A tutor recently started learning Chumash with a pre-teen student, with an eye toward introducing her to nuances in the language and an appreciation of both peshat and derash approaches to interpretation. They began at the beginning of Shemot by looking at two different translations available on popular websites; the student was excited to discover that they were slightly different!
Digging deeper into the words of the text, they also checked a Hebrew-English dictionary to appreciate the similarity between the various words used to describe how the Israelite population increased in Egypt, and began to discuss possible reasons for the repetition. They talked about how someone who saw a movie they loved might use multiple adjectives in describing it to someone else, increasing the intensity of the description with every one. Of course, the choice of which adjectives to use also impacts the description, so they discussed that as well – in light of the different translations.
The student is learning Hebrew roots and seeing how the sentences fit together, and discovering – with her tutor’s guidance – how to find the questions commentators have tried to answer throughout centuries of biblical study. We’re proud to see her find her place as part of that historic process of searching out layers of meaning in the words of the Torah – and it all starts with the nuances of translation.
A Tuesday TorahTutors tidbit: real Torah, from real TorahTutors sessions.