By Eretz Acheret | 25/11/2010
Cultural renewal is a process that involves an inherent contradiction. Culture strives to preserve itself. In a certain sense, one might even say that culture endeavors to stagnate. The reason is that the guardians of culture know full well that new thoughts, new human efforts can gain a foothold only if some of the older ideas are let go
And even if the new stimulus manages to situate itself within the existing culture, the new addition will irreversibly change it, making it different from the older, familiar culture. However, a culture that does not renew itself will petrify and regress.
This, however, inevitably leads to another question: Is it possible to create something of value that is not based on the achievements of the past?
These dilemmas are not theoretical ones for Israeli intellectuals and can be summed up briefly as follows:
Is it possible to write or read poetry without a knowledge of the deeper layers of Biblical, Mishnaic, Talmudic Hebrew, without a familiarity with the Hebrew poetry of the Middle Ages?
This immediately leads to yet another question: Is it possible to reach the deeper layers of the Hebrew language without the context in which the Scriptures are read: the reading of the portion of the week in the synagogue or an interest in the literature of the commandments, laws and prayers?
For a number of generations, secular Israeli culture has tried to contend with the growing alienation between the renewed aspects of culture and the ancient language. The recently published “translation” of the Bible into contemporary Hebrew (Tanakh Ram, Avraham Ahuvya, Yedioth Ahronoth, 2010) is indicative of how far today's Hebrew has moved from the original language.
The two articles presented this week are by two inquisitive readers / writers who taught themselves how to penetrate the Oral Law by means of the Midrash and Adin Steinsaltz's Talmud.
And that leaves us with a painful question: While the cultural renewal is no less than a miracle, how will students, writers and other inquiring minds who are not deeply rooted in the language of our ancestors continue Hebrew and Jewish writing?