Notes by Autumn Light

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

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Is there any difference between the pre-exile Biblical Hebrew and post-Exile Biblical Hebrew?

Hugely, yes.

Post-Exile (First Exile, that is—in Babylon), Hebrew was flooded with Aramaic words and expressions, as the returning Judeans sought to introduce the sophistication of the prestigious and cosmopolitan Babylon, where they had lived for over three generations, into the provincial backwater of their ancestral land, where only poor and barely literate Judeans (“none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land”—II Kings 24:14) had remained after the Babylonian conquest some 75 years before.

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Why does God in the Bible at first harden the heart of the pharaoh and then punishes him for not letting Jews go?  

[A2A] Because He was putting on a show, to demonstrate to the Hebrews* and other nations that He is the greatest—nay, the only—God.

This was, if you like, God’s comeback performance (His first since the Flood), so he was intent on making a big impression. And what greater impression could there be than to beat up and humiliate the most powerful kingdom in the known world at that time?

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Why are there so many unemployed immigrants in Canada, despite being a country that complains of a lack of professionals?

Because Canadian employers are particularly fearful of accepting the qualifications of anyone trained overseas (with the possible exception of medical doctors trained in the US or the UK).

This makes a mockery of the federal government’s professed interest in attracting highly-skilled immigrants, and means that experienced heart surgeons work as nursing assistants, or professors of economics work as taxi drivers.

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Is the Torah the first example of the blockchain—since the Torah says every male must write his own copy of the Torah?

And once copies are disseminated, it’s increasingly hard to make additions or changes without consent of the supermajority


Interesting question—to which the answer is:

  • Yes, the Torah might be said to be record of a covenant (agreement), and
  • Yes, it is widely disseminated and cannot be unilaterally changed by anyone—but
  • No, for the simple reason that a blockchain is a record that is continuously added to by its users—whereas the Torah was authored once (be it by Moses—per traditional belief—or rabbinical sages in the early Second Temple), and has since been immutable.


When did the term “Jews” come to refer to the Jewish people as opposed to “Israelites” or “Hebrews”?


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With the fall of the (northern) kingdom of Israel and the scattering of its population by the Assyrians in 722 BCE, when Judea became the sole sovereign Israelite entity.

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