Foreign and Familiar

In this week’s Torah portion, two of the central characters receive new names: Abram becomes Abraham (Gen 17:4), and Sarai, Sarah (17:15). God announces this to Abraham as part of a statement of the covenant between them. Both Abraham אַבְרָהָם and Sarah שָׂרָה now have a “ה” (hey) in their names. Thus, each now carries […]

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Emor: Language and Translation

Leviticus/Vayikra 23:32 in three translations: It is a day of complete rest for you [shabbat shabbaton hu lachem] and you shall afflict yourselves; on the ninth of the month in the evening — from evening to evening — shall you rest on your rest day [tishb’tu shabbatechem].

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Kedoshim: Language and Translation

Three versions of Leviticus/Vayikra verse 19:4: Do not turn [al-tafnu] to the idols [el-ha-elilim] nor make molten gods [elohei masechahfor yourself. I am the LORD your God. (Alter*) Do not turn-your-faces [al-tafnu] to no-gods [el-ha-elilim], and molten gods [elohei masechah] you are not to make yourselves, I am YHVH your God! (Fox*) Do not turn […]

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Acharei Mot: Language and Translation

Sound and word patterns evident in the Hebrew text do not always translate well into other languages. Fox* notes that Chapter 17 of Leviticus/Vayikra is “built at least partially on repeating sound patterns”: A threefold refrain is “That man is to be cut off from his kinspeople,” stressing the seriousness of the prohibition. Four times […]

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Shemini: Language and Translation

“Moses spoke to Aaron and to Elazar and Ithamar, his remaining sons [banav ha-notarim], ‘Take the meal-offering that is left [ha-noteret] from the fire-offerings of HASHEM, and eat it unleavened near the Altar; for it is the most holy.’”

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Tzav: Language and Translation

**Spoiler alert** If you’d rather be surprised by what is coming in chapter 10, hold off on this post until first reading parashat Shemini. To avoid the spoiler, skip ahead to faint warning in the text.

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Vayikra: Language and Translation

What does it mean that “a soul unintentionally fails [Nefesh ki-techeta bi-sh’gagah]…”? — Leviticus/Vayikra 4:1-2 Is this an ethical or ritual error? Was the “soul,” in contemporary understanding, alone involved? Here are five translations with associated notes, suggesting (no surprise) no agreement: YHWH spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: (Any) […]

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Vayakhel: Language and Translation

Moses said to the Children of Israel, “See, HASHEM has proclaimed by name, Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. He filled him with Godly spirit, with wisdom, insight, and knowledge, and with every craft…”

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Ki Tisa: Language and Translation

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:* […]

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