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Every once in a while I feel the urge to write on the parsha of the week, and given that I'm feeling a little bit under the weather and need to compensate for my failure to attend Kabalat Shabbat services - here it goes.
This week's parsha is Chayei Sarah - The Life of Sarah
My post has more to do with my eternal internal conflict between my respect for the Ortohodox (without wanting to be Orthodox) and my failure to understand Conservatism (although that's the movement with which I affiliate myself).
This is the opening line of the parsha transliterated from the Hebrew:
Vayihyu chayei Sarah me'ah shanah ve'esrim shanah vesheva shanim shnei chayei Sarah.
On the Chabad website, the line is translated as follows:
And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; [these were] the years of the life of Sarah.
In Etz Hayim, the new standard Conservative chumash, the line is translated thusly:
Sarah's lifetime - the span of Sarah's life - came to one hundred and twenty-seven years.
Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew can see that the Chabad translation is more exact than the Eyz Hayim translation. The name Sarah clearly comes at the beginning and end of the phrase and not one time right after the other. In addition, it is obvious that a form of shana (year) is used three times, not once as in the Conservative translation.
In fact, the writing of Sarah's age as "one hundred years and twenty years and seven years" leads you to ask, why would this be written this way?", whereas the Etz Hayim translation instigates no discussion at all.
The funny thing is that Etz Hayim provides a midrash on the topic anyway as follows: Sarah retained the innocence of a seven year old when she was twenty and the beauty of a twenty year old when she was one hundred. Chabad quotes the Midrash the other way around - Sarah retained the beauty of a seven year old when she was twenty and the innocence of a twenty year old when she was one hundred. An OU website confirms the Chabad understanding.
Therefore, not only does the Conservative movement provide it's congregants with a less-meaningful, simplified translation, but the commentary it provides is totally backwards.
I imagine that the vast majority of Conservative Jews who bother to read the Chumash at all wouldn't ever notice this, but the fact that our religion is based on this book, gives me considerable pause when I hear the "we're just more modern" mantra from Conservative leadership.
posted by Howard