The last article about the Malayalam translation of Bible and the role of a Cochin Jew in it was just an opening to explore the literary richness of the Jews of Malabar.
The vibrant community gave birth to many talents, Poets like Eliahu Adeni, Nehemiah ben Abraham Mota, Levi ben Moses Belilah, Ephraim Saala, Solomon ben Nissim, and Joseph Zakkai some of their works were part of Cochini Minhag which were later integrated into the liturgical books.
"Ohel David", ( Amsterdam, 1785), by David Ben Ezekiel Rahabi
David Rahabi was Cochini calender maker, He is known for his work "Ohel David", ( Amsterdam, 1785), which treats on the origin of Hebrew Calendar, and its comparison with Islamic and Hindu calendar. Which aided the community to prepare their wall hanging hand made event calendar. One of such last calendar was prepared by Johnny Hallegua in 2011.
Manuscript wall calendar from Pardesi synagogue, by an unknown Scribe dated 1862-1863.
And the community also had many unknown Soferim (Scribes) who made exquisite Torah scrolls, Megillah and Mezuzahs of Cochin and even purchased by Jews of far flung places.
There were numerous manuscripts produced by such talents in possession with the Cochin Jews, those were Biblical books and commentaries, apocryphal books, liturgy poems and hymns, treaties on religious and communal topics, astrology, anthropology, medicine, history and so on. ....small but vibrant community of Cochin was so rich in the field....
In this article we will discuss about, a late 19th century Hebrew-Malayalam Targum manuscript from Cochin, which also include a small portion of liturgy poems.
What is Targum ?
Traditionally the Aramaic translation of the Bible is known as Targum (תרגום) It forms a part of the Jewish traditional literature, and in its inception is as early as the time of the Second Temple.
But on a later context the word is also used to indicate the spoken paraphrases, explanations and expansions of the Jewish scriptures that a Rabbi would give in the common language of the listeners.
The title seems to be very exotic, and it is. "Targum Malayalemi" (תרגום מליאלמי) or more specifically "עם תרגום מליאלמי" which roughly means "with Malayalam translation".
A page from the Manuscript, Targum Malayalemi.
This is one among the hundreds of the Hebrew manuscripts from Cochin, and this particular Codex in possession with The Jewish Theological Seminary, contains:
Ethics of the Fathers : פרקי אבות
Song of Songs : שיר השירים
Lamentations : איכה
liturgical poems : פיוטים
The colophon of this book is a brilliant example for how the information about the attributes is to be stated.
Date: Tuesday 7th Elul 5652, (Tuesday, 30 August 1892)
Scribe: Eliyah Haim Hallegua
Owner: Rachel Bat Eliyah Hallegua
The book is compiled with vocalized Hebrew text with Malayalam translation, phrase by phrase, in parallel columns. The style of Malayalam is a non standardised version or a later version of Judeo-Malayalam, there are many Hebrew words which are transliterated as it is, some of the examples are:
תורה(Torah) തൊറാ (Thorah) - Torah
הצדיק (Ha Tzadik) ആസ്സദീഹ (Assadeeha) - Righteous one
נבי (Nabi) നാബി (Nabi) - Prophet
יין (Yayin) യായീന (Yayina) - Wine
ארזים (Arzim) ഏറെസ (Arese) - Cedar
Few Malayalam words of Dutch-Latin origin is also seen in the translation, an example is ഓടാത്ത, (odatha) its etymology is the Latin loan Dutch word "Hortus" which means Garden. This word was came into Malayalam during Dutch rule.
Only few examples are quoted here from the preliminary analysis of the book.