Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New Blessing Words--Lost or Found in Translation

היום ארבעה ועשרים יום שהם שלשה שבועות ושלשה ימים בעמר
Today is twenty-four days--that is three weeks and  three days--of the omer
תפארת שבנצח
A day of compassion in a week of perseverance

In the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's prayerbook, Sim Shalom, the formula for blessing,
. . . ברוִך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו
Baruch atah Adonai elohainu melekh ha-olam asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu . . . 

is translated as "Praised are You Adonai our God, who rules the universe, instilling in us the holiness of mitzvot by commanding us . . .

Whatever issues I have with the translations in this siddur, this prayerbook, this isn't one of them. It's certainly an improvement over the previous siddur, which read:

Praised are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us . . .

They are both literal translations, with the newer one working to deal with the issue of gender and hierarchy that are inherent in the Jewish prayer language that was written in a gendered language in a patriarchal society. I appreciate Adonai instead of Lord; who rules instead of King, instilling holiness instead of sanctifying. It definitely allows for a more inclusive prayer space.

This year, USCJ released a new siddur, Siddur Lev Shalem, It's based on the new Machzor, High Holiday prayerbook they released some years ago, Machzor Lev Shalem.

I haven't davened, prayed, with the new prayerbook yet, but in scanning through it, the translations I've seen are an improvement. Of course, there will always be those who are dissatisfied. And I have a feeling the new translation for blessings will be a target for that dissatisfaction--although I not from me. The new translation reads:

Barukh atath Adonai, our God, sovereign of time and space, who had provided us with a path to holiness through the observance of mitzvot and instructed us to . . .

I'm glad the "commandment" word(s) are gone--it has such an overbearing feel. I think the most controversial wording will be "time and space" instead of "universe." I once used that in a Haggadah, the booklet of the Passover seder, that I wrote, and one of the participants loudly complained, "That's not what it says!" I replied, "it does in my translation :)" I can only imagine what he and others, will think about this.

What's your take?

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