Home / Legacy /

Koren Steinsaltz Talmud

 

I. Introduction

My relationship with the Steinsaltz Talmud has always been ambiguous. In high school, those of us placed in the less ambitious Jewish Studies track solely used the Steinsaltz edition, with the vowels and Hebrew translation enabling easier, if less traditional, study. I saw this edition as a symbol of scholarly inadequacy which I strove to overcome, eventually with success as I switched to the other track and studied from the traditional Vilna edition of the Talmud.

On the other hand, I have fond memories of my grandfather poring over the Steinsaltz volumes, having returned to Talmud study late in life. With fluency in Hebrew he acquired during his decades in Israel, the Steinsaltz edition allowed him to easily understand the back-and-forth arguments of the ancient Aramaic text. After he died, I inherited a number of such volumes, which I treasure but never open.

I have personal connections to the Koren Steinsaltz edition, as well. R. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the General Editor, is a man whom I know personally, respect tremendously and occasionally turn to for advice. The Content Editor, R. Shalom Z. Berger, was my ninth grade Talmud instructor. And I worked closely with the leaders of the Koren team on a number of projects, particularly the Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur, for which I am credited as Senior Editor. Yes, plenty of bias here so proceed with caution.

II. Translations

My high school experience was not long after R. Elazar Shach denounced the Steinsaltz edition as unbefitting yeshiva students. (If memory serves me correctly, this was not a ban.) I understand why he felt this way. A translation is a barrier. It mediates between the student and the text, preventing complete engagement. You can only truly master an ancient text if you understand its original language. While you do not generally see yeshiva students rushing to learn Judeo-Arabic in order to fully appreciate Medieval philosophical works like Moreh Nevukhim and Kuzari, they refrain because they place the Talmud in a class of its own, at the pinnacle of traditional Jewish scholarly achievement.

This is also why I rarely use an Artscroll Talmud. The English translation is sometimes helpful when I struggle with a difficult word, but the barrier to the original text leads to lesser scholarship. In this respect, the Koren Steinsaltz Talmud is no different. It is merely a translation.

However, the Koren Steinsaltz adopts a unique approach that even I can endorse. Artscroll shows the Vilna page next to the English translation. Realistically, most users focus on the translation because it is always right in front of you. Koren Steinsaltz puts the entire original text as a continuos book on the right side of the volume and the Aramaic with English translation on the left. You can easily study from the Vilna page — with vowels added — on the right side and when you have difficulty with a word, flip to the English section (corresponding page numbers are added to the bottom of the page). And when you are done with the text and Rashi, and maybe even Tosafos, you can check what comments R. Steinsaltz added. I think this arrangement is a great improvement over all previous translations.

The Artscroll includes Aramaic phrases in its English translation. I had assumed that this would help students learn the language. As they see these words in Aramaic and then in English, the familiarity and language skills should grow. In my experience, this does not work and students gloss over the Aramaic, never mastering the language. The Koren Steinsaltz uses blocks of sentences in Aramaic, next to the English translation and elaboration. This is probably just as (in)effective in teaching the language.

In comparing the translations, I found that the Koren Steinsaltz is less concerned with translating word-for-word because it does not present brief Aramaic phrases followed by English. The block-passage format allows for more leeway. However, the Koren Steinsaltz still keeps fairly close to word-for-word translation rather than idiomatic translation and often offers the more precise translation. While I did not compare the entire translations systematically, I noticed a few places where the Artscroll made questionable translation choices and the Koren Steinsaltz did not but that might be coincidental.

To give two examples, on Berakhos 54a, Koren Steinsaltz translates as: “One recites a blessing for the bad [that befalls him] just as [he does] for the good.” Artscroll translates this as: “One should recite the blessing [the true Judge] on a calamity that has the potential to be a favorable occurrence.” I much prefer the Koren Steinsaltz translation. (Note that I use brackets to differentiate between translation and expansion while both editions use bold and roman for that purpose.)

And on Berakhos 39a, Koren Steinsaltz translates as: “Rav Pappa said: It is clear to me [that] beet water, [water in which beets were boiled,] has [the same status] as beets… What [is the status of] water [in which] dill [was boiled]? Do they use [dill] to sweeten the taste, or do they use it to remove [residual] filth.” Artscroll translates as: “Rav Pappa said: It is clear to me [that] the soup of [cooked] beets is like the beets [themselves with regard to blessings, and haadamah is recited on that soup]… What [is the blessing for] the soup of [cooked] dill? Is it made to enhance the flavor [of the dish] or is it made to remove bad odors [from the dish]?” I believe the Koren Steinsaltz translation is more accurate and more elegant.

III. Focus

On comparing the Koren Steinsaltz with the Artscroll, I found a broad difference of approach in addition to the improvement in translation. The Artscroll’s in-text elaborations are extensive and its footnotes are occasionally extremely long and detailed. Koren Steinsaltz, on the other hand, keeps elaboration to the minimum required to understand the text and the multiple types of footnotes are all brief and intended to provide context.

The Artscroll’s footnotes provide commentary spanning the ages and expansion of practical aspects citing authorities throughout the ages. The commentary is less about the Talmud than about Judaism. Artscroll’s Talmud commentary is a gateway to Jewish thought and law. The Koren Steinsaltz commentary, on the other hand, is a gateway to the Talmud text. The background, commentary and law are all provided to give the reader a better understanding of the text. Indeed, compared to the Artscroll, the commentary is quite restrained. That is, I believe, intended to avoid distracting from the text.

After thinking about this for some time, I was gratified to hear R. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb say something similar in a lengthy, fascinating interview he and R. Steinsaltz gave to Nachum Segal (link – 1:57-2:50):

Every translation is to some extent a commentary… However, I think a good translator has to know not to give too much of his own ideology or his own commentary. Commentary is necessary to explain the text but a good translator gives over the text, the flavor of the text, with just enough extra commentary to make it clear and the rest is up to the student. What we’ve tried to do in this whole project is to allow the student to study and ask. It’s designed to provoke discussion and to provoke questions, not to provide answers but to open things up.

IV. Conclusion

Which edition is better? It depends what you are looking for. Even seasoned scholars can gain from the Artscroll’s commentary. Koren Steinsaltz’s commentary offers much less to such people.

People looking for a good translation that will help them master the Talmud itself will certainly prefer the Koren Steinsaltz. It is less of a crutch and more of a tool, specifically designed to offer students entry to Talmud study, to ask questions and to find for themselves a friend and a teacher with whom to advance their study.

 

Share this Post

 

Related Posts

About the author

Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

93 Responses

  1. joel rich says:

    Which is why I always try to encourage others (and myself) not to follow the traditional finger in the gemara, finger in rashi approach to learning but rather break one’s head against the unmediated gemara text (with a Jastrow for hard words) before seeing how rashi understood it. It hasn’t been a very high return sales process :-)
    KT

  2. shmuel says:

    joel rich –i agree with your approach, but am surprised that others don’t do the same. who on earth would look in rash (or any rishon) before trying to understand the gemara. It would be like looking in the rishonim on chumash before thinking about what the chumash itself says, and that is an obvious non-starter for the same reasons.

  3. GIL:

    nice review. thanks for examining the translation itself. so far all the other reviews i’ve seen focus on the format, commentaries, aethetics, etc. only.

    “However, the Koren Steinsaltz adopts a unique approach that even I can endorse.”

    not unique. artscroll daf yomi edition does the same. the main benefit of such a format is that it enables a smaller sized volume/set (the standard artscroll volume requires that the vilna side be repeated 3-4 times)

    one feature i think is great about the artscroll app is that you can have only the vilna page opened without the distraction of the english side, but if you need help along the way touch the word and a bubble opens above it with the translation.

    how do you feel that the text in koren is vocalized? presumably some will say this too is a crutch, detracts from the toil of learning, can introduce questionable readings, etc. (although i don’t understand why the same people don;t likwise inveigh against our vocalized masoretic tanach)

  4. Hirhurim says:

    Joel: I agree
    Abba: I haven’t seen the Artscroll Daf Yomi edition. I assumed it was the same as the other, just smaller.

    I appreciate the vocalizations. It helps me pronounce the words properly, as my rebbe did. I remember how careful he always was to say “be’alav imo” rather than “bailav imo” (8th perek of Bava Metzi’a).

  5. IH says:

    From RJM’s link:

    “What distinguishes ArtScroll’s Gemara, however, is something altogether different and far more important. It is the feeling that a Rebbe is sitting right there with you, explaining the Gemara phrase by phrase, introducing each new step with a directional narrative”

    Ny sense is that is precisely what R. Steinsaltz did not want to do. As with the original Hebrew Steinsaltz, the idea (as I understand it) is to elucidate the plain meaning of the Gemara text itself, and not to steer the reader to the way it would be explained by a Rebbe today based on a “mesorah” of later commentators.

    Healthy competition in approaches is goodness.

  6. […] is also some discussion of translation philosophy (HT Gil Student):  Every translation is to some extent a commentary.[…] However, I think a good translator […]

  7. Moshe Shoshan says:

    RJM

    It is a biased rant. Certainly he is correct the Artscroll seeks to present a more traditional yeshivishe experience of of Talmud study, while Steinsaltz has a more pshat oriented approach. Vive la difference. However he also seems to acknowledge that artscroll essentially spoon feeds the gemara while Steinsaltz seeks to engage the reader inthe text.

  8. Shlomo says:

    It is a very long composition. About 30% of it is biased rant but the remainder is cogent criticism.

  9. joel rich says:

    My shabbat afternoon chaburah has been using the hebrew steinsaltz for a very long time(yes Virginia, there was a time before artscroll). My impression is that it provides an ability to engage in the text without becoming the text and provides more than sufficient summaries and pointers to engage the student and point the way for those interested in independent research opportunities.
    KT

  10. Nachum says:

    “If memory serves me correctly, this was not a ban”

    Your memory does not serve you. The ban was announced against two unrelated works of R’ Steinsaltz (ostensibly for reasons based purely on Charedi hashkafa), but most took it as an attack on R’ Steinsaltz in general and the Talmud itself in specific, which was accordingly deemed non grata. See R’ Adam Mintz’ article. There seems to have been a lot more going on at the time as well.

  11. J. says:

    R. Gil – According to the Wikipedia cite of Michtavim U’Maamarim, Rav Shach’s attack on R. Steinsaltz was far more vitriolic than you remember:

    “…and similarly all his other works contain heresy. It is forbidden to debate with Steinsaltz, because, as a heretic, all the debates will only cause him to degenerate more. He is not a genuine person (ein tocho ke-baro) and everyone is obliged to distance themselves from him. This is the duty of the hour (mitzvah be-sha’atah). It will generate merit for the forthcoming Day of Judgement.”

    Why do I sometimes get the impression that YU types find it hard to relate to (or even accept the existence of) the less delicate approach of Israeli Charedi gedolim?

  12. Hirhurim says:

    Nachum: The ban was announced against two unrelated works of R’ Steinsaltz…

    That is more or less what I remember. I believe one (or the) offending book was about biblical personalities and Rav Shach’s comment on the Steinsaltz Gemara was that it wasn’t for bnei Torah (or bnei yeshiva).

    R. Adam Mintz has written more than one article. You have to be more specific (see the Rambam).

    J: We translate the words of Charedi Gedolim into our idiom, accepting the good and rejecting/ignoring the bad.

  13. Alex Hamilton says:

    Hi R’ Student,
    This has nothing to do with this post, but I once saw a review you wrote for an English book commentating on Shemot. I believe you were involved in the writing of the safer and you refered to it as following a Brisk approach and showing how ideas are built up.
    I have been meaning to buy this book but I have forgotten its name. Could you please remind me?
    Thanks,
    Alex

  14. GIL:

    “I believe one (or the) offending book was about biblical personalities”

    the book was “biblical images.” iirc the objection was to the title of the essay on shimshon, i.e., “the jewish hercules” or something like that. of course the point of the essay was in fact to contrast the 2 and not to say that shimshon was the equivalent of hercules. this title doesn’t appear in the english edition

    “R. Adam Mintz has written more than one article. You have to be more specific (see the Rambam).”

    he only has one article on talmud translations. in torah umada journal, reprinted in the YU Museum volume for the talmud exhibit

    “We translate the words of Charedi Gedolim into our idiom, accepting the good and rejecting/ignoring the bad.”

    there is a difference between rejecting and ignoring

  15. Hirhurim says:

    RJM: I read that review and totally disagree with it. I don’t think a translation should provide the “rebbe experience” and I found the summary of the Pnei Yehoshua perfectly understandable. I find plenty of mistakes in the Artscroll Gemara, both minor and major.

    Actually, I don’t totally disagree. I gain nothing from the pictures (same with Da’as Mikra) and find many reviews to be either Artscroll-bashing or novelty-praising without any engagement with the book itself.

    Personally, as I think I made clear in this post, I prefer the Artscroll for my needs, which is to check an occasional translation and look for in depth sources. However, I think the Koren Steinsaltz is better for a beginner who should not be spoon fed, certainly not complex Acharonim.

  16. Hirhurim says:

    Nachum: Thanks for the link. I’ll take a look when I have a chance.

    Alex: http://torahmusings.com/2012/02/the-brisker-approach-to-the-bible/

    Abba: there is a difference between rejecting and ignoring

    I agree

  17. Nachum says:

    Abba: The objection was specifically to the chapter on Michal, daughter of Shaul, but also to both volumes (in Hebrew there are two) and to The Essential Talmud. (Not related to the Talmud translation, nor to the Guide to the Talmud.)

    Mind, these books were quite old at this point. There are claims (substantiated, I’d think, by some letters and articles in Tradition) that the release of Artscroll at the same time had something to do with it. I imagine that R’ Steinsaltz’ Chabad and Zionist connections didn’t help.

  18. joel rich says:

    R’ Nachum,
    IIRC one of the objections at the time was that R’AS did not have a link to the mesoreh chain (i.e. he was self taught)
    KT

  19. GIL:

    “I find plenty of mistakes in the Artscroll Gemara, both minor and major.”

    the artscroll shas has obviously goes through many printings. has there been any effort to correct errors? is there any process whereby the solicit corrections from the general public?

    “I gain nothing from the pictures”

    this is probably subjective. some people need some type of a visual experience.

    “same with Da’as Mikra”

    their pictures are terrible. very often lacking any context or the captios are devoid of any explanation as to relationship to the text. my pet peeve is then they show pictures of a manuscript without identifying which one. and the quality is not even sub-par.

    anyway, for me the biggest turnoff to the koren edition is that the english translation is apparently so divorced (physically) from the original text.

  20. Hirhurim says:

    anyway, for me the biggest turnoff to the koren edition is that the english translation is apparently so divorced (physically) from the original text

    I thought it would be but it really isn’t. They have the Hebrew text right next to the English, chunk by chunk.

  21. Rafael Araujo says:

    It is well known that Rav Shach was prepared to denouce the Artscroll gemorah. Rav Gifter convinced him otherwise. On principle, and despite it being well known that Rav Shach was opposed to R’ Steinsaltz, it seemed he also was in principle against running commentary translations of the Gemorah.

    Also, with respect to the blog claiming that Artscroll is like having a Rebbi there to teach you, please read Rav Henoch Leibowitz’s haskamah to the Artscroll gemorah.

  22. GIL:

    “They have the Hebrew text right next to the English, chunk by chunk.”

    ok, i didn’t understand this from the reviews. now i see what it looks like. i like it this way, midway between artscroll and soncino styles. but i guess one’s preference will be subjective.

    btw, the preview on the amazon page lets you see all the prefatory matter as well as a few pages from the english and hebrew side and some indices

  23. “Rav Gifter convinced him otherwise”

    my souce states that in general he played an very important role in kashering it. (of course an anonymous commenter citing an unidentified source is meaningless :) )

  24. RLZ says:

    Rafael: Thank you for the R’ Leibowitz citation. I read it, and I think you have to read his concluding comments in the context of the rest of his Haskamah. I said in my post that I would never allow ArtScroll’s Gemara in my classroom, and I do everything I can to discourage its use at home by the vast majority of my students, because my students already have a real-life Rebbe. Many of us were so fortunate to have had a quality Rebbe (or many) in our lives to help us learn how to learn, and anyone in that category should not need ArtScroll anyway. But what I think R’ Leibowitz meant – and I agree – is that for the masses of people who have not had that privilege, ArtScroll is a more adequate substitute than certain other unnamed competitors precisely because of ArtScroll’s “Rebbe-like” quality which those other editions lack. So on the balance I would say that I agree with R’ Leibowitz. Thanks again for the reference.

  25. joel rich says:

    R’RLZ,
    Et chatai ani mazkir hayom – when I wore a younger man’s clothes I pretty much inhaled science fiction. There was a short story (apparently girsa dyankuta doesn’t work for me for titles, just story lines) whose theme was many are tested but few are chosen to be scientists rather than engineers – while the rebbi issue is important, imho one of the key dividers is ability to understand that there may in fact be no answer or way just to read through a gemara. So for the vast majority the spoon feeding is perhaps appropriate but I’m not sure (at least based on what I’ve observed)what the rebbi like artscroll provides other than the feeling that you have had an experience which you really haven’t.
    KT

  26. Rafael Araujo says:

    My pleasure. However, when I read it (as was pointed out to me many years ago by a rebbi of mine, who was talmid of the RY Reb Chenoch tz”l) is that he says that Artscroll is not a replacement for the rebbi-talmid relationship. Maybe I read it incorrectly, who knows.

  27. S. says:

    Rafael, certainly no one wants a book to be a replacement for a rebbe, but I imagine that the reviewer was making a factual description/ estimation of what Artscroll does, not what is desirable or desirable to those who wrote letters to be printed in the Artscroll gemaras.

    I plan on writing my own review of the Koren Steinsaltz, hopefully kind, but in the meantime I will say that much of the critical review was also resonant to me. And how come no one pointed out that for some reason Rashi is vocalized (in Rashi letters no less!) but not Tosafos?

  28. RLZ says:

    S: Correct. Thank you. The folks at ArtScroll have also always stated in their introductions that they do not want to be a replacement for a Rebbe where learning with one is a possibility. For those for whom that’s not a possibility, hey, they may as well try. As to the Hebrew page layout – fair point – I thought my review was already getting on in length, but I do like the Hebrew page with the punctuation and vowels, particularly for the clientele. Does Koren sell that daf by itself?
    Tosafot? If you need that for Tosafot, are you ready for Tosafot? :)

  29. i don;t fully understand the critique that it’s not a replacement for a rebbe:

    a) i’m sure that over the years we’ve all had plenty of bad rebbeim who could have been easily replaced with benefit by artscroll (and presumably steinsaltz)
    b) not everyone has easy access to learn regularly with a rebbe
    c) not everyone even considers to begin with the need for a rebbe (and in this regard i suspect that critics are overlooking who may end up being a large part of koren’s market)

    S:

    ” And how come no one pointed out that for some reason Rashi is vocalized (in Rashi letters no less!) but not Tosafos?”

    i noticed that and assumed it was a carry over from the hebrew edition. i don’t remember for sure, but didn’t it have a vocalized rashi (in square letters) and no tosafot altogether?

  30. Hesh says:

    I’ve been learning with the Steinsalz “Vilna” edition, and I find it to be the best solution my skill set — enough Ivrit to be able to understand Steinsalz (especially the notes, which are much more illuminating than ArtScroll) while still staying “on the daf”.

  31. RLZ:

    “If you need that for Tosafot, are you ready for Tosafot? :)”

    smiley isn’t neccesary. the statement is very true. rashi and tosafot are very different types of commentaries. rashi is much more fundamental and central for a basic peshat understanding of the text at hand and is certainly much more necessary (and accessible) for beginners. not so tosafot.* so i assumed that only rashi is vocalized because it is assumed that even someone with less learning skills might use it. (and so my question was how come only rashi and not every other commentary is vocalized; not, why is rashi vocalized but not tosafot)

    *note that whereas rashi has genrally always been an undisputed part of of the printed talmud page, the presence of tosafot is a function of geography, historical circumstances and luck. you won’t find it in the earliest editions, but rather only after the demise of the iberian presses on the one hand and the clinched supremacy of the soncinos on the other hand.

  32. IH says:

    Seems to me the interesting showdown will be between the two promised iPad apps…

  33. “and so my question was how come only rashi and not every other commentary is vocalized; not, why is rashi vocalized but not tosafot”

    actually i have to admit that when when i quickly looked at a random page online, it was page with no tosafot and rashi in 2 columns. so i thought both rashi and tosafot were vocalized and wondered why not the entire page then.

    as an aside to tie togehter my rashi vs. tosafot comments and the critique of not have a rebbe, check out prof soloveitchik’s article on the printed page of the talmud. he has a paragraph there about the indispensible utiluty of rashi and one could easily substitute artscroll (or steinsaltz or whatever) for rashi. he basicalyl writes that rashi democritzed (his word) the study of gemera because no longer did someone have to seek out a rebbe to understand a text whose telegrammatic feature renders it incomprehensible to the untutored who lacked the ability to fill in the blanks.

    i.e., we want to preserve the way it was, except that the way it was really wasn’t the way it was. (and not just with gemara, but as i mentioned above with tanach also)

  34. IH:

    “Seems to me the interesting showdown will be between the two promised iPad apps…”

    artscroll app is very promising and sets a high bar for koren to match. actually, koren will have to exceed by a great degree, not just match artscroll. because
    1) in general artscroll is so entrenched for all the obvious reasons and koren faces an uphill battle
    2) artscroll will digitize its library not just the shas. imagine the hyperlinked possibilities.

  35. RLZ says:

    AR: Can I have a link to that article? Is it online anywhere? Very interesting. I have always had that same feeling and also always had a problem with how to use Rashi in the classroom – not doing Rashi seems scandalous or sophomoric, but it’s hard to integrate Rashi in a way that also makes me (and the students’ own minds) relevant. (If Prof. Sol. is right, that’s not surprising, since Rashi intended to replace me.) I’ve spoken to other teachers who have found that as well. (I know this is not the forum to deal with this problem exhaustively – just putting it out there.)

  36. IH says:

    RlZ — when you say “replace me” what do you mean? What specifically do you think your role is when you teach Talmud?

  37. RLZ says:

    IH – To help my students (I usually prefer the term learners) develop an ability to carry on learning independently in a meaningful and increasingly sophisticated way, which I am in a position to do because I have a Mesorah and more years of experience. Prof. Sol. would be saying (and I believe rightly) that that is what Rashi wanted to do, particularly for those of his own “learners” who did not have access to a Rebbe. If that’s what he’s trying to do, and it’s what I’m trying to do, is there then room for both of us in the classroom? That was my point of difficulty.

  38. RLZ:

    the article is in the YU Museum’s “Printing the Talmud” catalogue. i’ve been told that it was put online, but i don’t know where. just to clarify, iirc (?) prof. solov doesn’t say that rashi that intended to replace the rebbe. rather than he enabled people to learn gemara without seeking out a rebbe (which wasn’t necessarily so easy). there’s a difference. (the fact that for some perhaps rashi supplanted the rebbe may have been an unintended consequence, but then as today, perhaps an acceptable one considering results?)

  39. RLZ:

    i think different people turn to artscroll/steinsaltz for different reasons. perhaps your role as an classroom educator colors your general outlook toward these translations. from what i remember when i was in school we used soncino and somewhat less steinsaltz, and finally artscroll (it started in the middle of high school) as cliff notes. doubtelessly this bothers teachers, whose role it is to help students gain facility with the original text. and these students are in a position and environment in which are optimally designed (or should be) to transmit this knowledge. cliff notes don’t belong here.
    but what about the middle aged lawyer who takes up an interest learning gemara and perhaps even commits to daf yomi.* realistically his learning time is on the LIRR. it he wants to learn daily the question isn’t rebbe vs. translation, but rather which translation.

    *i suspect that for many daf yomi inhibits rather than fosters aquisition of textual literacy (not that i’m one to talk)

  40. RLZ:

    ” is there then room for both of us in the classroom?”

    even if you conclude in the negative, that you and rashi are superfluous, they still need to learn rashi as a skill* so that they will able to utilize it when learning independently. even those most devoted to the rebbe-student relationship don;t learn together with the rebbe exclusively. (the question then becomes when learning independently, to which resources should they turn when they don;t understand the text. if you feel that strongly they should use artscroll/steinsaltz, then they better know how to read a rashi, etc.).

    and learning rashi (properly) can also serve as entry point to learning other perushim.

  41. Steve Brizel says:

    Great article! Whether one views the ArtScroll Shas as a crutch or the Torah world’s equivalent to Methadone or the Steinzalz as a tool, there are no substitutes for mastering the original with the aide of a rebbe and a chavrusa, and what is called Ameilus BaTorah or breaking one’s head over Pshat in the text and commentaries.

  42. RLZ says:

    AR (et al): Absolutely. Whatever Rashi’s original intention, he has become a necessary resource and tool over the past millennium, almost independent of the need for actively engaging with a Chevruta or Rebbe. I appreciate that point and do teach Rashi skills as part of a full package of Gemara skills.
    IH: Thanks for the link! Looking forward to reading!

  43. Yosef Chaim says:

    It was Rav Zelig Epstein who got Rav Shach to not ban Schottenstein.

  44. Nachum says:

    R’ Mintz’ article also mentions that R’ Menashe Klein wrote a piece condemning all translations, including Artscroll, but was prevailed upon to toss it in the trash, from where it was recovered by another.

    I’ve seen old vocalized Bavlis; in an ATID interview about the new Steinsaltz, there was a mention that they were done by R’ Steinsaltz’ father, which is incredible.

    The original Hebrew Steinsaltz, because someone asked, has Rashi in Rashi letters with punctuation, and Tosafot with less punctuation. Even that minimal punctuation can open a whole Tosafot for me.

    As to changes in Artscroll, here’s one that really bugged me: I was learning Makkot with my chavruta. I had the original Artscroll (the first volume they did), and he had a new smaller sized one. First, the pages didn’t match, which was annoying. But among other things, I noticed this wacky one: The word “rape” was replaced by “oneiss” in every single example. I really have no idea why they would do that.

  45. Moshe Shoshan says:

    “Correct. Thank you. The folks at ArtScroll have also always stated in their introductions that they do not want to be a replacement for a Rebbe where learning with one is a possibility. ”

    These sorts of disclaimers do not clear the publisher of responsibility. There is no question that a lot of people use artscroll who dont fit the claimed target audience.

    More fundamentally, I think that these two publication reflect radically different approaches to Torah. On the one side we have an approach that emphasizes masorah, an feels the text can only be learned when filter through the canonical perspective. Ont he other hand you have an approach that emphasizes direct engagement with the text, use of what ever tools available, traditional or not, to understand it abd, by implication, independent thought. I have my baises and personal opinions, but at some level this is a very old machlokes which needs to be seen as eilu v’eilu.

  46. aaron says:

    I challenge you to name me mistakes in artscroll. I have most likely gone through all of it, not all in the English editions and hardly find any real mistakes or even ‘print’ mistakes. That what you write that having a rebbi is better than using artscroll is certainly not true. No rebbi can compete with artscroll who have gone through the whole shas with all meforshim many I have not even heard of. How can a rebbi with very limited knowledge even hope to compete.

  47. S:

    i recalled incorrectly above. rashi and tosafot in the hebrew steinsaltz are both unvocalized, although punctuated. rashi is in rashi type, tosafot is in square type.

  48. Moshe Shoshan says:

    ” No rebbi can compete with artscroll who have gone through the whole shas with all meforshim many I have not even heard of.”
    Obviously it depends on the rebbe

    A Rebbi is a *real person* a real person can challenge and inspire you. He can create a personal connection between the student and the text.

    Artscrol cannot teahc you how to read a Gemara, a rebbe can.

    If you think that the job of a teacher is simply to do a data dumpt into the students heads, you have have no appreciation for teachers

  49. aaron says:

    To Moshe Shoshan
    It depends on what standard you are. If you still need a rebbi to teach you ‘basic’ pshat or what you term ‘read’ a gemoro then you are right. Artscroll is not for you. You have to attend a shiur. Most who have gone through yeshivot or even school today should be beyond that stage. R Shach I consider was really mistaken thinking everyone was on his madreigoh. Because of his genuine reluctance to let others use artscroll most grow up to be am haarazim. Other RYs are not so genuine, but they dont want their talmidim to know too much since the artscroll always knows more than them.
    Artscroll today has taken the place of rashi, and a previous poster who says using it detracts from ‘ameilus’ is again totally mistaken. There is plenty of ‘ameilus’ even after using artscroll mesivta and chavrusa. If he cant find any that can only suggest that his learning is on a very low standard. These are all monumental works and deserve the utmost credit which the RYs for their own personal reasons which I would call ‘maase soton’ fail to give it.

  50. Eytan says:

    To aaron

    I dont consider myself stupid and am more than capable of making my way through a sugya from the text up to contemporary roshei yeshiva with all the relevant stops along the way (ie ‘beyond the stage’ that you refer to)
    I think your understanding of what to ‘read’ a gemara is is incorrect. There are always deeper points, deconstructing each step to its more fundamental parts, understanding the context and reconfiguring an area of halacha or sugya to fully comprehend the particular man daamar. Why would the greatest talmidei chachomim still give a shiur that mainly involves ‘reading’ the gemara and deriving ‘basic pshat’
    A Rebbe is there to broaden ones intellectual horizons, to challenge the limits of your thought and stimulate to think wider, deeper, quicker. The give and take, multiple steps and permutations that need to be considered to come to a rigorous pshat in gemara is something that, if at all transcribable, would take volumes.
    For that reason alone, an artscroll cannot replace a Rebbe.

  51. Anonymous says:

    In my opinion, there is no absolute answer – the overriding question is who is doing a better job in your life – your Rebbe (assuming you have or had one) or ArtScroll? ArtScroll should not replace any Rebbe that a person has and that is doing a better job than ArtScroll at helping a person learn Gemara well on their own, but I believe it can serve as a legitimate replacement for one who has no Rebbe or who has or has had a sub-par Rebbe, in the sense that that Rebbe is not inculcating independence in the learner. In theory, ArtScroll CAN teach a person how to learn. When they translate phrase by phrase (which Steinsaltz does not do), you can learn the meaning of basic words and phrases over time and at some point open a “real Gemara” and learn. You can even open a Rishon they quote in the notes and use the notes to help you learn it. That’s all in theory. Why I see so few people, even extremely smart and well-educated people, make that transition is beyond me. Maybe they make it possible to make the leap but don’t engender the feelings of confidence that one would need to transition to a classic Gemara. Maybe ArtScroll has certain business interests in mind in doing so. Maybe it’s classic correlation/causation – many people who use ArtScroll just don’t care to take the leap, even if they can. Or maybe only a Rebbe can inspire that kind of confidence. Or maybe even many Rebbe’s cannot or do not do that, perhaps for similar business reasons, as seen from all of the great Talmidei Chachamim in large Yeshivot giving masterful Shiurim to students who can still hardly learn on their own and cling to the “mareh mekomos” sheet for dear life. Is their “mareh mekomos” sheet any better than an ArtScroll?
    Aaron: I agree with you about ArtScroll – it takes guts to say something nice about ArtScroll on this blog, so good for you. Here is something I wrote to a commenter on my own blog the other day: “Everyone gets on ArtScroll for their Gemara being, as you put it, ‘intellectually insincere,’ but I have not seen too many (if any) examples of that personally or had them cited to me by others. Believe me – I’m right on that bandwagon about their ‘history’ books, some of their works of practical Halacha (but even there, I think people take the criticism too far), and even their Siddur commentary. Because ArtScroll never been ashamed to serve as a tool of the Agudah, it’s an easy arrow to sling, but again – I need more proof of any actual Hashkafic cherry-picking in their Gemara before I sign on to that criticism. Feel free to pass some on.”
    Haven’t heard back. Anyone here have any actual examples of Hashkafic indoctrination or intellectual insincerity in the ArtScroll Gemara?

  52. RLZ says:

    Sorry – forgot to sign my “name.”
    In my opinion, there is no absolute answer – the overriding question is who is doing a better job in your life – your Rebbe (assuming you have or had one) or ArtScroll? ArtScroll should not replace any Rebbe that a person has and that is doing a better job than ArtScroll at helping a person learn Gemara well on their own, but I believe it can serve as a legitimate replacement for one who has no Rebbe or who has or has had a sub-par Rebbe, in the sense that that Rebbe is not inculcating independence in the learner. In theory, ArtScroll CAN teach a person how to learn. When they translate phrase by phrase (which Steinsaltz does not do), you can learn the meaning of basic words and phrases over time and at some point open a “real Gemara” and learn. You can even open a Rishon they quote in the notes and use the notes to help you learn it. That’s all in theory. Why I see so few people, even extremely smart and well-educated people, make that transition is beyond me. Maybe they make it possible to make the leap but don’t engender the feelings of confidence that one would need to transition to a classic Gemara. Maybe ArtScroll has certain business interests in mind in doing so. Maybe it’s classic correlation/causation – many people who use ArtScroll just don’t care to take the leap, even if they can. Or maybe only a Rebbe can inspire that kind of confidence. Or maybe even many Rebbe’s cannot or do not do that, perhaps for similar business reasons, as seen from all of the great Talmidei Chachamim in large Yeshivot giving masterful Shiurim to students who can still hardly learn on their own and cling to the “mareh mekomos” sheet for dear life. Is their “mareh mekomos” sheet any better than an ArtScroll?
    Aaron: I agree with you about ArtScroll – it takes guts to say something nice about ArtScroll on this blog, so good for you. Here is something I wrote to a commenter on my own blog the other day: “Everyone gets on ArtScroll for their Gemara being, as you put it, ‘intellectually insincere,’ but I have not seen too many (if any) examples of that personally or had them cited to me by others. Believe me – I’m right on that bandwagon about their ‘history’ books, some of their works of practical Halacha (but even there, I think people take the criticism too far), and even their Siddur commentary. Because ArtScroll never been ashamed to serve as a tool of the Agudah, it’s an easy arrow to sling, but again – I need more proof of any actual Hashkafic cherry-picking in their Gemara before I sign on to that criticism. Feel free to pass some on.”
    Haven’t heard back. Anyone here have any actual examples of Hashkafic indoctrination or intellectual insincerity in the ArtScroll Gemara?

  53. aaron says:

    There is what I will call a ground level. Or should I call it a basic level. ‘y’choles halimud’. Anyone can read an artscroll but that doesnt mean he can already ‘learn’. This takes years of practice. To know what is considered a ‘good’ s’voro and what isnt, termed ‘svoros crasios’. I am not sure who or which rebbi you are referring to, but today very few exist. Someone who ‘knows’ how to learn doesnt really need a rebbi unless he is on the caliber of the brisker rov who was mechadesh daily.
    The problem today is that people dont know how to learn. Most who leave yeshivot or attend kollelim have no idea. How many can make something similar to an artscroll summary. How many ‘rebbis’ ever make a summary which is the most important thing in learning. Until yeshivot start adopting university practices of learning subjects thoroughly they will remain am haarazim.
    I am not sure why you say it would take volumes. Just because a shiur takes hours when most of the time nothing of ‘value’ is said at all. What is wrong with all the achronim who manage it in a few words.
    The correct way to learn which no one seems to realise is first of all to define what all the cases the gemoro is speaking about. Write them down in an orderly way. Add on extra cases which the gemoro perhaps doesnt mention. I may give an example on present daf yomi. Write what the din is by each according to all the shitos in the gemoro and rishonim which can be found easily in the mesivta. Only then can one really start learning and try to understand them.
    I have yet to see a rebbi providing all this prior to his shiur. Very likely he doesnt even know it.
    Putting the cart before the horse, is what usually done.

  54. aaron says:

    My challenge is still open to a previous poster. Name me the ‘mistakes’ in artscroll gemoros. I have gone through all of them and have not found many. Maybe my standard of learning is too low to notice them. If there are so many surely you can name me a few on present daf yomi which I consider the hardest for many reasons. First of all ‘sfaikos’. And also most machlokes are about metzius.

  55. RLZ says:

    As to the iPad apps – ArtScroll’s look more advanced, but some of it will come down to price. ArtScroll just released prices – http://www.artscroll.com/Products/TBR1EI.html – $18.99 (“special low price”) for half of Berachos. Steinsaltz should be able to beat that. I understand ArtScroll wants to avoid undercutting the cost of their own print editions, but that’s a lot for 30 Daf Gemara – esp. if the price really goes up. People don’t pay that much for iPad app’s. Soncinco is free online.

  56. IH says:

    At 73 volumes, that would be $1,386.27 at $18.99 per ebook, but it looks like they will have some sort of subscription service for Daf Yomi that may be more palatable: http://www.artscroll.com/Categories/DT1.html

  57. josh says:

    A bit disappointed that this review had to include criticism of Artscroll. The Koren version certainly has it’s advantages, but certainly an equal amount of criticism as well. A better service would have been to focus on the advantages of both and who the Koren version will be suitable because I can see many people being turned off.

  58. RLZ says:

    IH: Thanks. Those prices make more sense. If you read the descriptions, though, it’s tricky: the $6.99 option is that day’s Daf plus 5 days ahead and 5 days behind, but all others you bought disappear. (They call it a “rental.”) That makes many of their hyperlinking features unusable since you only have a few daf at a time. $11.99 a month lets you keep each month’s dafim forever. That’s still expensive but it’s better than their $18.99 for 30 daf of a particular mesechta.

  59. Nachum says:

    “Anyone here have any actual examples of Hashkafic indoctrination or intellectual insincerity in the ArtScroll Gemara?”

    Sure. The Three Oaths.

  60. RLZ says:

    Nachum: The end of Ketuvot? Thanks, I’ll take a look. I assume they quote the Satmar Rebbe that Lo Yaalu B’choma applies today and that bothers you. If so, I agree – no Halachic work ever quoted it, and they’ve never quoted him before. I’ll see what they see – I’m intrigued. That’s still 1 example in thousands of pages, but at least there’s a little justification for the antagonism.

  61. RLZ says:

    A piece of Aggadeta amidst several Daf of Aggedeta aside, we have a Mesorah on how we make decisions in this religion. Iggeret Teiman is not Mishna Torah. Maharal is not Shulchan Aruch. A Derasha in what Rabbi Avraham Galanti (who?) might have meant is not Tur or Beit Yosef. We live our lives by the Shalshelet Hamesorah, its principal commentaries, and the advice of the Gedolim of our time, the vast majority of whom, even if they have or had issues with the non-religious character of the founding or founders of the State, did not invoke the Shevuot as a reason for people not to return and live in Eretz Yisrael, and in many cases lived there themselves or at least (in the case of American Gedolim) encouraged their students to do so and even to take whole communities to live there. Thank though.

  62. Steve Brizel says:

    Many years ago, and Nachum Lamm can probably also confirm this, during one of R D S Leiman’s Shabbos shiurim, he discussed the ban on Steinzalz and its background. I don’t think that R Leiman ever committed the same into an article or a taped shiur, but then I would suggest that the interested person check the Leiman Library website. IIRC, R Leiman thought that the ban was inspired by the fact that R Steinsalz’s English edition was being published by Random House, which had beaten ArtScroll to the secular and English speaking audiences. I recall that the late, but not missed JO devoted at least one issue to the “problematic” views of TSBP and Tanach in R Steinsalz’s writings, and a debate between R A Feldman and an editor of the Steinsalz Talmud in Tradition about how the Steinzalz Talmud presented the Sugya of Tafko Kohen in Perek Shenayim Ochzin, and how the same differed from the classical treatment in the Rishonim.

    That being said,anyone who “knows how to learn” will appreciate, but find issues of a not inconsequential nature with the ArtScroll Shas. One of my chavrusos and myself found at least one unattributed footnote that was contrary to the way that the Rov Rishonim understood a sugya, and if one reads the treatment of the Mitzvas Yishuv EY in Ksuvos on the sugya of the three oathes, the same is written as if nothing had happened since the beginning of the 19th Century.

  63. Steve Brizel says:

    An alternative to both ArtScroll and Steinsalz is the excellent Halacha Brurah-which has the traditional Tzuras HaDaf, and an excellent summary of the Rishonim and Acharonim on any sugya in the Masecta .

  64. RLZ says:

    Jacob: “Hilchesa Lemishica?” I thought this supposed Halacha has existed “throughout the last 1917 years” – your words. Anyway, eilu v’eilu. Good luck with your Hashkafa. I’ll keep mine.

  65. Nachum says:

    Actually, Artscroll goes further: They anticipate the question of why the Three Oaths are not mentioned in the Rambam (or any other sefer of halakhah) by giving the extremely far out Satmar position that they are ikarei emunah. There is no attempt to present any other position, whether more moderate Charedi or (chas v’shalom) Religious Zionist, apart from saying that the matter has been “discussed” a lot, or something like that. (RLZ: I’m not sure if you’re agreeing with me or not. And who’s Jacob?)

    Steve: I was not at that shiur, but I have seen that argument made elsewhere. It’s good to know R’ Leiman backs it up. I recall R’ *Emanuel* Feldman writing a light-hearted piece in Tradition reacting to both the Artscroll and Steinsaltz, and R’ Wolpin, editor of the JO, wrote a letter to say he’d been unfair, that some translations (nudge nudge) may be sketchy, but Artscroll is “like a rebbe and chavruta rolled into one.” A letter in a later issue took him to task for basically writing an ad for Artscroll, and a somewhat over the top (in more ways than one) one at that.

    And then came R’ Feldman’s brother’s piece, which I assume appeared there for one reason. He attacked the English Steinsaltz on somewhat technical grounds (as if, to reply to some comments above, we pasken from a Gemara!) and then vaguely said that this was true of the Hebrew as well, without giving examples. I recall that he responded to the response by pointing out that it was from the English editor, not R’ Steinsaltz himself.

    Of course, let’s be honest and point out that Random House could probably never have competed with Artscroll, for reasons that had nothing to do with hashkafa or marketing. Koren looks better suited to do so.

    And, of course, there’s this priceless photo of R’ Scherman with an English Steinsaltz:

    http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2005/02/09/books/0210books-talmud.html

    From: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/10/books/10talm.html

    Steve: Let me take some hometown pride and point out that the editor of Halacha Berurah is the rav of my sister and brother in law’s shul, rebbe at Merkaz HaRav, and candidate for Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. There are actually a few Hebrew versions circulating, but Artscroll and Steinsaltz seem to predominate.

  66. The following is from Saul Stampfer’s article Cheder Study, Knowledge of Torah, and the Maintenance of Social Stratification that appears in his book Families, Rabbis, and Education: Traditional Jewish Society in Nineteenth-Century Eastern Europe.

    Note what he says about the Artscroll and Steinsaltz translations of the talmud in footnote [41]. Indeed, what will be the long term impact of these translations? I know of high school rebbeim who refuse to let their talmidim use either of these translations.

