Sunday, November 27, 2016

DIY -- New Year's

OK don't look at your scale like that.
And don't kick it either.
It wasn't your scale that put all that food in your mouth over the last five days.

And don't wait until New Year's to do something about it.
There are more foodie festivals coming and you know it.

So don't skip breakfast.
Beat up an egg.
Take some of those potatoes and mix them with the egg.
Cut up some turkey.
Get a couple of serving spoons of vegetables.
Put a little shortening in the frying pan.
Shape the potatoes into a hamburger and fry on one side.
Flip, put the turkey and veg in the pan.
Cover, turn the heat down, and let sit.
Start your coffee.
Pour your coffee, dish out your breakfast and eat.

Have a salad or other veggie dish for lunch, on a smallish plate.

Have a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts for afternoon snacks.
And one, count 'em, one cookie or piece of candy or scoop of ice cream or a small piece of cake or pie.

In between all these meals, you have things to do.
It was windy this weekend and I have leaves to rake.
Dishes to wash (I don't have a machine).
Clothes to wash, like hand-knit socks.
A new round of housecleaning to start.
Temps will be high enough for a walk to be comfortable, low enough for it to be refreshing.

Repeat every day to eat less and burn off what you do eat.
By New Year's, you will have made a habit of this.
By next New Year's, you will have lost a clothes size.
That's what I'm planning to do.
I did it last year and had to go looking through my closets for a new pair of reference pants.
I can get into them.
In twelve months I hope to be able to sit down in them without cutting off my circulation.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 25, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- bad commentaries

One urban legend about Philo, repeated in one Amazon review after another, is that his work about Torah is valuable for understanding Judaism of his period. 
OK, granted that not all the people reviewing books on Amazon are scholars of the Judaism of the period from 20 BCE to 50 CE when Philo lived.  And a sadly large number of reviewers on Amazon don’t know how to write a useful review.  But I digress.
The only thing that Philo’s work is good for is evaluating Philo.
Philo was a neo-Platonist.  He uses the catchphrases common to that group, theos logos and so on.  It would take an expert on the neo-Platonists, which I am not, to determine whether Philo goes with the flow of that stream of thought at all times.  It would take an expert on Plato, which I am not, to determine how far the neo-Platonists diverge from his ideas.
But the one thing Philo is not, is an expert on Judaism.  And the signs are the same as for Septuagint. 
He uses unsuitable words for concepts well understood in passages of Mishnah that date before his time.  He misinterprets phrases in Torah.  He lags behind rabbinical understanding of passages in Torah.  He over-specifies what Torah leaves vague. 
Philo contradicts Jewish law.  He misreports quantities of tithing.  He mis-describes sacrificial procedure.  He contradicts Torah on lending.  He misrepresents how Jewish law treats prostitutes.  He is one of the first, if not the first, to describe lo yirtsach as “thou shalt not kill,” which I discussed to death long ago.
Philo misrepresents historic context by claiming that the stones on the efod relate to the Zodiac.  First, Jews are prohibited by law from divining by the heavenly bodies.  Second, the Zodiac dates only a century before Philo’s own birth, to the work of Berosus the Astrologer (NOT Berosus the Historian, they were different people).  Philo must have known that the efod description is no younger than the time of Ezra.  Maybe he didn’t know the exact span of time, but he had the opportunity to know, if he studied Jewish history, that Ezra came before the Hasmoneans.  And in fact, tradition in Philo’s times said that the efod came from the time of the Exodus, long before Ezra.
I had a dustup on Twitter with somebody who objected to my rejection of Philo; he said that Judaism has to address contemporary issues.  I pointed out that “addressing” an issue is not the same as writing commentaries that pretend the primary document explicitly caters to an issue from an external culture that did not exist until centuries after Torah was put into writing.  The latter is what Philo did in his work, and he was wrong, and that’s why he’s irrelevant both with respect to Judaism, and with respect to the importance of Septuagint – which he disagrees with whenever it’s convenient for his program.
Which is a habit that will crop up again in the fourth part of this blog.

