Devarim

The final task of Moses is to tell his own story. His actions count for nothing without being recounted, so he “began to expound [be’er] this Torah.” Rashi explains that “be’er” means “translated into seventy languages.” Translation brings a concept to new audiences, but it can also change both languages themselves, make them richer and more complex – and the concept itself also changes, not only the translated teaching but the original one too. Not the content of the Torah, but its potential of infinite translatability into languages, times and minds, is what gives it such power, such relevance. To understand it literally is to dull it to death; to translate brings life to the text, and to the translator too.

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[Inspired by: Deuteronomy 1:5, with Rashi’s commentary; Talmud Megillah 3a; Jacques Derrida, What is a ‘Relevant’ Translation?; and La Clef des songes by René Magritte.]

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