Haazinu: Language and Translation

Given the poetic nature of Ha’azinu [“Give Ear”], language and translation are pervasive topics for this portion. One set of phrases to consider appears in 32:18:

You neglected the Rock who begot [y’lad’cha] you,
Forgot the God who labored to bring you forth [m’chol’lecha] — Plaut/Stein


The Rock that birthed you [y’lad’cha], you neglected,
you forgot the God that produced-you-in-labor [m’chol’lecha]. — Fox

Fox includes a footnote: “produced-you-in-labor: A reminder that God is not always perceived in exclusively male imagery in the Bible.” The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (Plaut/Stein) offers extensive notes on the two verbs here — both of which are sometimes used in a gender-neutral or masculine context, but most often “to describe the mother’s role in giving birth.”

The latter commentary also references Isaiah 51:2 — “Look back to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who labored to bring your forth.” — which is the heart of Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg’s high holidays’ drash in Beginning Anew. The Women’s Commentary does not cite this drash but includes a note, similar to Fox’s above, by Bernard Levinson from the Jewish Study Bible.

Plaut compares this verse with Psalms 90:2 — Moses’ third song (see also Ha’azinu: Something to Notice) — noting that “the same feminine imagery is evoked” in “Before You brought forth the earth and the world…”

Only Zornberg examines the odd imagery of a rock giving birth at all.

Please see Source Materials for citations.

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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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