But that's not the only way a commentary can go wrong.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- through time

Now a lesson in diachronicity – the persistence (or not) of grammar over time. Unless you have read a large part of classical Jewish literature – or even if you have – you might not realize that one piece of Biblical Hebrew survived the Babylonian Captivity almost intact. The nun epistemic, in a slightly different format and meaning, persisted into Mishnah, Gemara, the middle ages, and later times.
I believe that’s because it was integral to the legal system, documented in over a millennium of material. The very first Mishnah has three examples. Each of them reflects some legal issue.
מֵאֵימָתַי קוֹרִין אֶת שְׁמַע בְּעַרְבִית. מִשָּׁעָה שֶׁהַכֹּהֲנִים נִכְנָסִים לֶאֱכֹל בִּתְרוּמָתָן, עַד סוֹף הָאַשְׁמוּרָה הָרִאשׁוֹנָה, דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר. וַחֲכָמִים אוֹמְרִים, עַד חֲצוֹת. רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אוֹמֵר, עַד שֶׁיַּעֲלֶה עַמּוּד הַשָּׁחַר. מַעֲשֶׂה שֶׁבָּאוּ בָנָיו מִבֵּית הַמִּשְׁתֶּה, אָמְרוּ לוֹ, לֹא קָרִינוּ אֶת שְׁמַע. אָמַר לָהֶם, אִם לֹא עָלָה עַמּוּד הַשָּׁחַר, חַיָּבִין אַתֶּם לִקְרוֹת. וְלֹא זוֹ בִּלְבַד, אֶלָּא כָּל מַה שֶּׁאָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים עַד חֲצוֹת, מִצְוָתָן עַד שֶׁיַּעֲלֶה עַמּוּד הַשָּׁחַר. הֶקְטֵר חֲלָבִים וְאֵבָרִים, מִצְוָתָן עַד שֶׁיַּעֲלֶה עַמּוּד הַשָּׁחַר. וְכָל הַנֶּאֱכָלִין לְיוֹם אֶחָד, מִצְוָתָן עַד שֶׁיַּעֲלֶה עַמּוּד הַשָּׁחַר. אִם כֵּן, לָמָּה אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים עַד חֲצוֹת, כְּדֵי לְהַרְחִיק אֶת הָאָדָם מִן הָעֲבֵירָה:
Qorin means that it’s halakhah to read the Shema. This mishnah is about the requirement to read it at night, not about an individual case that came before a Jewish court.
Chayavin means that the young men might be subject to the requirement for the nighttime reading. There’s a condition that applies – whether the dawn has begun – and the speaker (Rabban Gamliel, their father) can’t rule on the case. Why not?  There are no eligible witnesses.  He can’t do it, he’s a relative of the young  men so he couldn’t testify.  The young men can’t do it, they are parties to the case.  Also, the father can’t serve as a judge in the case, being a relative.  Supposing that dawn had not begun, the young men would be supposed to say the  Shema, but he can’t say chayavim.
Neechalin is nifal, meaning a legal ruling; a legal ruling exists that certain sacrifices have to be eaten in one day (it’s in Torah) but we’re not talking about an actual example of such a thing involved in the current case, we’re just talking about the class of things to which the legal ruling applies.
This grammar persists into the Kitsur Shulchan Arukh of the 1830s CE and appears in Midrash Halakhah (600-800 CE), Mishneh Torah (1100s CE), Caro’s Shulchan Arukh (1500s), and Shulchan Arukh ha-Rav (right about 1800).
Another example (this picks up on something I said a few weeks ago) is that, while there are ayin vav and ayin yod verb root classes in Biblical Hebrew, and peh yod, there is only one peh vav verb (viter, in only one binyan) and no lamed yod or lamed vav classes. Gelb’s grammar of Akkadian shows these forms.  Assyrian had all of these forms; Delitzsch, who wrote the basic grammar, shows that peh vav were dying out.  It’s easy to see why when you know that vav is the Hebrew version of a sound that was used at the start of verbs throughout the history of Semitic languages (whether it mean “and” or whatever). It’s easier to pronounce words if you change or suppress one of the vavs at the start.
Remember back when I discussed how some peh yod verbs drop the yod in part of their conjugation? If they drop it, they were originally peh vav verbs. You can tell by looking up their cognates in Akkadian or Assyrian (dictionaries  for these languages are available online). If they don’t drop it, they weren’t peh vav verbs (or they don’t have a cognate).
So yada, which drops the yod in imperfect, was a peh vav verb in Akkadian and Assyrian. So were yakhal, yaval, yalad, yashav, yarad, yaqar, yaraq, and yatsa. Not true of yatsar or yashar.
And no other Semitic language has the lamed heh verb root class, it’s only in Hebrew. Aramaic verbs that look like this have been adopted from Hebrew, as Jastrow’s dictionary shows, but non-borrowed verbs are lamed yod or lamed vav. In other Semitic languages, the cognate to a Hebrew lamed heh verb, is either lamed yod or lamed vav.
I let this post run on because it’s not crucial to understanding Torah, it’s just to expand your mind a little. Most of Hermann Strack’s Porta Linguarum Orientalium and Clavis Linguarum Semiticarum are available online for free and some are still useful. Use your search engine on the titles to find a list of them. Maybe you will discover your inner Assyriologist!

