Skip to comments.Comes the Comer: Review of New American Haggadah
Posted on 03/23/2012 2:38:24 PM PDT by mojito
A history of Jewish literacy remains to be written. It will be a colorful and complicated work, as befits the variegated linguistic history of the Jews, and for American Jewish readers of our day, I mean the honest ones, it will be a disturbing work. Whereas the Jews have always used many languages, Jewish and non-Jewish ones, and whereas complaints about the faltering level of competence in Hebrew appear in many medieval and modern sources, the awful fact is that Jewry of the United States has decidedit was a decision, even if it was never formally madethat the Jewish tradition may be adequately received, developed, and transmitted not in a Jewish language. Judaism's language, after all, is not English. Owing to the magnitude of their illiteracy, American Jews have broken new ground in Jewish incompetence. Translation is an ancient Jewish activity, of coursethe sanctity of the Hebrew language notwithstanding, the rabbis always insisted that Jews understand the sacred words that they read and hear and utter. Meaningfulness sometimes demands accommodations and adjustments, and we are the enemies of meaninglessness. But no Jewry has ever been as pathetically dependent upon translation as American Jewry.
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“Whereas the Jews have always used many languages, Jewish and non-Jewish ones, and whereas complaints about the faltering level of competence in Hebrew appear in many medieval and modern sources, the awful fact is that Jewry of the United States has decidedit was a decision, even if it was never formally madethat the Jewish tradition may be adequately received, developed, and transmitted not in a Jewish language.”
The writer is obviously a first rate scholar and a genuinely wise man, but that sentence is an abomination that causes desolation.
I agree with what he is saying, although I think it really says more about their “American-ness” than their Jewishness that so many are incompetent in Hebrew. Not only are we Americans less concerned with speaking other languages but we are aware that we are and we don’t care, often we glory in it; I don’t need to speak The Queen;s English, French, Spanish, or German because my ancestors either rescued or kicked the crap out of the people speaking these languages. Suck it Euroweenies.
But the man needs an editor,STAT :-)
Wieseltier is a cheesy hack. Only in Manhattan NYC is he a first rate scholar. In Manhattan, Kansas, he would just be another friendless, pompous blowhard hanging around in Starbucks wearing a cobbler cap.
OK, I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt and concentrate only on the execrable writing, my Hebrew is pretty much limited to what is in Strongs Concordance .
First of all, his theme is wrong. The Aramaic of the Talmud and the Hebrew of the Bible are studied in every Jewish community in America. And what about all those claims that the Greek Septuagint was official Jewish canon until anti-Christian rabbis forbade it?
Leon Wieseltier’s real name is Professor Irwin Corey.
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