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{ Category Archives } Hebrew language and literature

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 𝕾 and 𝕲, 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 […]

מעיד על עצמו

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

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 […]

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: 𐤕𐤌𐤇 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, […]

מה כמה?‏

להלן הודעה אמיתית שהתקבלה מ-Windows Update, ללא שינויים. אולי זה היה אמור להיות מחווה לישראל פוליאקוב ז״ל?

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 […]

A Riddle

I’ve been enjoying the Kri and Ketiv games at Balashon, and also the pun quizzes at ADDeRabbi, so here’s one of my own. Which biblical book is this: ((ק))

De trop

Ari Kinsberg saw a poster in Jerusalem with a picture of a bottle of Johnny Walker and the caption יְהוֹשֻׁ֙עַ֙, i.e. “Joshua” in Hebrew with cantillation. He says: I’m willing to bet that this is the only instance of [Hebrew with cantillation] in Israeli advertising. I wonder just how much he is willing to bet, […]

Yossi Banai 1932-2006

In memory of Yossi Banai, who died today, here is one of his less well-known songs which I’ve always been attached to. It’s very minimal, not much more than a list, but it beautifully conveys some of the paradoxes of life in this country. For example, here’s a rough translation of the last verse: A […]

Purim Torah

I used to have a large collection of Purim Torah that I had accumulated over the years, with things like Massechet Purim, Shulchan Aruch Even Shetiya, Haman’s Ethical Will, etc. etc., and I had the idea of publishing an anthology of this kind of literature, most of which is rather hard to find. I can’t […]

What is the last word of the Bible?

I was sitting at the computer the other day, and picking up with half an ear children’s television from the next room, when I heard the presenter ask a general knowledge question, “What is the last word of the Bible?”. This struck me as unfair. So, if I have any readers, please tell me what […]

Jewish Book Week II

Thanks to Hagahot, I picked up the bargain of my life today: the Magnes Press facsimile edition of Gershom Scholem’s own copy of the Zohar. According to the introduction Scholem bought this Zohar in 1915 when he was 17, and it never left his desk for the rest of his life. At some point when […]

void star

What do you call this symbol (assuming you have a font that shows it): ✡? In England it’s usually called a Star of David (which is also the Unicode name for the character), and here in Israel it’s a Magen David (מגן דוד), which literally means Shield of David. In America, people seem to call […]

Hebrew Haikus

I couldn’t resist this challenge on a mailing list I subscribe to. As someone pointed out there, a haiku should be about nature or seasons, otherwise it’s a senryu. אֲסַפֵּר לִבְנִיעַל יְצִיאַת מִצְרָיִםבְּחוֹדֶשׁ אָבִיב פָּך שֶׁמֶן אֶחָדנָתַן אוֹרוֹ בְּחוֹרֶףלִשְׁמוֹנָה יָמִים שֶׁבַע הֲקָפוֹתעֲרָבוֹת בְּעוֹז חוֹבְטִיםגֶּשֶׁם לִבְרָכָה

Nearly Yom Kippur

If I was capable, I would translate this into English. I’ve tried many times to translate Agnon, but I just can’t capture it. השמים היו טהורים והארץ היתה שקטה וכל הרחובות היו נקיים, ורוח חדשה היתה מפרפרת בחללו של עולם. ואני תינוק כבן ארבע הייתי ומלובש הייתי בגדי מועד, ואיש אחד מקרובי הוליכני אצל אבי […]

Some Poetry

I recently discovered a very cool site, Seforim Online. Downloads are a little slow, but they have lots of excellent stuff. I’ve been reading and enjoying some of Abraham Ibn Ezra‘s poems. Look at this little gem: אִלּוּ לְפִי אֵידִי דְּמָעַי יִזְלוּן לֹא דָרְכָה רֶגֶל אֱנוֹשׁ יַבֶּשֶׁת, אַךְ לֹא לְמֵי נֹח לְבַד כֹּרַת בְּרִית, כִּי […]

Qamats and Segol are now endangered species.

I am still in shock from this article, maybe because I have never accepted the concept of the “Academy of the Hebrew language” as dictators of what is or isn’t correct Hebrew. And my confidence is hardly increased when that last link doesn’t work for me and I have to root out the original article […]

One in a million

The wise men of Chelm were discussing whether one would be better off to have been born or never to have been born. After seven days and seven nights they came to their conclusion: one would be better off never to have been born, but who is that lucky? Maybe one in a million. Here […]