Genres

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A poet has to follow the rules of poetry in order to gain entrance into the field. While plenty of poets deviate from the rules, they do so to make a conscious point and are recognized as such. Le-havdil, traditional Torah scholarship also has methodological rules that authors follow and from which they only consciously deviate. Stray too far and you risk being ignored as an outsider unwilling to join the conversation of the ages. You are part of another, unfamiliar genre.

When Torah scholarship is written in academic style, you present your ideas as part of a conversation that includes non- and even anti-Orthodox Jews as well as Gentiles. If you wish to be part of the traditional Orthodox Torah conversation, rather than the academic discussion, you must conform to the general (and unwritten) rules of the genre. This is a matter of form and not content, but also attitudes and methods of expression.

In his lengthy approbation to Ariel Finkelstein’s Derekh Ha-Melekh, R. Ya’akov Ariel, Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, adds a stylistic suggestion that I find important:

And finally, a methodological note. While there is room to be aided by studies that are not conducted within the purity of the study hall that transmits the Torah tradition through the method of study accepted from generation to generation, one should distinguish between the sacred and the mundane through use of a footnote.

Similarly, I recall but cannot currently find a responsum by R. Yehuda Henkin in which he states that Torah scholarship must be written in Hebrew. He is not opposed to translations that aid beginners and, indeed, he has translated some of his works into English. However, Hebrew is the language of Torah, both originally and throughout the ages. If you want to be a part of that ageless conversation you must write in a form and style similar to Rashi, Rambam, Shakh and Taz,who despite their differences shared a general approach.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor 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 has served two terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He 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.

49 comments

  1. שמונה פרקים לרמב”ם הקדמה

    וראיתי להקדים, קודם שאתחיל בפירוש הלכה הלכה, פרקים מועילים, יושגו לאדם מהם הקדמות, ויהיו לו גם כן כמפתח למה שאנו עתידים לפרש. ודע, כי הדברים אשר אומר אותם באלו הפרקים, ובמה שיבוא מן הפירוש, אינם עניינים שחידשתים אני מעצמי, ולא פירושים שבדיתים, אלא הם עניינים מלוקטים מדברי החכמים, במדרשות ובתלמוד וזולתו מחיבוריהם, ומדברי הפילוסופים גם כן, הקדומים והחדשים, ומחיבורי הרבה בני אדם. ושמע האמת ממי שאמרה.

    KT

  2. The Rambam wrote most of his works in Arabic. Was anything other than the Yad written in Hebrew?

    Yes, you’ll point out that those had to be translated into Hebrew to make it into the canon of the ages in times and places where they did not understand Arabic, but it’s unclear why Torah scholarship must be written in Hebrew for it to be relevant to the present.

  3. lawrence kaplan

    Of the Rambam’s four major works, only the Mishneh Torah was written in Hebrew. Of course, the Rambam wrote many of his Teshuvot in Hebrew.

  4. lawrence kaplan

    Whar of Rav Herzog’s Main Institutions of Jewish Law, a work of truly great Torah scholarship?

  5. All failed experiments. Who quote Rav Herzog’s unfinished work? If not translated into Hebrew, who would have used Rambam’s works?

  6. lawrence kaplan

    Gil: We are not hat far apart. I would say that to enter into the mainstream of Torah scholarship a halakhic work must either be written or translated into Hebrew. It is a tragedy that Rav Herzog’s great work teeming with important insights and hiddushim has not yet been translated into Hebrew, though I recall reading recently that it is in the process of being translated.

  7. >If not translated into Hebrew, who would have used Rambam’s works?

    All the Jews who understood Arabic? You mean the Ashkenazim would not have known those works. It is true that works of enduring religious value were not generally written in the vernacular in Ashkenaz, but they were – clearly – in Sefarad.

    Although ultimately it works out, this emphasis on Hebrew, because it is the one common denominator across time and place. But there’s nothing intrinsically preventing a very special Torah work being written in English or another language.

    Of course diglossia is at play. In Spain and the Middle East Arabic was the vernacular and the language of scholarship. In Europe the vernacular was never the language of scholarship.

  8. Could you elaborate upon some of the “rules”? I recall you mentioning the idea that those whose lives don’t represent Torah shouldn’t be mentioned “in the Beis Midrash” (or along those lines), presumably this refers first and for most to works in the genre you describe (rather than actual conversation in the Beis Midrash). Anything else notable?

    Can anyone elaborate on the difference between contemporary “Rabbinic Hebrew” (such as presumably Igros Moshe) and Modern Hebrew?

  9. This seems to be painting the target around the arrow. What is considered “classical rabbinic genre”? Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim, Talmud, rishonim, acharonim, right? But these vary greatly in their form and language. (Biblical Hebrew is closer to Modern Hebrew than Rabbinic Hebrew.) By the way, these divisions are all unnatural, as Modern Hebrew contains within it elements of Rabbinic Hebrew and Aramaic as well. I challange you to read some legal rulings from the Israeli Supreme court and then read Mesillat Yesharim, and decide based on phraseology and diction, which one sounds more “rabbinic”.

    Moreover, your caveat of “or being translated into Hebrew” is tagged on to include things which your above target excludes, but falls short of the mark even as it is arbitrary.

    Would you say that Lonely Man of Faith (or Horeb or the 19 Letters, for that matter) is torah scholarship only by virtue of the fact that someone translated it into (modern, by the way) Hebrew for an Israeli audience? How many YU fellows learn it in Hebrew, and not English, in order to make it into “learning torah” as opposed to reading academia? Is איש ההלכה not Torah scholarship because it is written in modern Hebrew? How about Halachik Mind (English)? Is this not Torah scholarship? As far as I know, it is not translated.

    These attempts to bucket and label things is counter-productive and a massive red-herring. As the Rambam says, accept the truth from wherever it comes, and, I would add, Torah from whoever teaches it, in whatever language.

  10. The only reason I see for writting in rabbinic Hebrew is to make the work available to those who otherwise wouldn’t read it (very chareidi). It also has the opposite effect, most academics dismiss contemporary books written in rabbinic style as being infused with subjectivity, and won’t pick it up. So it all depends on your target audience. Derech HaMelech was written for he wider Israeli public, which is not familiar with rabbinical style and have a hard time understanding it. It was also written for the secular politicians, media and academics to dispel the notion that orthodox Judaism encourages biggotry. So there was a very good reason to write it specifically in modern Hebrew. Personally I would publish most things in modern Hebrew, because I don’t want the ka’na’im plastering signs against me just because in their narrow mindset they can’t understand my viewpoint.

    As far as making a second version just to appeal to those that won’t read it in the modern Hebrew; I think is a waste of time. They don’t want to hear rationalizations for mitzvot which they have been taught (read mesorah) otherwise. For them there is no moral outside the Torah so if the simple reading implies biggotry, biggotry is what the Torah wants.

  11. so why is this blog written in english?

  12. there’s a letter from the rambam to a man who’d written him among other things to request that he translate the yad into arabic. the man described himself as an am haaratz who only understands arabic and not loshon hakodesh and therefore has studied the pirush hamishna, but he’s unable to learn the yad because it’s in hebrew.

    the rambam answers that he should not ask him to translate the yad – it would lose all it’s “neimus” if it were translated to arabic – he only hopes to translate the pirush hamishne and sefer hamitzvos to lashon hakodesh (obviously that never happened), and certainly shouldn’t be asked to translate the yad to arabic.

    but he then tells the man not to describe himself as an am haaretz, as he is a talmid chacham. Because, says the rambam, a talmid chacham is not correctly defined as someone who knows a lot of torah. Rather even if a person who has only learned one posuk of mikra or one halacha is a talmid chacham if his desire is to be misdabek to chachamim and learn from them (i.e. a talmid chacham is literally a person who is a student of the chachamim, regardless of how much he has learned).
    He then adds that it doesn’t matter if this one posuk or halacha was studied in loshon hakodesh or arabic or any other language. All that matters is that he understands the content (reminiscent of what he writes in shmone prakim about focusing on content).

    If a person can become a talmid chacham by learning in any language, surely the person who writes and teaches torah in any language is a teacher of talmidei chachamim and part of the “ageless conversation” of torah.

    Obviously the rambam was an incredible stylist; everyone is always amazed at his concision and elegance and the power of his writing. He appreciated that the loshon hakodesh in which the yad is written contributes to its power as evidenced by the fact that he says it would suffer in translation and regretted that his other works weren’t in loshon hakodesh. When as great a stylist as the rambam acknowledges that writing in loshon hakodesh has a unique quality, yet still insists that it doesn’t matter what language torah is expressed in as long as the content is communicated, I think we should take his word that content is more important than form and language. (analogous to the chasam sofer’s statement that the rambam was a doctor and we should follow him on matters that relate to biology).

  13. poets consistently push the bounderies of their craft and the very definition of poetry is routinly challenged by the poets themselves. This makes the above post something of a poor analogy.

    Further, even a quick historic overview of the history of Jewish thought shows a wide array of languages and styles were used in different times and places. Whatever was appropriate for the time and place was that which was used. This is why some mefarshim are more difficult to access than others. For example, the tosafot are generally harder to understand than the Ran – not because of the depth of their concept but because their particular form of langauge is often ambiguous and lacks clarity and therefore was not widely used by achronim who tended to write in a longer and more explicit manner.

    Like the post regarding changes in liturgy. We can not ignore, that styles of writing and forms of langauge (like the siddur), do in FACT change. Any discussion that proposes an approach which does not account for this historical reality is somewhat lacking.

    Modern Hebrew is necessary and it is available. Even in chareidi circles, shiurim are given over in Modern Hebrew even if their writing is still lagging behind. There is no alternative for modern Hebrew discourse that wants to be open to outside thought.

  14. For centuries the writing of Hebrew was a language of scholars for scholars. Today, we have two different pulls that are changing that: first, the resurrection of (modern) Hebrew as a quotidian language; and, second, the democratization of learning.

    It seems to me the target of Gil’s post is misdirected, but the meta-point is right. The issue is not language, per se, but style. There is an unwritten style guide for Rabbinic Literature

  15. For centuries the writing of Hebrew was a language of scholars for scholars. Today, we have two different pulls that are changing that: first, the resurrection of (modern) Hebrew as a quotidian language; and, second, the democratization of learning.

    It seems to me the target of Gil’s post is misdirected, but the meta-point is right. The issue is not language, per se, but style. There is an unwritten (mesora) style guide for Rabbinic Literature which is in danger of being lost.

    In the pre-Artscroll past, by the time smicha was given, a Rabbi would have learned this by osmosis. But, nowadays?

    Is a modern YU musmach, for example, explicitly taught how to write a Rabbinic Hebrew tshuva? A modern BMG musmach

  16. I’m more concerned with the Rmbam’s last line above- hear/listen to the truth from he who says it (unless, and I accept this as a valid approach, you believe halachic truth is defined by the halachic process as you understand it and certain “evidence” is inadmissable in this process)
    KT

  17. See Rav Lichtenstein’s introduction to his sefer on the Ramban’s דינא דגרמי where he explains why the sefer is written in Modern Hebrew as opposed to Rabbinic Hebrew.

