Divrei ben Abuya

In the Babylonian Talmud, Elisha ben Abuya was a great sage who lost his faith in God. So great was he that his and subsequent generations continued learning from him - to the extent that the authors of the Talmud needed to create a story that would serve to legitimise his teachings despite his apostasy. His lesson is a lesson for us all: that great stature is not contingent upon blind faith, nor high learning upon the observation of Torah precepts.

June 18, 2006


קרב דומה בראשו אל יפיפה
אשר כל איש לשחק בה יאוה
וסופו כזקנה המאוסה
אשר כל שוחרה יבכה וידוה

War is at first like a beautiful girl
With whom all men long to play,
But in the end like a repulsive hag
Whose suitors all weep and ache

- by Samuel HaNagid (993-1056)
The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse (trans. and ed. T. Carmy; New York: Penguin, 1981), 291.


At 2:14 AM , Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

A friend of mine once showed me another translation:

first war resembles / a beautiful mouth we
all want to flirt with / and believe —
later it's more / a repulsive old whore
whose callers are bitter / and grieve.

At 2:58 PM , Blogger Simon Holloway said...

That's an interesting translation!
Not sure where your friend is getting "mouth" from: are they understanding יפיפה as being a contraction of √יפה and פה? If that's so, we should probably expect them to be the other way around as, in Hebrew, the adjective must follow the noun. Also, "whore" is a curious take on זקנה! Perhaps your friend just doesn't like old people? :-)

At 4:18 PM , Blogger Simon Holloway said...

Oh, and a more obvious problem with reading יפיפה as 'mouth' is that the pronominal suffix on the particle in the following line is feminine (בה), while פה is a masculine word.

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At 11:39 PM , Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I dunno... maybe it was just a somewhat loose translation made for the purpose of rhyming :-) . It is a bit catchier, though.

For the last few years i've wanted to turn R' Shelomo ibn Gabirol's Ani Ha’ish Asher Shineis Azoro into a hard rock song. Or maybe emo would fit better... :-P


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