Translating the Hebrew Bible Can Rob It of Its Ambiguity—and Readers of the Sacred Duty of Interpretation

Reviewing the newly published Koren Tanakh (discussed here and here by Mosaic’s Philologos), Francis Nataf addresses one of the most difficult problems posed by any translation of the Hebrew Bible to the Jewish reader. This problem comes down to the very essence of Torah study, which, Nataf writes:

is predicated on the notion that the original is somewhat indeterminate [and thus] allows for various possible meanings. . . .

An example of the price paid for the sake of readability can be found in [Abraham’s maidservant] Hagar’s encounter with an angel or angels when she first runs away from Sarai (Genesis 16:7-12). A famous midrash (Breishit Rabbah 45:7) takes note of the triple verbatim repetition of, “And an angel of the Lord said to her” (verses 9, 10, and 11)—after already introducing the angel in verse 7—and concludes that there were actually four angels. Of course, it is not the only way to read this repetition, but it is one that works well with the Hebrew text. Yet because such repetition also reads clumsily, the Koren translation changes the phrasing the second and third time, thereby undermining the midrashic reading. It undermines it further still by using the wording, “the angel . . . added.”

The creative license taken with the original text [by the Koren translation] sometimes goes in the opposite direction as well, trying too hard to follow rabbinic readings—which can paradoxically backfire.

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Read more at Jewish Action

More about: Hebrew Bible, Translation

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy