HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


TRANSLATION: A LIVING CONVERSATION

by Aviya Kushner Issue: Jewish Literacy and Curriculum

Interview with Aviya Kushner, author of The Grammar of God: A Journey Into the Words and Worlds of the Bible. This interview is published in partnership with the Jewish Book Council.

 

Tell us about your own Jewish education.

I grew up speaking Hebrew at home. My mother is Israeli, and my parents made a commitment to speak only Hebrew; this was a huge gift and the foundation of my education. I attended Bais Ya’akov in Monsey, New York, then ASHAR through the eighth grade, and Ramaz for high school. I later worked as a reporter in Jerusalem, which was its own education!

 

I’ve been writing about Jewish literature for more than a decade, and I learned a lot from the writers and translators I interviewed, and from the many books on Jewish history, literature, and culture that I reviewed. Currently, I translate Hebrew poetry and prose, and so my education is continuing.

 

One of the striking things about the Bible-Tanakh is that Jews and Christians read essentially the same book but get very different things out of it. What did your study of Bible translations teach you about differences or similarities between Jews and Christians?

One thing Jews and Christians share is a fascination with the Bible. For the most part, Jews and Christians agree on the plot of the Bible—the exodus from Egypt, for example, appeared in every Bible I looked at.

 

But English translations of the Bible tend to sound more definite than the Hebrew, which is sometimes ambiguous and wild, and often multiple in meaning. Many difficult passages are flattened in English, so what is problematic in Hebrew becomes neat and easy in English.

 

Then there’s the commentary factor. Many Christian translations do not include commentary; by contrast, a Hebrew reader using the Mikraot Gedolot can easily access many views of the same text.

 

Some Christian translations have headings and layout that frame thinking, like the heading “The Ten Commandments.” Meanwhile, Jewish scholars are busy arguing over what the ten are, or what a dibrah even is!

 

And of course, there are plenty of individual translation choices that deeply influence the reader’s worldview. It’s definitely a rich topic for discussion.

 

Talk about why knowing the Hebrew is so important. What gets lost in translation?

For starters, in Biblical Hebrew, nouns, verbs, and adjectives are related through common three-letter roots that create echoes and connections across the entire Tanakh. These connections are practically impossible to hear without knowing Hebrew. The English reader simply misses out.

 

Then there are specific losses, such as names. In English, names are transliterated, not translated, and the English reader has no idea that people’s names and place names have such rich meanings. It’s a loss to read the Bible without understanding the tie between adam and adamah, or man and earth, and without knowing what Ya’akov and Yitzchak mean.

 

I could go on, but I’ll summarize by saying that the biggest loss is grammar. Hebrew and English have different sentence structures and word structures, and these do not translate well. What is at stake is an entire way of thinking, a system of structuring thought, and perhaps a way of understanding the world.

 

Your book has the word “grammar” in the title, and you spend much of the book focusing on ways that grammar shapes our understanding of the Bible’s meaning. Give day school teachers an argument why, and how, they should teach biblical Hebrew grammar.

Mastering grammar is the difference between a vague or general understanding of what’s going on and a close and intimate understanding. Grammar allows a student to pinpoint the exact meaning of particular Hebrew words.

 

Ideally, teaching grammar will include instruction in both word structure and sentence structure. Students should understand how Hebrew words are formed and how they interact in a sentence or pasuk.

 

Commentators can also be helpful in the battle to explain why grammar matters. Avraham Ibn Ezra, for example, often turns to grammar to make his points, and his arguments are fascinating.

 

When students read Jewish texts in translation, what should they look for?

When reading in translation, I recommend reading in the plural. Read more than one translation, and if possible, translations from different centuries and traditions.

 

When you read multiple translations, you can feel what the problematic passages are, and you can also see how attitudes changed over time, which will give you a better sense of the different potential readings. It’s fascinating to see the differences between the 1917 Jewish Publication Society translation and the 1985 JPS edition.

 

One thing to look for is a translator’s introduction. The Jewish Publication Society has a book called Notes on the Translation of the Torah, which can offer students a window into the translation problems the committee had. I also learned a lot from Everett Fox’s introductions to his translations. Robert Alter’s notes on his translation of the Psalms are terrific, too.

