Translating the Torah

The first one to translate the Torah into all seventy languages was Moshe Rabbeinu ( Parshas Ki Tovoh 27:8 ). The Gemorah Megila 8b tells us that the only other language the Torah can be written in is Greek. Rashi explains that this is because its language is richer in words than any other. As any translator knows, there are often words in one language for which there are no accurate translation in another language. However, the Gomorah in Mesechta Sofrim tells us that the day King Talmi forced the elders to translate the Torah into Greek was a black day for the Jews and was comparable to the day the Jews made the golden calf. On the surface this would seem to indicate that translating the Torah should be forbidden.

However, the difference should be readily apparent. When our sages were asked to translate the Torah for Talmai they were forced to make some changes and were not able to make a true translation. This is why it was considered a black day. When Unkelos and others translated it into Aramaic they were able to make an accurate translation.

During certain times in history when certain scrupulous people attempted to translate Chumash into German, many sages opposed it because they were concerned that the translation would be inaccurate or given a leftist slant. Only when this was done by G-d fearing scholars did our chachomim give their consent.