Notes by Autumn Light

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


1 Comment

What does “Havah” in “Havah Nagilah” mean?

screen-shot-2013-11-24-at-1-44-50-am

Havah means “Let us”; nagilah is a rather old-fashioned and literary way of saying “we shall rejoice”—together, they mean “Let us rejoice.”

Continue reading

Advertisements


1 Comment

So long Genesis, hello Exodus: the SimHebrew Bible

Imagine a Latin text—e.g. the first verse of the Latin Vulgate Bible:

In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram Terra autem erat inanis et vacua et tenebrae super faciem abyssi et spiritus Dei ferebatur super aquas.
Most of us don’t know Latin, but at least we can read it, and guess at the meaning of some words—or look them up.

Continue reading


2 Comments

What are the rules for making an nationality adjective out of a country name?

This is a wonderful illustration of how, when it comes to language, there is only one hard-and-fast rule: UISS-IWC-MINS (Unless It Sounds Silly–In Which Case, Make It Not So)—or UISS, for short. The rest are all guidelines.

Continue reading


3 Comments

If you really want to understand the Old Testament, should you read it in ancient Hebrew?

You can get most of the gist of the Hebrew Bible without knowing biblical Hebrew, but you would lose out on many subtleties—such as:

  • The meaning of names
  • Hebrew cognates (related words)
  • The brevity of biblical Hebrew
  • Poetic structures

In detail:

Continue reading


2 Comments

What is the real meaning of the Hebrew word ‘hesed’ in the Bible?

23052017120623_12119111912

An excellent question, because the agonizing and linguistic contortions surrounding this word among non-Hebrew speakers have always puzzled me.

The traditional translation—lovingkindness—is totally inapt on several grounds: it’s a made-up word, cloyingly sentimental, semantically wrong, and rhythmically horrible, wreaking havoc on the meter of any verse in which it is present.

Continue reading