Reading the Tanakh in Judeo-Spanish (Ladino): Genesis 2:1-8

Based on the “Sefer Tora Neviim Uketuvim- El Livro de la Ley, los Profetas, las Eskrituras”, translated into Judeo-Spanish by A. H. Boyadjian, Constantinople 1873.

Vocabulary and Notes by Timo Schmitz

(1) I fueron akavados los syelos i la tyerra, i todo su fonsado. (2) I akavo el Dyo en el dia seteno su ovra ke izo, i olgo en el dia seteno de toda su ovra ke avia echo. (3) I bendisho el Dyo al dia seteno, i lo santifiko; porke en el olgo de toda su ovra ke krio el Dyo para azer. (4) Estos son los nasimyentos de los syelos i de la tyerra kuando fueron kriados, en el dia ke A‘ Dyo izo la tyerra i los syelos, (5) i toda planta del kampo antes ke fuera en la tyerra, i toda yerva del kampo antes ke ermoyesyera; porke no izo lyover A‘ Dyo sovre la tyerra, i no avia ombre para lavrar la tyerra. (6) I un bafo suvia de la tyerra, i arregava todas las fases de la tyerra. (7) I formo A‘ Dyo al ombre del polvo de la tyerra, i soplo en su nariz arreflo de vida, i fue el ombre en alma biva.


akavar – to finish

el fonsado – something conducted with military power

el dia seteno – the seventh day

su ovra ke izo – the work that He has done

kea via echo – that He made

— izo and echo both come from the verb “azer”

bendisho … al dia seteno – blessed … the seventh day

al dia seteno –  (on/ to) the seventh day

lo sanktifiko – sanctified it

el olgo – the rest (Spanish: el reposó)

— the verb “olgar” means either to rest or to be idle. The noun is “el olgo”.

de toda su ovra – from all His work

la ovra – (hand)work

estos – these

el nasimyento – birth

los nasimyentos – the births

kuando fueron – which were

el kampo – field, land 

antes – before

ermoyesyera – blooming (cp. Gen 1:11 ermoyeser: to bud, to bloom)

lavrar – to work

bafo – mist, fog (Spanish: vapor, hálito. cp. Portuguese bafo: breath, fog?)

suvir – to rise

arregar – to water

el polvo – dust

soplar – to blow

la nariz – the nose

en su nariz – in his nose

arreflo – breath

arreflo de vida – breath of life


SU FONSADO – Already in the Middle Ages, the term fonsado was used in a military context, such as guerilla troupe, protection troop or raiding army. The original Hebrew word צָבָא also is a military term, meaning both, an army and to wage war. The usage of a military term by the translator, therefore, is quite adequate on a first glimpse. However, the Spanish 1569 Sagradas Escrituras uses the word “ornamento”. Indeed, the word ornament is something one rather expects than a military term, because the phrase shall depict that God finished putting everything into order, which is something beautiful, while war is rather associated with chaos and destruction. Ibn Ezra points out that the verse depicts that everything was one unit and thus completed. And Sforno understands the verse in the way that finally, everything mentioned before has materialized. Any military activity is associated with force and to create the world, God needed force. This could be the traditional understanding how people linked it here. The word shall denote that God finished his work on which He needed to put all His force. The Onkelos Genesis 2:1 writes: “וְאִשְׁתַּכְלָלוּ שְׁמַיָּא וְאַרְעָא וְכָל חֵילֵיהוֹן”. The Aramaic word חֵילֵיהוֹן means hosts (cp. German: Heerscharen, French: les armées) which is a military term as well, while however the Greek Septuaginta proposes καὶ συνετελέσθησαν ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ καὶ πᾶς ὁ κόσμος αὐτῶν where κόσμος means decoration or order, thus ornamento. Anyways, Genesis 2:1 does not really fit into this place as Witte (1998: 120) points out. He also gives a footnote to Görg who proposes that צבא is just a homonym with another word being etymologically distinct from the technical military term coming from the Ancient Egyptian word for ornament. (see Markus Witte: Die biblische Urgeschichte: Redaktions- und theologiegeschichtliche Beobachtungen zu Genesis 1,1 – 11,26. Berlin/ New York: DeGruyter, 1998).

KE KRIO EL DYO PARA AZER – literally, it means “which created God to do” which rather sounds weird. Nonetheless, if one takes a look into Onkelos Genesis 2:3, one finds exactly the same meaning: “וּבָרִיךְ יְיָ יָת יוֹמָא שְׁבִיעָאָה וְקַדִּישׁ יָתֵהּ אֲרֵי בֵהּ נַח מִכָּל עֲבִדְתֵּהּ דִּי בְרָא יְיָ לְמֶעְבַּד”. It says that God rested from the work he created (בְרָא) to do (לְמֶעְבַּד). The Masoretic text, however, simply says that God rested from all the works He had done (מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָֽׂה).

