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    Going out – Vayyetzei

    The sidra gets its name from the opening words, “And Jacob went out from Beer Sheva” – vayetzei Yaakov miBe’er Shava (Gen. 28:10).

    The word yatza, to go out, has – like many other words – a range of meanings. In our verse it is literally “to go out”, but in other contexts it can mean “to go free”.

    In Ex. 21:7 the conventional translation is that a female servant “shall not go out as the men-servants do”, leaving us to wonder where and how a servant would want to go out, but these days we accept that it means “shall not be freed, as male servants are”.

    Similarly, in Ex. 12:51, the conventional translations say that God caused the Israelites to go out, again leading to a fuzziness of meaning, but when we translate the verb as “to go free” it says God freed the Israelites, which makes perfect sense.

    Let these comments be a warning against old-time King James Version-type translations. People who come to rabbis with questions about the Biblical text have sometimes been led astray by incorrect or stilted translations and don’t realise how much the translators have to answer for.

    No wonder there is a saying, “Translators are traitors”.

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