By Rabbi Elli Fischer / The recent publication of The Expanded ArtScroll Siddur: Wasserman Edition gives occasion for a renewed look at various aspects of the Siddur that has won pride of place in American Orthodox synagogues over the past quarter century. The present review will address ArtScroll’s English translation.

Fallacy or Ideology? On the ArtScroll Translation of the Siddur

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Guest post by Rabbi Elli Fischer

Elli Fischer, a writer, editor, and translator, lives in Modiin and blogs at On the Contrary. His recent review of Haim Sabato’s From the Four Winds appeared in Segula.

Editorial note: Because of my connection to competing siddurim, I have not exercised any editorial control on this review, not even correcting typos. –Gil

The recent publication of The Expanded ArtScroll Siddur: Wasserman Edition gives occasion for a renewed look at various aspects of the Siddur that has won pride of place in American Orthodox synagogues over the past quarter century. The present review will address ArtScroll’s English translation.

The Preface to the new edition indicates that the earlier ArtScroll translation was merely “reviewed and adjusted,” and a comparison of several randomly selected paragraphs more than bears this out.

There are a total of three adjustments in the translation of Psalm 92, Mizmor Shir le-Yom Ha-Shabbat. In verse 3, “to relate Your kindness” has been altered to “to tell of Your kindness;” in v. 6, “exceedingly profound are Your thoughts” is now rendered “Your thoughts are exceedingly profound;” and in v. 14, “in the courtyards of our God they will flourish” becomes “they will flourish in the courtyards of our God.” In the berakha of Kiddush Levana, the original has “A decree and a schedule did He give them,” which has been changed in the new edition to “He gave them a law and a schedule.” This is the only change in the entire paragraph. There are no changes at all in the half-Kaddish.

Three of these four changes reverse the order of the original sentence to reflect the more conventional English subject-verb-object structure instead of the object-verb-subject structure that is common in pre-Modern Hebrew. However, not every such sentence is modified: “with praiseful songs let us call out to Him” (Psalms 95:2) is not altered. Thus, it seems that the O-V-S structure of the Hebrew is preserved in the English unless it causes some confusion or ambiguity, in which case the more conventional S-V-O structure is employed. The other changes seem to be similarly motivated by interests of clarity and comprehensibility. The remainder of this review will therefore address both versions of the translation as a single work.

ArtScroll’s reproduction of Hebrew sentence structure is part of a literalist conceit that pervades the translation. The translation maintains a close correspondence to the original to the degree possible while remaining comprehensible in English. The following chart demonstrates just how closely the ArtScroll translation adheres to the order and literal meaning of the original:

ArtScroll TranslationHebrew OriginalArtScroll TranslationHebrew Original
HASHEMה’Restoreהשיבה
AloneלבדךOur judgesשופטינו
With kindnessבחסדAs in earliest timesכבראשונה
And compassionוברחמיםAnd our advisersויועצנו
And justify usוצדקנוAs at firstכבתחילה
Through judgmentבמשפטRemoveוהסר
BlessedברוךFrom usממנו
Are YouאתהSorrowיגון
HASHEMה’And groanואנחה
The KingמלךAnd reignומלוך
Who lovesאוהבOver usעלינו
RighteousnessצדקהYouאתה
And judgmentומשפט

The Hebrew is parsed here word by word and placed next to the corresponding English word or phrase. The significant point is that the English of the Siddur is in precisely the same order as the Hebrew – no paraphrase, no elimination of redundancy (Hebrew is far more tolerant of redundancy than English), no reordering of the sentence structure. This is actually the stated goal of the translation; as noted in the Preface, “occasionally we had to stray a bit from the literal translation in order to capture the essence of a phrase in an accessible English idiom.” If anything, the straying is a bit too occasional. In the above chart, translating “va-anacha” as “and groan” is hyper-literal. The Hebrew anacha often serves as a collective noun—the cumulative groaning of many or the cumulative cause of the groaning. The English “groan” does not serve in that sense. In this case, ArtScroll’s translation is literally accurate but awkward. It is clear, then, that the literalist conceit is strong. In fact, the defining characteristic of ArtScroll’s English translation of the Siddur.

It would be easy—too easy—to criticize the ArtScroll translation for falling into what Edith Grossman calls the “literalist trap”:

To my mind, a translator’s fidelity is not to lexical pairings but to context—the implications and echoes of the first author’s tone, intention, and level of discourse. Good translations are good because they are faithful to this contextual significance. They are not necessarily faithful to words or syntax, which are peculiar to specific languages and can rarely be brought over directly in any misguided and inevitably muddled effort to somehow replicate the original. This is the literalist trap, because words to not mean in isolation.
Why Translation Matters, pp. 70-71

Upon further reflection, however, it is clear that ArtScroll’s literalist conceit is not the result of poor translation technique or of the espousal of Vladimir Nabokov’s more literalist theories of translation, largely ignored by the community of translators. Rather, ArtScroll’s translation reflects a particular ideological stance on the text of the Siddur, its composition, and its artistic value.

This stance is articulated in Rabbi Nosson Scherman’s Overview to the earlier version of the ArtScroll Siddur, in the section entitled “The Holy Tongue” (pp. XV-XVI). The thrust of this section is that Hebrew, Leshon Ha-kodesh, is nothing like other languages: it is literally the language that God used to create the world. Its words do not merely signify their objects, they embody the very essence of the object. God used the letters shin-vav-resh to create the ox. Rabbi Scherman thus concludes:

The Men of the Great Assembly had the ability to combine letters, verses, and ideas in ways that unlock the gates of heaven. Their composition of the tefillah is tantamount to an act of creation, which is why it is so important not to deviate from their language and formulation. This is not to denigrate the importance of comprehension and emotional involvement. Prayer in the language one understands is sanctioned by the Sages themselves, and surely, a well-understood prayer is immeasurably more worthy than one that is merely mouthed as a string of uncomprehended sounds. Nevertheless, this does not detract a whit from the importance of praying in the Holy Tongue; it merely points up the responsibility to understand the prayers in their original, holiest form.

In other words, the goal of the translation is solely to enable the reader to understand the original Hebrew. To that end, the closer to an exact correspondence the translation adheres, the easier it is for the reader to keep one finger on the original and one on the translation, using the latter as a lexicon for decoding the meaning of the former. All questions of style, idiom, and art—any literary element beyond that of basic comprehensibility—are rendered largely irrelevant in comparison with the main objective of facilitating comprehension of the metaphysically charged original.

Thus, any critique of the ArtScroll translation must either address it on its own terms and demonstrate that it fails to live up to the objectives it sets for itself, or address ArtScroll’s ideological assumptions directly. Criticizing the style of a work that admittedly ignores style is frankly unfair. Moreover, ArtScroll’s translation of the Siddur does an excellent job meeting its own goals. As the chart above demonstrates, ArtScroll excels at translating in a lexically coordinated manner while remaining reasonably comprehensible. The ideological assumptions, however, remain fair game.

Ideological disputes about the nature of the Holy Tongue go back at least to the times of the Rishonim. Rambam and Ramban famously argue (both positions appear in Ramban’s commentary to Shemot 30:13) about what makes the Holy Tongue holy: Ramban antecedes Rabbi Scherman by viewing the Hebrew language as the language with which God created the universe. Rambam, on the other hand, views the holiness of the language as stemming from its lack of explicit words for sexual acts and organs.

Similarly, Prof. Uriel Simon outlines the ideological and polemical positions that motivates various classical approaches to Tehillim. In his view, R. Sa’adiah Ga’on paid little to no attention to literary form—indeed, he rejected its presence—in his commentary to Tehillim, whereas Ibn Ezra granted a great deal of weight to its poetic and literary elements.

Although ArtScroll’s stance on these issues is clearly rooted in the Jewish tradition, it is crucial for the potential reader to become aware of those underlying ideological positions and their alternatives, and then to honestly appraise the degree to which these assumptions reflect his values.

With regard to the nature of the Holy Tongue, there are many reasons to prefer a non-metaphysical, non-essentialist explanation such as Rambam’s to Ramban’s. The discovery and decoding of other Ancient Near Eastern languages has shown that Biblical Hebrew did not live on a linguistic island, rather, it emerged from and was related to other Semitic languages and absorbed words from distant languages. The modern study of linguistics shows that Biblical Hebrew can itself be periodized and behaves in the way that languages are expected to behave. Findings in the Cairo Genizah have shown the astounding volume of alternatives to the liturgy that eventually became the Siddur, indicating that the editorial selection of what ultimately went into the liturgical rite that became the Siddur was motivated by aesthetics in addition to, or instead of, metaphysics. Philosophically, the idea that the letters shin-vav-resh literally embody the essence of what it is to be an ox belongs to a Platonic duality in which this world is but a reflection of some ideal world, in this case a world of recombinant Hebrew letters forming the essences of all objects in the universe. One may honestly question whether the potential Siddur-buyer would be satisfied by that dichotomous and essentialist worldview. Theologically, the notion that God literally used a language that had yet to ever be spoken, and that emerged at a specific time and place and obeyed the rules that govern all languages, might not resonate with everyone in the market for a bilingual Siddur. Thus, ArtScroll’s motivation for rigidly adhering to a literal translation may not be terribly convincing to a large segment of its potential readership.

With regard to the poetic and literary aspects of the liturgy, the present generation has witnessed the rise of a cadre of Torah teachers who read and learn Torah as literature and poetry—sacred literature and poetry, to be sure—and who have revolutionized the study of Tanakh in the Orthodox community and beyond. Considering that so much of the Siddur is from Tanakh, and that even those sections that are not biblical contain vast amounts of biblical allusion and are literary constructions in themselves (see, for example, Rav Ezra Bick’s brilliant series on the Shemoneh Esrei), it can be expected that many contemporary readers would prefer a translation that pays more attention to the Siddur’s art: literary structures, intertextuality, and poetic devices, complexity, and density, to name a few. Such a translation would, of course, be anything but literal.

Context plays a large role in the choices a translator makes. When translating a will, for example, maximum fidelity to the original is necessary, even if it will result in a very awkward rendering. Literature, on the other hand, must be reproduced in the new language with as much of the original’s nuance, rhythm, and tone as possible. This gives the translator a great deal of leeway to rewrite and recreate, with the goal of achieving something equivalent or close to it in the new language. Regarding a text like the Siddur, different ideological attitudes will naturally constrain the translator’s choices and allow for vastly different renderings of the same work. A reader who is aware of these ideological constraints and his own ideological proclivities will be able to make an informed choice when seeking the bilingual Siddur that will most enhance his experience of prayer.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

53 comments

  1. Now it works.

  2. God used the letters shin-vav-resh to create the ox.

    Didn’t Adam name it shor, as he named all the living creatures? Was it really created with shin-vav-resh?

  3. this assumes that the goal of the siddur is to translate as literally as possible only to preserve the original holiness or not veer too much from it or some such. there are many other reasons for literal translations. first, in the end, it may be the best way to convey the original. the english reader understands that “groan” is not evocative in english, but someone fluent in both languages, will indeed understand that the literal translation is groan, and translating literally communicates something about the literalness of the original expression. second, if a main purpose of the translation is to help people learn to translate hebrew, then literal translation is the most effective route. i believe this is a main purpose of the translation. siddur hebrew was the first hebrew for many people in the course of history – sometimes it was their only hebrew – and one learns best by literally translating word for word and only then “translating”the concept into english.
    if the function of the siddur were to read it in english – then this review is on target. but the point made in the excerpt from the overview is that it’s best to read in lashon hakodesh. if so, the literal translation aims to help one learn to read in lashon hakoesh. this is why artscrolls siddurim and machzorim remain so popular more so than others which are not so literal – they are used to look up a single or many words and to learn. not to daven from the english. they have the right idea, IMO, precisely because they are not so “sophisticated” and don’t have any idea about communicating in english – they are aiming for the reader to understand that loshon hakodesh is the goal, that to understand the prayers you must learn to relate to lashon hakodesh, and they therefore do not aim to make their translation sound like the vernacular. this has little to do with the language with which the rbs”o created the world and everything to do with understanding that translations must remind the reader that they are meant to be a tool to the original and not replace the original.

  4. Shasdaf: See Tanya, Sha’ar HaYichud VeHaEmunah, among other sources such as Ramban. This is a part of Jewish mystical tradition, and is also reflected in the Midrash’s (and other’s) interpretation of “your Word stands in the Heavens”. (Tanya quotes it in the name of the Ba’al Shem Tov, but interestingly, it’s also a quote from Midrash Rabbah.)

    Adam, by the way, also named them – after all, he was in Hashem’s image, and was privy, especially before the aitz hada’as, to the Torah’s and the universe’s secrets, and according to Chazal, spoke Lashon HaKodesh. I don’t see the contradiction here.

    Rabbi Student: was the article originally titled in such a provocative way? It seems much more diplomatic than the blog post’s title. I do think that there is some merit to the argument about translation, see Rambam’s letter to Ibn Tibbon on the subject of translation where he clearly prefers paraphrase to literalism.

  5. An example of a Godol who prefered paraphrase to literalism, incidentally, was Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, who was probably the don of Hebrew to English translation, having translated scores of seforim including MeAm Lo’ez and the Chumash.

  6. The point of Adam naming the animals was to display his wisdom – superior to that of the angels – in being able to provide the proper name (i.e., the same name that G-d had determined for the animal when He created it) for each animal. See Bereishis Rabbah 17:5 with commentaries.

  7. translating a book has a different purpose than translating the siddur. the idea of translating the pirush hamishna or the moreh into hebrew is not to learn to read the original in hebrew; it’s to convey its ideas to people who will never learn arabic.

  8. “the original in hebrew”

    should be in arabic.
    I don’t think the purpose of artscroll’s siddur translation is simply to convey the meaning of the prayers to an english reader. They are trying to give the reader the feel of the hebrew text as closely as possible, and to move him/her to understanding of the original words. Why is it being compared to the usual sort of translation – does it aim to be an english siddur or as faithful a representation of the hebrew as possible to aid in learning the hebrew siddur? I think it’s clearly the latter.

  9. I am very thankful that artscroll originally translated the siddur in a word for word pairing. It helped me improve my hebrew vocabulary in a way that the Kaplan chumash never allowed me to do.

    It was also helpful in learning the “thought process” of the culture behind the words.

    I hope more translations are done in this manner to help the Jewish people have the opportunity to parse the vocabulary of our heritage, without requiring years of extra linguistic training.

  10. As effective as literal translation might be as a tool for teaching the meaning of the Hebrew words, one loses a tremendous amount when doing so – all of the poetry of the Siddur. The Siddur, after all, is much more than a Hebrew primer.
    My contention is that it’s only worthwhile to sacrifice the art of the Siddur if you maintain that it’s relatively unimportant in the grand scheme.

  11. mg, the problem is that “groan” is never used in that way in English. “Groaning” would perhaps be better, but still odd in modern English.

    mg and gest, even Artscroll isn’t pedantically literal. If you want to see an example of a real literal translation, see Everett Fox’s Tanakh translations. They are *very* handy if you want to know what a specific word means. (“Korban” means “something brought near,” not “sacrifice,” etc.) As one reviewer put it, it’s also not quite English.

    By the way, the motivation behind the “Wasserman Edition” is pretty clear, especially from the way Artscroll has marketed and sold it*. In my humble opinion, it fails even on those grounds. And the RCA should be pretty mad as well.

    *I have no problem with capitalism, but Artscroll claims to be a non-profit and above such things.

  12. Sometimes I like to follow the Davening word for word on the English side of the page so that I understand what the chazan is saying as he is saying it. This works well with the Artscroll siddur but is almost impossible with the Koren Sacks siddur.

  13. Among the questions a translator of a siddur needs to ask himself/herself is: “what is the purpose of the translation”?

    In other words, is the expectation that people will actually pray in English? If so, the translation needs to facilitate the ability to do so.

    Or is the expectation that people will pray in Hebrew and the translation is there to help them understand the meaning of the words they are saying? In such a case a more literal translation is in order even if reading it in English is stilted and infelicitous.

    One translation cannot possibly serve both purposes.

  14. Rabbi Fischer did not fully understand the Ramban. The Ramban merely writes that Hashem used the Hebrew language; not the deep idea that the building blocks of the world are the Hebrew letters.In fact, the Shala”h points this out about the Ramban, and he,in turn, quotes the mystical work HaPardes where “the building block” idea is presented.

  15. Translating word-by-word or phrase-by-phrase in a way that reflects the syntax of the Hebrew may be indeed be linked to conceptions of Hebrew as the holy tongue. However, I don’t think this is the major reason that Artscroll translates the siddur this way. In fact, this has been their style of translation for almost everything since the very beginning.

    Rather, I think the real reason is because this is how people translate things in the yeshivah world. This is how one chavrusah reads and translates to the other, this is how a student reads and translates to his rebbe (or the rebbe to his students), regardless of which Torah text they are learning.

    The result is inelegant, flat, and often misses crucial nuances of the text that is being studied. But for yeshivah study the method is functional enough and wildly popular. In short, that is why Artscroll translates its books this way: Because it feels “yeshivish.”

  16. “*I have no problem with capitalism, but Artscroll claims to be a non-profit and above such things.”

    Even non-profits need funding, and by selling more siddurim Artscroll is also more successful at spreading its ideology. Idealism and greed are not so easily separated when it comes to large non-profits.

  17. An old friend from Balmer

    R’Elli,
    I know this may not be the right forum, but can yu address why you signed the Statement of Principles released by the IRf chevra?

  18. I have no problem with capitalism, but Artscroll claims to be a non-profit and above such things.

    I am quite certain that Artscroll makes no such claim.

  19. I was using “claim” colloquially: Artscroll, or rather Mesorah, is, in fact, a non-profit organization. “Mesorah Heritage Foundation” and all. Of course, Jewish publishing will never really be profitable- that’s why there are dozens of pages of dedications in the average Artscroll Gemara. But it’s a fact. By “above such things” I meant claims of frumkeit, which presumably including hasagat g’vul and geneivat da’at issues.

    One wonders how much Rishonim were influenced by Islam, which makes similar claims about Arabic.

  20. Origins of Hebrew are interesting but beside the point. Artscroll is starting from the position that the prayers are preferable in Hebrew, and that the English translation is a practical aid to understanding the Hebrew, not a stand-alone work of literature. I imagine their intended audience is made up of people who pray in Hebrew, but don’t necessarily understand everything they say, and wish to see the translation to enhance their understanding of the Hebrew. Indeed, their is a unique poetic nature in the original that cannot be realized by reading the prayers in translation, but can perhaps be realized if you unravel the sentence by referring to the translation and then re-reading the Hebrew — in which case Artscroll is aiding a poetic understanding of the Hebrew while many non-literal translation cannot take the reader beyond English poetry.

  21. >In other words, the goal of the translation is solely to enable the reader to understand the original Hebrew.

    I’m not sure it works, but to my mind that’s a noble goal, although I wonder about the appropriateness of using the siddur as a textbook to learn Hebrew. Okay, I don’t really wonder so much about that, but I’m sure someone does.

    Elli, nothing about the notes? Are they unchanged?

    By the way, I suspect the reason why Artscroll’s translation isn’t beautiful English in the siddur is the same reason why their other translations aren’t beautiful English. Are they trying to preserve the sanctity of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch’s original Hebrew? No – translation with beauty requires the development of a certain skill that is evidently not really present among most of their translators, who seem to know the language or how to determine what words mean according to various authorities, but not so much about translation. Although I can’t positively assert this for sure, and certainly not for everyone of them, but I doubt most of them read up that much on translation theory, or read a whole lot of literature, or even have a whole lot of love for the English language. Like Joseph said, “this is how people translate things in the yeshivah world.” You and they are on different translation theory planets.

    As far as why Hebrew was called Leshon Ha-kodesh, Targum J. on Gen. 31:47 refers to Hebrew as לישן בית קודשא, so we have yet a third early reason.

  22. I would add that the Targum to Chronicles II 32:18 also uses the phrase לישן בית קודשא for Hebrew, in this case translating for the word Yiddish, I mean יְהוּדִית.

    It also uses it in Gen. 45:12, where it glosses that Yoseph spoke to his brothers in לישן בית קודשא.

  23. “By the way, I suspect the reason why Artscroll’s translation isn’t beautiful English in the siddur is the same reason why their other translations aren’t beautiful English.”

    Agree. I would add that it’s the same reason that much of their non-translation writing (e.g., stone chumash commentary) is also not beautiful English (at least not to me…).

  24. If one wants a translated siddur to pray from in English (not necessarily a best approach)then R Sacks version was intended for that purpose and it is beautifully done.

  25. Why not say “groaning” instead of “groan”? Simple enough.

    For an opposite approach to translation, see the JPS translation of the Tanakh. They seek to translate the meaning of the verse, rather than its words, to the point where they play havoc with the word order and even the division of verses. Many different English equivalents may be used to translate a single Hebrew word, depending on context.

    This method comports with linguistic theory, which posits that words have a semantic range rather than a single meaning. The problem is that you must rely on the translator to tell you what the verse means, because the translation is in effect a commentary. If you don’t know Hebrew (which fortunately I do), you have no way of checking on its accuracy.

  26. I don’t think the value in a literal translation is dependent on such metaphysical considerations. There is a clearly a value in understanding the original, and that is what artscroll allows one to do.
    (but nice promotion for the OU siddur!)

  27. MiMedinat HaYam

    1. adam always spoke “lashon hakodesh”, as did all mankind till the dor haflaga — “lashon achad ve’safa echad”

    2. dozens of pages of dedications — historically, all “sefarim” were financed by a: the widow (i.e., the family), b: the author c: “envelopes”, i.e, post publication donors d: pre publication donors such as the dozens of pages, and similar listings. so we cant hold this against artscroll. however 3.

    3. mesorah publication “schnorrs” the $, then farms out the work to the profit arm owned by …

    actually, thats quite proper, and disclosure, if not made, is strongly implied.

    4. rishonim influenced by islam — why the rambam was thouroughly influenced by islam custom, society, etc. though note too, that that may have to include the western world’s rabbonim, etc., even dating to today. so thats not an objection, just a point of order. and the fact that people may not realize that, just like they dont realize one is not for profit, one is for propfit. (to mix subjects)

  28. MiMedinat HaYam

    regarding the difficulty in translating — is this artscroll siddur that has a new word by word translating system?

    again — the real problem is that lack of knowledge of hebrew language among american jews today. it never was properly taught in yeshivot and day schools in our time, and even today.

  29. “It was also helpful in learning the “thought process” of the culture behind the words.”

    Contra Elli, I think a literal translation is the best and sometimes only way to truly capture the poetry of the original. Literal translations need not necessarily read poetically in English to evoke the poetry of the Hebrew successfully, and sometimes evoking the hebrew poetry comes at cost of inelegant english. Even those fluent in hebrew can benefit occasionally from literal translation of a word that they might have translated contextually/metaphorically left to their own devices.

    The notion of Artscroll-translation mimicking yeshivish translation begs the question of why it’s assumed that the way people learn to translate in yeshiva is misguided. People have been teaching kids to translate word-by-word for generations, because the method works. One learns the meaning of each and every word. One learns to attend to the small differences in presentation, to be “medayek” rather than get the gist. If the ultimate aim is to produce an English text that reads well on its own, word-by-word translation is not the way to go. But if the aim is understanding with precision, it’s a terrific starting point. Not everything that can be characterized as “yeshivish” is by definition a symptom of know-nothingism.

    Finally, who could possibly object to learning Hebrew from the siddur? That’s almost like objecting to learning Hebrew from Tanach.

  30. Well put, mem @2:21

  31. MeMedinat:

    1. There never was an Adam HaRishon. There never was a Migdal Bavel. And even if you believe there was, there’s not a word in the Torah to indicate that the “safa achat” was Hebrew. Many Rishonim suggest Aramaic was “spoken in Gan Eden.” Both possibilities are wrong, of course, although Aramaic has a stronger claim. Hebrew was the language of Canaan.

    2. I never said this is wrong, I just said it’s a reality of Jewish publishing.

    3. I’m pretty sure you can’t have a non-profit organization raising money for a for-profit one. I don’t think Artscroll does that anyway.

    4. I never said this was wrong either.

  32. >The notion of Artscroll-translation mimicking yeshivish translation begs the question of why it’s assumed that the way people learn to translate in yeshiva is misguided.

    I don’t know about the other guy, but I didn’t assume that it’s misguided. It is what it is, but that’s the point: it is what it is.

  33. >One learns the meaning of each and every word.

    Except of course that actually in yeshiva you don’t learn this at all. You learn the gist, not the meaning of each word.

  34. The real issue that seems to be lost in this discussion is that Lashon HaKodesh, as set forth in the Siddur, is what unites Jews, regardless of our many hashkafic views and Charedi, MO, Ashkenaz, and Sefardic roots. Being able to daven in Lashon HaKodesh, despite differences in Nusach,is a unifying factor among all Jews that should not be minimized for the sake of a purist translation.

  35. R Fischer wrote in part:

    “Considering that so much of the Siddur is from Tanakh, and that even those sections that are not biblical contain vast amounts of biblical allusion and are literary constructions in themselves (see, for example, Rav Ezra Bick’s brilliant series on the Shemoneh Esrei), it can be expected that many contemporary readers would prefer a translation that pays more attention to the Siddur’s art: literary structures, intertextuality, and poetic devices, complexity, and density, to name a few. Such a translation would, of course, be anything but literal.”

    We tend to forget that Tefilah first requires understanding the meaning of the words in a way that enables one to daven in Lashon HaKodesh and understanding the halachic responses required of the Mispalel. Like it or not, ArtScroll’s Siddurim and Machzorim are the only Siddurim and Machzorim printed with a translation that include such basic and critical information as to what are the consequences of failing to say, Mashiv HaRuach, HaMelech HaKadosh and Yaaleh VYavoh as well as the proper Psukim for Musaf during the Shalosh Regalim. Obviously, until masters the Perush Hamilos of the Tefilos,the hashkafic fundamentals and the halachic responses that render one’s tefilos meaningful, study of the ‘literary structures, intertextuality, and poetic devices, complexity, and density”. Unfortunately, if one tours the average Charedi and MO shul, we still have a long way to go to mastering the basics of what Tefilah is and the halachic responses expected of the Mispalel.

  36. “The real issue that seems to be lost in this discussion is that Lashon HaKodesh, as set forth in the Siddur, is what unites Jews”

    I think you mean “is what *should* unite Jews.” Otherwise there’d be no need for translation.

    “Being able to daven in Lashon HaKodesh, despite differences in Nusach,is a unifying factor among all Jews that should not be minimized for the sake of a purist translation.”

    Then there should be no translations at all.

    “We tend to forget that Tefilah first requires understanding the meaning of the words in a way that enables one to daven in Lashon HaKodesh and understanding the halachic responses required of the Mispalel.”

    No, it doesn’t. You can daven in English.

    “Like it or not, ArtScroll’s Siddurim and Machzorim are the only Siddurim and Machzorim printed with a translation that include such basic and critical information as to what are the consequences of failing to say, Mashiv HaRuach, HaMelech HaKadosh and Yaaleh VYavoh as well as the proper Psukim for Musaf during the Shalosh Regalim.”

    This sentence is a bit of a nonsequitor, in addition to not being true.

  37. @Old friend from B-more: indeed, wrong forum. I’m not hard to find if you want to find me.

    @Kovner: fair enough. Ramban *merely* says that Leshon Ha-Kodesh was what God used to create the world.

    @Steve: Do you really think that Leshon Ha-kodesh offers unity in prayer when we use different texts, different pronunciations, etc.? Are you in favor of the R. Goren/ R. Herzog/ R. Uziel “compromise” to create a unified siddur for everyone – and if so, does that mean you do so (that would be Israeli Nusach Sfard)?

    I get the impression that many commenters think that my main problem with ArtScroll’s literal translation is that it’s inelegant. That’s not my argument. My argument is that when you translate literally, all you get in translation is the basic meaning of the words. You don’t get any of the elements that our language of prayer stirring. The authors of our prayers were engaged in a religious and artistic endeavor, expressing their love of, awe of, or pleadings to God through ART.
    If you think that this ART is part and parcel of the mode of expression of the authors of our prayer, than a translation that neglects it simply does not do justice to the art. With regard to poetry, literal translation is JUST NOT TRANSLATION.
    If you think that our prayers are an exercise in metaphysical Hebrew combinatorics, then the art is not a primary feature of the prayer.
    My thesis is that this is an ideological issue, not one of translation theory, though it has major implications for the latter.

    Of course there are other constraints – the fact that the Siddur IS often used as a Hebrew primer being one (isn’t that why they created an interlinear siddur, though?). These competing constraints ought to be balanced. Ignoring a major part of the Siddur is a clear lack of balance.

  38. Nachum-please indicate with sources from Chazal, Rishonim and Poskim where (a) it is deemed preferable on a Lchactchilah basis to daven in any language other than Lashon HaKodesh and (b) name a Siddur and Machzor that was published prior to ArtScroll that was as halachically accurate for the examples that I mentioned.The issue of Nusach is really irrelevant if one views Lashon HaKodesh of paramount importance.

  39. This year I used the new Koren/OU Kinot on Tisha B’Av. When the congregation was reciting the kinot, I said some of them (quietly) using R. Weinreb’s translation. I found it not only understandable, but I felt for the first time using an English translation that I was reciting something meaningful which was similar to what the congregation was reciting in a difficult (and to me unintelligible) Hebrew rather than a group of words patched together in a language similar to English.

  40. The article said, “ArtScroll’s reproduction of Hebrew sentence structure is part of a literalist conceit that pervades the translation.”

    I ask, what difference would have been made had the sentence said the following, instead: “ArtScroll’s reproduction of Hebrew sentence structure is part of a literalist tendency that pervades the translation.”?

    The difference, in my opinion, is that the author wanted his readers to think of Artscroll as conceited.

  41. The word “conceit” has an entirely different meaning here.

    Steve, please:

    “it is deemed preferable on a Lchactchilah basis to daven in any language other than Lashon HaKodesh”

    Steve, I never used the word “lchatchila.” *Please* do not put words in my mouth. It ain’t l’chatchila to use Artscroll either. It isn’t even l’chatchila to use a siddur.

    “name a Siddur and Machzor that was published prior to ArtScroll that was as halachically accurate for the examples that I mentioned.”

    Steve, that’s very clever of you. You said that they are the *only* siddurim printed with instructions, etc. I called you on it. And without admitting that you were wrong, you decided to add the word “prior.” I will accept my point as being conceded by you.

    “The issue of Nusach is really irrelevant if one views Lashon HaKodesh of paramount importance.”

    This wasn’t my point, but, yeah, it is. “K’gavna d’innun,” for example, will or won’t appear no matter what language you’re using.

    Whoops, bad example. Not “Lashon HaKodesh.” Nor is a lot of the siddur.

  42. Nachum:

    1) Many Gdolim and Poskim advocate davening from a Siddur to enhance one’s kavanah so that one’s head and heart are focussed on Hashem and one’s eyes are focussed on how and what one addresses HaShem.

    2)You never addressed my point about a Siddur and Machzor that included halachically accurate instructions. I await your illustration of a pre-ArtScroll Siddur and Machzor that had such instructions.

    3)Ki Ganna and Brich Sheme are irrelevant to the discussion. Lashon HaKodesh, whether one views the same as Biblical or Mishnaic Hebrew, is hardly in the minority in the contents of the Siddur, Tachanun and Krias HaTorah if you need illustrations of the strong presence of Lashon HaKodesh in the Siddur.

  43. I promise myself, I’m gonna give up after this one:

    1. I wrote l’chatchila. Until printing, people didn’t even have siddurim. That’s why chazarat hashatz exists.

    2. I await your acknowledgment that you changed things by adding the word “prior.” I never said there was anything prior, although I wouldn’t be surprised if there was. (Particularly in Hebrew.) Further, one may wonder as to the actual value of such instructions, particularly when (such as, infamously, when Artscroll tells you to leave your tefillin unwound and out during Musaf) they are blatantly halakhically wrong.

    Look, I’m not the first to point out that you do this, but I doubt it will change. I’ll be melamed zechut and say you’re (and I’m) probably not coming across well in these little boxes, especially as I know you personally to be very nice and a mensch. I wonder if the internet poisons things in general.

    3. I was making a joke. You haven’t responded to the actual point.

  44. Nachum:

    1) Since the advent of the printing press, I think that a strong argument can be made that one should daven from a Siddur.

    2)I amended my quiry deliberately.Take a look at the Tikun Meir, the old all Hebrew Siddur or any of its all Lashon Kodesh and Sidurrim/Machzorim with translations-I saw no halachic instructions whatsoever. Yes, the MB decries not winding and putting one’s Tefilin away before Musaf, but sometimes that is not always practical, especially at early Minyanim and/or if one is
    the Baal Musaf, simply because that may well create a Tircha D’Tzibura at that instance.

    3) I think that my response re the primary composition of the Siddur being either in Biblical or Mishnaic Hebrew has yet to be commented in a serious fashion by yourself.

  45. Ellie-the proposal by R Herzog, Goren and Uziel, Zicronam Livracha IMO ignores local minhagim , etc in the same triumphalistic manner that ROY insists on following the Psak of the Mchaber, when there are numerous Minhagim and Mesoras of Psak among Sefardic Jews from Tunisia, Iraq, and Yemen. Treating the Mesorah of Psak and Minhagim as if the creation of the State of Israel simply means that these traditions seemingly vanish into thin air has been criticized by may Poskim as wrong.

  46. Steve- precisely. So quit hocking a tchaynik about unity.

  47. Elli-Inventing a Nusach that never existed on highly questionnable halahcic logic or claiming that only one Nusach should be utilized on equally problematic logic is completely unrelated to the fact that davening and being textually literate in Lashon HaKodesh are two factors that unite all Jews, regardless of the Nusach that they are most familiar with.

  48. 1. Absolutely.

    2. It’s not the Mishna Brura, it’s the Tur. In any event, I daven Musaf on Rosh Chodesh for the amud often, in an early minyan that breaths down my neck, and always manage to wrap them up and put them away relatively quickly. As to the rest of your point, you’re absolutely right. Or would have been thirty years ago.

    3. Why should I respond? I’m not the one who brought that up, R’ Fischer did. Let me just point out that Biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew are not the same language. We used to have a chazan who said things like “Shelo asani nachri” and “b’safa verurah uvenima kedosha, kulam k’echad…”

  49. “the fact that davening and being textually literate in Lashon HaKodesh are two factors that unite all Jews”

    Once again: They SHOULD united all Jews. The sad fact is they DON’T.

  50. MiMedinat HaYam

    steve b: the nusach agud you describe is halachically proscribed for regular tfillah. it was ONLY for tzahal use (and i’m very doubtful its still used there, where everyone can easily commute to regular shuls and / or the vast majority of bases are now VERY large and c: almost all israelis now know how to daven in any shul of any edah (except charedim, and even there.)

    top nachum l:
    1. whether or not adam harishon ever existed (i have to consult my copy of darwin) we operate according to the theory he did, and the practices ensuing therefrom. and the general consensus that he spoke hebrew, and named the animals in hebrew (actually, i think rashi says that)

    2. deications — its nopt really a pblm, provided there is full disclosure. many secular books are similarly financed, especially scholarly works. (and there the disclosure is limited to a name of a university publishing house that often negates the mission of the university. but thats nother story.)

    3. many non profits funnel their work (income source) to for profits. its a common practice, not only in jewish circles. again, provided disclosure is made on the appropriate 990. luckily, they are now available online. of course, not for most “religious corporations” (the legal standard is a church or gropus of churches, thus your local shul, and the ou, take their exemption, while interstingly, bmg (lakewood) and agudah do file.)

    instructions on forgetting mashiv haruach, etc are found in many siddurim of all types, past and present, etc. though often in yiddish. can you daven in yiddish? or yeshivish, for that matter?

  51. Nachum wrote:

    ““the fact that davening and being textually literate in Lashon HaKodesh are two factors that unite all Jews”

    Once again: They SHOULD united all Jews. The sad fact is they DON’T.”

    Unity does not mean hashkafic unity, which we pray for , but which is an eschatological goal, as opposed to an every day reality. IMO, davening and textual literacy mean that any Jew can walk into any shul, yeshiva, shtiebel, minyan in an office or elsewhere, open a Siddur and participate as a knowledgeable Jew.

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