Sunday, November 13, 2005

Lost in translation, or one reason why I’m taking Ulpan (modern Israeli Hebrew) again after a 20-something-year hiatus

Yesterday morning, I was taking a nice, leisurely “walk” through Shacharit (the morning service), trying to understand some of the Biblical quotes and prayers in the original, and/or, failing in that, glancing at the facing English page for a little enlightenment, when I came across this gem: "Zeh keli v’anvéhu, said the Hebrew—and the ArtScroll siddur (prayerbook) translated it, “This is my G-d, and I will build Him a Sanctuary.”

Hunhhh??? There’s no verb livnot, to build, in that phrase. Nor is there either the noun “mishkan,” indicating the portable sanctuary of the 40 years in the wilderness, or the term Bet HaMikdash, indicating the Temple in Jerualem. So we’re now getting midrash (rabbinic interpretation) in place of p’shat (literal meaning) in a translation??? Of a siddur ???!!! Isn’t it bad enough that ArtScroll has foisted off a midrashic “translation” of Shir HaShirim (the Song of Songs) on the entire Jewish community, not caring that some of us less fortunate souls don’t know enough Hebrew to know the difference? Or rather, “caring” enough to mislead the undereducated deliberately?(!)

Enough! I’ve had it up to here with being one of the undereducated. I’m fed up with being an am ha-aretz, a Jewishly-illiterate Jew. I’m sick and tired of looking at three different translations of the same text and having to decide for myself which one is correct. If Rabbi Akiva could learned the alef-bet (Hebrew alphabet) at 40, surely I can learn to speak, read, and write Hebrew at 56. If I still have the koach (strength) by the time I’ve fluent enough to be able to read Yediot Achronot in the original (I gather from my brother that Haaretz will take a lot longer), I’ll study a little Biblical Hebrew next, just enough to do some serious studying. It isn’t every day that you see a 60-year-old woman start learning Chumash Rashi for the first time.


Blogger The Jewropean said...

I wouldn't use Artscroll. Their censored versions are mostly worthless, I am sorry.

Wed Nov 16, 09:13:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Which ArtScroll books wouldn't you use, or would you not use any of them?

Which versions would you recommend?

Thu Nov 17, 12:54:00 AM 2005  
Blogger The Jewropean said...

I wouldn't use any ArtScroll books because they have strange ideas about free speech and also a problematic understanding of Judaism, ie Ultra-Orthodox extremist tendencies.

As for a siddur, I personally use Sfas Emes, since I'm Yekke (not that you'd need to know that). The Birnbaum siddur (HaSiddur HaShalem by R. Philip Birnbaum) is a great one though used by many Modern Orthodox in the US, so that's what I'd recommend you.

Thu Nov 17, 08:02:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I've had a Birnbaum for so long that the cover fell off years ago. I go back and forth between that one and the ArtScroll (which, to the publisher's credit, has a very easy-to-read typeface). My Machzor for Shalosh Regalim (special prayerbook for the Pilgrimage Festivals) is also a Birnbaum. I also have a Birnbaum Machzorim for the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays). A Birnbaum Haggadah is one of several Haggadot in my possession. The Birnbaum books do have the major advantage of taking a "just the facts, Ma'am" approach--they tell where the quotations come from and how a prayer originated, but they don't tell you what to believe. The ArtScrolls can be pretty ideological, as you said.

Fri Nov 18, 12:51:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Oy--make that "Machzor" (singular). It's past my bedtime.

Fri Nov 18, 12:53:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

The verb anveihu seems to come from the root NVH, as in naveih which means something along the lines of 'town, settlement, village'. So it's not a completely absurd explanation...

"i will enhouse him"

Sun Nov 20, 11:36:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Hmm. Interesting, Steg. I'll check that one out.

Sun Nov 20, 04:42:00 PM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mazal tov -- may your studies take you from strength to strength!

When you feel like tackling Biblical Hebrew, I strongly recommend "The First Hebrew Primer," from EKS Publishing. It's terrific, clear, usable, and user-friendly, and it takes one from the very beginnings of Hebrew (starting with the alef-bet if need be; you'll be able to skip a few chapters!) through the ability to read simple Torah text fluenty.

Wed Dec 14, 02:32:00 PM 2005  

Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>