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Lost in Targum?

Chief Rabbi Lau the Younger is not going to be big on reinterpreting traditional Jewish sources to meet contemporary problems.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau
Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Guest post by Y. Bloch

I found myself in Modiin this Shabbat, and randomly picking a synagogue (from four on the street) this morning, I had the pleasure of praying with our brand-new Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau. He spoke before the Torah reading, asking the question, “Why was Levi so special before they killed all those worshipers of the Golden Calf at Sinai?” The answer he discovered, after many years of searching, was that of the “Godly sage Yonatan ben Uzziel,” in his Targum on Gen. 32:25. See, Jacob promised to tithe everything, and Levi is the tenth son. If you subtract the firstborns of each mother. And count Benjamin, who wasn’t even conceived yet. And start counting again when you run out of sons until you get to ten. Which is not how tithing works, even if we did tithe children.

Um, OK. The Talmud (Megilla 3a) does make clear that YbU only translated the Prophets, while Onkelos is the one who translated the Torah into Aramaic. Yes, alternative Targumim existed, a number of which were known as Targum Yerushalmi, abbreviated TY, which some printer took for Targum Yonatan, since YbU was known as a translator. That’s why the academics call it Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, or Pasevdo Yonatan, as Hebrew-speakers pronounce it.

So am I alone in thinking Chief Rabbi Lau the Younger is not going to be big on reinterpreting traditional Jewish sources to meet contemporary problems?

Regardless, he seems like a really nice guy. He even apologized to the bar mitzva boy for making him sit through this speech before he read his portion. I guess that’s what’s really important. 

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About the Author: DovBear blogs at: DovBear. For lack of a better metaphor, please consider this blog a very large shabbos table, where we sit together and discuss the parsha, the news, and other events of the day. Sometimes we yell, often we gossip, and, once in a while, the talk turns salacious. Our arguments are lively, but at the end of the day, its all just talk. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press

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2 Responses to “Lost in Targum?”

  1. If you were serious when you stated:"Chief Rabbi Lau the Younger is not going to be big on reinterpreting traditional Jewish sources to meet contemporary problems "…. I fear that rather than attracting new and younger blood – as well as KEEPING the younger members already on board – (keeping the future bright and growing)…it will send the message that he is content to deliberately choose to remain in the 11th C. IF in fact new interpretations could be tweaked….that would allow understandings with a 21st C experience….it would be much more realistic, acceptable and embracing. You can only keep computers and cell phones and technology at bay for so long…..not finding a 21 C solution to agunahs is abominable. All areas of Jewish life that COULD be revisited with possible newer interpretations could only be helpful to our overall cause … to survive in great enough numbers to maintain our beloved Judaism.

    While all those over 40 maybe content with the status quo…..we must consider the 16-23 year old who are definitely of the 21st C….and are part and parcel of the technology, social issues, education, training, employment, and yet to decide their own path!

    Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs

  2. Yossie Bloch says:

    It has frightened me that the RCA and CER have declared their fealty to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, which does not bode well for the future. However, combining the two offices of Ashkenazic and Sephardic CRs would be a start.

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