Monday, May 14, 2007

English helps Israelis study Torah at YPT

I plan to write up the shiur I heard today from Rav Ti about Ruth, but with my laptop broken I wasn't able to take notes, and it may take some time. Meanwhile, its just intresting that for all the complaints people make about having to learn Tanakh in Hebrew, it actually helps to know English. Transilations by thier very nature will be impercise, but in the Tanakh it makes a big diffrence because the language is meant to be very very percise. Normally that means that when you try to transilate the Tanakh you have two problems (well there are many more, but these ones are relevant to what I am saying).

1) It is difficult or impossible to fight the equivlent word in English (or whatever language you are transilating into)

2) Since most words don't have an exact 1-to-1 correspondance from Hebrew to English, your word choice is by definition an interpretation.

So after all that introduction, what is my point?
רות א:5 Ruth 1:5

וַיָּמֻתוּ גַם-שְׁנֵיהֶם, מַחְלוֹן וְכִלְיוֹן; וַתִּשָּׁאֵר, הָאִשָּׁה, מִשְּׁנֵי יְלָדֶיהָ, וּמֵאִישָׁהּ.

And Mahlon and Chilion both died, and the woman (Naomi) Va'tishaer from/of her two children and of her husband.

So what belongs in place of Va'tishaer ?

Well Rav Ti asked the full room: "מה התגום של ותשאר...הרתגום לאנגלית?" (What is the translation of Va'Tishaer, the translation into English)

So people threw out ideas: survived, left, stayed, remained

The point was that it was pretty obvious that if her husband and children died, then she was survived by them, so what is this verse adding?

In context if you use the word stayed or remained then you develop a picture that Naomi is staying in the Galut outside of Eretz Yisrael. This is why English helps you understand Tanakh

This is a good time to mention that "A Jew is Israel has G-d, a Jew outside of Israel has no G-d." Not "is like he has no G-d." There is a reason that it was especially true in biblical times, but here is not the place to expand on it.

An interesting post on translating and Torah can be found here


ahhhri said...

Rabbi Slod often said that translating chumash gives a more accurate understanding because otherwise you "know" what something means without delving deeper. But even when it comes to learning in hebrew, i imagine that you should "translate" terms into synonyms - and if you don't, then mefarshim probably have.

mother in israel said...

Isn't that what Yiddish "teiching" (sp) is all about? Not to mention shnayim mikra ehad targum. . .