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Poor Substitutes

Sweetest Friends, the Pledge Of Allegiance in Yeshivish from Chaim Weiser's book "FrumSpeak": "I am meshabed myself, b'li neder, to hold shtark to the siman of the United States of America and to the medina which is gufa its tachlis; one festa chevra, b'ezras Hashem, echad ve'yuchid, with simcha and erlichkeit for the gantza oilam." [For those who don't remember the original: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all."]

Chazal tell us that on the 8th of Teves three days of darkness descended upon the world because King Ptolmey forced the Rabbis to translate the Torah into Greek and that was as bad for the Jewish people as the sin of the Golden Calf, for the Torah cannot be properly translated. [והיה אותו יום קשה לישראל כיום שנעשה בו עגל שאינה יכול להתרגם כל צרכה]

What is the comparison between the sin of the Golden Calf and the translation of the Torah? The Jews made the Calf because they wanted a substitute for G-d. ["Aileh Elohecha Yisrael"] Poor substitute! So too, when the Torah was translated it was a very poor substitute for the original. The light of the Torah can only be found in its original holy tongue.

The contemporary ramifications? Translations may be helpful but there is no substitute for the original. [See a lengthy halachic article on the permissibility of translations in Techumin 17 - I think. You'll be surprised how problematic it is.]

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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