The below message was e-mailed to a friend of mine who then sent it to me.
On the subject of Jehovah's witnesses: They don't visit us anymore, They used to come by regularly. The last time they came by might explain why they haven't returned.Two women appeared on our doorstep and, seeing that I had four children ranging in age from 2 to 11, one asked: "Do you like to study the Bible?""Yes," I replied politely."Do you like to study the bible with your children?" she inquired further."Yes, I do," I replied."Would you be willing to study the Bible with us?" she asked.Oh, do you study Bible?" I asked innocently and then continued, "Where did you learn Hebrew?""Oh, I don't know any Hebrew," she protested, "I use a translation.""Do you believe that God wrote the Bible?" I asked."Yes! Of course God wrote the Bible, every word of it, that it why it is so important to study it," she affirmed."Then I am amazed that you would use a translation," I offered, continuing, "If the Bible is God's word, every bit of it, then it seems to me that you should read it as God wrote it. A translation is someone's interpretation, not God's word. If you REALLY believe God wrote the Bible, word for word, then it is unfathomable to me that you would trust a translation written by a mere human being." She sputtered an answer about her translation being authoritative, but I pressed my point.Then she protested, "Hebrew is so difficult to learn. I couldn't possibly do that."At this point I turned to my then five-year-old daughter, Naomi, and said, "Sweetheart, run and get a chumash from Ema's shelf."Little Naomi trotted off to fulfill my request. I noticed that my older children, 8-year-old Danny and 11-year-old Rachel, were watching and listening in rapt attention, smiles broadly pasted on their faces; they knew precisely what their mother was up to.Naomi returned with the Beraishit (Genesis) volume of a rabbi's Bible; it contains the Hebrew text and traditional commentaries, but no English translation. I opened the book to the first chapter of Genesis and asked Naomi to read a few verses. She cheerfully did so.Then I turned to our "visitors" and said: "If a five-year-old can learn Hebrew and read God's word, who are you to canvas the neighborhood claiming you speak for God on the topic of the Bible? If you want to study the Bible in THIS house, you'll have to study it as God wrote it."The missionaries bid us goodbye and haven't visited since.Now, to be honest, I have no objection to a good translation and use them all the time in teaching. (I especially commend Everett Fox's translation of the Torah because it captures so much of the flavor and nuance of theHebrew.) However, I am deeply offended by missionaries because their fundamental premise is that my religious tradition is inadequate and theirs is innately superior. I find that an inexcusably intolerant attitude.My children still enjoy telling the story of the last time the missionaries stopped by our house.Shalom and a sweet Pesach to all,
Rabbi Amy Scheinerman