According to Peter Siegel, the Hebrew Bible employs many sorts of humor, but its purpose is not to entertain. The major goal of the Hebrew Bible is to teach humanity how to live the ideal life. Many of the wordplays in the Bible are possible because the Hebrew Bible contains neither vowels nor punctuation.
Siegel, a UC Davis administrator by day but a trained linguist by avocation, will present a program on “Puns and Wordplay in the Hebrew Bible” at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 17, in the Social Hall at Congregation Bet Haverim, 1715 Anderson Road. The program is free and open to the public.
Siegel will provide a light-hearted survey of word plays — elegant, naughty and insightful — integrated into the biblical stories to bring them alive to the Hebrew speakers of classical biblical times as they gathered in multitudes to listen to their favorites, when reading was a luxury. These elements are often lost entirely in translation or relegated to dry footnotes.
Echoing the words “Hear! O Israel,” the stories in the Five Books of Moses or Torah are designed to be heard again and again — and punning and word play tell us about important elements and recurring themes, as well as making the words of Torah resonate in our ears and minds. It is not necessary to have a knowledge of Hebrew to appreciate Siegel’s talk.
Congregation Bet Haverim, a Reform congregation, serves all of Yolo County and surrounding areas. For more information, contact Steve Cohen, chairman of the Adult Education Committee, at [email protected] or email CBH at [email protected].