Non-Hebrew translations are often included by our Sages when attempting to clarify words or concepts.

There are myriad examples in RaSh"I (Shemot 5:7) and Hizquni (Wayiqra 11:16). For relatively later writings, Shulhan `Arukh is also chock-full of these (OH 10:8, OH 10:12, OH 254:5).

Given the ambiguous niqqud of these translations (I'm not aware of any Rabbinic literature originally written with niqqud), what is the most effective way of deciphering of our Sages' writings?

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/92486/2091 – Lee May 23 '18 at 10:21
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    A lot of these things are cultural and wouldn't be obvious to us even if they were written in Hebrew. I'm thinking of the thing ladies would wear to ride horses as described by Rashi in Tetzaveh. He does use a French word, but the description makes sense without it, and is still not that helpful because we don't live in medieval France. (His description of the eifod is fine without it, but we still miss that piece.). I doubt that knowing what "portzint" (?) meant would make it any clearer. – Heshy May 23 '18 at 10:37
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    On the other hand, distinguishing between the two words Rashi uses for נרות is very helpful. (One is לוצי"ש, I don't remember the other) – Heshy May 23 '18 at 10:40
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    @Lee It's difficult to get nuances out of any translation, whether it's into English, Hebrew, or Navajo. If you want to learn medieval French, good for you, but I'm not convinced the years of study are worth the small insights you'll get into Rashi and other rishonim. There are other things to learn that would help more in Torah. (e.g. botany for kilayim maasros etc.). I'd love to learn everything myself, but Hashem gave us a limited time to accomplish what we can. – Heshy May 23 '18 at 11:15
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    As an aside, for Rashi there is the sefer mentioned in the answer to this question: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/14981/… – user15253 May 23 '18 at 12:21

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