Leading idea: Stating it plainly
What does writing ‘very plainly’, or ‘very clearly’, mean? It might mean writing on the plaster with clear lettering, in a way that can be read from afar – or it might mean ‘clearly’ in the sense of ‘easily understood’ in uncomplicated, plain language. Writing law in a public space for everyone to say could mean either or both of these meanings of ‘plainly’.
Laws are often written in complicate language – this is as true for our own legal system as it might have been for Moses. Do we have a responsiblity to communicate laws guiding our society in language that everyone can understand? The instructions given here state that the law is to be written clearly and plainly. The Rabbinic tradition interpreted this to mean that it should be translated into the spoken language of the people hearing the text.
The discussion plan ‘Knowing how to act’ explores where in the children’s own world civic norms and rules are posted ‘plainly’ and asks how such public behaviors are meant to be learnt – who has the responibility for making sure people know how to follow them? whose authority lies behind them?
Very Plainly: The Talmud notes ‘Very Plainly’ So that the words of the Law could be easily read and understood ‘In 70 languages’. Translation enabled the words to be understood by those unable to read the Hebrew original. The words ‘baer hetev’, demanding that the words on the stones be lucidly explained, gave rise to the school of Sopherim, the Scribes, whose office it was to read Torah distinctly, giving the sense, causing the people to understood the reading (Nehamiah VIII, 8). In time this activity resulted in the various Targumim [translations into other languages]. Rabbi J.H. Hertz Commentary
“And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people… and when he opened it all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered Amen,Amen lifting up their hands. They bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Yeshua and Bani [and others and the Levites] explained the Teaching to the people, while the people stood in their places. They read from the scroll of the Teaching of God, translating it and giving the sense, so they understood the reading”. Nehemiah 8:6-8