God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

Life and a Little Liturgy: Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD, has a blog!

I’m thrilled to announce that my father, Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D., has just started a blog: Life and a Little Liturgy. The author of three dozen books, Rabbi Hoffman — “Dad,” to me — is a preeminent Jewish liturgist (it’s a niche market, I know, but he’s got it cornered) and leading modern Jewish philosopher. Here’s part of his latest post:

I do not usually admit this right off the bat — it is definitely a conversation stopper — but here it is: I am a liturgist. “Liturgy” is a common enough word among Christians, but it does not flow trippingly off Jewish tongues, and I am not only Jewish but a rabbi to boot. The word comes from the Greek, leitourgia, “public service,” which is how Greek civilization thought of service to the gods. The Jewish equivalent is the Temple cult of antiquity — in Hebrew, avodah, which meant the same thing, the work of serving God. That eventually morphed into what people do in church and synagogue. Christians call it liturgy; Jews call it “services.”
Keep reading…

April 15, 2011 Posted by | announcements, Off Topic | , | Leave a comment

Win a Free, Signed Copy of And God Said

Until January 31, you have another chance to win a free, singed copy of my And God Said.

From the book’s blog:

We’re giving away a free copy of And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible’s Original Meaning, signed by the author.

For the best chances of winning, enter the sweepstakes via Twitter. You can also enter from the book’s Facebook page (and while you’re there, you can become a fan), or directly.

A winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries shortly after Monday, January 31. So hurry!

January 25, 2011 Posted by | announcements, Off Topic | , | Leave a comment

History Repeats Itself with Esther, Hadassah, Myrtle, and Stuxnet

According to the New York Times, Stuxnet, a computer worm aimed at slowing Iran’s race for nuclear weapons, contains an important file called myrtus.

According to Esther 2:7, Esther, who played an important part in defending the Jews against the Persians, also went by the name hadasah, which is the feminine form of hadas.

Both the Hebrew hadas and the Latin myrtus mean “myrtle.”

Iran — which is where the ancient story of Esther was set — has followed its older incarnation of Persia in declaring its intention to destroy the Jews. And now it seems that someone is taking the parallel further, using a modern-day Hadassah to preemptively attack the modern would-be attackers of the Jews.

I’m suspicious of the suggestion in the Times that the use of the word “myrtus” points to Israel, or that “myrtus” is deliberate misdirection toward Israel, but I have to say: This virtual reincarnation of Esther in her starring role strikes me as pretty literate, creative, and (the gravity of the situation notwithstanding) even a little bit cool.

[Update: Lots more about the virus in today’s (Jan 16, 2011) New York Times: “Israel Tests on Worm Called Crucial in Iran Nuclear Delay.”]

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Off Topic | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Importance of the Ten Commandments

A short excerpt from a lecture I gave a while back. (A little off topic, but still….)

July 20, 2010 Posted by | Off Topic, video | | 3 Comments

Rashi – The Great Jewish Translator and Commentator

The year 1040 saw the birth of a man destined to become the greatest Jewish commentator and a major influence on translations. Born Solomon, son of Isaac, in Troyes, France, he is better known by the acronym his Hebrew name forms: Rashi.

Rashi’s travels and the timing of the Crusades catapulted him to the forefront of Jewish scholarship. Rashi left his birthplace of Troyes to study in Worms (now part of Germany), which was then a major center of Jewish scholarship. While there, he learned the accumulated wisdom of nearly 1,000 years of Jewish exile. Then he went back home to Troyes.

By the time of his death, Crusaders had ransacked Worms, killing Rashi’s teachers and destroying the schools of his youth. But Rashi remained safe in Troyes. He therefore became one of the sole repositories of nearly a millennium of collected Jewish scholarship.

So many people read Rashi alongside the Bible because in so doing they incorporate the first 1,000 years of post-exilic Bible scholarship.

Rashi’s most well-known work takes the form of running commentary to (parts of) the Bible. In general, he offers three kinds of commentary:

  1. Consistency.
  2. Theology.
  3. Linguistics.

Consistency was important to Rashi. He had, apparently, memorized the entire Bible, and he wanted all of it to be consistent. When he found passages that seemed not to be, he offered commentary to explain why the passages were consistent after all.

Rashi also cared deeply about what he saw as Jewish values and beliefs, and he used the Bible homiletically to make various points.

Thirdly, Rashi tried to analyze the Hebrew language of the Bible.

(Though he didn’t know he was doing it, we can add a fourth accomplishment: he helped preserve middle French by using Hebrew transliterations of French to refer to words in his native language.)

Unfortunately, while Rashi proved extraordinary at the first two goals, he lived nearly 1,000 years before modern linguistics, and his linguistic analyses, therefore, are not usually on a par with his other work. To compound matters, Rashi didn’t distinguish among his various goals. So readers must figure out for themselves when Rashi is making a Jewish point that is only loosely based on the text and when he is explaining what the text originally meant.

This background can be helpful for understanding how Rashi’s work influenced Bible translation and scholarship.

I have an example next.

July 19, 2010 Posted by | Off Topic | | 3 Comments

Another Chance to Win a Signed Copy of My Latest Book

Here’s another chance to win a free, signed copy of my latest book, And God Said.

From blog.AndGodSaid.com:

In honor of the three-month anniversary of And God Said (already in its second printing!), we’re giving away another free copy signed by the author.

To enter, visit the “Sweepstakes” tab of And God Said’s Facebook page. (And while you’re there, why not become a fan?)

You can also enter via Twitter.

A winner will be drawn from all eligible entries on Tuesday, May 18.

May 3, 2010 Posted by | announcements, Off Topic | , | 1 Comment

The Hebrew Bible is Rated “R”

Thanks to Haviv Rettig Gur for noticing that an iTunes version of the Hebrew Bible is rated “17+” because of “Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive Themes.”

Hebrew Bible rated 17+ on iTunes

Hebrew Bible rated 17+ on iTunes

I guess this is in keeping with my springtime focus here on Song of Solomon.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | Off Topic | 7 Comments

Who By Fire, Who By Water

Who by File, Who by Water

Who by Fire, Who by Water

I’m pleased to announce that my latest translation goes on sale today in Who by Fire, Who by Water. The book is about Un’taneh Tokef — a medieval poem now widely used in the High Holiday liturgy — and in addition to my translation and commentary, it contains 41 short essays by “contributors who span three continents and all major Jewish denominations.”

It’s not directly related to Bible translation, but it does offer an example of how I go about translating. (I also have an essay in the book: “How was Your Flight?”)

March 22, 2010 Posted by | announcements, Off Topic | 1 Comment

Powerless to Blog

Snow - February, 2010

Snow - February, 2010

About two feet of very wet snow toppled trees and knocked out power to my neighborhood at 1:00am Friday morning. Two days later we’re still without electricity.

Regularly scheduled programming will resume soon.

February 27, 2010 Posted by | meta, Off Topic | , | 5 Comments

Book Giveaway: Win A Copy of And God Said

Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press is giving away a free, autographed hard-cover copy of my latest book, And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible’s Original Meaning.

From blog.AndGodSaid.com:


Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press is giving away a free, autographed hard-cover copy of And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible’s Original Meaning.more

Leave a comment there to enter, include a link to that page to enter again, and add blog.AndGodSaid.com to your blogroll to enter two more times.

(I’ve technically entered by leaving this post — but I’ll remove my name from the drawing.)

February 22, 2010 Posted by | announcements, Off Topic | , | 2 Comments