 

Are there ways that translations can enhance our understanding of the source text?

Absolutely. In Jewish history, we are fortunate—many of our translators, like Sa’adiah Gaon and Martin Buber, were also major scholars. Every translation is an interpretation, and certainly the interpretation of giants enhances our understanding.

 

A translator is first and foremost a reader. Just as reading with a brilliant teacher is valuable, so reading an outstanding translation can be incredibly enriching.

 

A good translation can make an ancient text come alive for a contemporary reader, and it can also highlight the richness of a text. For example, I enjoyed seeing how recent translators have grappled with the word adam in the Tanakh. Some say “man” and some say “human.” The translation of adam as “human” tries to capture that adam in Hebrew is both an individual man, Adam, and mankind, or perhaps, humankind.

 

Do you have a favorite Bible translation?

I think there are beautiful moments in many biblical translations.

 

I was especially moved by Everett Fox’s Schocken Bible, because he makes such a tremendous effort to capture the sound of the Hebrew.

 

What advice do you have for Jewish day schools, especially for Jewish studies teachers?

My advice is to emphasize Hebrew, and to give it more time in the class day. I may be biased, but I think Jewish writers can really help make traditional Jewish texts come alive.

 

I recommend including Hebrew literature in Jewish education, because many of our best writers—like Agnon and Amichai—weave in all kinds of Jewish texts and make them contemporary. The idea is to make Hebrew and Jewish text and history exciting, immediate and relevant, and great writers specialize in that.

 

Perhaps a class on Tanakh could also include an example of how Amichai borrows a line, and a Mishnah or Gemara teacher could show how Agnon threads some of that language through his stories. It’s important for students to see that Jewish text is a centuries-long, living conversation that connects all of us to the past and continues to define our present. It’s a beautiful conversation, and I hope that with the help of Jewish day schools, it will live on.

Go To the Next Article

A JEWISH LITERACY PROGRAM: SATISFYING...

If we were investors in a business venture, we would want to know exactly what service is being created, how it will......

