Jews and multi-lingualism [Was: The Birds and the Bees of Gender]
|Date:||Wednesday, March 31, 1999, 6:10|
Steg Belsky wrote:
> On Tue, 30 Mar 1999 15:40:38 -0500 Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...> writes:
> >Steg Belsky wrote:
> >> It's part of a Sephardic Passover Seder-night "ceremony" that is a
> >> "dramatization/recreation" of the exodus...the questions are in some
> >> dialect of Arabic, and the answers are in Hebrew:
> >Ah, I see. Why is the language mixed? That is, why not all Hebrew,
> >all Arabic?
> >AIM Screen-name: NikTailor
> I don't know, i'm Ashkenazic :)
> But i have a few theories....i'll check them out sometime:
> 1. the Arabic could represent the language of the people around, asking
> the Jews these questions when they see them wandering through the desert.
> The answers given would then be in Hebrew.
> 2. it could be that it's all supposed to be in the "vernacular", which
> for most Sepharadim would be Arabic. The answers, even though they're in
> Hebrew, are common enough to not need to be translated.
> -Stephen (Steg)
> _u-ku uhmzu-solg moshe i ^barei^yisraeil sha'solg-a dhaz-a
> "az yashir moshe uvenei yisra'eil et hashira hazot l'hashem..."
> ('and then moses and the children of israel sang this song to god...",
> the introduction to the Song of the Sea)
I'm being very quite at the moment, for all kinds of reasons, but in a
little little lull before the onset of Passover tonight, I can't resist
giving my "two zuzim"-worth on this thread.
1. Many Eastern Jews traditionally read the Seder-night "haggadah" in
varieties of Arabic; some still do (my brother-in-law's family, of
Yemenite origin, have printed copies in Judeo-Arabic, a formal, not
vernacular, variety, which is basically standard Arabic written in
2. I'm *not* sure about this, but the Arabic makes me think Mashreq
(Eastern Arab world - perhaps Iraq or Syria) rather than Maghreb (N.
3. In many Jewish communities there was a deliberate and appreciated
tradition of bilingual or multilingual poetry and song, oral and
written. In Greece they wrote poems in Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew and
Ladino; in Italy, there are medieval rhyming poems in which lines of
Hebrew and Italian alternate. The mixture of language would not have
Even in the English-speaking world, this happens. I remember a song from
the Lubavitch movement (massive effort to avoid value judgments here!)
that included some lines like:
"When is he coming? - Bimheirah beyameinu"
'What's he going to do?" - Yavo veyig'aleinu"
(The two Hebrew bits mean, respectively, "speedily in our days" and
"he'll come and redeem us"). "He," BTW, is the Prophet Elijah, who
will, we are informed, bring Messiah.
Well, I'm going to slide back into the mud now.
Kul 3am wintum bekul kheir to anyone who's just celebrated the 3id.
Happy Easter (whichever dates and varieties).
PessaH kasher vesameiaH to Steg and anyone else coming out of Egypt