Vezot Ha-Berakhah: Language and Translation

Several translators/commentators note Moses’ use of the expression “Presence in the Bush” — or as Fox has it “Seneh-bush dweller” — to bless Joseph. “Seneh” — samech nun hey — appears in the story of Moses meeting God in the “thorn bush” in Exodus/Shemot 3:1-6. It’s next use is here in verse 33:16:

With the bounty of earth and its fullness
And the favor of the Presence in the Bush [shochni s’neh]

This way of naming God is unique to this verse. The Torah: A Women’s Commentary adds a note that “the later concept of God’s Presence as the Shechinah comes from the same root as the expression “shochni.” For example, God promises, “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them [v’shachanti b’tocham] in Exodus/Shemot 25:8.

Ha’azinu: 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.”
Continue Reading

Ki Teitzei: Language and Translation

Devarim/Deuteronomy 22:1-3, variously translated:

22:1) If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it; you must take it back to your fellow. 22:2) If your fellow does not live near you or you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home and it shall remain with you until your fellow claims it; then you shall give it back to him. 22:3) You shall do the same with his ass; you shall do the same with his garment; and so too shall you do with anything that your fellow loses and you find: you must not remain indifferent [lo tuchal l’hitaleim]. (JPS, Plaut)
Continue Reading

Shoftim: Language and Translation

Devarim/Deuteronomy 18:13 contains a command to be “wholehearted [tamim]” with God. I found the same English word, “wholehearted,” used in seven different sources, two commentaries and all five Torah translations on which I regularly rely: Alter, Fox, Jewish Publication Society, modified JPS (The Torah: A Women’s Commentary) and Scherman (Stone Edition); see Source Materials for citation details.
Continue Reading

Re’eh: Language and Translation

“See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I enjoin upon you this day; and curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn away from the path that I enjoin upon you this day and follow other gods, whom you have not experienced [asher lo-y’datem].”
Devarim/Deuteronomy 11:26-28 (trans. from JPS/Plaut

Throughout Devarim/Deuteronomy, Moses has reminded the people, in essence, “you were there”: You saw. You heard. You covenanted. Etc. This portion introduces an additional idea: You “knew/experienced/[yod-dalet-shem]” God.
Continue Reading