(by Christopher Fredrickson from Brutal Planet, The PaRDeS Radio Torah Portions and Torah Portions for Christians)
This walk of the striving of observing the commandments of Hashem is filled with instances where a student puts their hand to the their forehead and pull a Homer Simpson style "doh!!". I had one of these moments today as a matter of fact. I have started doing my personal studies on my own time reading from the Hebrew or Aramaic side of the pages in my Stone Edition Tanach or my Aramaic English New Testament. And I have been doing this for several reasons, the first being, pertaining to the old quote, "you don't use it you loose it" so I needed to brush up. Secondly I have discovered through my studies that often times if a word is written with a differentiation in a Hebrew letter it is to convey something, this often happens with the sizes of letters, often times whether it is bent or upright, open or closed and so many things are involved. So I have found myself reading from the Hebrew and Aramaic side of the pages in personal study because of these reasons.
Through that time I would see a word and say "why is there not a footnote on this one cause there is something incredible going on here because this tzaddi is bent" or "the word for rain has the word for light in it" etc. I would then pull out all the translations I own in hardback form and on my iPad and not totally satisfied with the English. And because of that I have found myself becoming one of those annoying guys who says, "I don't like how 'translation X' renders this word". And I was discussing this with a close personal friend who was a former orthodox rabbi and he said, "oh you are getting away from reading chumash", and I know what chumash was but I was silent for a second thinking to myself, "has my friend lost his mind? What is he talking about?", I said, "can you explain". And he said "surely you don't think your favorite translation or any English translation is without error do you; and that it brings the full meaning of each word or concept?" I said, "of course not, I like the Stone Edition and there have been other translations I have liked and I do not find them to be 100% without error in the English side of the page in fact I think we are only getting roughly 10% of what the text is saying in the English". My friend then said, "it is because you have been used to reading chumash" and I am still not getting the entire cut of his jib and I said, "no I have been reading the whole thing, not just a fifth of it". Cause Chumash means 5th. He then explained to me if a text has even the slightest error then it is "chumash" but "Torah" refers solely to the scroll that your rabbi rolls out at the beginning of service and it is 100% without error. Now Torah can also refer to actually doing mitzviot, or discussing parshyot or discussing halacha, the english text you have in front of you is not "Torah" it is "chumash".
I remember years ago when I would say to orthodox friends, I would refer to myself as "studying Torah" and they would laugh at me and I never understood why and now I do, cause I was not studying "Torah" with my English text I was studying "chumash". And in the revelation of this I am gonna make a conscious effort to adjust my vernacular in future teachings cause I realize that I was in error for referring to my English text as that of "Torah" and in some way I was diminishing from something so sacred as to say that something copied by a machine in mass quantity is equal to that of the scroll a student will write the entire Torah upon without error by hand in Hebrew. I think this is something many of us have picked up on when we initially learned Hebrew and Aramaic from a good source to read the actual texts as opposed to seeing the English text inerrant and working backwards with a text like STRONG'S, that is just bad scholarship and a bad way to learn Hebrew and Aramaic and you will really mess yourself up by doing such a thing.
But I wanted to bring you all this revelation of our terminology of major part of our text we use when we read and study and please do not take this as a demand to follow suit with me on this fact that I am gonna refer to the English not as Torah but rather "Chumash" (pronounced (a phlegmy) ch-u-mish). I only wanted to bring this up for those of you who like myself may not have realized this like I didn't for a long time in terms of the terminology yet I know the best English translations have some slight issues every couple of verses in their rendering and I must say for the most part Artscroll and Netzari Press with the Stone Edition Tanach and The Aramaic English New Testament do help with their massive footnotes in understanding a little closer to what the "Torah" says in terms of English and the words within the New Testament but it is still lacking a bit. And there is not a "perfect translation" out there. If there were, then one page of the English text would have roughly 5 pages of footnotes just to give you a basic understanding of the Hebrew or Aramaic actually says. And this is why Torah She Be'al Peh is so important cause even for those who only know the English we had some great sages and Rabbis who also picked up on these things who spoke Hebrew and Aramaic fluently and who have studied from the actual Torah scrolls many years and them explaining an upright tzaddi as opposed to a bent tzaddi in a verse in Deuteronomy is to them like an architect showing a middle school student how to use a protractor. And it is important to realize until we can speak Hebrew and Aramaic fluently and see these things in the text and find out what they mean, we are that middle school student who has only seen a protractor, we have never seen it even used we don't even know what it really is or it's purpose, yet we at times pretend like we are experts and scholars and this as well is dangerous.
Look, I realized something many years ago. And this is not a bad thing, this is a good thing and if you feel the same way in my next and final statement then you are on the right path in your walk. I have come to realize that the more I learn the less I actually know. Many within their own vanity may say, "may it never be" but let me tell you, this is good thing. Why is it a good thing? Cause we realize we are always pursuant and we realize that Hashem has much much much more to reveal to us each year as we study the chumash together, as we study the New Testament together. And this rings true what it is our sages say when asked how many interpretations there are to each line of Scripture, they argue a bit, and the number keeps climbing and then the final rabbis say, "There are an unlimited number of interpretations of each passage of Scripture that is correct, it is however dependent upon what it is the bat kol or the Ruach HaKodesh wishes to reveal to you at that time". It makes for an amazing journey and an exciting one, that never ends, we mustn't ever become comfortable with where it is we are at we must always wish for Hashem to show us He is bigger than we could ever imagine and see him in every area of life and every motion we make. He shows us this through the Torah scroll a great deal.
Theological Insights from Rabbi Eved Banah the North American Rebbe of Ani Judaism