The term She’elot uTeshuvot, (Hebrew שאלות ותשובות, Responsa, often abbreviated שו”ת/Shu”t) directly translated means “Questions and Answers”. It refers to the questions posed over the centuries to the Rabbis on Jewish law, Torah, Mishnah and their answers.

Learning Torah Translations

Question: What does the common term “Lord of hosts” mean?

Answer: The Hebrew term is, “Hashem Tzva’ot”, which literally means ‘the God of armies” (check in any dictionary, the singular: tzava=army), and refers to different aspects of the strength of God. This is just another example of how it’s illogical and inaccurate to learn Torah through translations. I don’t think any important intellectual work can be studied seriously through language conversion, for all translators just give you their subjective and personal take on every issue. There’s a famous Italian saying: Traduttori traditori (translators are traitors). How much more so if you are interested in knowing what God actually has to say, it’s not intellectually honest to put yourself at the mercy of one human translator, especially if he’s from a certain faction (for example: anti-Zionist), or how much more so, a different religion, which has an “agenda”.

In addition, all Jewish scholars study with the Mikra’ot G’dolot which includes the fifteen most basic and classic commentaries, which often stress the double, or sometimes triple or more, meaning of a particular word or phrase. If even talented poets, often use a term which has a double or triple meaning, how much more so is God “capable” of using this effective literary tool, and He often does. Accordingly, at best, a translator chooses one among several of the meanings, and you’re exposed to only a fraction of the truth.

With Love of Israel,

Rav Ari Shvat


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