Shavuot

Jun. 13th, 2016 09:26 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[personal profile] liv
So my extremely wonderful girlfriend came up to spend Shavuot with me.

[livejournal.com profile] ghoti arrived Saturday evening, and we had dinner and talked until havadalah (just before 11 pm, at this latitude and a week from the solstice). And then we did a proper tikkun leyl Shavuot, staying up all night studying, like I haven't done for absolutely years.

We read Ruth from an edition given to me by [personal profile] hatam_soferet. It was published for a certain kind of Christian seminarian who needs to take a course in Biblical Hebrew, with a very literal translation and about a page of explanations of grammar for each verse, and minimal exegetical interpretation. We noticed that the verb דבק, to cleave, came up a lot – I knew it was there in 1:14, and I pointed out the parallel with Genesis 2:24, but then the verb reappearing when talking about Ruth's interactions with Boaz' workers, where a romantic interpretation seems much less likely. But in any case, Ruth is a very sweet thing to read with a girlfriend.

And then [livejournal.com profile] ghoti taught me Tobit, which is Apocrypha for us though canon for Catholics, meaning that I'd never actually read it before. Given it's largely about levirate marriage, it's really very topical for Shavuot! It seems like it isn't clearly known whether the book was originally Hebrew or Aramaic, and we couldn't quickly find a version in either language, so we just worked from translation; my language skills for books from that sort of era are pretty patchy anyway. We also compared the genealogy of Perez given in Ruth to the one in Matthew, and I learned the surprising fact that the latter includes Rahab as Boaz' mother.

By the time we'd gone through Ruth slowly, and Tobit, which is longish, and taken several breaks for caffeine and ice-cream, it was getting to the low-brain small hours. I read the Torah portion for Shavuot, which is Exodus 19-20, mostly the Ten Commandments. We were a bit too tired for very in depth discussion by then, and the commandments are almost over-familiar. And we ended with a little bit of Hebrew practice where I got [livejournal.com profile] ghoti to pick out the first four verses of the Tower of Babel story while we were waiting for it to be light enough for Shacharit.

After we'd slept most of the morning, as you do, we went to shul and I taught a little seminar based on R' Norman Solomon's work on converting to Judaism in the Talmudic period. It was very lucky to find that extract online, but I had mostly remembered the similar shiur I learned with him in Oxford in c 2000. Alongside a couple of Mishnah texts, Bava Metzia on not oppressing the stranger, and the ever-delightful Yadayim on why the prohibition on Moabites converting doesn't apply. What I couldn't find was the midrash, which I thought was in Chronicles but apparently not, about people challenging King David on the grounds that he was descended from a forbidden Moabite convert, and his riposte that only male Moabites count. We had some pretty good discussion about what standards should be set for potential converts, and also the other shades of meaning of גר, particularly people who are affiliated to the Jewish community, whether through marriage or just inclination, but don't choose to convert to Judaism; we have quite a few such people in the community here. People asked me a lot of great questions, though some that were way beyond the scope of what I wanted to teach, like "how can Torah allow slavery?" and "how did we move from Temple ritual to home and synagogue?"

Had about 20 people there, and quite a diverse group too. And they brought a really great range of cheesecakes too, a few of the traditional Eastern European baked ones, a refrigerated lime and mascarpone one, [livejournal.com profile] ghoti's mostly 17th century recipe. Plus blintzes and a dish made by GS's Filipina friend from sticky rice and coconut. If we were more sensible sorts of people, we'd have got an early night after all that, but actually we stayed awake talking about all kinds of things.

And next week we're all going to Limmud, and everybody is being really enthusiastic about the conference, including partners' children. I mean, they're right to be excited, Cambridge Limmud in particular has a great young people's programme. But in general I'm really happy that my people are coming to Limmud with me.

Also, this is probably a good time to ask: I really ought to have a paper English Bible; does anyone have any recommendations? It might as well be a Christian Bible since if I'm looking at Tanach I'll mostly just stick to Hebrew. I further realized that my trusty old Soncino Chumash is really quite hard to read; I didn't really start reading Chumash until my Hebrew was fluent enough not to be bothered by the fact that the text is squashed into too little space and the distinctions between ד ,ר and ה are not as clear as they might be. This is really a problem for teaching from it, whether it's bar mitzvah students or people like [livejournal.com profile] ghoti. So I think it's time I acquired a more modern Chumash; tell me what's out there with good translations, good typography and preferably commentary that won't make me want to claw my eyes out?

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Date: 2016-06-13 08:46 pm (UTC)
watersword: Keira Knightley, in Pride and Prejudice (2007), turning her head away from the viewer, the word "elizabeth" written near (Default)
From: [personal profile] watersword
Everett Fox's translations of the Books of Moses are excellent, and I believe he's also done some of the Prophets and Samuel.

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Date: 2016-06-13 08:55 pm (UTC)
alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai
Indeed.

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Date: 2016-06-13 10:21 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
Yes, I love the Fox. I don't know if it's available in parallel text though?

possibly totally unhelpful

Date: 2016-06-13 08:52 pm (UTC)
alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai
I really ought to have a paper English Bible; does anyone have any recommendations? It might as well be a Christian Bible

I personally adore the Cotton Patch Gospel (which is apparently not online anymore or I'd link there instead of to Amazon), but it's—a very loose translation, shall we say? (And it doesn't include Revelations.) The setting's transposed to mid-twentieth-century US South, which gets so many of the points across so much better because the context is closer to home. But I'm not sure how much you care about the Christian Foundational Writings, you know? And apparently the translator, Clarence Jordan, studied Greek but not Hebrew, so the Tanakh isn't a part of this.

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Date: 2016-06-13 09:42 pm (UTC)
alextiefling: (Default)
From: [personal profile] alextiefling
I'd recommend the New Revised Standard Version for study - sometimes jokingly called the Never Racist or Sexist Version. There's a particular edition of it entitled 'Common Bible' that doesn't just have the capital-A Apocrypha, but also odd things like 3 Maccabees and Psalm 151 that are only canonical for particular groups of Eastern Christians.

For poetry, I still like the Authorized/King James Version, but tbh you can pull down the relevant bits of that online.

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Date: 2016-06-14 12:01 am (UTC)
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
From: [personal profile] melannen
If you want a Christian bible, I also recommend the NRSV - it's sufficiently modernized that it's pretty readable and is working from modern scholarship, but it still has the bones of the King James, so a lot of the poetry still comes through (as do the cultural-zeitgeist lines and quotations, which are sometimes near-unrecognizable in non-kjv-based translations.) It's also used liturgically in a lot of Protestant churches currently. You can get editions of that translation with as much or as little commentary etc. as you want.

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Date: 2016-06-15 04:04 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
Unless it's another of the same title, Common Bible is RSV as opposed to NRSV.

Next time I try to read the entire Bible during Lent I might pick a shorter one... ;-)

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Date: 2016-06-13 11:12 pm (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
Tobit, which is Apocrypha for us though canon for Catholics,

{Bad Catholic}It is? Not certain I'd even heard of it before!{/Bad Catholic}

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Date: 2016-06-13 11:37 pm (UTC)
lomedet: voluptuous winged fairy with curly dark hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] lomedet
My current favorite chumash is the Eitz Chayim - it's published by the Rabbinical Assembly (rabbinic arm of the Conservative Movement in the US). The translation is good, the text clear (and it's divided by parasha, unlike the Plaut), it has pretty good textual/midrashic/halakhic footnotes and lots of yummy essays in the back.

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Date: 2016-06-14 12:35 am (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
Ooh, does your religion have built-in all-nighters? How excellent :-)

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Date: 2016-06-14 01:15 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
:)

I haven't got a religion, but if I got one, I would want one with this much geekdom. Go you.

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Date: 2016-06-14 02:34 am (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
Re: Christian Bibles, I really liked the Jewish Annotated New Testament, edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler, which uses NRSV, but it only has New Testament. For Tanakh, if I'm using an English-only version it's probably either King James or NJPS. And I've used pieces of the Navarre Bible for studying the New Testament, and liked its expansive (very Catholic) commentaries, but am not familiar with its approach to the Tanakh.

My favorite Chumash is the one by your Rabbi Hertz, which I guess is from Soncino but I don't think it's the one usually meant when people say Soncino Chumash? It's not exactly modern in commentary or typography, but I am very fond of its commentary's combination of dogged Orthodoxy and commitment to evidence-based approaches. I have an older Soncino Chumash that belonged to my grandfather and which I find annoyingly old-fashioned.

The fad these days among frum people who care about readable typography seems to be away from Artscroll and toward Koren. I, however, don't really have strong opinions on the aesthetics of the Artscroll house style vs. Koren house style. I don't see Koren as being a huge visual improvement, though I know some people do. I do dislike the Artscroll Stone Chumash commentary quite a bit for political reasons, see my Adventures in Artscroll Feminism tag for some comments on the problems with the Stone Chumash. In any case, I haven't actually seen the Koren Chumash, which is pretty new. Skimming reviews online, people seem to think it pretty but light on commentary. My father likes the Metsudah Interlinear Chumash/Rashi for readability, but I don't find it all that readable myself. In Conservative settings I mostly see the Etz Hayyim Chumash, which... doesn't distract me overmuch when I've used it, but which I don't find particularly brilliant.

Something else worth mentioning is a JPS publication of an English translation of Mikra'ot Gedolot as "The Commentator's Bible", translated and edited by Michael Carasik, which is pretty great, but they haven't published Bereishis yet (someone I know at JPS says it's because they figured if they put out the other volumes and impressed people, people would be more willing to wait and pay for for the massive Bereishis commentary. And it's true, the other volumes are very impressive) I think Artscroll has also been working on a translation of Mikra'ot Gedolot, but I think they're lagging behind JPS and I haven't seen any of their version yet.

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Date: 2016-06-14 08:56 am (UTC)
wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (Default)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
There's also the Jewish Study Bible, which has the Old Testament, to go with the Annotated NT.

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Date: 2016-06-14 08:14 am (UTC)
vatine: Generated with some CL code and a hand-designed blackletter font (Default)
From: [personal profile] vatine
It somewhat amuses me that my current "scriptural studies" has side-lined into chasing down various bible translations, even if the actual text is "rapier fencing". But, then, the first two pages were basically "author gushes about Charles XI and Charles XII and how brilliant they are as King and Crown Prince of the Swedes, Geats and Vandals". So having to chase down references to dominant religion is all in getting the translation right.

It's also all on GitHub, because why not.

Edit: I would jokingly suggest the 1917 Swedish translation, but that would only be useful (if at all) for you and not very useful at all for your family. It's also very light on commentary, although I think there's annotated editions.
Edited Date: 2016-06-14 08:32 am (UTC)

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Date: 2016-06-14 08:58 am (UTC)
wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (Default)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
Like most of the others, I would recommend the NRSV; I have specifically heard that The New Oxford Annotated NRSV is a good study Bible, but I haven't used it myself (it's on my wishlist!)

If you wanted to go Catholic, though, the standard version is the Jerusalem Bible - although I believe it's translated from the French, so an extra step from the originals.

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Date: 2016-06-15 07:56 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
Will reply at greater length another time but I tend to go with RSV or NRSV, and as many apocryphal books as I can find.

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Date: 2016-06-15 04:02 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
I have many Bibles:

-RSV (with silly amounts of Apocrypha)
-NRSV (with whatever the Anglicans think is Apocrypha)
-Jersualem Bible
-something called "The Interlinear Bible" published by Sovereign Grace Publishers (in the US)
-a copy of "The Message" which I would consider a paraphrase rather than a translation
-something called a "Christian Community Bible" which claims to be translated from original texts and was revised in 2013
-probably a New International Version somewhere, though I'm not sure what country it's in
-pretty sure I also have a KJV
-William Tyndale's New Testament (I don't really consider this a Bible as it is missing too much, and the language is a little antiquated, but it's useful when I'm looking for something that sounds a bit like the KJV but isn't it because of stupid copyright issues.

The reason I have so many is that I tend to buy them in charity shops if I see a translation I haven't read before. I'm even worse with hymnals.

I tend to work from RSV and NRSV when I'm writing a sermon, because every church I've preached at has used NRSV; but in the absence of knowing any Greek I will sometimes look through several of them if I'm struggling (usually with the Pauline stuff). Someone told me once they like the RSV better and consider it a more faithful translation than the NRSV but couldn't tell me why (this was Twitter, so fair enough); there is a preface to the RSV online.

So the short answer is that, as the rest of the hivemind has already suggested, NRSV is probably a good bet.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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