Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hillmans attack on Qafih - prt. 1 Translation

By rights I ought to be Mekayim אל תענה כסיל כאולתי and remain silent. I refer by this to the vicious character assassination against Mori [1] R’ Yosef Qafih (see also the Hebrew wiki for more info) by D. Hillman that Dr. Shapiro has scanned in his latest post. But since the Kavod of an Adam Gadol is involved I cannot remain silent.

The majority of H.'s vicious attack consists of nitpicking כפשוטו וכמדרשו. The sole complaint of any substance is that MYK is inconsistent in his translations. And in this Hillman exposes his utter ignorance of the art of translation. For example, if I were to take the same word – Emunah – and place it into two separate phrases – 1. Emunat Chachamim 2. Emunah B’ Hashem. The first I would translate trust in the sages and the second, belief in Hashem. I could of course translate the first as belief in Chachamim – but such a translation is only valid in Bnei Brak והמבין יבין. Rashi understood this [3], as did the Rambam [4], and indeed any translator worth his salt must know this. And this is what MYK was trying to accomplish. But this Hillman despite the fact that he has no notion of this art feels authorized to "enlighten" us with his nonsensical criticism . ויפה אמרו חז"ל כל הפוסל במומו פוסל כי הכינוי "גאוון פאתולגי" שמכנה בה את רי"ק יותר שייך על עצמו

H. criticizes Qafih’s reference to a manuscript citing Ezra II since that division is a Christian invention. Undoubtedly correct. But he seems unaware that Chazal also did not know of any split between Ezra and Nechemia and counted them as one book. [5]. Clearly, R’ Qafih meant to say that Nechmia is the second part of Ezra and he was not referring to II Ezra as H. thinks.

See NEJ entry - Ezra and Nehemiah books of:

The Masoretic tradition regarded the books of Ezra and Nehemiah as one book and referred to it as the Book of Ezra. This was also the Greek tradition, and the same Greek name, Esdras, was given to both books (see below). The division into separate books does not occur until the time of Origen (fourth century C.E.) and this division was transferred into the Vulgate where the books are called I Esdras (Ezra) and II Esdras (Nehemiah). It was not until the 15th century that Hebrew manuscripts, and subsequently all modern printed Hebrew editions, followed this practice of dividing the books.

That Qafih in referring to the "Nusach HaDefus" meant the standard (censored) versions is obvious and I don't see why H. considers this a problem.

[1] I was never had the honor to meet HaRav Kappah but I have used his translations. Mori is the standard honorific among the Yemenites.

[2] I doubt H. know any language besides Ivrit – he is clearly unfamiliar with the art of translation

[3] There is an interesting article in Tsefunos (I forget which issue) discussing Rashi’s Laazim. Rashi frequently cites a Laaz when the Hebrew would seem to be sufficient. The article describes at length that Rashi was mindful that the Hebrew term could have two different implications in the French and he therefore cited a laaz to point out which of the two he had in mind. See there at length.

[I’ve always wondered what Rashi’s sources for his translations were. How did he find the definition of even the most uncommon herbs and the like mentioned in the Talmud? and What caused Rashi to think that te word Kuviyostos means kidnapper when the root word – Kuvya – clearly signifies a gambler – as Tosafos explain? ]

[4] See his famous letter to Ibn Tibbon in which he writes that a translator must be familiar with 1. language he translates from 2. the language to which he is translating and 3. the content of the work he is translating. וז"פ

In Ibn Tibbon's time, Hebrew was not a spoken language and had not so many different words to emphasize different shades of meaning. Therefore the Ibn Tibbon translation is more consistent but at the same time does not succeed in coveying all the shades of meaning existing in the original text.

[5] See the Sugyah in Bava Basra 15a in which the authors of the Biblical books are cited but the book of Nechemia is not mentioned separately.

1 comment:

Observing Jew said...

Fascinating! Yasher koach.

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