Tuesday, April 24, 2007

An Ulpan story, in honor of Yom HaAtzmaut

Some of you may recollect that I recently studied Hebrew in an Ulpan class (concentrating on contemporary spoken Israeli Hebrew) for about a year. I was unable to continue, but my studies certainly did have a salutory effect on my Hebrew comprehension. It's amazing how much of my prayers I can now translate without looking at the English side of page. ('Course, all I have to do is go to our office's Women's Tehillim [Psalms] Group to be reminded of how far I still have to go.)

One fine day, I was listening to my favorite Aron Razel CD "Live in Jerusalem," as I'm doing now--I've concluded that one can't mourn and say Hallel on the same day--when it occurred to me that perhaps I was being too easy on myself: Maybe if I really put some effort into it, I might actually be able to understand what he was singing. I was having only limited success until I started listening very carefully to song # 6. "Hey, wait a minute, that's not a nonsense syllable--'ech' means 'how'! 'Elech'? Walk, go? 'el avi, to my father.' 'v'hannaar enenu iti, and the youth is not with me.' Bleeping Hebrew! Why is it sometimes iti and sometimes imi, when they both mean 'with me?' They're doing it just to confuse . . ."

"Holy Moses! 'How can I go to my father when the boy is not with me?'" (!!!) I practically got chills down my spine when I realized that not only did I understand what he was saying, I was listening to a quote from the Torah's greatest cliffhanger! (That's Parshat Miketz, Genesis 44, 1-Parshat Vayigash, Genesis 44:18-45:3, more or less.) Okay, it's "e-eleh, go up," not "elech," walk, go." But I was thrilled both to be able to identify a biblical quote and to be able translate it on my own.


Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Those words, taken out of the story context, can be twisted into many meanings.

That song played heavily in my head during my father's illness.

"How can I go up to my father, when the youth is no longer with me?"

How can I face him after all that has passed...I'm not the same boy he knew and worshiped and played with on the floor after long days in the store...I've become old and bitter myself...I'm a disappointment...

It was a very difficult time for me, and Razel didn't make it any easier!

Wed Apr 25, 04:15:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I've been trying to figure out how on earth to respond to such sadness and guilt. I finally realized that I should respond as if I were still at your mother's house, sitting shiva for your father with her, you, your sisters, your daughter--with silence, and a listening ear.

Thu Apr 26, 04:17:00 PM 2007  

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