Biblical Names, Lost in Translation

Even the best translations can’t accurately capture all the layers of meaning in a text, particularly a great one. Aviya Kushner explains how renderings of the Hebrew Bible—beginning with the oldest, the Septuagint—obscure the significance found in personal names:

[Historically], many Jews weren’t keen on translating their holy book. One ancient source calls for a fast on the anniversary of the Septuagint’s publication, saying that when it appeared, “darkness descended on the world for three days.”

They had ample justification for worrying over distortions and omissions. Hebrew names, one of the richest parts of the Bible, were often transliterated instead of being translated into Greek. Meaning-laden names thus lost their meaning.

What we call ourselves matters. A name in the Bible is supposed to capture its bearer’s essence. God names the first person in the Bible Adam for adamah, or earth. In Hebrew, adam is also the word for human. But an English reader would never know that, in Hebrew, Adam is immediately understood as rooted in the very earth he walks on, labors in, and returns to.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: Hebrew, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays, Septuagint, Translation

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas