Notes by Autumn Light

On Hebrew, English, translation, editing, and more—by Jonathan Orr-Stav


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What are things that should be avoided in academic writing?

[A2A] Are you seated? Then we’ll begin.

Here are some the major hazards that I tell my clients to look out for and avoid:

  • Overly verbose and latinate language
  • Non-idiomatic language
  • Ambiguous wording
  • Spiral writing
  • Mowing the lawn twice
  • Lost subject or object

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Please: parsha no more

It’s a common refrain in Jewish synagogues throughout the English-speaking world:

How would you answer this question on the Parsha

View this week’s Parsha

Family Parsha 

The Parsha Experiment – Shoftim: Is This Just A Boring Parsha?

—and it drives me (and no doubt every Israeli) around the bend every time I encounter it.

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What are some interesting Hebrew idioms or proverbs that reflect unique cultural phenomena?

[A2A]

Anything to do with military service. My favourite:

קפה באימונים- נס בקרב (Café ba’imunim—ness baqrav)

which literally means: “Coffee in training — Instant coffee in battle”, being a humourous take on the original expression:

קשה באימונים- קל בקרב (Qashé ba’imunim—qal baqrav)

meaning “Difficult in training—easy in battle”

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Did Ancient Israel have theatre?

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In truly ancient Israel (i.e., before Roman times), emphatically no.

To quote from Nurit Yaari’s forthcoming book, Between ʻJerusalemʼ and ʻAthensʼ: Israeli theatre and the classical tradition* (Oxford University Press, in press):

Theatre, as an art, a community event and a cultural institution, is entirely ‘Athens’ in nature: that is where it was first created in the late sixth century BCE, and where it acquired its form, conventions and concepts. As a visual and performative art, it is rooted in all aspects of classical Greek art—poetry, music, dance, sculpture, painting and architecture; indeed, their fusion is what gave rise to this independent and unique art form. […]

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In the Hebrew, Deut. 8:18 uses the verb for “to make atonement,” but the English translation says only “to make.” Why is this?

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Your impression that the verb לעשות means “to make atonement” is due to the definition given in Biblehub.com’s translation of that verse.

Which is surprising, because in fact it simply means “to do” or “to make” (like the French verb faire).

In this case, it is part of an expression

לעשות חיל (la’asot ḥayil)

which means “to thrive”, “to do extremely well”.

So basically it’s a mistake.


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How do you do a proper citation in a research paper?

Microsoft Word is your friend in this regard—it will help you generate the appropriate way of citing in the text, or generate References or Bibliography lists at the end. (The following instructions pertain to MS Word Mac 2011, but should be broadly relevant to all modern versions of the program:)

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