Here’s a question on translation, with bearing on exact punctuation as well.
The Pesach Haggada (in the “Maggid” section) says as follows —
הא לחמא עניא… השתא הכא, לשנה הבאה בארעא דישראל. השתא עבדי, לשנה הבאה בני חורין
What does השתא mean?
An approximation of the ArtScroll translation (I don’t have it present):
“This is the bread of affliction our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt, etc. This year we are here, next year may we be in the land of Israel. This year we are slaves, next year may we be free to serve G-d perfectly.”
I find nothing so wrong with the above rendering, yet one detail remains elusive.
Let me explain; the meaning of the Aramaic word “Shata” is ‘Year’, and the context tells us “Ha-shata” means this year. ArtScroll understood it the same way.
But things are not so simple. Even a shallow familiarity with Chazal tells us the word is practically always read as “Hashta”, and taken to mean just “Now” (e.g. Bava Metzia end of 22a). In other words its meaning evolved from the patent translation of ‘Year’, and later come to mean ‘Presently’. All works by Rishonim and Achronim use the word in the same context as well.
So the operative question is when was this particular piece of Chazal written? Was it before this development or after?
Which of the subsequent translations is correct?
- “Now here, next year in Jerusalem. Now slaves, next year free men”.
- “This year here, next year in Jerusalem. This year slaves, next year free men.”
With reference to pronunciation as well, which is accurate?
- I heard several scholars translate and vocalize the word both ways.
- I saw various editions which translate and punctuate both ways.
- I queried scholars who translated and pronounced the word both ways.
— Yet they often scorned the opposing interpretation as bizarre.
For those who think option 1# is entirely mistaken, check out “Gevuros Hashem” by the Maharal (end of Chapter 51), who writes —
ואפשר לפרש השתא מלשון התלמוד השתא אתינא מלשון עכשיו שאין לומר השנה עבדי שאולי נזכה ובשנה הזאת נהיה בני חורין, ולפיכך השתא אין פירושו השנה הזאת.
As for me, I decline to come down firmly on either side of issues like these with no hard evidence. ‘I take the Fifth’…
I am not sure what might be the Halachic bearing (“Nafka Mina”) from this post, but the topic still ought to interest us as a matter of Lexical Ambiguity and Reading Comprehension. Although it is true one must understand the Haggada to fulfill one’s obligation, the difference between the two options is negligible.
Nonetheless, don’t decide this post is trivial! Refer to the Gemara granting importance to academic questions like this one, Shabbos 106b —
אמר ליה מאי נפקא לך מינה אמר ליה גמרא גמור זמורתא תהא
Rav Yosef said to him: “What difference does it make to you?” Abaye answered (disdainfully): “Learn on, as though it’s only a song!”
One thing is certainly unanimous. To punctuate one way, and translate the other way — as I have seen in several editions (without mentioning names), is absurd.
P.S. Plenty more can be said on the dating and authorship of the various segments of the Haggada, and on the mixing of Hebrew and Aramaic and seeming repetition of this specific paragraph. Refer to “Iyun Tefillah” as well.