TRANSLATING SCRIPTURE AND UNDERSTANDING IT'S ESSENCE
DEVOTEE: Rabbi, based on this passage that I will read from the translator's Introduction to the Torah, it appears that due to the complexity of translating the Torah from Hebrew, it must be very difficult for the common Jew to ascertain it's true meaning. It says, "Another problem in translating the Torah is that of sentence structure. Clearly, the sentence structure of Hebrew three thousand years ago bears little, if any, resemblance to that of any modern language. Therefore, if one slavishly adheres to the original sentence structure in translating, he will often produce a result very different from that intended by the original. At best, many passages will be difficult, if not impossible, to understand. Moreover, the translator will sometimes have to use many words to translate a single word, while at other times he will have to use a single word to translate many. He will have to add and delete words so that the concept may be clearly expressed in the language into which he is translating."
RABBI: It is true that very few people are qualified to directly translate the Jewish scriptures and to thereby directly ascertain their essence. But since the conclusion of the Torah is to love God, and that does not require any scholarship, even the common people can understand that essence based on bona fide translations and explanations of others.
DEVOTEE: Rabbi, are you telling me that as a Jew, if I actually love God, I will be able to understand the real meaning of the Torah, the Zohar, and the Bahir?
RABBI: Yes that is correct.
DEVOTEE: In Vedic culture, spiritual qualifications of the person translating or explaining transcendental literatures are considered even more important than their scholarship. Most of the Vedic scriptures were originally recorded in Sanskrit, and in Sanskrit, sometimes a single word can have dozens of meanings according to the context. How then can the translator be sure that he is giving the true meaning? He must understand the essence and goal of all the Vedas, and then naturally he will be able to choose the correct word meanings. In other words, if he is firmly fixed in his understanding, realization and practical application that one must surrender everything to the pure service of the Lord, then he will be able to understand the descriptions that the scriptures give about the Lord, His service, His instructions, etc. To have a pure service attitude towards God means to have pure love for the Lord.
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