    If the function of the Talmud Cheder was to bring the student to the point where he could study Talmud on his own, then the cheder was not a very successful institution. But it was not alone in its ineffectiveness. The Jewish community as a whole did not do as much as it could to spread knowledge of the Talmud despite all of the talk about the importance of Torah study. Very simple steps could have been taken that would have dramatically increased
    knowledge and understanding. Surprisingly, tools such as Aramaic-Yiddish dictionaries, or an extensive Talmud commentary in Yiddish or even Hebrew, did not exist, even though they would have been of great aid to students. It certainly would not have been difficult to produce such books. Even classical talmudic dictionaries in Hebrew, such as the Arukh, were not generally available. [41] The results were clear. The majority of Jews, such as the pedlars,
    shoemakers, and tailors, could not study a page of Talmud on their own. They were pious, they said their psalms, they went to hear the midrashic sermons on Saturday afternoons in the synagogues, but they were not themselves learned.

    [41] The contemporary phenomenon of Talmud commentaries, such as that of Rabbi Steinsaltz or the Artscroll commentaries which are in the vernacular and which require no major investment of effort to understand, did not have an equivalent in eastern Europe. This was not because of any inability to write such a commentary or lack of printing shops to print one. Popularization of the Talmud or making it more accessible went against the grain of traditional Jewish society. It will be interesting to see what the long-term impact of these commentaries will be – whether they will spread knowledge or lead to functional illiteracy in Hebrew and Aramaic.

  67. Nachum says:

    “lead to functional illiteracy in Hebrew and Aramaic.”

    “Lead to” implies that it doesn’t exist now. Of course, it does, and you don’t need the qualifier of “functional.”

  68. Hirhurim says:

    Dr. Levine: There were Yiddish translations of the Mishnah

  69. RLZ says:

    Nachum: I agree with you – notice my strong comments against Jacob – but I looked up the ArtScroll on Ketuvot 110-111 today and couldn’t find what you’re referring to. I found the Sugya easily, but the notes are pretty quiet. Maybe they’ve made changes? If you give me a Footnote #, that’d be great. Maybe they put it on a different page or stuck it in another footnote.

  70. RLZ says:

    Also Nachum: Your recollection of the Tradition piece is not correct. You can re-read it here: http://www.traditiononline.org/news/originals/Volume%2025/No.%204/Learning%20Gemara%20In.pdf. He actually went back and compared the mistakes he found in the English edition to the original Hebrew edition and found that, in his sample, two-thirds of the mistakes overlapped. That was how he came to his assertion that the Hebrew edition is also problematic, a point he makes and explains rather clearly.

  71. S. says:

    “There were Yiddish translations of the Mishnah”

    Plural no less? And when?

  72. Hirhurim says:

    S: I don’t know when but I have from my grandfather a complete set of Mishnah with “Ivri Teitsch”.

  73. S. says:

    That’s 20th century.

  74. Hirhurim says:

    S: I didn’t know that. Thanks

  75. RLZ says:

    Oh my gosh that’s awkward – Hirhurim must have removed Jacob’s comments, so now mine don’t make any sense! Nachum – “Jacob” came on to rant about how the “oath” that we not return to Israel b’choma (or k’choma – different girsaot) is binding Halacha and always has been (he used the Maharal, Iggeret Teiman, and R’ Avraham Galanti to make his points). Now I see why you were confused, Nachum. Sorry.

  76. Hirhurim says:

    Trolls will be deleted and banned.

    Troll: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)

  77. Nachum says:

    RLZ: Thanks. And I stand corrected on R’ Feldman, but I still think his argument was too technical.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but almost all Yiddish translations (of Tanach, for example) were very recent, post-Haskalah and done by Maskilim (religious or not). As has been pointed out, unlike Arabic (and Aramaic, of course), very little Torah was written in Yiddish. (Tzenah U-reenah, of course, but we know the original purpose of that.) The same seems true of Ladino. (Meam Loez and…?)

  78. Nachum says:

    Ah. Wikipedia corrects me; Levita translated some and there was one later. But Yehoash is 20th Century. Interesting that the activity began in earnest as Yiddish was dying.

  79. artscroll footnotes says:

    Here is the relevant footnote:

    ArtScroll Kesubos 111a fn. 13

    [The Acharonim discuss why the oaths mentioned in our Gemara are not cited in Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, nor in the Tur nor in the Shulchan Aruch. It has been suggested that since these oaths do not conform to the parameters of the oaths discussed in Tractate Shevuos, but are rather fundamental elements of the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people in exile, they are not cited in these sources. However, Rambam does cite them in his Iggeres Teiman (see below note 15), in which he warns the Yemenite community in the strongest terms not to be misled into violating these oaths (by following a false messiah). Furthermore, Piskei Riaz, which is a halachic work, does mention these oaths. They are discussed at length by the Midrash in a historical context (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 2:7) and in other sources (see Rabbeinu Bachya to Genesis 32:7; Abarbanel in Yeshu’os Meshicho I p. 11b; Kaftor VaFerach, Jerusalem ed., 5657, p. 197; Yefei To’ar to Vayikra Rabbah 19:5 and Yefei Kol to Shir HaShirim Rabbah 2:7). This subject has been discussed at great length (notably by the saintly Torah giants of the previous generations) but a thorough treatment of this issue is beyond the scope of this elucidation. For more sources that bear upon this topic, see above, 110b note 15.]

    ArtScroll, Kesubos 110b fn. 15:

    According to some Rishonim, there is a Biblical mirzvah to settle Eretz Yisrael (see, for example, Ramban in his appendix to Sefer HaMitzvos, Asei d”h mitzvah reviis). Accordingly, our Mishnah’s ruling that a person may force his household members to go there with him is a reflection of this mitzvah (see Ramban to Numbers 33:53) [although the right to coerce them may be a Rabbinic enactment]. Other Rishonim maintain that there is no positive commandment to settle Eretz Yisrael. However, even these authorities agree that it is a worthy cause to live in Eretz Yisrael. Thus, the Sages enacted that a person should be able to force his family to mover there in fulfillment of this aim.

    The footnote then continues to list twenty-five sources from Rishonim and Acharonim (ranging historically from Tosafos and Rambam to Chasam Sofer and Beis HaLevi). Following this, the footnote concludes in brackets:

    [There are numerous other sources that discuss the settlement of Eretz Yisrael, especially in contemporary times that have seen dramatic changes there. A comprehensive treatment of this topic, however, is beyond the scope of this work.]

  80. NACHUM:

    “Interesting that the activity began in earnest as Yiddish was dying.”

    huh? dying?! easy to write that from the hindsight of more than a century. at the time the forverts was the most circulated foreign language daily in america and one of the largest circulated papers period. in lithania there was a thriving network of yiddishist schools replete with yiddish textbooks and curricula for all subjects. and the bund (which promoted yiddish in its platform) was a potent player. and owing to people like harkavy, yiddish was shedding some of its reputation as a bastardized jargon and starting to become recognized as a legitimate language.

  81. RLZ says:

    OK. Found that – it’s still in there. I would consider it disingenuous and tone-deaf, but it’s not like they quote the Satmar Rebbe or any other far-right sources.
    It is intellectually irresponsible, though. The important line “The Acharonim discuss why the oaths … are not cited …” does not quote the central question in the name of any actual Acharon before giving the obvious answer – also anonymously – that the Shevuot are not Halachic. The footnote is sloppy and unclear, but I would not call it incendiary or even hyperbolic. In any event, I agree that this is certainly an example of intellectual dishonesty, though not quite outright indoctrination. Overall, my experience with their Gemara has been that this is not common, but I accept this example as an exception nonetheless.

  82. NACHUM:

    i would also add that knowledge of yiddish more than persisted for throughout the 20th century in eastern europe and it is not at all uncommon for FSU immigrants to know to understand and speak yiddish(and among the carpathian community in particular it is not at all rare to find american-raised kids knowing yiddish as well)

  83. Baruch says:

    Abba’s Rantings:

    Whether Yiddish was dying or not is greatly debated. Read Dawidowicz’s book about her time in Vilna in 1938-39. According to her, most of YIVO’s students were people kept out of secular universities due to anti-Semitism. In other words, it is not at all clear that the younger generation were interested in preserving Yiddish as a language. This was certainly true in America (the editor of the Forward actually supported the younger generation speaking English) and arguably true of Eastern Europe too.

  84. Steve Brizel says:

    Full disclosure time-I daven from an ArtScroll Siddur and Shalosh Regalim Machzorim and the Mesoras HaRav Machzorim, but I use a Toras Chaim Chumash for reviewing the Parsha.

    That being said, one need not look far to see hashkafic/ideological biases as to which edition of a sefer such as Tanach, Shas, Siddur, Machzor or many other Sifei Kodesh one uses, has in one’s library shelves, or which can be described alternatively as a simple psychological comfort level. On Shabbos, I always use at the table a Siddur Ishei Yisrael which has wonderful comments in the name of the Gra, and R Chaim Volozhin, and wondeful Biurei Tefilah and Zmiros. I would rather break my head over Pshat in a sugya with Rishonim and Acharonim with the Tzuras HaDaf in front of me simply because all works of TSBP, whether Talmud or Halacha,in translation leave me with the feeling of “kli sheni aino mvashel.”

    That being a given, and now that the footnote from ArtScroll to Ksuvos 111a have been posted, compare the same with the treatment of Yishuv EY in the Encylcopedia Talmudis and R Zevin ZL in HaMoadim BHalacha re tearing Kriyah. Then ask yourself which treatment of Yishuv EY reflects appreciation and awareness of the amazing changes on the ground in the Land of Israel since 1948 which have ennured to the benefit of the entirety of Am Yisrael-Charedi to secular.IMO, the footnote in question minimizes such the importance of the same, regardless of one’s POV on whether Hakamas HaMedinah has theological and halachic significance,and borders on a lack of Hakaras HaTov.

    FWIW, this footnote is mild compared to what is evident in such well known works as the franchise known as The Midrash Says/The Little Midrash Says.

  85. Nachum says:

    Abba, I didn’t say they *knew* it was dying. It is, of course, ironic in retrospect. That said, there are claims that it *was* dying, and perhaps obviously so, even then. As to former Soviets (I assume that’s what you meant by “Eastern Europe,” as very few others remained), I must disagree- very few know Yiddish.

    As to the cited Artscroll footnote, I think that proves my point. To even bring up the possibility that it’s one of the ikkarim is to concede that it’s worth considering halakhically at all- and the answer is, indeed, the Satmar (and only the Satmar) one. Notice, as well, the amount of space devoted to “proving” it while dismissing other views with a vague sentence that doesn’t even acknowledge what those other views might be (or even that they may disagree). Is the Satmar market for Artscroll so strong, or its influence over “mainstream” Charedim so powerful, that they have to do this?

    I notice they don’t list Mendelssohn among their authorities. :-)

  86. NACHUM:

    i guess “dying” needs to be defined. i find it difficult to ascribe dying to yiddish when in many respects it had reached it heights (journalism, publishing, theater/film, education, state recognition, etc.). if it were “dying” i would say that it was doing so in the sense that bilingualism (or multilingualism) was more commonplace and now yiddish faced competition from other vernaculars. (although still, i’m not sure how strong the competition was, as it often wasn’t clear what that second language should be)

    wrt FSU immigrants, i (probably like you) can only speak anectodally, but i guess i’ve had different experiences. my shul’s bikkur cholim visits a local hospital that caters predominantly to russians. most don’t speak english and when we don’t have a russian speaker amongst ourselves we can often use yiddish. likewise at work i cater to russians and sometimes use (broken) yiddish if i need to. if i had to guess, i’d say tha knowledge of yiddish was stronger on the periphery of the soviet union and in those areas incorporated later rathe than earlier. hence my comment above to carpathian jews. here i’m willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of those over 50 speak yiddish. many of the younger ones raised here speak it as well. just to conclude on a personal note, my wife (born in the 70s) is from moldova and was raised hearing russian and yiddish equally in the home.

    BARUCH:

    i haven’t read it in its entirety. without further details, i don’t think the fact that YIVO wasn’t the first choice of young jews is indicative of anything. obviously if i’m interested in chemistry or german history then YIVO will have little appeal for me. (my initial comment above wrt educational institutions was about primary/secondary schools, not a YIVO-type institution.)
    anyway, as with nachum, i think “dying” needs to be defined.

  87. Baruch says:

    Abba’s Rantings,

    I talked about YIVO because that was the home of Yiddish champions. If even many of the people there were ambivalent about their relationship to Yiddish, that says a lot.

    And your example of students interested in Chemistry or German History inadverdently works against you. Of what value would it be for a 20 year-old to embrace Yiddish if he wishes to go to a Russian university and work as a chemist or historian in Russian society?

    The fact is that in every socity that has accepted the Jews as fellow citizens, the Jews have dropped Yiddish by and large. Indeed, Yiddishism only really took off when anti-Semitism in Russia made many maskilim despair of ever becoming citizens among citizens.

    Dawidowicz and many others argue that Yiddish was almost bound to die as restrictions against Jews in Eastern Europe fell. And she argues further that except in places like Vilna (which was claimed by both Lithuania, Poland, and Russia and therefore had no one defnitive language of culture), Yiddish was in fact dying before World War II.

  88. Guest says:

    I’ve come late to the game, but I simply must protest the exceedingly foolish mischaracterization offered by “aaron” that most people who leave yeshiva and kollel do not know how to learn. Aaron, ol’ buddy ol’ pal, I have no idea what darga of amaratzus you’re holding by, but let me tell you something–most people that leave the “traditional” beis medrash setting (read: Riverdale, Fallsburg, Patterson, Mir, Peekskill, Stamford, Torah Temimah, Ner Yisroel, Passaic, etc. in no particular order) and certainly the kollel setting (read: Lakewood) know not only how to write the incredibly basic “summary” that you mention, but can probably analyze things to a degree that would make you feel very much out of your league. I also love how you refer to learning things thoroughly as a “university” phenomenon, as opposed to, say, something that was traditionally done in yeshivos for centuries. You can complain that students don’t cover enough ground, that some are left confused after all the pilpulim, that the p’shotim are not tied to the words, etc. But the complaint you leveled is just ridiculous. Please, make yourself feel better some other way.

 
 

Submit a Response

 

You must be logged in to submit a response.