Comments

Bahtsul masail sendiri merupakan forum diskusi keagamaan yang sudah mendarah daging di pesantren. Di dalamnya, dibahas persoalan-persoalan masyarakat yang membutuhkan tinjauan keagamaan secara ilmiah, rinci, dan terukur. Perlu diketahui pula bahwa sebagian besar topik yang muncul didasarkan atas laporan, aduan, atau keluhan masyarakat tentang persoalan agama, sosial, budaya, hingga ekonomi. Bisa dikatakan bahwa bahtsul masail sesungguhnya merupakan cara khas pesantren untuk menyuarakan aspirasi masyarakat melalui perspektif agama.Distributor plat besi hitam Distributor plat besi hitam undangan pernikahan bentuk tas Distributor plat kapal besi baja Agen besi beton interworld steel is undangan pernikahan modern Toko Plat Bordes Kembang Distributor Pipa Besi baja Schedule Sch 40 Distributor besi cnp baja jasa konstruksi baja Harga plat besi hitam Harga plat besi hitam undangan pernikahan simple undangan pernikahan biru Harga plat kapal besi baja Agen besi beton gunung garuda undangan pernikahan biasa jual laptop asus jual laptop asus jual laptop asus murah jual laptop asus murah Toko Plat Besi Hitam Supplier Pipa Besi baja Schedule Sch 40 Harga besi cnp baja www.pusatbesibaja.co.id Jual plat besi hitam Jual plat besi hitam undangan pernikahan biasa Jual plat kapal besi baja Agen besi beton delcoprima undangan pernikahan bahasa inggris islam Toko Plat Kapal Bki Krakatau Steel Agen Pipa Besi baja Schedule Sch 40 Jual besi cnp baja www.pusatbesibaja.com Supplier plat besi hitam Supplier plat besi hitam undangan pernikahan bagus Supplier plat kapal besi baja Agen besi beton cakra steel cs undangan pernikahan cantik elegan Toko Jual Besi Siku Baja Toko Pipa Besi baja Schedule Sch 40 Supplier besi cnp baja www.jualbesibajamurah.com Toko plat besi hitam Toko plat besi hitam undangan pernikahan bermanfaat Toko plat kapal besi baja Agen besi beton bjku undangan pernikahan akrilik Toko Besi Unp Baja Profil Kanal Jual Pipa Besi baja Schedule Sch 40 undangan pernikahan undangan pernikahan amplop surat Toko besi cnp baja Supplier besi beton Sni Ulir Polos polos ulir Agen plat besi hitam Agen plat besi hitam undangan pernikahan akrilik Agen plat kapal besi baja Agen besi beton Sni Ulir Polos undangan pernikahan bentuk dompet Toko Besi Cnp Profil Baja Gording Harga Pipa Besi baja Schedule Sch 40 Agen besi cnp baja Supplier besi beton sii Pabrik plat besi hitam Pabrik plat besi hitam undangan pernikahan anti mainstream Pabrik plat kapal besi baja Agen besi beton ais undangan pernikahan coklat Toko Besi Hollow Pabrik Pipa Besi baja Schedule Sch 40 Pabrik besi cnp baja Supplier besi beton psi Ulir Polos Distributor plat kapal besi baja Distributor plat kapal besi baja undangan pernikahan klub bola Distributor besi siku baja Agen besi beton undangan pernikahan kalender Toko Wiremesh Distributor Pipa Besi baja Schedule sch 80 Distributor besi unp baja Supplier besi beton perwira Harga plat kapal besi baja Harga plat kapal besi baja undangan pernikahan cetak Harga besi siku baja undangan pernikahan modern undangan pernikahan online jasa konstruksi baja undangan pernikahan coklat Toko Besi Pipa Baja Schedule 80 Supplier Pipa Besi baja Schedule sch 80 Harga besi unp baja Supplier besi beton PAS Jual plat kapal besi baja Jual plat kapal besi baja Agen stainless steel Jual besi siku baja www.pusatbesibaja.co.id undangan pernikahan arab Toko Besi Pipa Baja Schedule 40 Agen Pipa Besi baja Schedule sch 80 Jual besi unp baja Supplier besi beton master steel ms Supplier plat kapal besi baja Supplier plat kapal besi baja Agen atap spandek Supplier besi siku baja www.pusatbesibaja.com undangan pernikahan kalender Toko Pipa Besi Hitam Medium Toko Pipa Besi baja Schedule sch 80 Supplier besi unp baja Supplier besi beton ksty Toko plat kapal besi baja Toko plat kapal besi baja Agen baja ringan Toko besi siku baja www.jualbesibajamurah.com undangan pernikahan custom Toko Besi Wf Jual Pipa Besi baja Schedule sch 80 Toko besi unp baja Supplier besi beton krakatau steel Agen plat kapal besi baja Agen plat kapal besi baja Agen bondek Agen besi siku baja Toko besi beton Sni Ulir Polos polos ulir undangan pernikahan klasik Toko Besi H beam Harga Pipa Besi baja Schedule sch 80 Agen besi unp baja Supplier besi beton jcac Pabrik plat kapal besi baja Pabrik plat kapal besi baja Agen Plat kapal besi baja bki krakatau steel Pabrik besi siku baja Toko besi beton sii undangan pernikahan batik Toko Besi Beton Pabrik Pipa Besi baja Schedule sch 80 Pabrik besi unp baja Supplier besi beton interworld steel is Distributor besi siku baja Distributor besi siku baja Agen besi siku Distributor besi wf Agen besi Wf Baja undangan pernikahan www.sentrabesibaja.com Distributor Pipa Besi baja Distributor besi h beam baja Supplier besi beton gunung garuda link9 

up
0 users have voted.

Jewish Literacy and Curriculum

When formulating a vision of what they want their students to learn, day school educators need to start with a shared understanding of Jewish literacy. This issue explores the connections between a vision of Jewish literacy and a Jewish curriculum. Authors consider the purposes and goals of literacy; suggest ways that Jewish sources can serve as an educational framework; advocate for various subjects, curricular emphases and pedagogical or delivery methods; and share specific initiatives that they have developed. 

 

Click here to download the PDF and printer friendly version of this issue of HaYidion.