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.

July 27, 2006

You Say "Potato" and I Say... "LATKES"!!

The award for the stupidest word in the English language officially goes to "phylacteries". What the hell are phylacteries? Well, according to the Oxford American Dictionary, they are "small leather box[es] containing Hebrew texts on vellum, worn by Jewish men at morning prayer as a reminder to keep the law". Ohh, Tefillin ! Why didn't you say so? You see "phylactery" comes from Greek (φυλακτηριον) and literally means an 'amulet'. Only it is never used to refer to an amulet, you see: it only ever means Tefillin. So if we expect non-Jews to learn the word "phylactery", why can't they just learn to use the word Tefillin instead??

Philologos has a great article in The Forward that touches upon just this issue.


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