Thursday, April 01, 2010

Hebrew homonyms

I've gotten a couple of surprises reading translations recently. "Hu asanu, v'lo anachnu" (Psalm 100) is one example. I thought it meant, "He made us, and not we ourselves." But, a few weeks ago, I was reading the translation, and discovered that I was way off base: I hadn't notice that, in this case, "lo" is spelled lamed vav, not lamed alef--it means, "He made us, and we are His . . . "

Then there's a passage from the K'dusha d'Yotzer prayer. Here's the translation from my "baby Birnbaum" siddur/prayer book (the one I have at the office--the cats are away for Pesach, so this mouse is enjoying the rare opportunity to blog during work hours): "Kulam omdim b'rum olam--all of them stand in the heights of the universe--umashmiyim b'yir'ah--and reverently proclaim--yachad b'kol, divrei Kelokim chaim . . .

Say what?

Oh, "kol" with a kuf, not a kaf! So it doesn't mean, as I thought, "all of them together, the words of the living G-d," it means "all of them 'in a voice' (that is, aloud), the words of the living G-d . . ."

I misunderstood that phrase for years! Thanks to the Koren Sacks Siddur's penchant for splitting phrases onto separate lines, with "yachad b'kol" on a separate line from "divrei Kelokim chaim," I finally noticed the spelling, and understood that I'd goofed.



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