Page 71 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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TARNOR / ON TRANSLATING HEBREW
63
familiar to an educated read ing public. Why waste time and
space?
INVOLVED STYLE
Lask’s desire to re ta in a “scent o f an English style” o f early
n ine teen th century was as ill-advised as the idea o f ano ther trans­
lator to ren d e r the language o f semi-literate Yemenite Jews in a
negro dialect. Mr. Average Intelligent Reader is no t going to
spend time fathom ing the meaning o f one who is “overborne by
his poverty.” “He was crushed by poverty” would have been
simpler and more effective. T h en there is “may Mercy deliver us.”
T he immediate reaction would be: Who’s “Mercy?” Is she a maid
living in the Puritan Commonwealth? “May the Compassionate
One deliver us from such a fate” is clearer and still manages to
convey the flavor o f an archaism.
What are we to do with one “who always sat at the holy toil o f the
To rah?” T h a t’s almost as poor as the literal translation: “He
always sat on the T o rah ,” hardly an app rop r ia te position fo r a
deeply religious Jew. T he dilemma is avoided by rende ring the
passage as: “was constantly devoted to T o rah study and p rayer.”
T h e re is no “holy toil
”Avodah,
as Joseph H ertz poin ted out long
ago in his translation o f the
Sayings of the Fathers,
is simply “divine
service.”
Mr. Lask’s translation is too long by a th ird . Had he avoided
redundancy the result m ight have been more compact and have
had m o re impact. Fo r exam p le , the fo llow ing passage o f
seventeen words — “never though t o f acquiring hono r th rough
study or o f being esteemed a scholar by himself or o thers” could
have been rend e red by eight: “never sought immodestly to ac­
quire hono r th rough scholarship.”
It is difficult to convey in English the Hasid’s goal o f study in
o rde r “to fashion a seat fo r the Divine Presence.” No alternate
translation can clarify the meaning. The more literal translation
o f “to make a chair [throne] fo r the Shechina” is barely suggestive.
The Shechina or Divine Presence has been used as a synonym for
God and He o f course has been referred to as a monarch, the
“King o f kings, the Holy One blessed be H e .” While
kissey ha-
kavod,
the th rone o f glory [the th rone o f the Glory, o r Glorious
One?] is common enough in Jewish tradition,
kissey la-shechina
or
kissey ha-shechina
is not readily found . T he best we can do is to add