with a new Judaeo-Arabic
translation and two commentaries
by the Late Hakham Ezra Reuben Dangoor
Chief Rabbi of Baghdad
Published by The
Exilarchs Foundation, London
Printed by Mechon Haktav, Jerusalem
by Professor Raphael Loewe
The author of
these commentaries on Ecclesiastes, Rabbi Ezra Reuben
Dangoor (1848-1930), had established in 1904 a Hebrew press,
from which numerous works of a religious nature were issued.
The commentaries here presented, which survive in manuscript,
are now made available in print at the initiative of his grandson,
Mr Naim Dangoor of London.
The work is of
interest from several points of view. Although written in
Hebrew, it was clearly intended not primarily for scholars,
but with a popular readership in view (hence the provision
of the commentators own Arabic translation of the text
of Ecclesiastes itself), and it limits itself to exposition
in terms of conventional Jewish piety and ethical ideal.
readership at which the author aimed still survives, and will
find much in his exposition which is timeless and can strengthen
their own ethical and spiritual endeavours. But the work should
also prove of linguistic interest to scholars, for two reasons.
First, Rabbi Ezra Dangoor wrote lucidly in the rabbinic Hebrew
of centuries old Jewish tradition. Occasional features prove
that he was not ignorant he could scarcely have been
of the westernising influences which pervade the modern
Hebrew that was making rapid strides from about 1920 (he regularly
received publications from Palestine and Poland), but he felt
no need to resort to them; and it is evident that he could
handle the traditional language for all purposes without imposing
on it such categories as the contrasted sacredness
and secularity which are, for the most part, misleading
where Jewish life and thought are concerned.
Students of Arabic
will welcome the publication of the authors own translation
of the biblical text of Ecclesiastes which corresponds
to his own exposition. Jews from Baghdad have an Arabic distinguishable
from that of the general Iraqi population, and use it in two
forms one spoken, and the other written. The fully
vocalised evidence for the latter which is afforded by this
Arabic translation constitutes a valuable addition to the
corpus of source material available for study.
These two commentaries on Ecclesiastes by my late Grandfather
Hakham Ezra Reuben Dangoor have been preserved in manuscript
by his family since his death seventy two years ago. I consider
it a particular honour and privilege to be able to see them
through the press, as he would have wished me to do, and it
is my hope that their availability in print may, thanks to
his exposition, contribute towards a wider and enhanced appreciation
of both the insight into human nature, and the ethical values,
which koheleth set out to teach.
It has been revealed recently that in 1922 Hakham Rabbi Ezra
Dangoor was disposing of his extensive library and was preparing
to make Aliyah to Israel. He had to abandon his plan when
he was elected soon afterwards to be the Chief Rabbi of Baghdad.
of this book can be obtained on request from The Exilarchs
4 Carlos Place, London W1K 3AW
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