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with a new Judaeo-Arabic translation and two commentaries
by the Late Hakham Ezra Reuben Dangoor
Chief Rabbi of Baghdad

Published by The Exilarch’s Foundation, London
Printed by Mechon Haktav, Jerusalem
2002 – 5762

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 commentator’s own Arabic translation of the text of Ecclesiastes itself), and it limits itself to exposition in terms of conventional Jewish piety and ethical ideal.

The 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 author’s 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.

Naim Dangoor writes:
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.

Copies of this book can be obtained on request from The Exilarch’s Foundation,
4 Carlos Place, London W1K 3AW

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