Friday, June 23, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Ginsberg's Theorem

It seemed pretty obvious to parallel SWLT with the laws of thermodynamics.  Now I’ll summarize.
Rule 1 says, in a way, that cultures can’t operate without expression, but they sometimes get trapped in a no-win situation by how they express things.  Because “he” was the default pronoun, it took centuries for women to obtain equal rights under the law.
Rule 2 says that it’s impossible to use a language without understanding the grammar, which has to control your behavior as well as your words.  Words alone won’t get you to the table. 
Rule 3 says nothing means anything in isolation from the rest of it.  You can’t get out of the culture and still fully understand the language or the material that uses the language.
There’s an old joke about the laws of thermodynamics called Ginsberg’s Theorem that this reminds me of:
1.  You can't win. (restatement of first law of thermodynamics)
2.  You can't break even. (restatement of second law of thermodynamics)
3.  You can't even get out of the game. (restatement of third law of thermodynamics)
 
As far as the zeroth law, maybe there should be an amendment to Ginsberg’s Theorem that says that there are no wild cards and no draws; you have to play the hand that you are dealt.  That would equate to my zeroth law of SWLT; you have either written communications or oral communication. 
I said you can’t redefine words and you also can’t pick meanings out of the dictionary that suit what you want to say, you have to use the words according to their meaning in the given context.
But that means using the words in the language of the source document, in the meaning they had for the people who operated based on that document and transmitted it to posterity, as evidenced by the entire context of the culture using that source document. I’ll discuss another dimension to “draws” in another post.
You can’t prove anything from translations or commentaries because they are so error-prone.
You can’t prove anything if there are fallacies in your claims.
Memorize these last two issues.  They are the basis of the rest of this blog.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Thursday, June 22, 2017

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- Rare verb forms

Genesis 1:4
 
ד וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאוֹר כִּי־טוֹב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ:
 
Translation:     Gd must have manifested the light for it was good, for Gd separated the light and the darkness.
 
Now, I have not been ignoring va-yavdel. I wanted to give you the regular-type material before I got to it. Yavdel is almost a hifil but not quite. I’ll show you.
 
Verb root class: STRONG, that is, none of the letters do any fancy tricks.
Binyan: almost hifil
Aspect: narrative imperfect
Person/gender/number: well, look at the subject and you tell me. Don’t peek at the table!!
 
hifil
 
Singular
Plural
Person/gender
אַבְדִיל
נַבדִיל
First
תַּבְדִיל
תַּבְדִילוּ
Second/masculine
תַּבְדִילי
תַּבְדֵלְנָה
Second/feminine
יַבְדִיל
יַבְדִילוּ
Third/masculine
תַּבְדִיל
תַּבְדֵלְנָה
Third/feminine
 
The yod inside the verb is the classic sign of the hifil. This yod is all that distinguishes the progressive of hifil and piel when written without vowels.
 
The problem is, it’s missing from the verb in this verse. What’s more, you don’t see a dagesh in the middle root letter in the table, just in the verse. Here’s what the piel looks like:
 
Singular
Plural
Person/gender
אֲבַדֵּל
נְבַדֵּל
First
תְּבַדֵּל
תְּבַדְּלוּ
Second/masculine
תְּבַדְּלִי
תְּבַדֵּלְנָה
Second/feminine
יְבַדֵּל
יְבַדְּלוּ
Third/masculine
תְּבַדֵּל
תְּבַדֵּלְנָה
Third/feminine
 
In piel we have the dagesh in the dalet and the right vowel under it, but the first two vowels are wrong.
 
The answer is, I don’t know what binyan this is supposed to be. This and one other in the creation story are the only examples in Jewish scripture.
 
But that’s no reason to call it either hifil or piel.
 
And it’s also no reason to call this a scribal error or anomaly.
 
I’ve found plenty of forms in Torah and Tannakh that I couldn’t classify according to what we currently know about Biblical Hebrew.
 
When I think of an anomaly, I think of things that have a notation on them in a standard print copy of the Tannakh. Those notations were made by Jewish scholars between 500 and 1000 CE, that is, right after the Talmud was put into writing and nearly at the same time that the commentaries called Midrash were collected. The annotated version of Tannakh is called the Masoretic text. I discuss it on my Fact-Checking blog.
 
When I think of a scribal error, I think of the fragments in Cave 4 at Qumran, which seems to be storage for scrolls that weren’t kosher for study. I also wrote about those on the Fact-Checking blog.
 
YMMV. 
 
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Knitting -- more lace

Two more finished projects from  my leftover yarn.

Here is the finished ocean wave pattern. I know there's a mistake in it, and I know if you're going to knit this you'll use colors that at least work together.


 

Here is the other pattern I worked from leftover yarn. It's Lovick's saltire with cat's paws, two repeats, separated by New Shell. The motifs are in her paper on northern lace-knitting traditions, which is online. It took me five tries to get this right. There was a mistake in the diagram for New Shell. It had a symbol for a k2tog, but there were two YOs in that row. When I did a K3tog, it came out right.


The edging on both pieces is the same one published in my Bantam needlecraft book for use with its Shetland shawl that uses the ocean wave center. I saw the same edging on a baby's christening shawl designed by a knitter from Unst and published by Paton's in the 1940s. This was part of the clue that the Bantam shawl was a real Shetland pattern as the writer claimed.

There's a concept called the "safety line" which I haven't used yet. You can see it toward the start of the leaf pattern video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_OuQnSlOeo

Working on the saltire scarf, I wished at times that I had put in a safety line even just at the start, but also between each repeat.  What I actually did was end each vertical repeat with a purl row instead of a knit row. Then I could retreat to the stockinette stitch region if I messed up a lot. YMMV.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- who did what?

Since Talmud doesn’t show signs of the claimed textual emendation, and halakhah did not change as a result of those 14 cases of qetani l’tsdadin, I have to ask what the author means by “emend”. The everyday meaning of emend is to change something, in order to improve it or fix a problem.
In the article under discussion, the author used Rashi’s comments on Talmud as an example of emendation. In the actual Talmud, however, Rashi’s comments are marginal notes in the classic Vilno edition. They repeat part of the text which appears on the page, and then they explain it as Rashi understands it. The famous Adin Steinsaltz himself refers to Rashi’s commentary as proposed emendations, so pre-Rashi editions would not have his notes and also would have the same text as what he commented on.
If this is the meaning of emendation that the author is working by, he failed to support it in his writing.
The author claims that a descendant of Rashi says Rashi’s viewpoint did result in changes to the text of Talmud. The paper I’m talking about does not, however, go to the lengths of finding a manuscript of Talmud from before Rashi’s time that differs from the Vilno edition. Instead, he cites to an authority as reporting what Rashi’s descendant said. We can’t check the cited authority; it’s still under copyright and it’s not online courtesy of the author or publisher.  So we can’t be sure that this descendant actually saw both pre- and post-Rashi manuscripts with different texts.
But online resources tell us that Rabbenu Tam, a descendant of Rashi, had a problem with emendations by R. Meshullam b. Natan of Melun, and possibly R. Ephraim b. Isaac of Regensburg, to Rashi’s own commentaries, not to the actual Talmud. So we aren't getting a true picture of who did what to whom when, and nobody told our writer “hey, you got this wrong.”
It took a lot of work to find these things out. I didn’t even find the Steinsaltz thing until about a week before I posted this. A writer should not be satisfied just to borrow an idea here and there. An author has to suppose that her source might have abbreviated for space, misunderstood, or just plain misquoted to suit a viewpoint.  It takes experience with all these issues to develop the suspicious sort of mind that looks behind the sources to the primary documents.
And it’s the job of peer review to teach young writers how to develop a suspicious mind – but only if the advisor has been put through the same kind of training. Apparently the writer we’re talking about didn’t have that kind of advisor.
But first, both of them would need the tools to access the primary documents. The author of this paper didn’t have the tools to know that  a) he was quoting the phrase backward, let alone b) that the primary document didn’t support his claims about the phrase. Neither did those who performed his peer review.
Or else he was relying on his “peers” not to check up on him. Understand, the great rule of writing is “know your audience.” Know what they are interested in, know how to phrase things so that they can understand or accept what you say, know what they know so that you can either cater to it or extend it.
If the author intended to extend his peers’ knowledge of Talmud, he failed to give them accurate information. If he was catering to them, he relied on their lack of knowledge, tools, or willingness to check up on him, to let his work pass for acceptable. 
Which is a pretty sad thing to have to say about a scholarly writer and his peers. This topic will come up again in the last part of this blog.

In the next post I'll give an illustration of what this whole section means and prep you for the final part of the blog.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Thursday, June 15, 2017

21st century Bible Hebrew -- telling words apart

Genesis 1:4
 
ד וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאוֹר כִּי־טוֹב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ:
 
Translation:     Gd must have manifested the light for it was good, for Gd separated the light and the darkness.
 
Vocabulary in this lesson:
יַּרְא
manifest
כִּי
because, for, if, when
טוֹב
good
יַּבְדֵּל
divide, separate
בֵּין
between, from
חֹשֶׁךְ:
darkness
 
I’m going to give you raah in both qal and hifil imperfect. They are both good conjugations to learn. We’ll see the hifil several times more in Torah and we’ll see the qal in narrative past.
 
qal
 
Singular
Plural
Person/gender
אֶרְאֶה
נִרְאֶה
First
תִּרְאֶה
תִּרְאוּ
Second/masculine
תִּרְאִי
תִּרְאֶנָה
Second/feminine
יִרְאֶה
יִרְאוּ
Third/masculine
תִּרְאֶה
תִּרְאֶנָה
Third/feminine
 
 
hifil
 
Singular
Plural
Person/gender
אַרְאֶה
נַרְאֶה
First
תַּרְאֶה
תַּרְאוּ
Second/masculine
תַּרְאִי
תַּרְאֶנָה
Second/feminine
יַרְאֶה
יַרְאוּ
Third/masculine
תַּרְאֶה
תַּרְאֶנָה
Third/feminine
 
You’re saying, but teacher, how do we tell them apart? Well, it’s partly the vowel under the prefix that makes them different in writing. That vowel is there because that’s how these words were pronounced when there was no way to write Hebrew down, or when the vast majority of Israelites or Jews were illiterate. One paper I read estimated that 85% of Jews were illiterate in 100 CE, almost 1000 years after Hebrew had a writing system and over 500 years after Torah was put into writing officially.
 
But it’s also the context.  A prize-winning writer once claimed they couldn’t be told apart. Not in isolation they can’t. But the point of words is to be used with other words to express something meaningful (Torah came long before Dadaist literature, remember), and in this larger setting, you can usually figure out whether somebody is seeing or showing. (There’s a midrash for that.)
 
Midrash Rabbah Breshit 3:3 attributes to Rabbi Yehudah bar Simon, transmitted by Rabbi Berekhyah, that the created things already existed, Gd simply caused them to become perceptible. (Rabbi Berekhyah lived between 320 and 350 CE.)  That’s an even larger context than this verse, or chapter, or book, etc. And that larger context also helps determine whether you are seeing or showing,
 
If you have been reading my Fact-Checking blog, you  know that I’m just finishing up a section on language where I talked about context as determining meaning.  I have more examples there.  It’s a long blog and you can start at the beginning to learn more about how to read Torah.
 
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Garden -- think DARK

Bugs like light. Especially at night.

So, says Mike McGrath, if your rose leaves are turning into lace overnight, you can get a beetle trap.

But DON'T hang it near your roses.

Hang it far away and put a light on it.

Then turn out ANY lights that shine on your roses at night.
http://wtop.com/garden-plot/2017/06/14147221/

There are other tips in there but here's one more you probably don't know and it will save you big bucks.

Did you know that termites are also attracted to light?

So when your house exterior is lit up, you are calling termites to you.

And if you have mulch, especially hardwood mulch, cuddled up around your house, the termites love that even more.
http://wtop.com/garden-plot/2016/03/garden-plot-blueberries-horse-hockey-terminex-team/

You don't need poison to get rid of termites, you just need to know what Terminex knows, which is discussed in the article.

Bye bye, bugs.

And oh yeah, this will save money on that horrendous power bill of yours.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Friday, June 9, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- AND Sampling Bias

The author’s next attempt at redefinition combines with the fallacy of ambiguity to propose that a certain phrase emended Talmud chiastically.
I can see how you would build Talmud chiastically. How you emend it chiastically is what puzzles me, and the author doesn’t explain it. Let me build from what he does say.
He says that there are directions for emendation in Talmud which the text says were accepted, but that the text as recorded retains the material that should have been emended.
So potentially the phrase he points at might be followed by something like “and that is the halakhah,” meaning that the emendation was accepted. He doesn’t say how he knows that his proposed emendation was accepted.
Unfortunately the phrase he labels as chiastic is qe-tani l’tsdadin (he reverses the words but this is how the expression reads in my digitized Talmud). Two new problems fall out of this.
First, the word tani as “tell, say” appears throughout Talmud, alone and in the selected phrase, and descends to the title of the Tanya by R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady, the founding work of the founding father of Chabad/Lubavitch Chassidism. The author of my academic article is using the redefinition fallacy on this phrase so he can use it as what he claims is a huge number of phrases directing emendation of Talmud.
The phrase appears 14 times in the 2700 pages of Babylonian Talmud. This suggests why the author has to pile up such a large number of possible emendation phrases: if he wants to show that mass emendation went on, he has to show that a mass of material was targeted for emendation and he doesn’t get that from this one phrase. It also suggests why he uses a high redefinition of “I say” to make it not only a proposal but a direction for emendation. But it doesn’t necessarily reflect the function of those phrases in Talmud and he admits that he hasn’t done the research to show that they do prescribe emendation.
Talmud uses qe-tani l’tsdadin to mean that an issue has two sides and the ruling encompasses both of them. This is a proposed explanation for how the halakhah reads, not a direction to change the text of Talmud. Our writer cannot redefine a phrase well understood for over a thousand years by millions of people.
Then the author commits the fallacy of sampling bias. Out of the 14 occurrences of qe-tani l’tsdadin in Babylonian Talmud, 7 follow the existing halakhah (no emendation in sight); 4 are rejected (no emendation); 1 is followed by a counterargument (no emendation); 1 includes two propositions made in a prior discussion.
The 14th example is marked in Talmud with the word kashya, meaning that the difficulty/question remains unresolved. What’s worse, this example includes material from 4 rabbis, only one of whom used the phrase qe-tani t’tsdadin. Statistically, the author’s claim doesn’t work.
I fully understand that scholars are breaking down a large subject, Talmud, into smaller pieces for study. That’s perfectly scientific. But at some point results have to be fitted back into the umbrella topic, and it’s not worthwhile doing that with results that incorporate fallacies.
And now one final problem with this paper.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved