Sunday, August 28, 2016

Psych! I found the 21st century!

Never say you have a problem, say you have a challenge.

So my landline handset broke.  Instead of buying another, which would have been cheap,
I actually bought a cell (will pay itself back compared to leasing from the wireless service)
and joined up with a wireless service.
Downloaded a few apps (geeky stuff)
Texting with my grrls which is cool
still getting used to thumb typing.
(Never do that after a big glass of wine; wound up using the voice typing features.)
Loving the camera which ignores how my hand shakes and produces nice photos.
(Taken at my house, not off in the boonies somewhere and LOOK MA Google fixed the problems they were having with Internet Explorer!)
Suggested to the phone maker that a future incarnation should incorporate the Israeli technology  that  would let it work like a tricorder.
So sue me, I'm an olllld Trekker.

Found Spotify some  time back and gathered a bunch of music for free (not on premium) that I wasn't willing to pay iTunes for.
Made a playlist with a long history behind it (goes with a fan fiction novel)
ONE piece of necessary music was missing.
Found it on Youtube.
Found a site that can convert it to MP3.
Found the site that tells you how to upload music to Spotify via "local files"
Did it.
Found out I could edit the playlist graphic too, found the right one for the playlist online and copied that to "local files"  too, then put it on the playlist.
Tested it.
Sounds great.
Looks great.

Never say die.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 26, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Masoretic stats

The question is, did Septuagint work from a recitation of Tannakh that produced the omissions, additions, transposals, and misunderstandings.
Usually a translator works from a written text; a transcriber may work from an oral recitation.  If the translator’s source text has errors in it, those errors are going to produce either errors in the translation, or footnotes that the source is not understood and there are probably errors in it because the grammar is weird or the words seem to be misspelled.
So how messy was the text that the Masoretic scholars annotated?  Here are some statistics.
There are just over 6000 verses in Torah.
About 370 verses have annotations (though some have more than one). The text of Torah that the Masoretic scholars worked from had about 94% of the verses correct.
Only 74 of the annotated verses are marked qeri, meaning that as written they deviated from the oral reading of Torah in synagogue.  The other annotated verses might have been mispronounced, but that is because the written version had the wrong vowels or has something called dagesh where it shouldn’t be or didn’t have it where it should be.  (You should have googled dagesh.)  At any rate, these vowelling/dagesh issues make up 80% of the annotated verses.
The Masoretic scholars put the qeri notes in only 74 of over 6000 verses in Torah or just over 1%, so what they received did not need a qeri mark on almost 99% of the verses.  Some of the variations ought to have affected Jewish law, primarily Deuteronomy 22 where the qeri says it should have naarah instead of naar.  Deuteronomy 22 discusses tokens of virginity and it makes sense that it would talk about a naarah, an underage girl, and not a naar, an underage boy, because there are no tokens of virginity in a male.  In all of the 74 verses marked qeri, not only does Jewish law always assume the qeri form, there are never even any discussions about the differences in Mishnah  or Gemara (the two facets of Talmud).
There are two possible conclusions: the rabbis whom Jewish law quotes had a correct written text; or they operated only on the basis of the oral recited text.  And the latter is suggested by a number of facts, including the Talmudic ruling that it is prohibited to write down Talmudic material except to help memory, such as transmitting a ruling from the Jerusalem schools to the Babylonian schools via messenger; the messenger could carry a written note.  (The whole of both Talmuds was eventually written down based on this ruling.)
In the verses with qeri markings, Septuagint always agrees with the meaning of the qeri.   There are at least two possible conclusions.  One is that, as in weekly readings, somebody read the written text and then explained it to the translators, but that should have resulted in a much better translation if the reader knew what he was talking about.  The other is that somebody read the written text word by word and that’s how the translators worked, which would explain why they don’t get any of the idioms.  It doesn’t explain the gaps and transpositions, so there has to be a third possible explanation out there.  I love third explanations.  I just don’t have one to hand to you.

So the Torah was fine -- now what about my punching bag, the Septuagint?
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- the end of the infinitive

So what about that thing in Hebrew that you were always taught was THE infinitive, lamed plus this thing I’m calling the aspectless gerundive?
That’s where Arabic comes in again. Arabic has an identical structure, and for centuries what follows the lam character was called subjunctive. I’ve read the explanation over and over again and I still don’t know why it was called that.
Because it doesn’t have anything to do with uncertainty about a possible future more or less vivid or emotion or any of those other nasty things that get packed into the subjunctive in Greek or Latin or French.
It means “for Xing”, which in other languages is sometimes expressed as “[in order] to X”. And THAT’S why it got labeled as an infinitive.  I’ll stop there instead of going into a rant, but if I do a reboot of these lessons, it’s going to use all different terminology so be prepared.
There seem to be two ways of using l’ plus the aspectless verb. One is when somebody states a future purpose; the other is when somebody states the purpose for an immediate action. Or maybe I’m splitting hairs. See Genesis 2:3,
וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת־יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ כִּי בוֹ שָׁבַת מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים לַעֲשׂוֹת:
“that Gd created for the purpose of making” is clumsy in English, another good reason not to translate. But it leads directly to the concept of creatio ex nihilo. Gd created (bara) lots of things ex nihilo. Why? For the purpose of using them to make the universe. That was the future purpose for them, and then all the certainty epistemic va-yar’s in the creation narrative show that this creation happened at the very start and Gd manifested each thing at a time of His choosing. Within, of course, the window of time needed so that the first Shabbat happened on time.
An example of the other use is Numbers 20:12.
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָֹה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל־אַהֲרֹן יַעַן לֹא־הֶאֱמַנְתֶּם בִּי לְהַקְדִּישֵׁנִי לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לָכֵן לֹא תָבִיאוּ אֶת־הַקָּהָל הַזֶּה אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר־נָתַתִּי לָהֶם:
This is the aspectless verb that takes suffixes and it’s possible to consider it a statement of purpose. There are two problems, however. This is something that just happened – Mosheh striking the rock instead of speaking to it. It’s outside the realm of possibility that Mosheh had a long-term purpose to sanctify Gd or not. Gd can have an eternal purpose to make the universe but Mosheh is mortal and cannot have an eternal purpose of sanctifying Gd. That’s why this is a good example of the short-term purpose behind the l’ structure.
And of course, it brings up a cultural issue about translation. It’s not possible for Mosheh to make Gd holy or unholy. Gd either is or is not holy. The verb qodesh is hardly ever used in qal, it is mostly used in piel, a transitive binyan. But in English, we can’t say “I holy you.” We say “sanctify”, which has a causative connotation.  That’s what confuses people about “sanctify” – in translations.
“Holy” in Jewish culture is always a being, not a becoming. Now go back to Exodus 19:10 where Gd tells Mosheh to sanctify the people. They were already holy; now they have to do something special showing they are holy: they wash their clothes ahead of the events at  Sinai. This issue of being instead of becoming is the reason Qorach can say in Numbers 16:3, “the people are completely holy”. It’s their eternal status.
So in Jewish culture, qidesh means to take actions that demonstrate sanctity. You qidesh Shabbat by observing its laws; you don’t determine its sanctity, which is from everlasting to everlasting, you demonstrate that you recognize its sanctity. It’s actions, not ideas or emotions.
On the other hand, we have a real hifil in this verse. That’s another cultural twist. Mosheh was supposed to speak to the rock to make Gd’s sanctity manifest to the Israelites, not to demonstrate his own recognition of Gd’s sanctity.  He didn’t, and he got into trouble for it – and there’s more to the story but that’s in Narrating the Torah.
One of the things that confuses people about what Biblical Hebrew means is that we try to think of it in terminology  that applies to Latin, not to Semitic languages and, now that I’m learning Greek, not even to all Indo-European languages.  So from now on and in the reboot if I do it, I will never say “infinitive”, I will always say “aspectless” or “gerundive” depending on the point of the usage which can be 1) to get around the connotations of the three aspects OR 2) to reflect its substantivization features.  
This is how today’s two most important Semitic languages work – Arabic and Hebrew.  You have to get out of your comfort zone to understand what they mean.  I will give more examples from here on out.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 22, 2016

DIY -- landfill footprint

So I've posted about my experiences with hankies but I forgot to tell you about another no-waste habit breaker.

I bought terry cloth kitchen towels.
I air-dry my dishes most of the time.
What I was using paper towels for was drying my hands and cleaning the house.
I was using a lot of paper towels.
I could have switched to 100% recycled paper towels and helped save 2.2 million trees, according to one website.
BUT trees had to die anyway to make the paper that was recycled into those paper towels.
AND those recycled paper towels should NOT go into your recycling bin because of the grease on them as well as other issues raised in the article.

Cloth kitchen towels, like cloth hankies, can be hand-washed.
That means you don't need to wait until you have a full load of wash before you get the funk out of them.
And they do get funky.
They take well to castile soap which, as I have said before, gets oil and grease out better than detergents do.
They can dry on an outside clothesline; you want to do this if you are handwashing the towels.
It makes no sense to avoid using a washing machine for only one towel and then use the dryer for that same towel.
So you want to have at least 2 and preferably 3 towels so you don't have to wait for that one towel  to dry.

The kitchen towels in your local store might be boring, but you can buy cotton terry cloth in a bunch of colors by the yard off the web, make your own, and add fancy ribbon that you can also buy online.
There are also websites with patterns for crocheting or knitting towels and dishcloths, which means you can make them in colorful patterns.
This is what you can get from one of my favorite sources for products and patterns.
The patterns are free, buy the fiber and, if you need them, needles and, if  you need them, free lessons on Youtube.

There are over 300 million people in the USA.
If we are sending 2.2 million trees to their deaths by not using recycled paper towels,
you do the math and find out how many trees YOU are killing just for paper towels.
I've cut my paper towel use by 80%.
A roll lasts me a couple of months but then you have a family.
Make several cloth towels in each  person's favorite color or funky design.
Get everybody used to reaching for those instead of for the paper towel roll when all they're doing is drying their hands.
Better yet, teach your kids a valuable skill by having them knit or crochet their  own.

If you have a mess on the floor and you soak it up in cloth towels, you wash  and re-use instead of sending a whole roll of paper towels to the trash.
Except for pet messes.  Pet messes need paper towels.  They also need to be put out of the house right away.
Well, anyway, look around your house and see where you are using paper towels that really shouldn't be sent to recycling, and see if you  can use cloth towels for those things.

One more thing that those of you in a relationship probably already realize.
If you're going to be the one to suggest doing this,
you have to contribute part of the labor.
Especially the maintenance part -- the washing. 
It will only mess up your relationship if you're always the one advocating these labor intensive ideas and not the one contributing any of the labor.

I'm just saying....

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 19, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Masoretic introduction

Last week I mentioned the Masoretic text, which you probably think you know about.
But in case you never heard of it, here’s what happened. Between 600 and 800 CE, soon after Talmud was put into writing, a bunch of Jewish scholars realized that written versions of Tannakh were floating around that spelled things wrong. They had two definitions of “wrong.” One was that the vowelling and use of dagesh (google it) didn’t fit Hebrew grammar. The other was that the spelling didn’t match the oral reading in synagogue, which is  related to Jewish law.  These are the things the Masoretic scholars stuck notes on, notes which persist in Jewish Bibles.
Right away this desciption reveals several  things about the state of the Hebrew language at the time.
One is that the written text was a transcription of a spoken language. I believe I said something like this before, and if I didn’t say it on this thread, I said it on the Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew thread. This has consequences that will be important several postings from now.
Another is that the Hebrew system of vowelling had developed and was being used in manuscripts propagated to the Jewish public.
Another is that there was a Jewish public who read Tannakh privately as well as in synagogue; the Masoretic scholars wanted to make sure they were getting accurate copies.
A fourth implication is that Hebrew did not assign vowel marks randomly but in response to grammatical rules. For example, there are four Hebrew vowel marks that are pronounced “a”. Each plays a role in grammar, especially when it comes to conjugating verbs. The Masoretic scholars noted every occurrence of the wrong form of “a” or its replacement by another vowel when the replacement violated grammatical rules.
Probably most importantly, when it comes to Torah, the oral reading in the synagogue always prevailed over the written version. This becomes most obvious and most important in a passage in Deuteronomy 22 where the text (with no vowels) had naar but the pronunciation shows that the meaning was naarah. It has to do with tokens of virginity, and that requires naarah which means a nonage girl, because there are no tokens of virginity in a nonage boy.
Understand that the oral synagogue readings on Shabbat use a scroll without vowels. But those who read it out loud to the congregation, know the text well enough to get the pronunciation correct because the writing in the scroll is only a representation of the Torah they have been studying since they were five years old and which was transcribed from a language that was once spoken in the street.
Finally, notice that the Masoretic scholars took a written copy of Tannakh and marked it up. They were not just correcting the pronunciation of somebody reciting Tannakh to them. They were annotating a written version in which they found deviations from the meaning of the words and from the grammar, and a tendency to deviate from the context of Jewish law and culture. And that begs a question about Septuagint.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- giving orders

Before I leave gerundives, and go on to another subject, I want to review commands and tie it in with the duplicate conditional.  I’ll refer back to this in a couple of months so go through it carefully.
We have the imperative for something to be carried out in the near term. If it is issued by somebody who has the authority, to somebody reliable, it will be carried out. Otherwise it either doesn’t happen or its effects are negated.
We have the 2nd person perfect and imperfect commandments for building the tabernacle and establishing Jewish cultural practice.
We have 3rd person imperfect and perfect commandments for rituals.  The  imperfect aspect verbs are used in the generalized envelope about the kind of ritual; the perfect aspect verbs are used for the details of the ritual that have to be completed, otherwise the ritual is unacceptable in Jewish law.   This is particularly true for the various sacrifices; if the perfect aspect verbs are not carried out, the sacrifice is not hurtsah (a word I will explain in a few lessons) and that is a bad thing. This structure may be a klal u-prat u-klal structure like the one I talked about a few weeks ago, but it  might not have a final generalization to round it off.
We have the nun-sofit verbs which can let the person off under certain circumstances, like ignorance, mistake, distraction, or forgetting.
There’s one more, it’s very rare, so there’s no wonder if you didn’t pick up on it. I have found three examples; Deuteronomy 1:16 will show you where I’m going.
וָאֲצַוֶּה אֶת־שֹׁפְטֵיכֶם בָּעֵת הַהִוא לֵאמֹר שָׁמֹעַ בֵּין־אֲחֵיכֶם וּשְׁפַטְתֶּם צֶדֶק בֵּין־אִישׁ וּבֵין־אָחִיו וּבֵין גֵּרוֹ
It’s easy to translate shamoa as “to listen”, but the previous word lemor goes with an exact quote, not an indirect quote.
Why can’t you use an imperative? Because that is for immediate action, and the judges are supposed to operate throughout the future of the Israelites.
Why can’t you use a 2nd person commandment? It’s not a general commandment to the  Israelites, just to their  judges.  It’s not about a ritual, so it can’t use a 3rd person verb.
We don’t want a nun-sofit because if the judges get up to bad behavior, we don’t want to let them off. That would bring down the whole culture: it has done so more than once throughout history, and by this time the Israelites had a lot of history under their belts.
There’s nothing left, so once again, we turn to the aspectless gerundive.
This may explain why it is used in the duplicate conditional, which is a sort of command. The imperfect half of the phrase carries the necessary connotations, but is not a command. You need something to carry the command connotation and after all the alternatives have been eliminated, you’re left with the aspectless gerundive.
So why do we have a duplicate unconditional that also uses the aspectless gerundive? Beats me.  I’ve been considering a reboot of all these lessons.  Maybe I’ll find that parallel by the time I’m done here……..  Which I'm not yet.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Outdoors -- pity the poor squirrel

Yesterday for the first time in my life I  felt sorry for a squirrel, AKA tree rat, AKA as mockingbirds know, the scourge of the  suburban world.

I almost felt  sorry for one some weeks ago. 
I was driving down my street and in the shade of a tree, plastered flat on the asphalt as spread out as he could get, was a squirrel trying to cool off.
Never mind that cars sometimes drive down the asphalt and he could get creamed at any moment.
That was one desperate little squirrel.

Yesterday, I was alerted by squealing and piping that my birdbath was in use.
I'll say.
The starlings were throwing a pool party in my birdbath, as many as a dozen of them as usual.
They were splashing and pushing and chasing each other.
Meanwhile, my poor neighbor squirrel Tigger was sitting in the shady grass near my back porch looking at the splashing water with longing.
He moved toward it, back and forth across the lawn, keeping to the shady spots.
But the shade didn't stretch the whole way to the fence where the birdbath is.
If he wanted water, he was going to have to get out into the sunlight.

For nearly a week now we have been under what the meteorologists call a Bermuda High.
I remember one in 1988 that lasted quite two weeks.
The first evening that temperatures fell below 90 before the sun went down, people came out in the streets to get some fresh air.
This one is just as bad.  Over the  weekend temps were 101 with 45% humidity --  a heat index of 115.

Yesterday was a little better, temps and humidity both coming down.
Not enough for Tigger though.  And there wasn't enough  shade on my lawn for a squirrel to keep cool in while trying to get to water.
He wasn't going to get in, you understand.
There's almost nothing a squirrel hates so much as getting wet.
Not even hot crushed peppers and safflower seed mixed with the millet in my bird feeder.
That's why I can train them to stay off the feeder by shooting them with a toy water gun.

I'll bet Tigger's  just smart enough to know that he would be cooler if he could take his pelt off and run around in his naked skin.
Anyway he looked pretty miserable.
He finally slouched away.  Maybe he can get a mouthful after dark, if he has the guts to try it.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 12, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- what does it matter?

A translator should never omit, add, or transpose verbage.
Septuagint adds verbage in some places and leaves it out in others with no apparent rhyme or reason.
The most obvious examples are in Exodus 37 and 38 with the commandments and construction of the tabernacle.
Understand that much of these chapters seems repetitive (it isn’t but you’ll want to read my book Narrating the Torah to see why), but Septuagint doesn’t simply leave out the seeming repetitions.  It leaves out parts of them, and other parts it moves to different chapters.
Some of Septuagint’s omissions undercut Jewish law.  It leaves out Deuteronomy 7:26, which prohibits bringing into a Jewish home anything dedicated to paganism.  The omission makes no sense – unless the translators thought it was politically incorrect.  But in that case, what about Leviticus 18:3ff which says not to behave like Egyptians and giving examples like incest and magic?  Egypt was famous for magic for centuries after the Septuagint was done, but these politically incorrect verses are translated in Septuagint; the Deuteronomy verse is relatively mild by comparison.
When I say transposition, I always have in mind that the translation should use good syntax in the target language.
Understand that sentence syntax varies from language to language; what makes perfectly good sense in Russian might produce unfortunate misunderstandings when translated to English, by putting an appositive phrase after the wrong substantive.  On the other hand, I did get into the opposite situation while translating the transcript of the Mendel Beilis trial from Russian to English.  The word order in the Russian created the impression that the prosecutor believed Beilis was not guilty and I preserved it into the English, then added a footnote so readers wouldn’t think I had done what I just said a translator shouldn’t do.  (Actually, the government knew before they arrested Beilis that he was innocent, because they knew who was guilty.)
Syntax is often a victim of a “literal” or word-for-word translation, another reason for readers to avoid such things.
The transpositions in Septuagint do not try to produce good syntax in Greek from good syntax in Hebrew.  One of them moves the making of the ark of the covenant from Exodus 37 to Exodus 38.  In Narrating the Torah, I go through the reasons why the cultural setting of Torah makes its arrangement in Biblical Hebrew comprehensible, and transpositions disrupt its understanding.
I’ll show in the last part of this page how omissions, additions, and transpositions invalidate a long-standing interpretation of Torah.  Clue: it’s something I haven’t laid a finger on so far.  Until then, you have a lot to learn to help you understand why it’s invalid.  Read on.
One urban legend is that Septuagint represents an older text or version of Torah than what the standard version records, but there is no support for that claim in archaeology.  When somebody mentioned this issue to me, I asked for a reference to scholarly work on the topic.  It turned out the person was thinking of Septuagint relative to the Masoretic text and that brings up another urban legend which I will discuss next week.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- Gam

