Sunday, September 25, 2011

With the deepest respect,…badly done, badly done!...

The Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth of Great Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks does seem to consistently and successfully annoy me with his writings and speeches. I’m sure it’s nothing personal as indeed is this criticism of a Parshat Hashavuah he wrote some few weeks ago.

The article in question was penned for parshas Ve’eschanan.

My general criticism of the article is that the writer sounds more like an Oxbridge educated Church of England parish vicar rather than an Orthodox Rabbi in his writings.

I thought his blatant and inappropriate criticism of the State of Israel very unfortunate. However this point should be a subject of a blog post all on its own.

What I also found disturbing which is the subject of this post,  is the astonishing credence and honour he gives to a Church of England translation of the Bible, lending it dangerous and (unorthodox if you will) totally undue legitimacy in the eyes of his target audience which I assume are the members of the Orthodox Jewish community. His words would however warm the cockles of the hearts of his fellow English Bishops in the House of Lords. I cannot read Lord Sack’s mind but were these Xstian Clerics his real intended audience?

He writes
“Then came the translation of the Bible into the vernacular. We tend to forget that the Hebrew Bible is a subversive work…..In the 1530s the great Tyndale translation appeared. Tyndale paid for this with his life: he was arrested, found guilty of heresy, strangled and burned at the stake in 1536”.
Surely his Lordship’s words are incompatible with any accepted [Orthodox] hashkafa?

The Tyndale Bible is a translation into English of (at least according to most modern scholars) the German translation by Luther, written some few years earlier. It is not, as is commonly claimed, a direct translation from the Hebrew. We see that wherever Luther mistranslates from the original Hebrew (sometimes through ignorance and sometimes intentionally to conform to Xstian theology and score some anti-Jewish propaganda points) so does Tyndale.

One example which really catches Tyndale out is Luther’s mistranslation of the word “Matzah” which, as any Jewish child would tell you means “unleavened bread”.

Luther mistranslates this word Matzah as “ungesdäuert” which means "unsoured" bread because he mistranslates the word “seor” as sour. The word “Seor” is used in Rabbinic Halachic terminology to refer to sourdough (a substance that in itself is non-edible but can be used as a leavening agent to make chametz bread) but within a Torah context means any kind of leavened or fermented dough either still raw or later cooked. Tyndale gives the game away by translating Luther’s “ungesdäuert” for Matza as “sweetbread”, that is, bread which is not sour. Translating from German into English, it is an understandable mistake.

There are many other examples but this simple and blatant one will suffice to prove my point. Despite legend, there is no evidence that he even knew Hebrew, let alone consulted with Rabbonim as to the correct way to translate the Torah.

Tyndale’s execution probably has more to do with his break from the traditional Catholic doctrine into Lutheranism rather than his supposed blasphemous translation from Hebrew.

Tyndale is to be praised for his passionate campaign in the reintroduction of English as the official language of government and religion.

To quote Melvyn Bragg, “William Tyndale has had more influence on the way we speak than anyone except Shakespeare.”

His Bible caused a radical change in the English language and English society as a whole. Tyndale promised “A Bible for the people in their spoken language”. He waged a cultural war against what he saw as foreign influences within England and as part of this, believed passionately in the wide spread dissemination throughout England of a Bible written in plain English, not necessarily an accurate one though.

He was found guilty of heresy and executed in Holland in October 1536. His last words were reportedly “Oh Lord, open the King of England’s eyes”. In fact, the king’s eyes had already been opened and within days, Henry VIII started adopting Tyndale’s very reforms, breaking away from Rome. Unfortunately it came just too late to save Tyndale.

I would agree with any Englishman that Tyndale is without doubt a national hero. However praise and credence for his Bible in a Parshat HaShavuah sheet which is meant after all to teach us Torah, is in my opinion, nauseatingly inappropriate.

Let no British Jew forget, least of all an Orthodox Rabbi that Tyndale’s Bible still contains all the mistranslations, out and out lies and pure anti-Semitism which you will find in any Xstian Bible. This is the same Xstian Bible which has been used for centuries to kick up anti-Jewish hatred and inspire and instigate persecution and pogroms, eventually and directly resulting in The Holocaust.

With the greatest respect to the chief Rabbi, to quote from another great English classic, Jane Austen’s Emma:

…badly done Emma, badly done!...I must tell you the truth while I still can, proving myself your friend by the most faithful counsel, trusting that sometime you will do my faith in you greater justice than you do it now...”.

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