  18. Rav Lichtenstein’s introduction:

    ברצוני להציע, כפתח דבר, כמה מלים אודות הסגנון. בעולם הישיבות, כיום – ובמידה מסויימת, בעולם התורה בכלל – מקובל לכתוב ולפרסם חידושי תורה בניב המכונה “לישנא דרבנן” (בלעז – Rabbinic Hebrew). ניב זה אינו תואם שפה המדוברת באיזה בית מדרש בן-זמננו, בארץ או בגולה. אך הוא מעוגן במסורת ספרותית עתיקת יומין – אשר אף היא, בגלגוליה המפותלים, היתה לרוב מנותקת מסביבה חברתית ותרבותית חיה – אשר עיצבה והנציחה אי קודש לשוני (לעתים, רק חצי-אי) בים שטף מילולי של חול. אופי מסורת זו דו-פרצופי. מצד אחד, הינה, במידה משמעותית, מלאכותית, אולי אפילו בכוונה, ומורגשת בה, במידה, נימה של צחיחות הנובעת מכך. מאידך, ייעודה וייחודה מאציל עליה צביון מורם – אם נרצה, אפילו חגיגי. היבט זה מתבטא, בראש ובראשונה, בתיבול עברית וארמית המגדיר את עצם זהותה, אך אף משתקף בכמה מאפייני יסוד: אוצר מלים נבחר ומוגדר, התבטאות מליצית ואפילו ססגונית, משפטים מסורבלים ופיסקאות ארוכות, החדרת פן אישי בפנייה ישירה של המחבר לקורא, הדגשת תהליך ההתמודדות עם נושא והשתלשלותה לצד הצגת מסקנות. כל אלה חברו יחדיו ליצור סגנון ציורי וייחודי, המעניק מרחב משמעותי למעורבות אישית של הכותב והמשריש אותו, וזה העיקר, בשושלת ותיקה של ג´נרה מובהק.
    הספר הזה, כשני קודמיו, נכתב ברוב רובו, בסגנון אחר. הוא נכתב על ידי שומעי השיעורים בשפה הקרובה למדי לזו בה הם נאמרו בעל פה – בשפה הרווחת (lingua franca) של התרבות הישראלית: העברית המודרנית. יתרון שפה זו בכך שהיא מחוברת למרחב החיים של השומעים/קוראים – לה הם חשופים בסביבתם הקרובה והרחוקה, בה הם מכלכלים את ענייניהם, בה הם משוחחים וחולמים, לומדים בחברותא ומשננים, מתקשרים או מתקוטטים עם עמיתים או יריבים. בתור שכזו, מתובלת בה פחות ארמית אך שזורים לא מעט ביטויים השאובים משפות מודרניות זרות, אשר קנו שביתה, למורת רוחם של רבים, ולשביעות רצונם של אחרים, בשפת התרבות הישראלית, ואשר מדללים את מרכיב לשון הקודש אך לא פעם מעלים את מפלס הדיוק.
    לצד זה, מושפעת שפה זו לא מעט על ידי הצביון הרווח של ההרצאה ההסברתית (exposition) המודרנית. כל המכיר את המעבר מסגנון הרנסנס לזה של המודרנה[1] מרגיש עד כמה, בהשוואה לקודמתה, השפה החדשה, דרך כלל, משיגה טבעיות על חשבון השגב, תוקעת יתד אך מאבדת גובה. היא יותר תוססת אך פחות עסיסית, יותר חיה אך גם יותר חיוורת, מאדירה זהירות אך מפסידה ססגוניות ולהט. ובמישור ההרצאתי הצרוף, היא נוטה לדחוק את דמות המרצה-מסביר לשוליים ולהפנות הזרקורים על החומר המוצג – ולעתים, אפילו מקרינה מרחק בין הכותב לכתוב.
    וכך, אם נחזור לענייננו, במידה לא מבוטלת, אף לגבי ה”לישנא דרבנן” שלנו, שאף היא, יחסית לקור הרוח המופגן בספרות התורנית המודרנית (עד כמה ביטוי זה, לאוזן ותיקה, נשמע צלול וצחיח!), שומרת על גחלת המזדקרת לפרקים לשלהבת, המנותקת כל כך, במובן אחד, והמושרשת כל כך, במובן אחר.