This use of the aspectless gerundive comes from the fact that gerunds can be used like nouns. Gerunds bear up under substantive usage.
Gam is usually translated “also” but it really is an emphatic. It appears with substantives and their substitutes, such as pronouns and participles. It never appears with anything formed from imperfect aspect – not imperatives, not narrative past, not a duplicate conditional. Probably the best example is Genesis 31:15.
הֲלוֹא נָכְרִיּוֹת נֶחְשַׁבְנוּ לוֹ כִּי מְכָרָנוּ וַיֹּאכַל גַּם־אָכוֹל אֶת־כַּסְפֵּנוּ:
Lavan got consideration in forming the marriage contracts between Yaaqov and his wives.  Instead of setting that consideration aside to return to them in case they were divorced or widowed, he has consumed it one way or another.  Otherwise they would want  to stay in the  jurisdiction where the contract was filed so that the court with which it was filed could handle their divorce or the division of Yaaqov’s estate if he died.  They have no reason to stay,  and they say so.
Now, if this was a simple duplicate conditional, it would read akhol yokhal but that’s not what is going on here; there’s no question that the money is gone. Using gam to emphasize what has happened requires insulating it from that imperfect aspect verb. It takes an aspectless gerundive to do that. Numbers 23:25 is a more extreme example, using aspectless gerundives to insulate gam from two different imperatives which, as you know, are formed from the imperfect aspect.
The point seems to be that gam requires something currently existing, like in Genesis 27:33, gam barukh yihyeh. The participle barukh refers to the blessing that Yitschaq has already given Yaaqov, and it emphasizes that this blessing is permanent. Permansive. Stative. The imperfect aspect never captures those attributes even when it is used with a past meaning. It’s a historical thing with Semitic languages; it’s illustrated in Delitzsch’s Assyrian grammar that he wrote for Hermann Strack’s Porta Linguarum Orientalium series in the late 1800s, after cuneiform had been deciphered and translated.
So now, look at Genesis 46:4.
אָנֹכִי אֵרֵד עִמְּךָ מִצְרַיְמָה וְאָנֹכִי אַעַלְךָ גַם־עָלֹה וְיוֹסֵף יָשִׁית יָדוֹ עַל־עֵינֶיךָ:
We’re insulating gam from the certainty epistemic aalkha which, like all epistemics, is based on imperfect. This hasn’t happened yet. Yaaqov is still alive. Gam aloh, with the aspectless gerundive, ignores the timing factor completely.
Of course, from the point of view of the narrator and his audience, this has already happened. The narrator can use the certainty epistemic because if it weren’t for the coming back to the Holy Land after the oppression, the narrator and his audience wouldn’t be in the Holy Land at the point where this grammar was fixed in the record.
But Yaaqov isn’t there yet. He has 17 more years to live. He won’t die in the Holy Land, unlike his father and grandfather. Gd is reassuring him that he really will occupy his niche in Makhpelah, where he buried Leah. Gd uses gam for this, and using gam, He has to use it with the aspectless gerundive because, as I keep saying, there’s no other grammar that will work here.
This explanation also helped me with Exodus 2:19.
וַתֹּאמַרְן ָ אִישׁ מִצְרִי הִצִּילָנוּ מִיַּד הָרֹעִים וְגַם־דָּלֹה דָלָה לָנוּ וַיַּשְׁקְ אֶת־הַצֹּאן:
After I realized what the duplicate unconditional did, I puzzled for a while over why there would be one here, because there’s no Jewish law involved with drawing water. Once I figured out the grammar of gam, I could see that the daloh was the other part of the gam phrase, and the dalah was the perfect verb for something that was over by the time R’uel’s daughters came back to tell him what happened.
And now the last lesson on “infinitives”.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

I'm blowin' up!

