Exodus/Shemot 32:25, part of Moses’ confrontation with Aaron regarding the Golden Calf, contains two interesting words for which there are a range of translations. One is a hapax legomenon, a word that appears only once in the Tanakh; the other a common verb, with a root that encompasses three and half columns in my concordance:*

“Moses saw the people, that it was exposed [ki parua hu], for Aaron had exposed them [ki p’raoh aharon] to disgrace [l’shimtzah] among those who rise up against them.” — Stone*
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“Moses saw that the people were out of control [ki parua hu] — since Aaron had let them get out of control [ki p’raoh aharon] — so that they were a menace [l’shimtzah] to any who might oppose them.”

A menace. Others, “an object of derision.” — JPS/Plaut*
[same translation sans comment appears in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary*]
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“Now when Moses saw the people: that it had gotten-loose [ki parua hu],
for Aharon had let-it-loose [ki p’raoh aharon] for whispering among their foes [l’shimtzah].”

gotten-loose: The same verb (paro’a) was used in 5:4, where Pharoah complained about the Israelites. for whispering: A derisive kind of whispering. — Fox*
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“And Moses saw the people, that it was let loose [ki parua hu], for Aaron had let them loose [ki p’raoh aharon] as a shameful thing [l’shimtzah] to their adversaries.”

The basic meaning of the Hebew paru’a is “to unbind,” as in the unbinding or letting loose of long hair. The sense here is of loosing of all inhibitions in orgiastic frenzy.

The word translated as a “shameful thing,” shimtsah, appears only here and so its meaning is uncertain, though it seems to indicate something strongly negative. “To their adversaries” might conceivably be a euphanims for “themselves,” as the more common word for enemies is sometimes used as a euphemistic substitution in curses.– Alter*

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“And it [a robe hemmed with bells] shall be upon Aaron when he serves, so that its sound shall be heard when he comes into [v’nishma kolo b’bo-o] the sanctum before the Lord and when he goes out, that he shall not die.”
— Exodus/Shemot 28:31-38, Alter* translation [bracketed material added]

R. Simeon ben Yohai said: The man who enters his own house, or needless to say the house of his fellow man unexpectedly, the Holy One hates, and I too do not exactly love him.

Rav said: Do not enter your city nor even your own home unexpectedly [footnote: without informing your kin of your coming].

While R. Yohanan was about to go in to inquire about the welfare of R. Hanina, he would first clear his throat in keeping with “And his voice shall be heard when he goeth in [v’nishma kolo b’bo-o] ” (Exod. 28:35)
— Bialik & Ravnitsky, Sefer Ha-Aggadah
[citation is to Leviticus Rabbah 21:8]*

Alter notes: “In the ancient Near East, the inner sanctum was a dangerous place. Any misstep or involuntary trespass of the sacred paraphernalia could bring death…The sound of the ringing golden bells on Aaron’s hem goes before him as he enters the sanctum, serving an apotropaic function to shield him from harm in this zone of danger.”

Cassuto* says: “…shall be heard… for it is unseemly to enter the royal palace suddenly; propriety demands that the entry should be preceded by an announcement, and the priest should be careful not to go into the sanctuary irreverently. And likewise when he comes out, as he prostrates himself before departing, the sound of the bells, together with the act of prostration, will constitute a kind of parting blessing on leaving the sanctuary. Lest he die for not showing due reverence for the shrine.”

* See Source Materials for full citations.

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Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.
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As for the tabernacle, make [ta-aseh] it of ten strips of cloth; make these of fine twisted linen, of blue, purple, and crimson yards, with a design of cherubim worked into them….Five of the cloths shall be joined to one another. Make loops of blue wool…make fifty loops on one cloth, and fifty loops on the edge…And make fifty gold clasps, and couple the cloths to one another with the claps, so that the tabernacle becomes one whole. — Exodus/Shemot 26:1-5

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Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh [bo el-paroh]….” Continue reading

Exodus/Shemot 6:30-7:1

And Moses said before the LORD, “Look, I am uncircumcised of lips [ani aral sephataim], and how will Pharaoh heed me?” And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have set you as a god to Pharaoh [elohim l’pharo], and Aaron your brother will be your prophet [n’vi-echa].” — Alter*

Moses appealed to YHVH, saying, “See, I get tongue-tied [ani aral sephataim]; how then should Pharaoh heed me!” YHVH replied to Moses, “See, I place you in the role of God to Pharaoh [elohim l’pharo], with your brother Aaron as your prophet [n’vi-echa]. — [Hebrew characters for God’s name], TWC (The Torah: A Women’s Commentary)*

Moses said before HASHEM, “Behold! I have sealed lips [ani aral sephataim]; so how shall Pharaoh heed me?” HASHEM said to Moses, “See, I have made you a master over Pharaoh [elohim l’pharo] and Aaron your brother shall be your spokesman [n’vi-echa]. — Stone*

Like its translation, Stone commentary does not read “elohim” as “god,” but focuses on Moses’ state of mind: “In response to Moses’ doubts of his chances for success, God tells him that he will now begin to exercise domination over Pharaoh and that Aaron will speak for him, so that Moses’ speech impediment will not be a factor.”