Almost there!
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Knitting -- pullover redux

After some searches on my own blog, I can't find the complete instructions.
This is for Wool of the Andes worsted.
Chest: 40 inches.
Arm length: 20 inches.
Wrist: 7 1/2 inches around.
Neck goes over a head which needs a 7 1/2 size hat.

Using US size 5 circular needles with 24 inch tether:
Put on a slip stitch with a 6-7 inch tail.
Cable on 200 stitches.
For 8 rows, k2/p2 rib.
Switch to US size 7 circular needles with 24 inch tether.
For 90 rows, knit in the round.
At each underarm, put 10 stitches on holders; I tend to use a doubled-over length of a thinner yarn and loop the free ends through.
I center the underarms on the starting slip stitch  on one side and then, of course, halfway around to the other side.
Replace those 10 stitches with 10 cast-ons (not cable ons).
For 55 rounds, knit the armholes BUT
For rounds 1-3
after the underarm, K1, K2TOG
knit to the other armhole minus 3 stitches
slip a stitch, knit 1, PSSO, knit 1
knit across the armhole

For rounds 4-55, knit and don't decrease at the armhole.
Turn inside out and knit together 23 stitches at one shoulder.
Turn right side out and knit to other shoulder.
Repeat the knitting together at the other  shoulder.
Turn right side out.
Change to US size 7 circular needle with 16 inch tether.
Start k2/2 rib for 4-6 rows.
Bind off in rib.
Cut a 6-7 inch tail and sew the neck edge even with a tapestry needle.
Sew the bottom hem even with a tapestry needle.
Use duplicate stitch to fill gaps  in where the shoulders join the neck ribbing.

Using US size 7 circular needles with a 16 inch tether, move stitches from the holder to one of the needles.
Put a slip stitch on the other  needle, knit the first stitch and pass the slip stitch over.
Now knit up the other 10 stitches of the under arm.
Cut up the middle of the armhole (the "steeking" to use a Fair Isle term).
Using a US size 4-6  crochet needle,
for every stitch around the armhole,
pick up yarn from the back to the front of the fabric and put it on your circular needle.
At the top of the shoulder pick one stitch through at the seam before continuing through the rest of the armhole.
Knit the first five stitches at the underarm.
Put a marker thread so you can do the decreases precisely in line.
Knit two rounds.
Knit 1, K2TOG, knit around to the underarm minus 3 stitches, slip stitch, K1, PSSO, K1.
Repeat the last two steps until you have knitted 84 rounds from the underarm.
Work your  marker thread in and out at the midpoint between the two K1s to keep track of where you put decreases.
Switch to US size 7 double point (sock) needles, at least 7 inches long, using 3 to hold stitches and knitting with  the 4th.
Knit 3 rounds and then decrease on the 4th round.
When you reach a total of 132 rounds from the underarm, count the stitches left on your needles.
You need 56 for your cuff.
If you have more than 59, do another 4 rounds and a decrease.
Then K2TOG as many times as needed for the 56 stitches of the cuff.
Do k2/p2 rib for 8 rounds on the cuff.
Bind off in rib.
Cut a 6-7 inch tail and sew the cuff edge even with a tapestry needle.

Wash, block and wear.
Working 6 hours a day, I can make a pullover in 2 weeks.

My back is about an inch shorter than normal, I learned that sewing tops for myself years ago.
The hem of this pullover sits a little below my hip bones when I stand and meets the back of my slacks when I sit.
I like  my sleeves a bit long; the cuffs get pushed over my wrists against my hands and I feel warmer.
YMMV; adjust the length accordingly.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- our first commentary