I had a lovely message from R. Bechhofer who posted a couple  of comments here.
It explains why the blog is blowin' up today.
R. Bechhofer has a series of audio lectures on Jerusalem Talmud, a subject that has gotten less attention than its bigger cousin, Babylonian Talmud.

The text is here with  a Hebrew interface that won't give you any problems if you're really ready for Talmud.  My experience is that you'd better spend at least five years with Torah and at least another five with Mishnah before you go there.

Since Talmud is partly written in Aramaic, you  also want this.

It focuses on Babylonian Talmud but it's a start.

One of R. Bechhofer's comments in his audio lectures opened my eyes to a common feature between Jerusalem Talmud and Torah.
I'll be discussing it, Gd willing, toward the end of the blog because for me it was the final  nail in the coffin on a subject I'll get into in, keyn ahora, about a year.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 5, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Septuagint dictionary?

The fourth issue in translation is using a dictionary.  Nobody knows the full vocabulary of their first language, still less the full  vocabulary of their second or third or…  And that’s why we need dictionaries.
Archaeologists have turned up dictionaries in cuneiform relating two and sometimes three languages.  These helped them recover the relationship between Sumerian and Akkadian, for one thing, and those languages died centuries ago.
What dictionary a translator chooses and how he uses it is crucial to the quality of the translation.
If the setting of your document is a highly technical physics paper, but you use a high-school level dictionary aimed at helping a learner master the most frequent words and idioms in spoken language, you will get wrong all the technical terms that most people don’t use in conversation.  Been there, avoided that.
If the setting of your document is the 17th century, but you always choose the first entry in the dictionary as the translation of a word, you will wind up using some 21st century meanings inappropriate for the 17th century.  You might translate John Milton’s “buxom air” as “bosomy air” giving an impression that he thought of “air” as some kind of sexy goddess.
If you have a document written in slang or other highly idiomatic language, and you use a standard dictionary that ignores slang, or you try to do a “literal” translation or word-for-word substition,  you’ll wind up with garbage.  Seen it.
And finally there are the people who ignore dictionary meanings in favor of traditional ones, which may be based on any of the mistakes I have discussed in the last few posts.
It’s not at all clear that a Greek-Hebrew dictionary existed when the Septuagint was done.  Based on the results, it’s also not at all clear that the translators had access to anybody who understood Hebrew words or grammar other than superficially. 
But what is clear so far in my research, is that the people who translated from Hebrew to Greek used Greek words in ways that don’t match how they were used in the Greek classics that have survived to our days, and don’t match how Greek words were used 300 years after Septuagint was done.
And they also don’t match the simple meanings or the legal connotations of the Hebrew words.
And that is the essence of a bad translation.  But it's not the last of a translator's problems.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- aspectless action

