Korach: Language and Translation

Look for the Hebrew root kuf-reish-bet — which has the general sense of “draw near” and/or “sacrifice” — in this portion. Everett Fox, in a commentary section of his Five Books of Moses, notes that chapters 15-18 of Bamidbar/Numbers are “meaningfully linked together by variations on” this root.

The thread of meaning runs from “bringing near-offerings near,” to God “declaring [Moshe and Ahron] near” to him, to the fact that he has “brought-near” the Levites in terms of their duties, to Korach and his band being asked to “bring-near” the incense, whose fire-pans later become holy because they were “brought-near,” and finally, to the repeated warning to outsiders not to “come-near” the sancta. At issue is what Buber calls “authorized” and “unauthorized nearing,” which is mentioned frequently in Leviticus but is used in the present text with the full artistic resources at the narrator’s command. Viewed in this light, order is restored to the blurring of lines threatened by Korah.
p.734, commentary to Bamidbar/Numbers Chapter 16

“Buber” mentioned above is, more specifically, Scripture and Translation by Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, originally published in German in 1936. The English volume, translated by Fox and Lawrence Rosenwald, was published by Indiana University in 1996. (Review and details at Barnes and Noble). The text explains the method that Buber and Rosenzweig used in attempting to reproduce the poetry and rhythm of the original Hebrew in their German translation of the bible.

Fox’s translation is, he says, “in many respects an offshoot of the Buber-Rosenzweig translation” of the bible.

The “Opening the Book” series was originally presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group that for many years pursued spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.

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Virginia hosts "Conversations Toward Repair" on We Act Radio, manages WeLuvBooks.org, blogs on general stuff a vspatz.net and more Jewish topics at songeveryday.org and Rereading4Liberation.com

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