Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Elokei HaRuchot, and avoiding blasphemy in translation

Summary: Shadal is correct from a grammatical perspective of what the text of Onkelos should be, but accidental chiruf ve-gidduf due to grammatical ignorance doesn't really concern me. A short post.

Post: In the course of parashat Pinchas, when Moshe asks Hashem to appoint his replacement:

כז,טז יִפְקֹד ה', אֱלֹהֵי הָרוּחֹת לְכָל-בָּשָׂר, אִישׁ, עַל-הָעֵדָה.יְמַנֵּי יְיָ, אֱלָהּ רוּחַיָּא לְכָל בִּסְרָא, גֻּבְרָא, עַל כְּנִשְׁתָּא.

This version of Onkelos taken from Mechon Mamre. But in our Mikraos Gedolos we have a slightly different version:

The difference is that this uses the definite article, so it is a definite noun Elaka. Or, because of a general tendency to add the kametz aleph ending even when not definite, it is absolute. What is seems not to be is the construct, which is what it should be. This would simply be an error.

As Shadal writes in Ohev Ger:

Shadal says this and also adds that it is giduf ve-chiruf, because the division creates mention of Elokim and Ruchot as separate entities. While this seems to be true, this is surely accidental, and nobody would understand it that way. Rather, it is a natural mistake and development in language, in which the definite article ending is applied to each item of the pair in the construct. Just as is true in other languages. That is how it was intended and how it will be understood. I would imagine that this is not the only time this type of error occurs, and for this reason. I am not certain that this sort of natural language development, and deviation from the canonical form, while the meaning is clearly the same, would be giduf ve-chiruf, even if it indeed is unlikely to be the correct original text of Onkelos or the original grammatical Babylonian Aramaic.

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