Onkelos

Ha’azinu: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein Most of Ha’azinu is a song, a situation where Onkelos tends to stray from literal more than usual, I assume because poetry itself does not intend to be as literal as prose. Nonetheless, more than a few of his choices jumped out at me. The Comparison to Rain and Dew After calling heaven and earth to hear his ...

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Nitzavim-VaYelekh: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos: Nitzavim Nitzavim-Vayelekh are, together, still a very short parsha (and the last one before Rosh HaShanah). In the name of completeness, I wanted five comments of Okelos on each, so it was catch as catch can. Once More on Anthropomorphism Early on in our journey through Onkelos, I pointed out his determined rejection of the literal meaning ...

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Ki Tavo: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein No Wandering Aramean Here An early part of Parashat Ki Tavo is more familiar than many parts of the Torah, because we also say it on Seder night. When the Mishnah sought a place where the Torah itself summarizes the Exodus for us to delve into Seder night, it noticed the Torah requires us to include such a summary in ...

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Ki Teitzei: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein Discipline of Words or of Blows Early in the parsha, we meet parents’ worst nightmare, the ben sorer u-moreh, the son who rejects their parenting and embarks on a life of hedonistic pleasures, illicitly gained. In the process of verifying the boy is beyond reach, 21;18 tells us ve-yiseru oto, they will discipline him, and he will not listen to ...

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Shofetim: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein Tzedek in Process as Well as Verdict The first verse of the parsha, 16;18, tells us the judges we appoint are to judge the people mishpat tzedek. As we noted in Kedoshim, Onkelos writes din de-keshot, true justice, an interesting assumption about the necessity of truth in justice. Here, the next verse rules out bribery because it blinds the eyes of the discerning ...

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Re’eh: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein The Torah informs the Jews there will eventually be a central place of worship, the only proper place to bring sacrifices. It calls it the place Gd will choose la-sum et Shemo sham, to place His Name there, le-Shikhno tidreshu, you shall seek His Presence (the English translations render this differently, but not in a way that makes ...

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Ekev: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein Their False Gods The Torah frequently refers to gods other nations worshipped as eloheihem, a word the Torah also uses for the Creator, similar to adonai, a word whose secular version means my masters but can refer to the Master of the Universe. Biblical Hebrew has no problem with a word being related to the divine in some contexts, the ...

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Va-Ethanan: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Va-Ethanan is always Shabbat Nahamu, when we begin to turn away from the experience of destruction on Tish’a B’Av and read of Gd’s first promises for redemption. [full disclosure: for most of my life, I have assumed we were on the path of athalta de-ge’ula, the beginnings of that redemption; the current et tzarah, time of distress, and magefah, plague, has shaken ...

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Parshat Devarim: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein Place of a Speech or Places of Sin The first verse of the book of Devarim presents one of the most remarkable examples of Onkelos dispensing with translation or literal reading. The verse introduces the words as those Moshe said to the Jewish people on the other side of the Jordan, in the desert, and then seems to ...

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Parshiyot Matot-Masei: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos: Parshat Matot Many Roads Lead to Nullification Parshat Matot opens with some laws of nedarim, oaths. A man who takes an oath must not desecrate it, the Torah tells us at 30;3, using the word yahel for ‘desecrate’ yahel, to make hullin, ordinary or mundane. Onkelos writes la yevatel, he must not annul the oath (by violating it). I might have ignored ...

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