LOS NASIMYENTOS – The Hebrew Masoretic texts suggests the plural form of תּוֹלְדָה which means descendants. The same term appears in both, Onkelos Genesis and the Targum Jonathan on Genesis.

A’ DYO – This abbreviation could have different meanings in this context. Sometimes, Hashem is abbreviated in this way in Ladino, as it is spoken ‘ashem’ in this language. But it could hypothetically also refer to Adonai or it could be read as Dyo Abastado – ‘the almighty God’. In either way, none of the propositions refer directly to Yahweh, but to other names of God used in the Hebrew Bible.

IZO LA TYERRA I LOS SYELOS – While Gen 1:1 mentioned that God created the Heavens and the Earth, here in Genesis 2:4 it is said that God created ‘the Earth and the Heavens’. Thus, the order is put upside down in Gen 2:4 compared to Gen 1:1. This is also observed in Ein Yaakov (Glick Edition), Khagigah 2:8: “Our Rabbis were taught: The School of Shammai say[s]: ‘The Heavens were created first, and afterwards the earth was created, as it is said ([G]en. 1, 1) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’ (Heaven is mentioned first.) But the School of Hillel say[s]: ‘The earth was created first, and afterwards the heavens, as it is said (Ib. 2, 4) On the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven.’ (Earth is mentioned first.)” (cited after Sefaria:, retrieved on 20 June 2020).

I TODA PLANTA DEL KAMPO ANTES KE FUERA EN LA TYERRA, I TODA YERVA DEL KAMPO ANTES KE ERMOYESYERA – According to the Schmitz-Commentary on Genesis 2 (2018) “Rashi explains that wherever טרם  occurs in the Tanakh it means ‘not yet’ and not ‘before’.”. The term “antes” however means “before”.

IYOVER – Back then, it was assumed that YHWH was pronounced Yehova, which turned out to be wrong. Instead, we assume that the Israelites pronounced it Yahweh. Yahweh was a deity in the polytheist cult of the Canaanites before the Israelites turned to monotheism. The highest God in that system was El. Nonetheless, in the new monotheist system that evolved later, Yahweh became synonymous with the one and only God, and thus “the Old Testament has no qualms in equating Yahweh with El” (John Day: Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan. London/ New York: Sheffield Academic Pess, 2002, p. 14).

PORKE NO IZO IYOVER A’ DYO SOVRE LA TYERRA – This sentence is odd, as something is missing here. The question is “what did God not make yet over the Earth” and the answer is not given in the sentence here. However, I have to admit that I do not use the original 1873 text as I could not find it, but instead use the 1873 text as transcription by Yehuda Sidi which I then convert into the spelling which I am acquainted to use for Ladino. So I do not know whether the word is already missing in the original 1873 print or whether it is only missing in the transcription. In the Masoretic text, it is mentioned that God did not sent down rain on the Earth yet and that this is why the plants did not come forth yet. Additionally, man did not exist yet to work on the fields.

ARREFLO DE VIDA – The word used in Hebrew here is נְשָׁמָה meaning breath, while in Genesis 1:2 the word רוּחַ means breath or wind. So what is the actual difference? Rifat Sonsino wrote on the matter of using נְשָׁמָה that “At times, it appears in combination with the word ruah, as in Genesis 7:22, where we are told that during the Flood the devastation was so great that ‘All in whose nostrils was the merest breath oflife (nishmat ruah) died.’ The word neshamah also refers to the divine vital principle that makes an individual a person.” (Rifat Sonsino: Six Jewish Spiritual Paths: A Rationalist Looks at Spirituality. Woodstock (VT): Jewish Lights Publishing, 2002, p. 16). And Martin Sicker clarifies that “In the Bible, the soul, identified by the terms ruahnefeshneshamah, or nishmat hayyim, is always considered bound to the body to which it gives life.” (Martin Sicker: Between Man and God: Issues in Judaic Thought. Westport (CT): Greenwood Press, 2001, p. 92). The two passages are also cited in the Schmitz-Comentary on Genesis 2 (2018) God put the breath of life into man, which means he received his life force, and as such, simply consciousness. Boyadjian translates רוּחַ in Gen 1:2 as “espirito” and נְשָׁמָה in Gen 2:7 as “arreflo”.

Published on 15 July 2020.


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