    אני כשלעצמי גדלתי על ברכי “לישנא דרבנן”, ואף חונכתי לשימורה. זכורני כיצד שח לי מו”ר ר´ יצחק הוטנר זצ”ל, אשר חונן ברף רגישות גבוה ביותר לנימי סגנון, אודות מקרי דרדקי בלובלין אשר סילק אותו ה”חוזה” מפני שהפסיק לשנן עם זאטוטיו “ואני בבואי מפדן וכו´ ” לפי הניגון המסורתי. עם זאת, בתוך עמי אנכי יושב ואני ער להתפתחויות מסויימות שניתן אולי להאט אך שלא כל כך ניתן, ואולי אף לא כל כך רצוי, לבלום לחלוטין. בעולם התורה – בעולם האקדמי, אשר המרחק הקיומי וחוסר המחוייבות המשודרים על ידי רבים מכותביו וכתביו ודאי לא מקובלים עלי, אינני דן כאן – התחוללה תזוזה מסויימת על ידי הרב ש.י. זוין זצ”ל, עוד בראשית קום המדינה, הן בספריו והן על ידי הכיוון שקבע ל”אנציקלופדיה התלמודית”. שניהם היו מיועדים לציבור הרחב (“המועדים בהלכה” הינו אסופת מאמרים שלראשונה ראו אור בעיתונות, ובכרך הראשון של האנציקלופדיה, אשר על כתיבתו ועריכתו פיקד הרב זוין אישית נכתבו מאמרים קצרים, עבור “בעלי-בתים”), וזה ודאי השפיע על צביונם. אך תהיה העילה מה שלא תהיה, ברור שמשם ואילך התופעה התרחבה, ואף תפסה תאוצה בשנים האחרונות בשטף הספרים המונוגרפיים, הבאים להציג בפני הציבור תחום פלוני או אלמוני ב”הלכה”. ואם באתי להתייחס לדוגמה הקרובה לבית, כל המעיין בחידושי תורה שפירסם מו”ח הרב זצ”ל בראשית דרכו יעמוד על השוני הסגנוני שבינם לבין כרכי “שיעורים לזכר אבא מארי ז”ל”, למרות העובדה שללא ספק הניב הבסיסי, והוא הקפיד על כך, היה “לישנא דרבנן”. ואין לתמוה על החפץ. שפה הרי הינה תופעה מתפתחת, הנתונה לדינמיקה חברתית, וגם החותר להמשך סגנון מסורתי מסויים איננו אמור לדגול בקיפאון מוחלט. כלום עלינו לשאוף לרמת השמרנות של כמה הומניסטים אירופאיים בני המאה השש עשרה אשר אישרו לשימוש רק פעלים המופיעים בכתבי ציצרו, ואף אלה רק בהטיות שהיו פרי עטו של גדול הריטוריקנים הרומאים?
    ובכן, אשר לגבי, אני אמנם נוהג להציע חידושי תורה – בכתב, אם כי לא כל כך בשיעורים בעל פה – המיועדים לציבור בני תורה (צביון קהל היעד והתקשורת עמו הינה, כמובן, קריטית) בלשון המסורתית. עם זאת, אני מודע לכך כי משתרבבים בדברי מרכיבי צורה ומינוח, היונקים מן ההווי המודרני, אשר מן הסתם אינם ערבים לכל אוזן; אלא שכאמור, התשתית וחוט השידרה הינם הניב הרווח מקדמת דנא. אני מעריך כמה מתכונותיו – הפלפל, העסיסיות, המעורבות, והשגב – ומעבר לכל, אני שואף להמשכיות והזדהות עם הרבנן אשר מפיהם אנו חיים ומימיהם אנו שותים ובתורתם אנו הוגים.
    אף על פי כן, משיזמו כמה תלמידים, אשר נדבה רוחם אותם, להוציא חלק משיעורי לאור, לא מצאתי לנכון לכפות עליהם כתיבה שמבחינתם אינה תמה, שאינם שלמים עימה ואינם שוחים בה בטבעיות. ראשית, מפני שלנגיסה במיטב הניב המסורתי יש אמנם מחיר אך גם תמורה – בחדות, בבהירות, ובדיוק; ברם, בעיקר, שנית, מפני שמעבר להגינות המתבקשת כלפי המתנדבים לשאת בעול המלאכה, יש יתרון עצום לכתיבה בשפה שאדם שולט בה, לעומק ובהיקף.
    אמנם מסורת בידינו (עדיות פ”א מ”ג) “שאדם חייב לומר בלשון רבו”; אך בד בבד שומה עלינו לשאוף שהנפש החיה – בתרגומו של אונקלוס ה”רוח ממללא” שבכותב – תגיע לביטויה ומיצויה המלא, בהיותנו חדורים מודעות לקביעת חז”ל: “מהו בכלותו? אמר רבי שמעון בן לקיש – כל מי שהוא מוציא דברי תורה ואינן ערבין על שומעיהן ככלה שהיא ערבה לבעלה, נוח לו שלא אמרן” (שמות רבה, מ”א, ו´), וכדי שיהיו ערבים על שומעיהם הם חייבים להיות ערבים על משמיעיהם.

