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29 January, 2008

On swearing and swearing: sociolinguistics and the third commandment

Filed under: Halakha,Hebrew,Language,Tanakh by Joel @ 12:30 am, 29 January 2008.

The Third Commandment treats the matter of mistreating God’s name quite bluntly:

Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not acquit one who takes His name in vain.

Rashi follows the translation of Onkelos in suggesting that the repeated “taking in vain” is once an injunction against those who swear by the Name falsely, and once against those who swear needlessly.
((*dibrot:”Commandment” might be a misnomer here, as the Hebrew term for commandments is clearly mitzvot (or huqqim, mishpatim, etc.) The Ten Commandments are only ever referred to in the bible as aseret hadevarim (Ex. 34:28; Deut. 4:13), or in later writings as aseret hadibrot. Devarim would often mean “words” or “things” or “utterances” or “statements”; its root means “to speak”.*))

Judaism abounds in traditions of protecting the sanctity of Divine Names in writing, and avoiding them in speech except when necessary. In fact, (להבדיל) the Rabbinic manner of protecting the divine name has taken on characteristics commonly found in linguistic taboo associated with swearing (the other type), euphemism, or political correctness. (more…)

23 January, 2008

To be taken upon wings

Filed under: General,Judaism,Tanakh by Joel @ 10:09 pm, 23 January 2008.

You have seen that which I have done to Egypt, and how I have carried you upon the wings of eagles, and how I have brought you to me.

How should we understand the allegory of being carried on eagles’ wings?
(more…)

20 January, 2008

Praying for Australia

Filed under: Siddur by Joel @ 12:07 pm, 20 January 2008.

Regularly on shabbat in the small synagogue that I usually attend, Or Chadash, we get to the point in the service in which a prayer for the leaders of Australia (and for the State of Israel, and for its soldiers) are recited. If Rabbi Freedman is there, he usually has with him the new United Synagogue Siddur (or “the Sacks Siddur”, whose superior translation I would really like to own), which contains a similar prayer for the British Royal Family and their government, and with a few changes (a reference to the Governor General, states and territories, etc.) we manage the usual prayer. On occasions where we lack the Rabbi or his siddur, the best we have to go off is a prayer for the President and leaders of the USA, as printed in the Artscroll’s Rabbinical Council Edition siddur. Sometimes, not given the resources we even just skip blessing the Queen. (Don’t tell any Royal Family members!)

Since the large Artscroll Siddur that we have at the pulpit doesn’t contain any of these prayers, and especially none specifically for Australia, I’ve put them together on a Letter-sized piece of paper, hopefully perfect to stick in on page 451 over the English translation of Yekum Purkan, which no one at the pulpit reads anyway. With the help of the Rabbinical Council Siddur, I have also attempted to translate the Prayer for Australia into Hebrew, as I have heard requests for that in the past when in other synagogues.

So here it is: Prayers for Australia, Israel and the IDF, ready for printing and pasting! (And hopefully without too many errors!)

Now I just have to remember to do that myself before the coming weekend.

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