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Monday, March 28, 2011

Rabbi Marvin Tokayer And The Korean Talmud (Update: Take A Peek Inside The Korean Talmud)

Elder of Zion has come out with a second post about the "Korean Talmud" that has made the news--and blogs. In More on Korean Talmud studies - not quite as it was reported, he writes:
The Korean Talmud webpages I have seen treat the Talmud the same way one treats Aesop's Fables, as a shorthand way to gain insights into morality and how to live as well as plain entertainment. The bulk of the Talmud - as a basis for an all-encompassing legal system - is not mentioned.
That is the general impression one gets when reading about the man who is apparently the driving force behind the translation of the Talmud into Korean, Rabbi Marvin Tokayer.
Ordained in New York in 1962, he went to Waseda University in Japan in 1970. According to the Korea JoongAng Daily, while Rabbi Tokayer was there:
he first chose selections of the Talmud, with which the Asian audience can identify the most, and translated them into Japanese. Talmud, a collection of wise sayings that has been passed down by oral tradition, has not been translated into Korean and the version widely published in Korea is the translation of Tokayer’s Talmud written in Japanese.[emphasis added]
If this is accurate, it would indicate that we are talking about a collection that is more in line with Pirkei Avot, without the give-and-take that we associate with learning Gemarah.

That does not detract from Rabbi Tokayer's accomplishment in introducing the Talmud to Korea.

Rabbi Marvin Tokayer
Besides the translation of the Talmud, Rabbi Tokayer has also written 20 books in Japanese and is the author of The Fugu Plan: The Untold Story Of The Japanese And The Jews During World War II.

UPDATE: Check out Mostly Kosher, who has a post from a catholic forum written back in 2005--from a teacher who taught in Korea and writes about his experience finding out his Korean students learn Talmud. Again, the reference to Talmud is not to the actual Talmud, but to an anthology.

UPDATE II: Check out The New Normal, who has a Korean Talmud update, with a picture of what the inside of the Korean Talmud looks like--and gives a much clearer idea of what this is all about.

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