A New Bible Translation, and the Enduring Legacy of the Old Ones

In his review of a new edition of the Hebrew Bible, produced by the Orthodox Israeli publishing house Koren, Yosef Lindell puts it in the context of Jews’ previous renditions of the sacred text in English:

In 1845, Isaac Leeser, the Philadelphia-based communal leader and writer, lamented Jewish reliance on “a deceased king of England, who was certainly no prophet, for the correct understanding of the Scriptures,” yet these words were written in the introduction to his own King James-inspired translation. In 1881, Michael Friedlander published the Jewish Family Bible, which amounted to the King James minus the Christology.

It was only in the latter half of the 20th century that wholly new translations appeared. Between 1962 and 1985, JPS published a new translation (NJPS) with a team of academic scholars working more or less from scratch. It was meticulously researched and more concerned with Modern English idiom than word-for-word equivalence with the Hebrew—less “formal” and more “functional,” as scholars often put it. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s The Living Torah broke new and rather different ground in the 1980s with its Orthodox approach and colloquial style (yom ha-sh’vi’i, the seventh day, sometimes became “Saturday”). Meanwhile, ArtScroll’s 1996 Stone Edition Tanach sought word-for-word correspondence.

The new [Koren] translation is completely reimagined, reads smoothly, and is not unlike the NJPS in its willingness to depart from literal translation. It is the work of a team of translators and academic reviewers, and it is particularly notable that other than the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (who translated the Pentateuch) and Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb of the Orthodox Union, all the other translators are women, including Jessica Sacks (Jonathan Sacks’s niece). Also of note, Will Lee, professor emeritus of English at Yeshiva University, served as the literary editor. The result is a crisp, contemporary, and thoroughly readable translation.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Hebrew Bible, Translation

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship