Sunday, June 21, 2009

Shlemiel, Shlimazl, . . .

Let's get Laverne and Shirley to help us think about about how to interpret a biblical passage.

First, what is a shlemiel? Here's how Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish would answer:
A foolish person; a simpleton. Also: a social misfit, congenitally maladjusted.

How about the shlimazl? Again Rosten. A chronically unlucky person; someone for whom nothing seems to go right or turn out well; a 'born loser.'

Here's the distinction from Mr. Rosten: A shlemiel is a man who is always spilling hot soup--down the neck of a shlimazl.

Finally, how do you define "hasenpfeffer." Answer: It's a traditional German stew made of marinated rabbit.

Now how are the words being used by Laverne and Shirley? They are reciting a Yiddish/American hopscotch chant.

So what does this have to do with interpreting the bible? Well this is a round-about way of saying that we've got to know the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words behind our English translations. And we've got to understand the cultural context into which they were spoken. If we don't we're acting like a shlemiel, maybe even a shlimazl.

So get out your bibles and start studying. And enjoy your hasenpfeffer too.

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