Mikeitz: Language and Translation

Two sons were born to Joseph before the years of famine arrived, born to him by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Joseph named the first-born son Manasseh [mem-nun-shin-heh], “For God has made me forget [ki-nashani] all the troubles I endured in my father’s house.” And he named the second one Ephraim [aleph-peh-reish-yod-mem], “For God has made me fruitful [ki-hifrani] in the land of my affliction.” Continue Reading

Vayishlach: Language and Translation

Now Dinah — the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob — went out to look over the daughters of the land [lirot bi-banot ha-aretz]. Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivvite, the prince of the region, saw her [va-yareh]; he took her, lay with her, and violated her.

And Dinah, Leah’s daughter, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to go seeing among the daughters of the land. And Shechem, the son or Hamor the Hivite, prince of the land, saw her and took her and lay with her and abused her. Continue Reading

Vayeitzei: Language and Translation

Jacob departed from Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He encountered the place and spent the night there because the sun had set; he took from the stones of the place which he arranged his head, and lay down in that place. And he dreamt and behold! A ladder [sulam (samech-lamed-mem)] was set earthward and its top reached heavenward; and behold! angels of God [malachei elohim] were ascending and descending on it. And behold! HASHEM was standing over him [alav]…

…and, look, a ramp [sulam] was set against the ground with its top reaching the heavens, and look, messengers of God [malachei elohim] were going up and coming down it. And, look, the LORD was poised over him [alav]….

…and YHVH was standing beside him [alav]…
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Toldot: Language and Translation

The lads grew up and Esau became one who knows hunting, a man of the field; but Jacob was a wholesome [tam**] man abiding in tents. Isaac loved Esau for game that was in his mouth; but Rebecca loved Jacob.

Jacob simmered a stew [va-yazed yaakov nazid], and Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. Esau said to Jacob, “Pour into me, now, some of that very red stuff [min-ha-adom ha-adom] for I am exhausted.” (He therefore called his name Edom.) Continue Reading

Lekh Lekha: Language and Translation

The Stranger’s Strange Words: a theology

Chapter 16 of Breishit/Genesis introduces the character of Hagar — as in stranger [ger] — who serves as Sarah’s maid and bears Ishmael to Abraham. In one of two episodes in which we find Hagar (and Ishmael) out in the wilderness, she meets an angel/messenger of God [malach yud-hey-vav-hey]. Translators note difficulty working out Hagar’s words after she sees God (and/or was seen by God) — ra-iti acharei ro-i — or, perhaps, as one translator has it, after she sees the back of God.
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Noach: Language and Translation

And all the earth was one language, one set of words. And it happened as they journeyed from the east that they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to each other, ‘Come let us bake bricks [havah nilb’nah l’veinim] and burn them hard [v’nis’r’fah lis’reifah].’ And the brick served them as stone, and bitumen served them as mortar. Continue Reading

Breishit: Language and Translation

Language issues in early chapters of Genesis/Breishit include differentiating between “adam” — which may or may not carry a specific gender — and “ish” and “ isha,” who are always gendered.

Genesis/Breishit 1:27 involves a notable shift from singular to plural pronouns as ha-adam (a singular something) is created in what appears to be (plural) variety: “male and female.” Older translations use “man.” “Human” or “humankind” is favored in newer ones. “The earthling” — a gender-neutral term reflecting the relationship of ha-adam to adamah, “earth” — might be more profitably used.
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