We still don’t know why it was important for Brenton to translate the Septuagint into English. You might think it was because Septuagint was important to Christianity – but Jerome realized in the 400s CE that the Septuagint was a bad translation from Hebrew.
Clement and Justin Martyr (100s CE) don’t quote from Septuagint. They say things that sound like Septuagint, but aren’t; as with Qumran, they are Greek versions of scriptural material, but they are not the version Brenton "translated".  Clement and Justin were trying to use Plato and other Greek writers to prove the value of Christianity to people who read classical Greek authors; the audience didn’t read Septuagint and quoting it would have meant nothing to them.
Then there’s Origen’s Hexapla. This collected six different Greek versions of Torah, with notes on the differences between them. Only the notes survive; in Field’s version (which is online), they are collated with the Septuagint to show what Origen was thinking about. Apparently the Hexapla wasn’t important enough to preserve intact.
Translators claimed to go back to Hebrew with both the English and French Geneva Bibles of the 1500s CE, and the King James Version, and so on. But since none of them had the faintest idea of modality or the other features of Biblical Hebrew known to 21st century linguistics, they actually translated in accordance with the received knowledge about Hebrew. That includes mistranslations like Ohozath in Genesis, as well as “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14, and “and.”
As long as people read translations – of ANY work – they are vulnerable to the carelessness, ignorance, and even willful errors of translators. As long as people claim to be experts when all they know are translations, so long will these people generate urban legends or cling to them. These incorrect translations play a role in almost every urban legend documented on this blog.
So if translations, which pretend to come straight from the primary document, cannot give good results, what chance do commentaries have, especially if they take their stand on translations? That’s what we’re about to find out when we look at Philo.
The first urban legend about Philo says that he used Septuagint. That’s a bad thing. However, his relationship to Septuagint is not one of unqualified faithfulness to the Greek. In particular, in his essay On Dreams I, lines 216-218, he discusses Lavan’s bargain with Yaaqov over the colors of sheep and goats. Philo uses some terms Septuagint doesn’t have and uses other terms the opposite of how Septuagint uses them. So when his commentators claim that such and such a phrase in Philo comes from the Septuagint, it better be exact in text and meaning, and somebody would do the world a real service by totting up how often that happens. Then they ought to compare it to how often the commentators cite to Septuagint when Philo doesn’t really quote from it. I would not be surprised if Philo says things that sound like Septuagint but aren’t.
But that doesn’t mean Philo’s commentary is useful for anything else but understanding Philo, as I am about to show.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- aspect and law

When you have learned trop, you will learn how to punctuate Biblical Hebrew and the meaning of lots of verses will get clearer. Now I’m going to whip you back to aspect again and show you how the relationship between Torah and Mishnah, the basis of Talmud, gets clearer.

In Midrash Halakhah Sifre on Leviticus, the introduction gives 13 principles used in Jewish courts to help judges make decisions. They are attributed to Rabbi Yishmael who was martyred by Hadrian about 132 CE, but most of them were known to R. Hillel the Great over a century earlier.

One of them, qal va-chomer is called a fortiori in western legal systems. If somebody does X and gets punishment Y, then if somebody else does 2X the punishment ought to be 2Y.

Where aspect comes in is tort laws and rituals.

Most tort laws like Exodus 21:18 start with an imperfect aspect verb; this is an action which the law knows happens sometimes and has decided is worth paying attention to because it has had bad consequences enough times not to be accident or coincidence. In this case, it’s y’rivun which you also know is an uncertainty epistemic; we’re supposing that the fight is intense enough for the law to get involved.

Such an opener is usually followed by a perfect aspect verb, in this case hikah. As soon as hikah happens, the fighting men become subject to the law. When the hittee nafal (perfect aspect) onto his bed, the laws of damages for battery kick in.

In the 13 forensic principles, this is a k’lal u-prat, a generalization followed by details. There are also cases where the details come first and then the generalization. The details govern what happens, but the k’lal in imperfect aspect defines what area of torts we are talking about.

The same is true for sacrifices. Ki taqrivu using the imperfect is followed by things like zevach shlamim which distinguish the rules from those applying to a sin offering. Then follow perfect aspect verbs about what parts of this zevach belong to the owner or how long he has to consume them.

And finally, there is the k’lal u-prat u-k’lal, ein atah dan elah k’eyn ha-prat. This is in Deuteronomy 14:22 where a string of imperfect verbs in the k’lal identify that in general, the distance to the tabernacle might be so far that food would rot on the way. Verse 23 starts with a sequential natatah and then there are perfect verbs about what to do with the money. Verse 26 opens with another sequential natatah and includes a string of nouns detailing what to spend the money on and then there’s an imperfect aspect tishalkha, what your “soul” asks you for. That generalization seals off the list of permissible things. It is followed by a perfect aspect akhalta. In other words, this money has to be used for food and drink. If you use it for hotel bills, you’ve violated the law. You have to bring other money along for that.

When you can recognize the aspects, the aspectless, the agentless binyanim, the punctuation of trop, and the use of et, then you can see how these things play out in Mishnaic legal formulas. It shows that Jewish law, like other common law codes, is much less haphazard than you might think.

Jewish classical literature is comprehensible, but most people have to leave their comfort zone to understand it for what it is: the record of JEWISH ideas backed up by Torah and the rest of Tannakh, which are recorded in the ANCIENT Jewish language and not in something that westerners have mis-labeled and misdescribed for centuries.

Speaking of centuries...

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 13, 2016

I'm just saying -- rating social media

So now I'm almost fully invested.

Blogger:  4 stars.  Google and Microsoft have settled some of their differences and now, as you have seen, I can post pictures, something I couldn't do after Nov. 2014.

Spotify: 4 stars.  Some of the functions are hard to figure out from the instructions but once you figure them out, they work.

Google+: 0 stars.  Our models of what we want social media to do are exactly opposite.  If you're following me on Google+, you'd be better off following me on Twitter or, since it appears to be merger bait, on Facebook or Blogger.

Pinterest: 0  stars.  Another "exactly opposite".  Clue for Pinterest users: when I google something, I  filter out or ignore every link from Pinterest.  It won't let you look at anything unless you have a Pinterest account.  There are enough websites that have non-Pinterest alternatives and offer info I want, that Pinterest has NO interest for me.

Facebook: 2 1/2 stars.  I'd be happier with Facebook if their help topic contents had kept up with how pages actually work. Everything I've used the Help function with, the instructions tell me to look for things that don't exist.  For example, when it tells you to right-click, fuhgeddaboudit.  You get the normal IE right-click menu. 

I'm also disturbed by the stupid stuff that FB expects its customers to suck up.   From bad security to an email dirty trick, and now being suckered into posting death messages for users who aren't dead, FB is behaving immaturely.

On FB I'm only posting links to Blogger, not full-up Blogger posts, because I can't find the Facebook instructions on how to control comments and I have no intention of feeding trolls and trash. 

The FB model of protecting copyright seems to force you to identify groups first.  I'm getting readership from all over the world, and I want it that way, so identifying groups is nonsense.

Twitter: 4 stars FWIW.  This helped me increase pageviews by putting out "ads" in a separate forum.  The text limitation hasn't hurt me; if I really want to let loose, usually on a news article, I go to the article.  They usually allow comments.  Twitter's biggest problem right now is fangirl bullies and trolls who need to be blocked until they grow out of it.  If ever.

Now that Blogger's photo links have been fixed, Blogger wins hands down.  I don't allow comments from anonymous readers, and I can turn moderation on and off at the flick of a button if the others get out of hand.  Then I have the function for deleting trash comments, which is legal for non-government bloggers to do. 

Lesson for using social media: know what you're after.  Social media can ruin your brand lickety split unless you know what you have to do to protect yourself and invest the time.

Case in point.  What was formerly the best news outlet with the widest interest and reach in the D.C. region, has slowly been turning into a victim of its own IT department.  The IT department loaded the articles with flashy trashy video nonsense that had nothing to do with the article.  The videos chewed up so much bandwidth that it was difficult to read the articles let alone comment.  Comments dropped off except for the dedicated crazy people who, having no lives, were the only ones with the time to waste. 

So the moderators were working overtime and there were still abusive, threatening posts, trolls and spam.  And the bean counters decided to put a stop to that.  They have switched completely over to Facebook with no moderation.  Instead of the moderators not being able to keep up with the crazy people, there will be nothing but crazy people. 

Another news outlet gets crazy people but there's a link to their help department.  In  recent attempts  of crazy people to eliminate comments they didn't like, it was possible to tell the help department what to watch for and the craziness was halted.  After that the discussion continued undisturbed. 

And finally there are still people, years after social media was invented, who don't realize that
a) they never know who their readers are distributing their info to  and
b) just  because they delete something so they can't see it, doesn't mean it automatically disappears everywhere. 
I have had to teach somebody I know that anything posted on FB can make its way to where it can ruin a career.  It never happens immediately; Murphy's Law says  it will always wait until it does the most damage. 

I'm just saying...

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- "how did they translate..."

Because you should be asking a question, one that I’ve heard before.
How do Jews translate that pesky vav?
Wrong question.  Biblical Hebrew was once a living language spoken on the street.  That ended about 500 BCE.
The people who spoke Biblical Hebrew didn’t translate it.  They understood the source of all the later translations, in the context of how they used the same words and grammar, in similar situations, when they spoke to family, friends, business associates, and courts.
They didn’t think of vav as “and”. “And” is an English word and they are not reading English.  English didn’t exist at the time.  English became an official language in England between 1362 when King Edward III decreed that legal proceedings should be written in that language instead of Latin or Anglo-Norman, and about 1413 when the Chancery Standard made it the language of official government.
The Septuagint translators never spoke Biblical Hebrew; the Septuagint dates after 300 BCE.  They probably didn’t know any Semitic language.  By their time, Alexander had made all the parts of his empire a commonalty that spoke koine Greek.  The Septuagint translators knew of “and” (kai) in their language, and since vav sometimes works as a conjunction, they translated it that way everywhere it appeared as a prefix.  This suggests that they didn’t even consult experts in Biblical Hebrew; Deissman makes a similar point, as I already said.   But remember that understanding Biblical Hebrew at the time did not rest on lessons in grammar analysis; the subject didn’t exist.  The oldest surviving (agh, that word again) book on the grammar of Greek itself was written in the 300s CE by a Roman.  And he  was trying to teach people who spoke Greek to read Latin; he only referred to Greek grammar as an analogy.  Nobody analyzed Biblical Hebrew while  it was the street language, and when analysis did take place, it was on the basis of comparison to Latin and using Latin terminology.
Things didn’t improve much for centuries, until the rediscovery  of ancient Semitic languages like Akkadian.  In the 20th century tools developed to provide absolute dates for the cultures that spoke them, and so did objective ways of examining the relationships between the languages.  In the 21st century we are starting to throw off the shackles of outmoded ways of analyzing languages by looking into how they function in relation to how people think, as opposed to slapping familiar labels onto them.
The label you slap on morphology doesn’t define its grammatical function.
The translation you use for a word doesn’t define its meaning.