Alter and Rachel Havrelock, who wrote the commentary for this portion in TWC, remark on the “bold comparison” and “astonishing analogy”:

“…as a god to Pharaoh. The reiteration of this bold comparison may have a polemic motivation. Pharaoh imagines himself a god, but I have made you a god to Pharaoh.– Alter

: “…role of God to Pharaoh.” This astonishing analogy promotes Moses to the role of the Deity, lording over Pharaoh–who in Egyptian society was considered divine.”– TWC

Cassuto begins in a vein similar to the Stone commentary. He, however, goes on to consider the language of the two verses and link them:

…the Lord deals with his objections seriatim. He begins in a paternal tone….Regarding your first fear, that you are of ‘uncircumcised lips’, let me put you at ease at once: you have no need to do much speaking, for I have made you a god to Pharaoh. You will not only be a god vis-a-vis your brother Aaron (iv 16) — that is, you will instruct him what to say, just as God instructs His prophets — but I have also made you a god before Pharaoh. Although Pharaoh is himself considered a deity, he is nevertheless accustomed to hear the prophets of Egypt address hi in the name of their dogs; now you will appear before him as one of the divinities, who do not speak directly but through their prophets, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet, and he will speak your name to Pharaoh. These words possibly contain a bitter ironic reflection on the Egyptian deities who ‘have a mouth yet do not speak.’ [psalm 135] — Cassuto,* p.89

* Please see Source Materials for complete translation and commentary citations.

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Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.
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God [Elohim] spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am HASHEM [YHVH]. I appeared [va-eira] to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai, but with My Name [u-shemi] HASHEM I did not make myself known [nodha’ti] to them.
Shemot/Exodus 6:2-3 (Stone translation*)

There is a raft of commentary on just these two verses. Nechama Leibowitz, for example, directs two of her six essays on this portion — in New Studies in Shemot/Exodus* –to these first two verses, discussing many classical, and a few contemporary, commentaries along the way.

Some commentary focuses on the variety of names for God — Elohim, El Shaddai and YHVH — used in this brief span. Some, the verb nodhati, “made myself known.” Cassuto combines several of these themes in his commentary*:

…This enables us to understand the text before us clearly: I revealed Myself (God declares) to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in My aspect that finds expression in the name Shaddi, and I made them fruitful and multiplied them and gave them children and children’s children, but by the name YHWH (the word shemi [‘My name’] is to be construed here as an accusative of nearer definition, and signifies ‘by My name’), in My character as expressed by this designation, I was not known to them, that is, it was not given to them to recognize Me as One that fulfills His promises, because the assurance with regard to possession of the Land, which I had given them, I had not yet fulfilled….

Some teachers take a more inward approach to the meaning and experience of ‘knowing’ the Name. See More Great Sources: The Holy Name of Being.

*For complete commentary citations, please see Source Materials.

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Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.
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The children of Israel proliferated, swarmed, multiplied and grew more and more.* [Exodus/Shemot 1:7]

This is a very odd verse, stylistically. There are four almost synonymous verbs of increase that seem to gain momentum till climaxed by the double-barrelled adverbial intensifier of me’od me’od [note**].
–Nechama Leibowitz, Studies in Exodus***

Leibowitz discusses classical views of this language, some of which attempt to “differentiate between the connotations of the four verbs.” She concludes, instead, that “this concentrated crescendo of verbs of ‘increase’ is a stylistic device emphasising the extraordinary nature of this population explosion.”

* Translator’s footnote:

I have deliberately deviated from the classic translations in an effort to reproduce the “form” as well as the “content” of the original. “To an extraordinary degree,” undoubtedly, a more elegant rendering of bi-me’od me’od would not have reproduced the doubling of the intensifier. See author’s note 2, p. 20. Similarly, the predicatives: “were fruitful” and “became strong” lack the force of the unmodified Hebrew verbs. [Aryeh Newman, translator]

** In and endnote, Leibowitz criticizes English, French and German bible translations for their failure “to reproduce in the vernacular the full force and effect of the original,” asking the reader to “Note how they weakened the effect by reducing the number of predicates and their reluctance to end with two identical words.”

Umberto Cassuto*** views this stylistic point in a slightly different way:

And the children of Israel were not merely fruitful, but they teem; they not only multiplied, but grew mighty; exceedingly [b-me’od me’od, literally, ‘with strength, strongly’], in keeping with the promise given to Abraham; so that the land was filled with them, in accordance with the assurance given to Adam and Noah. We are now enabled to understand how the children of Israel could, for the first time, be called a people in v. 9

Seven expressions for increase are used in this verse, a number indicative of perfection: (1) were fruitful; (2) and teemed; (3) and multiplied; (4) and grew mighty; (5) with strength [b-me’od]; (6) strongly [me’od]; (7) so that the land was filled with them. Harmonious perfection is implied here, with the object of teaching us that all that happened was brought about by the will of God in conformity with His predetermined plan.

*** Please see Source Materials, as well as Commentators, for full citation and more details. See also Great Source(s) for more on Cassuto.

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Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.
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