'Hear' vs. 'Listen'

The Chief Rabbi's translation (in the Singer Siddur and in the newly released Koren Siddur - linked at the right and reviewed by me here) of the word "shema" has been discussed a good deal. Rather than the more common "Hear O Israel", he translates it as "Listen, Israel".

In general, I think that "listen" makes a lot more sense. However, this seems to be precisely the debate between Rabbi and the Sages in Brachot 13a. Each of them derives a different law from the word "shema". Rabbi derives from there that one's recitation must be audible - it must be heard. The Sages derive from there that the Shema may be recited in any language, as long as the speaker understands what he is saying.

In general, the word "listen" captures bot the biological (hearing) and cognitive (understanding) elements of the process.

As someone with ADD, I have a listening problem, but not a hearing problem.
This is a fairly intuitive distoinction, immortalized in S & G's "Sounds of Silence" ("people hearing without listening") and le-havdil, in "White Men Can't Jump", albeit with a bit of a counterintuitive bent ("Look man, you can listen to Jimi but you can't hear him. There's a difference, man. Just because you're listening to him doesn't mean you're hearing him.")

Ki Matta le-Hatam: Community Rabbis in Israel and the United States – Part II

Whatever ideas I may have in this regard pale in comparison with the excellent article by Rabbi Dr. Seth Avi Kadish, available here:

I'll just explain the title: In Europe, there was an institution known as "Rav MiTa'am", meaning "Rabbi appointed by", or "Official Rabbinate". The pun of the article takes the Israeli official rabbinate and turns it into a "superfluous rabbinate".

You may not want to read the article on Shabbat, because it may destroy your "oneg shabbat".


Biblia PaupeRam

I attended part of conference on the new Tanakh Ram (see here and here for an overview of the debate; see here for an overview of the book) today. For those who have not been following, there has been a bit of controversy in Israel lately about the publication of a new translation of the Tanakh, or parts of it, into Modern Hebrew. Thankfully, the conference was about more than just debating the merits and problems with this new edition, and actually had some very interesting lectures on the history of bible translations and on issues with translating into a more modern form of the original text (not necessarily biblical).

There was one lecturer who pretty much stated the obvious – that the Tanakh is already translated into Modern Hebrew in classrooms, even Haredi ones. I think that misses the point of these criticisms, as I will explain.

I got a chance to look at the translation, and, honestly, was not impressed. I thought that the original and the translation are too equally weighted (they have slightly different fonts, but are the same size and stand side by side in columns; I would have much preferred to see the original in a much larger font). The translation itself was really not so good. The term “yerei Hashem” is consistently translated as “mi she-ma’amin ba-Shem”. Aside from being an inaccurate and even misleading translation, I don’t understand the need to translate the phrase into Modern Hebrew in general. The purpose of this translation should not be to create a Hebrew Biblia Pauperum, in a manner of speaking. It should facilitate the mastery or comfort with the original text. The current set-up is not conducive to that goal, though. I’d much rather see a Tanach with a brief commentary to elucidate difficult words on the bottom.


Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree

We're headed to the Oak Tree of Return for a bar mitzva this Shabbat. Should be nice to be back in the alter heim. More than anywhere else, many people there remember what we went through when Ruchama was born (also here). Many people get a lot of nachas from seeing her "all grown up". It is also home to, I believe, the largest per capita readership of this blog of any municipal entity in the world. Should be fun.


Chief Rabbi Gets His Bling On

I hope it's not just a pontifical pissing contest to see who can sport the funkiest bling bling, the Chief or the Pope; either way, I like it. I'm going to get me one.
Of course, it's not nearly as fly as the Kohein Gadol's bling, but it's still better than anything some j-dub would ever bedeck himself in.
Hat tip: Jameel


A Keen Observation on European Cultural Dominance

You know, sometimes I think that the worst thing that colonialism did was cloud our view of the past. Without the white man, we might be able to make better use of our history. We might look at some of our former practices and decide they are worth preserving. Others, we might grow out of. Unfortunately, the white man has made us very defensive. We end up clinging to all sorts of things that have outlived their usefulness

Dr. Rukia Odero, quoted in Dreams from My Father p. 434


In the U.S. , it is normal for schools to begin in synagogues.
In Israel, it is normal for synagogues to begin in schools.


Lag ba-Omer Shiur

I will be delivering a shiur in memory of my maternal grandparents, Ruth and Eric Levi z"l, this coming Sunday night at 8:30 at the Glenwood Shul in Hashmonaim. The yahrzeits of both grandparents fall during sefirat ha-omer.

The shiur is entitled: "The Spiritual Transformation of R. Shimon b. Yochai" (and yes, much of it will be based on my readings of the relevant gemara that appear on this blog).

Light refreshments will be served. The shiur is sponsored by my parents.


Keshmo Kein Hu

The "Green Light" organization announced that Modiin Illit has the fewest road accidents per capita than any Israeli city (not terribly surprising given the small number of cars per capita - the three nearly exclusively Haredi cities in Israel, Modiin Illit, Elad, and Beitar Illit, ranked 1-3 in this survey; still it's a nice statistic).

That's why they're called Kiryat Safer.