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Saturday, January 28, 2023
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Have you heard of ChatGPT? That AI robot can write anything: movie scripts, Shakespeare-style plays, or how-to weed-your-garden guides.

So I decided to give it a try. My week is quite busy; perhaps ChatGPT can write a dvar Torah for me?

I logged on to the system and asked the robot to “write an article about Moses translating the Torah into 70 languages.”

(I chose this topic because this coming week is Rosh Chodesh Shevat, and this event took place on the same day).

Without thinking much, ChatGPT was ready to roll.

“According to Jewish tradition, the Torah, which contains the Five Books of Moses, was originally given to the Jewish people in Hebrew. However, as the Jewish people began to disperse and settle in different parts of the world, they began to speak different languages. In order to ensure that all Jews, regardless of their language, could feel connected to the Torah and the teachings it contains, Moses translated the Torah into 70 different languages.”

Wrong, Mr. Robot! You are wrong!

Moses didn’t translate the Torah when the Jewish people were spread worldwide. In fact, when he translated the Torah, all Jews were together, in one location, just about to enter the holy land.

It happened just a few weeks before Moses died: he gathered all the Jews and taught the Torah in 70 languages.

The robot continued:

“It is also believed that translating the Torah into different languages helped preserve the Jewish faith and culture, allowing it to be passed down from generation to generation in a way that was accessible to all.”

Wrong again, Mr. Robot!

No record has been preserved of the translation for future generations. This was a one-time thing.

At this point, I gave up on ChatGPT. No shortcuts for me; I will need to write the dvar Torah on my own.

Still, why did Moshe do that? What was the purpose of translating the Torah into 70 languages? Most of the Jews didn’t even understand what he was saying!

The Rebbe offers a beautiful explanation.

As Mr. Robot correctly explained, the Torah was given in Hebrew, or to be more exact, ancient Hebrew (also known as “Lashon Hakodesh”—the holy tongue).

That could have created the perception that the only way to study Torah is to learn it in its original Hebrew.

By translating the Torah into other languages, Moses elevated all translations to be considered part of the Torah. From that point on, whenever you learn Torah—in any language!—you connect to the holiness of the Torah.

“You are not helpful,” I wrote to ChatGPT.

“I apologize if my answers were not helpful. Is there anything else I can help you with?” it replies.

“Can you make me a coffee?” I asked.

“I’m sorry, I am an AI language model and I do not have the capability to make coffee. However, I can provide you with instructions on how to make coffee if that would help,” it wrote back.

“I wish you a Shabbat Shalom,” I replied.

“Thank you, Thank you, have a peaceful and restful Shabbat!” was the response.

At least the AI does know a little bit of Hebrew!


Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Rabbi of Chabad of Hackensack. He welcomes your (human generated) emails at [email protected]

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