So if translations are such a problem, what about commentaries?
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- "pausal forms"

And now that problem about trop. There’s an old concept called “pausal forms”.
Trop generally consist of disjunctive and conjunctive forms. The disjunctive ones divide verses. Etnach is one of them; so is sof pasuk, the trop at the end of a verse.
The conjunctive trop, conversely, mark sets of words that are included together as a subunit of a verse. Conjunctive trop, for example, are used with the words or phrases emphasized by et when it takes the vowel tseire.
The pausal forms concept says that disjunctive trop are associated with anomalous word forms. That is, the anomalous word forms in Torah appear where there are disjunctive trop.
Modern computerized tabulation shows this isn’t so. The so-called anomalous forms appear sometimes with conjunctive trop. It’s also true that not all occurrences of disjunctive trop are assigned to anomalous forms.
Now that you know more about Biblical Hebrew, you should be asking what words are called anomalous in Torah?
For example, Gesenius once categorized the word maen in Exodus 7:27 as a piel present tense that for some reason had been written without the usual prefix of mem. Surely that ought to qualify as an anomaly. Now that you know, however, that it’s an aspectless verb, used in a place which doesn’t suit an aspected verb, you know it’s not anomalous.
Likewise, since Gesenius said that the Jews didn’t know why they put nun sofit on the ends of some verbs, those ought to be anomalies. You know differently.
I’ve been going through Torah word by word for a couple of years now, digging into new concepts. I’ve kept track of words that really seemed to be anomalous. Out of about 80,000 words in Torah, I’ve come up with maybe 200 that are anomalous – not just “hapax legomena”, like mesheq used of Avraham’s servant, but grammatically different and impossible to analyze into any of the binyanim or other forms we use now, and with no clear pattern of use.
Now, it’s entirely possible that Torah has some words that are scribal errors, that the Masoretic scholars didn’t pick up on and include in their notes, but I doubt it.
Given that the ancestors of the Jews started developing Hebrew by 2000 BCE (which I will soon discuss on the Fact-Checking page), it’s more than likely that they had ways of saying things that were perfectly meaningful to them, not at all anomalous in the context of a millennium and a half of vernacular – but which turned up only once in the written record. It’s analogous to Axel Olrik’s recognition that in the history of any ethnic group, their narrators might have told any number of stories over their fires in caves and tents and huts – but a relatively small number survived the centuries to be put into writing.  (I’ll discuss that next year on the Fact-Checking page.)
With the apparent anomalies in Biblical Hebrew, we might be looking at something as rare in the spoken language as pual is in Torah, but with just as distinctive a function – and we can’t tell what that function is because we only have one example.
The source for the concept of “pausal forms” was probably Arabic, which does have pausal forms.  What have I been saying for 15 lessons, about westerners transferring terminology used for one language, to another where it turns out to be invalid? Well, this one got itself into a muddle and 200 years later, it is just now getting straightened out.
Bottom line: “pausal forms” is an antiquated notion based on an outdated understanding of Biblical Hebrew and invalid transfer of terminology. The seemingly anomalous forms in Torah might be examples of word forms that used to be well understood when the language was used every day on the street – but which we can’t understand now because all we have is the written record, and it doesn’t give us enough data to identify meaning.

One more point of actual grammar.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Watching history happen

No, not the US elections.   The Brexit thing.  A Yank's view.

So first, the polls were run the way polls have been run for decades and Britain found out that the theory behind polls is nonsense.  The results are shaped by how the questions are expressed and who is contacted, and if either one is skewed, the outcome of the vote will be the opposite of the answer in the polls. The voters vote on their concept of what the referendum says, not on the pollsters' concept.

Second, the government (Cameron) resigned.  This is not how things usually happen in Britain.  Usually a government resigns when it is defeated on a Parliamentary vote, or the margin of victory is so narrow that the future of the program depending on that vote is bad. 

General elections, not referenda, usually return a majority in a given party and the leader of that party becomes Prime Minister.  Without a majority, it is possible to form a coalition to keep government operating, but that is a creaky way to go about things.  It takes a real disaster to make a British coalition government work well: WWI, the Depression, WWII.  Cameron ran a coalition  government and we all know how that ended.

