The prayer Brich Shmeh from the Zohar Vayakhel 206a, which is recited during the Torah service, contains the statement ולא על בר אלהין סמיכנא. All the translations I've seen render "bar elahin" as "angel" following Daniel 3:25, but since it literally means "a son of God" I can't help but suspect that it is a reference to Christianity. Is that what's going on here, and if so, why do the translations always leave it as "angel"?

  • Do you really think a Jewish person believes that Jesus was the son of G-d and would call him that in prayer. – user2709 Apr 25 '13 at 13:51
  • 3
    No, I interpreted it as if it were polemical, not as affirming something about Christianity. – Cislunar Apr 25 '13 at 13:53
  • 2
    There is a footnote on one of the Rav Soloveitchik publications (I believe it's a machzor Rosh Hashana) that says he omitted that phrase due to its affirming something about Christianity. – WAF Apr 25 '13 at 14:14
  • the wiki page mentions (unsourced) ולכן ב‏‏נוסח של יהדות גרמניה לא הופיעה תפילה זו – rosends Apr 25 '13 at 14:28
  • @shulem, WAF, I don't understand how saying "I don't rely on a son of God" affirms that a son of God exists. (This question is, I guess, on Rabbi Soloveitchik rather than on either of you.) – msh210 Apr 25 '13 at 14:53

While I have seen online claims that it refers to Christianity (such as here) the connection to it as a posuk from Daniel and a similar connection to tehillim, and even the linguistic statement that "bar" means "outside of" or "except for" (as spoken of here) are as compelling, as is the historical fact that the idea of a leader (religious or secular) being the "son of god" predates Christianity's godhead including Alexander the Great.

  • Good point, so why the need to translate as "angel"? – Cislunar Apr 25 '13 at 13:59
  • 1
    "need"? I don't think it is about need, but about the common practice. Daniel 3:25 was written 550 or so years before Jesus' time and used the Aramaic phrase to refer to an angel (from melachim 2, 19:35) so this translation simply predates otehr possible references. – rosends Apr 25 '13 at 14:07
  • Yes, but the Zohar was written well into the Roman era, giving it a different historical context. – Cislunar Apr 25 '13 at 14:10
  • If you accept that it was written in the mid second century it would have been more likely a rejection of Roman divinity claims (cf Peppard's 2011 work) than still nascent Christian claims. – rosends Apr 25 '13 at 14:26
  • 3
    Well, better is a tough term. I would still prefer the translation that invokes sefer Daniel which would be "angel" becauser that understanding is 500+ years older. As to the "bettter" status if one includes (a), only Neil Armstrong knows for sure ;) – rosends Apr 25 '13 at 14:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .