Betraying Hebrew

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Betraying HebrewM. AvotM. Shabbat
Betraying Hebrew cogently uses contemporary English to translate Hebrew texts. In doing so, it offers a commentary of sorts and provides readers who have some exposure to Hebrew with an opportunity to decide for themselves what a given Hebrew text may mean. 
Mishna Avot

Mishna Pirqé Avot, (Hebrew: פרקי אבות‎), the penultimate tractate of Seder Neziqin, is unique: not a single halacha occurs in the entire tractate, which exclusively treats ethics.

Frequently translated as “Chapters of the Fathers” or “Ethics of the Fathers”, the title means neither: Pirqé – פרקי – from “pereq” – פרק – chapter, certainly means “chapters of…”, and I suppose we can understand it that way, but as employed here the word is actually a sophisticated word-play:

Our word “pirqé” is actually a portmanteau, a combination of two words — pé – פי – “oral” and raq – רק – “only”.  Avot definitely means “fathers”, but in halacha avot designates “classifications” or “categories” — but a second  word-play is actually intended:


Looked at in this strange way we see that “avot” is a symbol we pronounce, not an actual word. The symbol connects the first two Hebrew letters (Alef, Bet) and the final letter (Tav) with the letter Vav. We do this also in English. Is “Nato” a word?

The entire title Pirqé Avot actually means something like “Oral Teachings About Everything”. Which nicely sums up what Pirqé Avot does.

Mishna Avot
  Mishna Shabbat

The information Mishna Shabbat presents is generally very terse. Presented here are Chapters 1-8.

Mishna Shabbat treats how Jews ideally prepare for Shabbat. The Mishna especially attends to the appropriate ways to light the Shabbat lamp, to keep food warm, and to dress. An entire chapter outlines how rabbinic tradition understands the prohbition of labour on Shabbat. Succeeding chapters elaborate: what constitutes “servile” labour?

Mishna Shabbat strongly distinguishes between the mundane week (Sunday through Friday) and Shabbat Qodesh (Saturday), and pays particular attention to how the private and public domains differ.

Mishna Shabbat

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