Reading the Torah in translation, my teachers used to say, is like kissing through a veil.
Unfortunately, for many of us, this unconsummated love is as close as we can get to understanding our sacred scriptures. Opera without subtitles can be enjoyable if you know the tunes, but some familiarity with the language means that, instead of imagining the storyline, you get to appreciate the intent of the whole production.
It is the difference between reading “Peace” on a page, and knowing that ש. ל. מ. is root of wholeness and of being complete. That a bended knee ב. ר. כ. is also a pool of water and that these concepts somehow meet through the generations into ‘Praised’ or ‘Blessed’ in English.
I have two solutions for us:
1) If you want to continue getting intimate with God, the historic worship language of the Jewish people, and modern Israeli interpretations of worship through the thinnest sheen of translation, I recently was on the editorial team for a brand new Hebrew-English Israeli Reform siddur, which was just published and is now available for purchase here. There is no finer way of exploring the gender-fluid complexities of God language than through the work of Rabbis Efrat Rotem and Levi Weiman-Kelman, in their representation of ancient text and scripture for the modern international Jew.
2) To continue your life-time journey towards reading עברית (Hebrew) join us for our Hebrew Shabbaton with ELELS and Sukkat Shalom by clicking here to register. (Thank you to Melissa Davis for helping create the registration form!)
For some, Hebrew is an aesthetic element in worship, or a powerful tool because it is THE unknown. I would rather that we stretch and connect through the Hebrew Aleph-Bet, knowing that the community we build in the journey can also provide an intimate experience of spiritual connection.