Sacred Texts  Judaism 

from The Washington Hagaddah, Library of Congress  [1478] (Public Domain Image)

Original Hebrew of a Portion of Ecclesiasticus

by A. E. Cowley and Ad. Neubauer


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Every bird dwelleth according to his kind,
and (so doth) man according to his like.

   -- Ben Sira's Proverbs, XXIV, p. xxii.

This is a scholarly monograph from the late 19th century on one of the Jewish non-canonical Biblical books, Sirach, also known as 'Ecclesiasticus,' not to be confused with the canonical book Ecclesiastes. This particular paper has been cited because it has a section on the 'Alphabet of Ben Sira,' a set of Talmudic Jewish proverbs, each of which begins with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The Hebrew text and English translation of each of these proverbs is included here.

What the general interest reader will find at the core of this otherwise very dry dissertation is an exquisite example of Rabbinical era Jewish wisdom literature. What won't be found here is the Midrash of the Alphabet of Ben Sira, which is in some demand because of a passage about the early Hebrew goddess-figure Lilith. The Midrash of Ben Sira is commentary built on the Alphabet of Ben Sira, and it reputedly includes a number of notoriously transgressive stories. This Midrash has apparently not yet been fully translated into English, and when it is, that translation won't be public domain.

Production notes: there is much in this document which would be very difficult to convert to text format, due to the limitations of current OCR technology. I have omitted several portions, particularly: the Hebrew and Greek text in the proverbs section, a Latin text of Sirach, a vocabulary, and the Hebrew, Greek and Syriac text from the Sirach section. However, as previously noted, I did transcribe the complete Hebrew text of the Alphabet of Ben Sira.

Title Page
A List of Works Used
Ben Sira's Proverbs Preserved In Talmudic And Rabbinic Literature
The Alphabet of Ben Sira
Ecclesiasticus XXXIX 15 to XLIX 11