Monday, April 24, 2017

Garden -- bearing fruit

You gardeners know how patient you have to be sometimes.

At other times...
This first picture is my 30 year old hydrangea. No lie. The people before me planted it. The brown things are leaves that got frosted recently but notice that the old wood is leafing  out again, so I should get flowers this year.

These lilies  of the valley came up on their own and I've preserved them since they seem to be quite happy growing through the bricks for the  last 25 years. Near them below this photo is a fern that migrated from a neighbor's yard. It is in the spore stage now.

Here is a frowsy little patch but if you  have good eyes you can see the leaves of the violets that bloomed last week. A neighbor who  doesn't like them (!) dug them out of her yard and I asked for them. Notice the lily of the valley to the right, which is the descendant of some that I DID transplant.

And here is what looks like a personal triumph. This is shady ground next to the hydrangea, where hosta were starting to take over. I'm no fan of hosta so I dug some of them out and ordered a couple of roots of wild ginger. That was two years ago and they bloomed for the first time last year; they bloomed again last week  and I apologize for not getting a picture then.  It's a native plant to my region so I doubt anybody is going to complain no matter how far they spread.

And that's an example of how sometimes gardeners don't have to wait all  that long.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Friday, April 21, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Ambiguity

All right.  What kind of fallacies do academics use when dealing with languages and the problems created by translations and commentaries.
The one that probably makes most sense to you at this point is ambiguity.  An academic disagreed with SWLT because, he claimed, it made translation impossible.
Which is a funny thing to me, because I know that translation has gone on for centuries but SWLT is less than a century old.
I learned about one of the main problems of translation long before I ever heard of S and W.
In high school, the woman who taught us the French language did a lot of work to make us sensitive to “false friends.”
Those are words and phrases that look like English ones, deceptively so, because they absolutely cannot be translated into the English words they resemble and still preserve the same meaning as the French.
One of the best examples is demander.  It doesn’t mean make a demand on somebody, with more or less hostility.  It simply means to ask a question.
False friends don’t just happen between French and English.  They happen between Romance languages.  French entendre doesn’t mean exactly the same thing as Spanish entender.
They also happen between Russian and English.  In the Mendel Beilis translation I came across the term lombardny bilet.  At first I thought it meant the record of a promise to pay a loan, because the Lombards of Italy were brought into England to help finance the government, after the Jews were expelled from England.  As I worked, however, it turned out that lombardny bilet meant a record of a loan.  Two people said they had them for evidence, one of whom was probably telling the truth and the other of whom lied almost as often as she spoke. The term refers either to bonds taken out to pay back money, apparently secured on future income, or pawnbroker’s tickets.
“False friends” have been known at least ever since boys had to construe Latin and Classical Greek for their tutors or in preparatory and public schools.  So SWLT does not cause problems with translations, it only shows why a given translation has problems.
But one thing SWLT excels at is putting a governor on claims of the science of philology, and that is next week’s post.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Thursday, April 20, 2017

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- Vayomer ESSENTIAL

Genesis 1:3
ג וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי־אוֹר וַיְהִי־אוֹר:
Transliteration: Va-yomer elohim y’hi or va-y’hi or.
Translation:     Gd said Let light exist and light existed.
Vocabulary in this lesson: 
he said
Let X exist
So let’s classify this bad boy.
Va-yomer is a peh alef verb and you know that alef is one of the four guttural letters, right?
It’s in the qal binyan.
As I said, it’s narrative imperfect.
It’s 3rd masculine singular.
You will see this verb scores if not hundreds of times in Torah so memorize the table and save yourself some lookup time.
In case you were wondering why there’s a dagesh in those tavs, it’s almost beyond the scope of this course.  If you catch an imperfect 2nd or a 3rd feminine  without dagesh, email me and we’ll look at it.
Now. The other thing you should be asking is why I didn’t put the vav in the conjugation table. That’s because this same form is the plain imperfect aspect, and without vav it often has a true future meaning. I’ll talk about that next week. Damn. That’s six things.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Monday, April 17, 2017



This blog has been running less than 4 years and you've viewed it 30K times!

I am both humbled and flattered.

Especially as so much of what I posted has been special interest stuff.

And your views have come from around the world.

There's more to come: the 4th part of the Fact-Checking blog is a couple of months ahead; the rest of the 21st century Bible Hebrew; more knitting; new garden stuff as I find it.


© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Friday, April 14, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- immersion

Have you ever been involved in a great conversation and somebody comes into the room and asks, “What are you talking about?”  An extreme case is you are sharing a great joke and laughing hysterically, and the third person comes in and asks, “What’s so funny?”
You can never explain something like that to the satisfaction of the third party.  At some point you wind up saying “you had to be there.”
Or if it’s a tweet-fest, you have to tell them, “go back and read all the tweets.”  And even then, they won’t get it. 
They weren’t immersed in the situation and they will never understand all the nuances of what happened.
It’s the same thing with learning a language.  Immersion works better and faster than any class with discrete sessions and isolated lab work.  Language is often spontaneous, and programmatic learning sessions will never teach you some things that a native speaker will teach almost without thinking about it in an immersion course – body movements, voice tones, and so on.
The same is true with Torah and Talmud.  They are more comprehensible to people who live in the culture that now transmits them, than by external solitary study.  They are easier to learn and easier to retain through immersion than in bits and pieces among the moments of getting a living and running a household.
The issue isn’t the capability to learn, AKA intelligence.  The issue is mental and physical experience, not just with the information, but also with its practical consequences, AKA education.  (There’s a rant in there but I’ll let it go and move on.)
The rabbis say that study has to lead to practice, lilmod ulelamed, lishmor ve-laasot ul’qayem kol divrey Talmud toratekha be-ahavah.  But at one time fewer and fewer people were even doing the first part, studying.  That was one of the motivating forces in 1923 when R. Shapiro created the Daf Yomi program.  It asks that people set aside half an hour to an hour every day to study Talmud.  There are programs for both Talmuds.
My experience shows that if you jump straight into Daf Yomi you won’t make much progress.  You have to start with Torah the way you have to start with the alphabet when learning to read.  Then you have to learn Mishnah so that the Gemara doesn’t distract you from the basic principles.  Only after you understand the basic principles behind Jewish law and culture will you understand what Talmud is trying to teach you.  That means starting with the beginning of Jewish law and culture in Torah.  As a primary source, not in translation and not in commentary.
There is a sort of Cliffnotes version of Talmud on a website that has helped me out a lot.  But it’s only an outline, it’s not the real deal.  For that, you need to study the primary document.
You can’t say you know Talmud without that primary document, any more than you can honestly say you read War and Peace if you only read the plot description on Wikipedia.  The English Wikipedia site. 
And if you don’t know Talmud, you can’t produce a good argument for the claim that Talmud talks about Jesus. 

On to the fallacies!
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Thursday, April 13, 2017

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- narrative past

Genesis 1:3
ג וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי־אוֹר וַיְהִי־אוֹר:
Transliteration: Va-yomer elohim y’hi or va-y’hi or.
Translation:     Gd said Let light exist and light existed.
Letters in this lesson:
Vocabulary in this lesson:
he said
Let X exist
I only have three items to discuss for this verse. You can breathe now.
The first one is probably the most important because it is all over Torah, and it has do both with that vav prefix, and what it is prefixed to.
OK I lied, four things. Maybe five.
Vav at the start of this verse does not mean “and”. It is a verbal prefix for a specific grammatical structure that Dr. Cook identified.
The structure is vav plus the imperfect aspect. You know that this is the third of the three aspects, and you might remember that it is for uncompleted action.
This story is set at the beginning of the universe. Does this imply that the universe is not finished yet?
Not at all. (There’s a midrash for that, or rather, a mishnah with aggadic overtones.)
What it means is that this is the inside of the narrative. Nothing is over until the narrative is over. The narrative itself is incomplete.
Dr. Cook calls this the narrative past but with the explanation I just gave, you could call it “the narrative imperfect.” You could potentially use this if you were, say, Walter Cronkite doing a live news report on, say, the battle with the Amalekites at the time it occurred.
Now if the perfect uses only suffixes for the verb root, do you suspect that the imperfect uses prefixes? DING DING DING, you’re right, and some books call imperfect the prefix aspect. Which isn’t strictly true because you saw that the piel progressive had a prefix so let’s call it imperfect aspect from here on out.  That will be utterly critical in a couple of lessons.

There is an essential verb in this verse and when you learn it, you will have conquered one of about 30 essential conjugations in Torah.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Garden -- JUST SAY NO

I read the newsletter of my co-op for April and went into a serious depression.

There on the front page it gave bad information that would tempt lots of my neighbors to waste money on grass seed, by saying that April was a good month for re-seeding.


And run an experiment.

Pick a tiny corner of your yard where you can claim you are growing ornamental grasses.

Let your grass go wild there.

You will find that it seeds out in July or August.

Let that be a clue to you.



Mike McGrath, my garden guru, has to counsel people more than once a year who ignore this basic fact about grass and then wonder why they get NOTHING.

Or they get gypped by Scott's into buying something with a growth accelerant, which produces spindly grass that quickly dies.


Or buy the seed, but don't sow until it's RIGHT FOR THE GRASS.

GENERATIONS have made this mistake before you, and they lost a lot of money and used a lot of swear words because of it.

If you're REALLY SMARTER than your parents or grandparents, learn from nature.


© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved