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On the Frequency of Parasha Doublings

The number of Shabbatot in a Hebrew year can be 50 or 51 in a regular year or 55 in a leap year, and every year one or more ḥaggim also fall on Shabbat. Since the Torah is divided into 54 parashot for the weekly reading, almost every year there are some Shabbatot where two […]


Comparing translations

After completing a cycle of Torah with Targum Onkelos, this year I am going to try to complete a cycle with Peshitta and Septuagint as well, or ? and ?, as BHS refers to them. Here is something I noticed in Genesis chapter 1: In  verse 11 God commands the creation of trees: וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים […]

UNESCO and Jerusalem

“What are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what ‘the stars foretell,’ avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable ‘verdict of history’–what are the facts, and to how many decimal places?” — Robert Heinlein, “Time Enough for Love” The reactions to the UNESCO resolution have gone down […]

Vertical Text, part 2

A few steps forward: the tab titles, menus, etc. are no longer vertical, though the address bar still is, and the glyphs are centered on a vertical “base” line. For Japanese that doesn’t make much difference, but Latin script as in this example looks much better than in the previous version, where the glyphs were […]

Vertical Text part 1

This is my first lash-up prototype of a browser displaying data:text/html,油こほりともし火細き寝覚哉 as vertical text. Click on the thumbnail or here to see the full-size image. When I say lash-up, I mean lash-up: you will notice that everything is vertical, including the tab titles and the address bar, where you can see the first couple of […]

Dogfooding Fennec

First impressions of a nightly build of Fennec on a Samsung Galaxy S II: Things that work: Downloadable fonts including astral characters RTL astral characters (this has a downloadable font as well) RTL UI (in general) … Things that don’t work (some of these may be issues with the sites, some are certainly bugs in […]

מעיד על עצמו

This is the title page of the Pentateuch in the British Foreign and Bible Society edition of the Hebrew bible:

Tikkun Leil Hoshaʿana Rabba

I led a session at the Tikkun Leil Hoshaʿana Rabba at Ellul on Thursday night, which also included readings from the Writers’ Beit Midrash on Shemitta (the sabbatical year) two years ago. For my session I developed an idea that I had already presented rather briefly in the Beit Midrash. While learning the topic Shemitta, […]

חטאנו לפניך

מעכבר העיר של השבוע: . אני סופר 4 שגיאות. ואתם? In the image above, from last week’s Achbar Ha`ir there are 11 Hebrew diacritics. I count 4 mistakes. Does anybody spot others?

The Oxford Hebrew Bible

Via Ralph the Sacred River and Tyler Williams at Codex, I came across this article from Biblica by Professor Hugh Williamson on the Oxford Hebrew Bible Project. There seem to be problems downloading the samples from the project site, so I haven’t been able to form much of an informed opinion, but I did want […]

They call it Gloria Mundi, but Tuesday’s just as bad

Jim Davila wonders how one would say Sic transit gloria mundi in Aramaic, a challenge that I can’t resist. A literal translation would be something like כדין יעבר שבהורא דעלמא, but what might be a more idiomatic rendering? In modern Hebrew, אֵיךְ נָפְלוּ גִבּוֹרִים is used in almost exactly the same way as sic transit […]

Happy Canada Day!

If I wasn’t an expatriate Brit readapting to life in Israel after two years in California, I would love to be Canadian. I’ve never yet been to Canada, but that’s soon going to change: at the end of this month I’ll be in Whistler, BC.

The Rabbis and Environmentalism

Jim Davila was wondering whether the following quotation from Anglican minister Martin Palmer was really Talmudic: “The Talmud says that the angels went to God and said, ‘You just created this wonderful world and now you’ve created these human beings who will only go and mess it up. Are you start staring mad?’ And God […]

Great Moment

My youngest daughter has been a vegetarian for some months now, and her brother and sisters have not always been, let’s say, as supportive as they might be. My son is sure that she will never make it through the annual Independence Day barbecue at my sister-in-law’s without cracking and eating meat, so they made […]

It depends which way you look at it

Via Jim Davila, a fascinating account of two readings of the name on a seal discovered in the Temple Mount excavations in Jerusalem. There’s a large image of the seal here. Eilat Mazar’s original reading תמח was based on reading the name from the seal itself: ??? The revised reading שלמת takes into account that […]

Lost in Translation

I really didn’t think that Yehuda Halevi was within my range as a translator, but this came out quite well: יְפֵה נוֹף מְשׂוֹשׂ תֵּבֵל קִרְיָה לְמֶלֶךְ רָב. לָךְ נִכְסְפָה נַפְשִׁי מִפַּאֲתֵי מַעְרָב! הֲמוֹן רַחֲמַי נִכְמָר כִּי אֶזְכְּרָה קֶדֶם, כְּבוֹדֵךְ אֲשֶׁר גָּלָה וְנָוֵךְ אֲשֶׁר חָרָב. וּמִי יִתְּנֵנִי עַל כַּנְפֵי נְשָׁרִים, עַד אֲרַוֶּה בְדִמְעָתִי עֲפָרֵך וְיִתְעָרָב! דְּרַשְׁתִּיךְ, […]

Hhanukka meme

From Talmida (and I’m sorry if it looks as if I cribbed a lot of the entries from her. There are reasons why we’re friends, you know): 8 interests in my life Indonesian music Biblical interpretation Languages and scripts Cryptic crosswords Spirituality Mountains Theatre Food and drink 8 things to do before I die Visit […]


…though frankly I think a more accurate rating would have been “Sad Geek”.

Well, it’s about time

Ever since support for bidirectional languages was implemented in Mozilla by me and my colleagues at IBM. and through all the improvements and bug-fixes that have been made since, one thing that we never got quite right was text with diacritics, aka nikkud, aka harakat, especially in justified text. This was a real obstacle in […]

The Siloam Inscription

I’m very excited to read on PaleoJudaica that the Siloam Inscription is likely to be returned to Israel for at least a limited period. There is a translation and images of the text at the English Wikipedia article, a transcription in both Ancient and Modern Hebrew characters from the Jewish Encyclopedia and a transcription and […]