Archive for February, 2016

From ברית אברהם (The Covenant of Abraham) by R’ Avraham haLevi Horowitz, father of the Shla”h (ch. 8):

לבי לבי הלא ידעת
כי עפר אתה
וכל ימיך חרוצים
וחייך קצוצים
ובכל יום תקרב אל הקבר
ותעוף בלי אבר
ומדוע אתה נמהר
ולא תעבור על לבך יום המר
יום תאבד עצתך
ונסרחה חכמתך
יום ישיאוך
על כתף יסבלוך
ואל ארץ תחתיות ישליכוך
ארץ ציה וצלמות
חצר מות
שם תפול עליך אימה
ותכסך כלימה
ולבושך גוש ורימה
הלא היום ההוא נורא ואיום
יום אשר אין לך פדיום
יום תמרר בבכיה תאניה ואניה
יום חרדה וצעקה
יום שואה ונעקה
יום מספד מר
יום תערוך אבל משמר מול משמר
יום יחרה אף הא-ל וקנאתו
ונצתה כאש חמתו
יום תצא הנשמה
וישאר הגוף שלך שממה
שוכב לבדו
ולא יהפך מצדו אל צדו
ואתה בן אדם אל מי ינוס לעזרה
או מי יהיה עליך סתרה
אז תאמר אוי לי מה עשיתי
ומדוע דבר ה’ בזיתי
ואחרי שרירות לבי פניתי

Rashi spoke Italian, too?

Posted: February 23, 2016 in Hebrew
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While explaining the word מחשים in I Kings 22:3, Rashi uses the Hebrew for “we are being lazy,” then uses a non-Hebrew colloquial term for further clarification to the reader. Here, he uses the phrase סיאמ”ו פיגר”י. Usually Rashi used a French idiom, but the word סיאמ”ו converts phonetically roughly to “siamo,” a decidedly non-French sounding word. The second term I phonetically converted roughly to “figre,” which looked like it could resemble a French word.

On to Google Translate. I set it to “detect language,” and typed in “siamo.” It returned “we are” in Italian! “We are” is exactly what I hoped for, but since when does Rashi use Italian words?

On to “figre.” This did not yield anything that made sense. So I decided to try “lazy” in English, matching the Hebrew term Rashi used, and translate it to French. Of the words returned by Google, the closest match was “feignant,” meaning “idle.” Not bad. But I was not satisfied. So I put “feignant” back into Translate, and translated it into Italian. What came back? “Pigrone”!  This apparently means “lazybones” in Italian. When I entered “pigre” or “pigri” into Translate, and translated it to English, it comes back as “lazy,” the exact term I was looking for, and this Italian word is once again an exact phonetic match to the one Rashi uses.

Just to be thorough, I ran the full phrase “we are lazy” through Translate and got “siamo pigri,” Rashi’s exact words!

But this leaves me with a different mystery. Why was Rashi, the French commentator, writing in Italian?

Abraham Geiger, 19th century founder of Reform Judaism in Germany, exhorts his fellow Jews to cast off the trappings of tradition and embrace brotherhood with their gentile countrymen, for the Jews can surely anticipate a most loving and warm welcome by their brothers in humanity. Well, we know how that turned out. His words:

Thou, beloved pilgrim, cast off thy rough coat of mail, contact with the world is no longer dangerous; cast off the coverings that hide and disfigure thee; it is no longer an icy, freezing breeze that breathes upon thee — love will blossom up everywhere; thou hast a warm heart, and the whole of mankind wishes to lean upon it ; thou must with fresh love embrace the whole.

          –Judaism and its History, p. 297

“That science, which, despairing of itself and aware of its own weak mind, denies the existence of a spirit, shows up with triumphant mien the apparatus of a system of bones, and thereby believes to have given an explanation of man, will with shame retire: it will yield to the healthful science which respects the spirit, and has a presentiment of the Spirit of all spirits. This science will anew enliven the world, and go hand-in-hand with Judaism, which has ever been permeated and quickened by such ideas.”
           -Abraham Geiger, Judaism and its History, p. 295

An Unlikely Advocate

Posted: February 3, 2016 in History, Judaism, Mussar (Ethics)
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“[Judaism] has been assailed not alone with carnal weapons, with fire and sword, with expulsion and oppression, but also with spiritual weapons… Judaism has nevertheless preserved itself, has saved its eternal treasures, and not allowed itself to be dimmed; it has not permitted its belief in God to be disfigured by, and commingled with extraneous elements; it has… clung to the conviction that man has been invested by God with the power of free self-destination and self-ennoblement; that despite the sensual propensity innate in man’s nature, he is, at the same time, vested with the power of conquering it, to reach, by means of his own exertions, the goal of ennoblement and elevation.”

-Abraham Geiger, Judaism and its History, pp. 265-266