly would have been known in ancient Israel. But, if answers.com can be believed, the Hebrew word for medlar is shin-samech-kuf. I do not see this word in the Hebrew text in Plaut II. A quick check of some other translations showed no reference to "medlar" (see blow). I wish I knew which word in this Haftarah passage was being translated as "medlar" and why, given the obscurity for most readers of that term.

As for the fruit itself, medlars were popular in Victorian times, but they are not very well known now outside of Persia, and, again according to answers.com, in Piedmont (Italy). They may be making a comeback, however, as I see medlar trees offered in many of my nursery catalogs; perhaps the medlar is being rescued from obscurity. Just don't call it an apple! (I have never eaten a medlar, but they can't be eaten right off the tree; they must be very soft.)

-------------------
JPS has:

[6] [In days] to come Jacob shall strike root,
Israel shall sprout and blossom,
And the face of the world shall be covered with fruit.

[7] Was he beaten as his beater has been?
Did he suffer such slaughter as his slayers?
[8] Assailing them with fury unchained,
His pitiless blast bore them off
On a day of gale.
[There is a note on "Assailing them" that says "Meaning of Heb. uncertain."]


A KJV that I have that was my mother's says:

[6] He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.
[7] Hath he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him? or is he slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him?
[8] In measure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: he sayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind.

And these are the same verses???

For the sake of completeness, let's also include verses 7 and 8 of Plaut II (as it was from 8 that the line about the medlars--which is what got me started here--was moved from):

[7] Did God strike [Israel] down like others who were struck?
Was [Israel] slain as [God] slew the slayers?
[8] God contended with them, sending them off with a hot blast,
as on the day the east wind comes.



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