What is a Schlepper? Is it a slovenly person or a parent driving carpool? What if the driver is in their pajamas? Is that person a schleppy schlepper, or a schlepper schlepping? Some words and ideas are difficult, if not impossible to translate.
Then there is the problem of word emphasis in a sentence. Consider the joke about Mr. Cohen being caught trespassing and swimming in a farmer’s pond.
“Mr. Cohen,” the judge says, “you were caught in your boxer shorts swimming in the farmer’s pond right in front of the sign that says ‘Private, no swimming.’ How do you plead?”
“Not guilty, Your Honor.”
“Mr. Cohen, don’t waste the court’s time. You know what the sign said and I know what the sign said. Now, how do you plead?"
“Not guilty,” Mr. Cohen replies to the now-angry judge. “That’s not what the sign said, Your Honor. The sign said, ‘Private? No. Swimming!'”
As Israel defends itself against Hamas murders, I have never felt more keenly the importance of how to translate and emphasize the pronunciation of this week's Torah portion. The portion is called Lech Lecha, which is usually translated as God telling the first Jew Abraham “You go!” As in, get out of here and go to the place I will show you. But, there is another legitimate, lesser-known way to translate and emphasize the words Lech Lecha. They could just as well mean “Go toward yourself.” In other words, be true to who you are.
Now is the opportunity and now is the time to stand up, stand tall, stand proud, stand courageously, unflinchingly, unambiguously, and unambivalently for Israel, for Jews, and for Torah. This Shabbat and in the weeks and months ahead, Lech Lecha—live your truth and speak your truth, even in, especially in, the face of hatred and lies.
Love and Shabbat Shalom,