An Anthology of Rabbinical Commentators
"Me'am Lo'ez" is the name given to an anthology of Orthodox Rabbinical Commentaries to the Bible.It was initiated by Rabbi Yaakov Culi in 1730. The term "Me'am Lo'ez" literally means "from a people of strange language." Culi originally intended to call his work "Beit Ya'akov" (House of Jacob) , but quoting from Psalms 114:1, "When Israel went forth out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language," he finally called it by the original Hebrew of that phrase, Me-Am Lo'ez.
Rabbi Culi wrote in Ladino. This is a Jewish language derived from Old Spanish mixed with some Hebrew words and expressions and words from other langauges. Ladino was originally spoken in Spain and then after the Edict of Expulsion in 1492 it spread through the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The language was eventually spoke among Jews in the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. it was also kept by some "Sephardic" Jewish communiites in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Morocco and England. Most of the surviving speakers of Ladino today are to be found in the State of Israel. .
Rabbi Culi intended to write his commentary on all books of the Bible. He died however after completing the Book of Genesis and 2/3 of Exodus. Rabbi Culi had left copious notes for much of the reset. The work had proven itself popular.
Rabbi Yitzhak Magriso completed Exodus, and wrote the commentary on the books of Leviticus and Numbers. Deuteronomy was done by Rabbi Yitzhak Bechor Agruiti. The commentary on Joshua was written by Rabbi Rachamim Menachem Mitrani. The Book of Esther was done by Rabbi Raphael Chiyya Pontremoli.
Rabbi Shmeul Yerushalmi translated the works into Hebrew and added some changes of his own. He also continued the "Meam Loez" work in Hebrew on many of the books of Nach that the sages before him did not write.
In 1967, a complete Hebrew translation of the whole work, "Yalkut Me'am Lo'ez," was produced by Rabbi Shmuel Kravitzer. The first English translation, the Torah Anthology, was written (primarily) by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. This translation made use of both Yerushalmi's Hebrew translation as well as Ladino manuscripts, which Kaplan checked against Yerushalmi's translation.