Monday, April 04, 2011

Koreans all learn Talmud

I was pretty taken aback this morning when I learned of the popularity of the Talmud in S. Korea (and North I suspect too). Almost no Jews live there and there is very little history of Jews ever living there, yet they appear to (all) know Talmudic stories they learned as kids. Clearly, the Koreans did not not somehow translate Steinsalz or the full Talmud Bavli (or any other). A homeschooling mother of four who lives a traditional Torah observant life in Israel married to an IT consultant working in Korea explains: "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, my husband 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."

An English-speaking young Korean woman explained what the book in his hand was. “The Talmudeh. It’s famous”, she said. The 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?”, the 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.

The Koreans believe that the study of Talmud is what makes the Jews smart and as announced in the past week by the Korean ambassador in Israel, they really love the lessons and there are probably more (translated) Talmudic stories in South Korean homes than in Israel!

On the right is a cartoon from the Korean Kids Times, take a look over here, there are hundreds more

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