No general election has been held since the referendum; the  next scheduled one is May 2020.  At the moment only one of the 650 Members of Parliament belongs to UKIP, the party that promoted Brexit.  86% of the  members belong to the Conservative and Labour parties. The Scottish National Party has 54 MPs; the majority in Scotland voted against Brexit, giving more fuel to the Scottish independence movement.  If all the parties with fewer members than SNP formed a coalition with UKIP, UKIP would still have fewer votes than SNP.    If there was a general election and the UKIP member lost his or her seat, there would be nobody in Parliament representing the May government.  That's not just unsatisfying, that's constitutionally questionable in Britain.

A new problem has cropped up.  A Conservative MP who was in favor of Brexit has resigned his seat.  He can no longer vote for Brexit or any other government program.  This doesn't just mean one less potential vote for Brexit in Parliament.  He might have been paired with a Labour or other MP who was against Brexit.  Pairing lets one or both of them be absent when a vote is taken; the one who is present abstains from voting.  Now the party whips have to find another pair for the remaining MP of the pair.  How many pro-Brexit MPs are not already paired off?  How much shuffling has to be done due to this resignation -- and many people will be displeased by the results of the shuffle?  And in any case, there's an even bigger problem.

The UK equivalent of SCOTUS has just said wait a minute.  Governments do not run on popular referenda.  They run on Parliamentary votes.  Parliament has never voted on this.  Until it does, Brexit is not a done deal. 

If the May government stands in the way of a Parliamentary vote or ignores adverse results, it goes against all of British history for the last 400 years.  The reason Charles I was executed was to make it clear that the monarch doesn't control taxes, Parliament does.  George V was forced to make so many peers early in his reign to make it clear that the Lords doesn't control government spending, the Commons does.  It is not possible for any British government to carry out its programs with only a single MP of its own party because there's only one vote guaranteed in favor.  (Vote against your party and you cut your political throat.) 

The High Court also pointed out that the Brexit referendum was never legally binding; it was always only advisory in nature.  This is the same situation as referenda in the US and also legislatural votes.  People get emotional about an issue or it might be politically useful to vote a certain way, but it might be an embarrassment to the country in the sight of the world and it also can be unconstitutional.  That's why SCOTUS was right to overturn DOMA just as it was right  to overturn Jim Crow laws.  For the May government to say that the High Court is wrong, shows that they are not capable of supporting the British constitution any more than they are capable of running British foreign policy or economics.  In fact May has appointed a racist to be Foreign Minister and hate crimes are increasing in Britain, formerly a model of toleration.  And we all know about the drop in value of the pound, as well as the recent tussle between the May government and "the  Old Lady of Threadneedle Street".   

So the May government using the referendum to argue that it has a right to act is useless.   The basis for representative democracy is that there is always somebody somewhere who wakes up only when personally impacted and says "I didn't vote for that."  Democracy is not about catering to every citizen.  Societies are not formed by catering to every member.  Every society defines its own norms and has a way of dealing with people and situations outside the norm.  The norm in British representative democracy is that, as the representatives of the British people, Parliament has to cast the deciding votes on government programs. 

The pro-Brexit organization failed to make that clear to their adherents -- or the  pro-Brexit voters ignored it -- or they forgot it -- or it was useful to bury this detail to get the votes.

Now the people who didn't get the memo are becoming violent against the judiciary.    The British are not yet used to having an independent justice system; it used to part of the Lords and therefore part of Parliament.  It is not a perfect system, but it does reinforce the constitution, even when the constitution was never written down as in Britain.  Under the old system, this violence would have been perpetrated against the Lords -- shades of Guy Fawkes!!!  (Yesterday was Guy Fawkes Day in Britain.)  Regardless of the target, it is terrorism, not democracy.  It is banana republic behavior, not worthy of Britain.

The May government is not entitled to act on the Brexit referendum; everything adds up to that.  They are not entitled to stay in position; there will come a day when the British voters throw them out as they have thrown out previous governments, even that of the famous Winston Churchill.  So any whining about  the High Court decision is just that: whining.  Whining should not be tolerated.

It ain't over until the Mother of Parliaments sings... or votes...

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 4, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Modal continuity

The other thing we discover by understanding 21st century grammar for Biblical Hebrew, is cultural continuity. One of the modals Dr. Cook discusses morphs for use in later writing of the same culture.
This nun-final modal appears in Torah in Avraham’s negotiation with Gd over the cities of the plain (Genesis 18:17ff), which happened about 2350 BCE. Five times he uses the nun-final form, which Dr. Cook defines as an uncertainty epistemic; it shows that Avraham isn’t claiming that he absolutely knows there are less than 50 righteous people on Sodom, he’s saying “just supposing?”
This form appears throughout Tannakh. It’s in the rest of Torah; it’s in Ruth and Samuel (in feminine gender!); it’s in Yeshayahu and Yermiyahu; it’s in Yehezqel.
After the Babylonian Captivity, a slightly different version of the nun-final form shows up over and over again in both Mishnah and Gemara. Why? The very first Mishnah is a perfect test case.
First, Mishnah Brakhot 1:1 says “From what time are they supposed to read the Shema.” “Read” is this nun-final version, qorin. This is not a commandment  to read the Shema (that it is required in Jewish law is a given here), qorin means something that is supposed to happen, along with the fact that it is supposed to happen at a specific time.
Second, a rabbi’s sons come to tell him they haven’t read the Shema yet; have they violated Jewish law? He says “maybe,” chayavin. Why does he use this morphology? Because, as the complete paragraph shows, he is only supposing they did wrong. He probably doesn’t have two colleagues with him so as to constitute a court that can rule on the subject for sure, leading to a penalty.  (And he’s a relative who can neither testify in nor judge the case.)
Third, the Mishnah continues with a reference to ha-neekhalin, things that are supposed to be eaten by priests from the sacrifices. Again, this might not happen, and  the rest of the statement gives a timing issue related to the timing of reading the Shema.
The nun-sofit form is used to report what the law says.  When Mishnah reports the facts of the  case, in the story about the rabbi’s sons, it uses what we think of as the “normal” masculine plural endings, for something that actually happened.
The nun-sofit form appears in Midrash Halakhah about the time of the Muslim conquest;
in Mishneh Torah by Maimonides during the Crusades;
in Shulchan Arukh by Caro in the Renaissance;
in R. Shneur Zalman of Liady’s Shulchan Arukh ha-Rav in the Enlightenment;
and in Shlomo Ganzfried’s Kitsur Shulchan Arukh in early Victorian times.
They all use it the same way Mishnah does, and they use it when they are not quoting from Mishnah.
This has consequences far beyond proving what a bad translation Septuagint is, but that goes in another part of the blog so for now, I will move on to something else.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- punctuation

I’m almost done but I want to cover two more features. I mentioned the trop on et a few lessons ago; “trop” are marks guiding cantillation of the Tannakh.  To understand this section, get familiar with this page
and the table here
The important column in the table is named “Shape”.
You can see the text marked up with the trop here and also listen to it.
You can copy this text off and paste it into Word for study but you can’t download the audio.
It’s also on the Mechon Mamre site but it’s not as neat.
In the war against “and”, the important mark is the bottomless triangle called etnach.  It marks the main division inside a verse.  It’s not in every verse.
When I rewrote Narrating the Torah based on Dr. Cook’s dissertation and replaced all the “and”s that represent a vav of narrative past, oblique modality, and so on, with an accurate translation, I still had a lot of “and”s  in there, mostly inside the verse instead of at the start.
So I went back through it and found that a lot of the “and”s coincided with the etnach in that  verse, and usually were part of a narrative past.  In most of those places (maybe 70%) I replaced the “and” by semi-colon and not only did the verses still make sense, they made better sense.  (I used colon in some places with the same result.)
So then I checked the trop in other places, and behold! Punctuating in coordination with the trop, made better sense in English. 
I haven’t learned to sing it.  (You don’t want me to sing it.  You really don’t.)  What I’m saying is what that first link says; trop are a method of orally punctuating the material to mark changes in thought, separation of phrases, and important words.  Punctuation is just as important to the meaning of Biblical Hebrew as it is to English, and that’s what trop is – punctuation.  Looking at the trop is a last resort when you have tried everything and the verse still doesn’t make sense.
But if I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now.  There is no such thing as a perfect translation.  No two languages have words for all the same concepts because no two language record identical cultures.  Every culture has concepts that mark it off from all the others.  No two languages express the same features using the same grammatical structures – they don’t all have the same cultural nuances requiring special grammar. 
Translating is always tricky because it’s easy to make mistakes; it’s complicated because you can’t do a word-for-word substitution and get the idea across accurately.  That’s part of why I did this page on the blog.  I wanted people to understand that understanding Torah requires understanding it in Biblical Hebrew to avoid all the mistakes and complications of translations.  And as I hope I’ve suggested in the discussions, sometimes understanding requires understanding the entire culture,  not just isolated words.  Go to the Fact-Checking part of the blog and start reading at about post #130, called Lost  in Translation; it starts a section about translations and commentaries that makes this same point from a different perspective. 
It’s up to you.  How close to the meaning do you want to get?

One more thing about trop and we're almost done.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved