Sunday, April 17

Ba'ayat HaTirgum

Hebrew-English translation: Soon you won’t have to know Hebrew at all to consider oneself Jewishly literate--and this is precisely the problem. Hillel Halkin on the problem of kissing through the veil.
It is not only poetry, as Robert Frost once put it, that gets lost in translation; it is the innermost pith of all language, the intimate feel and touch and interrelatedness of words that are never the same when translated. A page of the Mishna or Talmud in English may be a useful aid to studying the same page in the original, but it doesn’t begin to have the original’s flavor. A Jewish culture in translation is a culture that has lost its flavor. It may be better than nothing--any competent translation is--but better-than-nothing is less than a people with a 3,000-year-old tradition in its own language deserves.

Yeah, but isn't it more than that?


At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that knowing Hebrew is an ideal-one cannot be a Jewish scholar without knowing Hebrew-but for religious Jews Hebrew language is not the primary ideal. I'm sure the vast majority of the PLO Executive Board can speak Hebrew better than most American day schoool graduates.
For better or worse the ability to be fluent in more than ones native language is lacking in a decent percentage of the population. The Talmud is not written in Hebrew-much of medieval Jewish literature was written in Arabic. How many people read Saada in the original Arabic-the Rambam's Moreh Nebuchim or for that matter did Rav Chaim with his Chakiras on the Rambam read the perush Hamishnayos in the original Arabic? By emphasizing Hebrew for the whole Jewish student population-one is completely alienating a sizeable percentage of the Jewish population.


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