The aspectless gerundive can also be used where we would expect a conjugated verb.
But we expect a conjugated verb because of how our language works.  Ever tried to learn Classical or koine Greek?  I’m reading Polybius right now and he uses “infinitives”  almost as often as he uses  conjugated verbs.  So manage your expectations.
There are a few examples in Torah where a normally aspectual verb carries connotations that the context won’t support. One of them is Genesis 41:43.
וַיַּרְכֵּב אֹתוֹ בְּמִרְכֶּבֶת הַמִּשְׁנֶה אֲשֶׁר־לוֹ וַיִּקְרְאוּ לְפָנָיו אַבְרֵךְ וְנָתוֹן אֹתוֹ עַל כָּל־אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם:
Let’s go through the alternatives and see why they don’t work.
If this had va-yiten, the narrative past, then we would still be enumerating how Pharaoh treated Yosef. Instead, we’re sealing off that list of examples.
If it had v’natan, that could be oblique modality, as if believing this clause depended on the truth of the other clauses. This isn’t a possible future action which the speaker is trying to convince the listener to believe in. It seals that as a result of the things done, we know that Pharaoh set Yosef over Egypt.
Genesis 41:40-43 resembles a structure in Jewish law called k’lal u-prat u-k’lal, two generalizations divided by a list of details. The generalizations are the framework of the law, sort of like perfect aspect verbs framing a narrative. The law has only been carried out if the details have been applied, somewhat like the narrative isn’t over until you know all the gory details. In this case it emphasizes the end of the specifications by using an aspectless verb.
In Exodus 7:27 and 8:11, there are more aspectless gerundives in similar situations. In the first one, we have im maen, which looks like the start of a duplicate conditional. However, using a duplicate conditional would mean there are conditions under which Pharaoh might not refuse – to let the Israelites go – and so far that hasn’t happened yet. We’re only up to the frogs and he refuses to let go until the firstborn die.
In 8:11 we have hakhbed. The verse opens with an evidentiary epistemic, which should have a narrative past after it as the evidence. However, this evidentiary epistemic is not asking for evidence; it comes after the verse about the stinking frogs, so it functions like a final certification. The next part of the verse says “because there was a respite”. Then we have Pharaoh hardening his heart, a beautifully gerundive use of this form, but if we used perfect aspect, we would be implying that he did so permanently and, according to the rest of the narrative, that wasn’t true. In this episode, Pharaoh hardening his heart is a job that a conjugated verb doesn’t work for, so it goes to the aspectless gerundive.
Next week I’ll discuss another job that only the aspectless gerundive works for.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 1, 2016

Garden -- August 2016

Read the story in Mike's article about the guy who got snookered into a poisoned lawn.

How do you avoid this?  It's not foolproof but...
If somebody tries to get you to sign a long term yard care or tree care contract, get the hardcopy.
Take it to a lawyer.
Look for a paragraph which lets you opt out of any job.
Without paying as if it had been done.
When the July or August drought comes, this means you won't have to let the contractor run a mower over grass that isn't growing.
And pay for it whether he did the work or not.
On days when he shouldn't be using the mower anyway due to bad air quality.

It's like a car.  When you take your car in for work, there should be a written form.
Somewhere on the form  it says "I DO     DO NOT authorize additional work."
If the landscape contract does not allow you to opt out of work, DON'T SIGN.

If somebody tells you your trees need work, get their business card.
Look for their state tree expert license number.
If it doesn't have one, email your State Ag agency with the name and contact info on the card.
If it does, have them provide you  with a written contract for the specific work.
That  was the mistake of the guy in Mike's article who wound up with the poisoned property.

Make the contractor provide you with a list of every chemical he plans to use.
The list has to have the street name and the chemical name.

If the EPA says a landscape chemical is carcinogenic, don't sign the contract.
Example: if somebody wants you to pay them to use Roundup  on your property,
DON'T hire them.  Monsanto is facing lawsuits from farmers with cancer whom they forced to use Roundup as part of the warranty on GMO seeds.

Now the other problem Mike talks about, the lawn care product with the illegal nitrogen content.
They will tell you anything they have to.
They will tell  you uncomposted hardware mulch is good for trees; it's not.
They will sell lawn care products that are illegal in your state.
YES, ask for their recommendation.
Make them show you the bag.
Take pictures of the numbers on the bag and the name of the product.
Look up Mike's article and also  his article on potash and phosphorus.
If the label has illegal numbers on it, email the state Department of Natural  Resources.
Send them the photos.
Send them the name of the store.
Use the store website locator to find the store number and address.
Put that in your email.
Stores selling illegal products need attention from the state DNR.

Mike has decades of experience with inexpensive ways of keeping your landscape  healthy and poison free.
Go to his You Bet Your Garden archives online, find the problem you have, and fix it.
There is no individual or company who will do things so cheaply or so poison free.
You will wind up paying more than you have to for work you didn't need done that uses illegal products or poisons your landscape, your pets, your children.
Do it yourself.
The right way.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved