Thursday, July 1, 2010
Bad Definition and Translation Fouls Things Up
My previous post about Young Israel has gotten some interesting comments. Reading them I realize that the decision of the Young Israel Movement to ban converts from being president of the member shuls may be based on a misreading of a Hebrew word/term, גר "ger," stranger or slang for "convert" properly called גר צדק "ger tzedek," righteous convert. Yes, that means that the same word has opposite meanings, diametrically opposed meanings.
A stam גר "ger," stranger, non-Jew is forbidden to serve in positions of authority for the Jewish People. There's no doubt, and I'd use that concept to stress the importance of always modifying terms like "president" when talking about foreign presidents, like United States President Obama, to make it clear that he isn't our president. He has no authority over Jewish issues including what happens in the Land of Israel.
Non-Jewish/Israeli foreign government officials are administrators only and not authorities on morality. That's how I interpret what yaak quoted in the comments to my previous post.
True, I'm not a rabbi nor trained in rabbinic mind-set, but sometimes that's an advantage, because I can see things with fresh eyes.
Friends who study Torah with me are used to the fact that I frequently ask for details about word usage. One of my pet-peeves is the mistranslation of "לאהוב" "le'ehov," into "to love" giving it a romantic twist when an examination of its Biblical usage shows it as "pledging loyalty." The "Shema" prayer and Yonatan's speech to David are good examples. Modern Hebrew adopted the foreign meaning.
I trust this will ferment some thought. There's something else fermenting in my kitchen which is calling me. More later...