So in all this hubbub, Cloud Man went downstairs to the giant bookstore in the Coex mall and got a Korean edition of the Talmud, just so that I can share it will all of you.
That’s it. That book is the entire Talmud in Korean.
A close-up is warranted here:
For the sake of comparison, here’s our personal copy of the Babylonian Talmud:
Just to drive the point home, here’s what the inside of our Talmud looks like:
And here’s a scan of what the inside of the Korean Talmud looks like:
Clearly, the Koreans did not not somehow translate Shteinzalz or the Artscroll, like the Ynet article would lead us to believe. Don’t expect to be arguing over the ox that gores or the halachic dimensions of a sukkah with our friends in the East anytime soon.
So here’s the scoop on what’s really happening: once upon a time, Rabbi Marvin Tokayer wrote a compilation of stories from the Tanach and the Talmud for the Japanese audience. Now this is fascinating in and of itself, because what the Japanese want with Agaddic tales is a probably a great story. But then this Japanese compilation was translated into Korean, where it’s really taken off. In the bookstore, Cloud Man saw about twenty different editions of this work; there was a variety of different publishers with different illustrations. Some are aimed at younger children, some are aimed at teens. There’s even a five volume set.
Cloud Man was able to ask an English-speaking young Korean woman what the book in his hand was.
“The Talmudeh. It’s famous”, she said.
Cloud Man asked her, what is in this book?
“It’s children’s stories”.
He asked her, who reads this book?
“Parents buy it for their children, so that they can have the knowledge of the Yutayne”, she answered.
He asked her to translate the words on the cover. She told him it said, “Talmudeh, the Wisdom of the Yutayne”.
“Who are the Yutayne?”, Cloud Man asked.
She did not know. She had to google, and it was clearly not a translation issue. The Wisdom of the Yutayne may as well have been the Wisdom of the Undersea Dwellers of Atlantis. Yutayne is the Korean for Yehudim. You know, Jews.
So there we have it. The Talmud, in the Korean mind, is a series of stories much like Aesop’s Fables. The notion of it being a giant body of Oral Tradition and Law spanning multiple generations is completely absent. Yet the belief that the study of this work makes the Yutayne smart has remained, which somehow led to the belief that the study of stories about noble behavior is going to lead to a Nobel prize. It’s a misconception on top of a half truth sandwich with a side of fallacy, but as I tell my kids, being smart is all nice and good, but it’s not enough. First you have to be a mentsch. If that’s what the Korean people want their children learning, who am I to argue?