Sunday, January 04, 2009

babble from Babel 4

It happens that I live at a point in the city that gets a fair bit of snow. It is still snowing almost three weeks from when it began. I can't drive anywhere and walking is difficult too. Some streets are plowed but our neighbourhood is a mess.

In this exercise I am working for transparency and not a finished translation.

Once again, here are the first few words of Gen. 11:3.
    Dixitque alter ad proximum suum Jerome

    And he said other to his next one

    Dixeruntque alter ad alterum Pagnini

    And they said other to other

    καὶ εἶπεν ἄνθρωπος τῷ πλησίον

    And he/she said person to the one next

    וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל-רֵעֵהוּ

    And they said ish to his/her fellow
Some of the questions are about reciprocity. Is there a plural verb because the ish says something to the next one who then reciprocates. In English as well, they spoke one to another. Clearly they both/all spoke. This is reciprocity. Not that some spoke to others. At least that is not what Pagnini says, but other to other.

And then there is the question of whether ish is a man, or a person. There is no indication here either way. I am not aware of any translations which use a word for a male adult human, such as man, in this case. The literal Greek clearly translates ish as anthropos, a person.

The last interesting feature here is the use of the Hebrew word reicha, usually translated into English as "neighbour." In English this has the connotation of next door neighbour, but in Hebrew it is anyone from your "companion" to a "fellow human." This is much debated. In Greek, it is the "one who is next." The question of who is one's next one, and how one loves one's next one, is a daunting moral question, but of paramount importance.

Here is the mitzvah of V’Ahavta L’Reicha Kamocha (love your neighbor as you love yourself.)

    This mitzva is one of the most popularly quoted and least understood mitzvot. How can you command someone to love? What is the definition of your neighbor? How can you love someone like yourself? Ramban asks these questions and bases his interpretation of the mitzva on the explanation of Hillel who restates the pasuk in the following way (as per the story of teaching the whole Torah standing on one foot):

      "What is hateful to you do not do unto your neighbor. This is the entire Torah, all the rest is commentary" (Shabbat 31a)
Rest in peace.


Anonymous said...

I just loved shabbat 31a. How elegantly simple! So why then does religion have to be so obtuse and complicated?

J. K. Gayle said...

Yes, important implications of πλησίον and ish -- and now we have the Internet, talking with one another, next to one another in ways that the snow cannot stop or cover. Thanks for this post!