Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Serenity of Shabbat

The first translation of the Torah into another language — Greek — took place in around the second century BCE, in Egypt during the reign of Ptolemy II. It is known as the Septuagint, in Hebrew Hashiv’im, because it was done by a team of 70 scholars.

The Talmud, however, says that at various points the sages at work on the project deliberately mistranslated certain texts because they believed that a literal translation would simply be unintelligible to a Greek readership. One of these texts was the phrase, “On the seventh day God finished all the work he had made.” Instead the translators wrote, “On the sixth day God finished.”

What was it that they thought the Greeks would not understand? How did the idea that God made the universe in six days make more sense than that He did so in seven? It seems puzzling, yet the answer is simple. The Greeks could not understand the seventh day, Shabbat, as itself part of the work of creation. What is creative about resting? What do we achieve by not making, not working, not inventing? The idea seems to make no sense at all.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Between the Holy and the Frustrating