  19. אשר סילק אותו ה”חוזה”

    not the divrei chaim?

  20. If I understand him correctly, which might be easier if he wrote in Rabbinic Hebrew ;), he is saying that he prefers Rabbinic Hebrew but won’t object to Modern Hebrew if it’s easier for the writers.

  21. IIRC, there are shiurim given in RIETS in how to write sefarim, and articles in Beis Yitzchak in a coherent manner with a beginning, middle and end. Perhaps, that is the reason for their high quality.

  22. So is the Encyclopedia Talmudica not a work of rabbinic scholarship? Yes, it’s in Hebrew but it is neither organized nor written in the traditional rabbinic style. What about everything R. Hirsch wrote in German? And what of the novelty of writing a law code organized by topic rather than by where the passage was in talmud? While we are now used to that, at one time it was a tremendous novelty.

    And Rambam was hardly the only rabbinic scholar to write in Arabic. What about Saadya Gaon? Ibn Janach? Not all these works were translated into Hebrew. Obviously, those that weren’t had limited influence outside the Arabic speaking world, and that mostly through those who used their work to prepare works in Hebrew. But surely they were from the start and remain today works of rabbinic scholarship.

  23. Superintendant Chalmers

    If Rav Lichtenstein’s sfarim were written in classical Rabbinic Hebrew they might also have a wider readership. The fact is that very few people who are not Gush alumni use his sfarim. Partially that’s because of his non-traditional style of shiur (his is not a classical Brisker shiur by any stretch of the imagination) but I think it’s also due in a large part to the non-traditional manner in which the sfarim are written.

    Steve Brizel – Those classes don’t really exist. Rabbinic Writing classes in RIETS focus exclusively on writing skills in English. (And yes, those are the Wexner classes.)

    I also object to your assessment of Beis Yitzchak articles as “high quality.” While some certainly are of high quality, the majority are definitely not. (I happen to be very familiar with the Beis Yitzchaks over the years, you’re deluding yourself if you think the quality is higher than any yeshivish journal.)

  24. Superintendent Chalmers-I thought that there were classes in how to write Sefarim and Chiddushim, etc as well. In any event, have you seen any of the sefarim published by the RIETS RY? I think that the works of RHS, RM Willig, R Feldman, R Simon, R Gottlieb and R Sobolofksy ( both in Lashon HaKodesh as well as the new English sefer on Hilcos Nidah) are superb.

  25. “Is a modern YU musmach, for example, explicitly taught how to write a Rabbinic Hebrew tshuva? A modern BMG musmach”

    On the BMG side of things, there is an institute, or course (not sure which) that assists avreichim in developing and honing their chiddush writing skills. Maybe someone in Lakewood or is connected to BMG could provide the details.

  26. Superintendant Chalmers

    Steve – there may be a sort of directed study in such a thing, but there is no actual course. You can ask your son in law about the RIETS writing classes, I’m sure he’ll confirm what I’m saying.

    I am intimately familiar with the sfarim that you mentioned. I happen to think that RHS’s writing style is both beautifully clear and elegant, and all the RIETS talmidim would do themselves a favor by trying to write like him. I don’t think the other sfarim that you mentioned are in the same league (IMO) in terms of writing style.

    Either way, the average Beis Yitzchak article comes nowhere near the quality of those sfarim, either in content or in style. You don’t have to give RIETS so much credit here; they’re not doing anything more than any other yeshiva.

  27. >If I understand him correctly, which might be easier if he wrote in Rabbinic Hebrew ;), he is saying that he prefers Rabbinic Hebrew but won’t object to Modern Hebrew if it’s easier for the writers.

    He seems more ambivilant than this. He sees advantages and disadvantages for each style.

    I was looking over my bookcase over shabbat and notices the following major works which are written in modern Hebrew by non-academic traditional scholars.

    Talmudic Encyclopedia
    All the works of R’ Zevin (as R’ Lichtenstein points out)
    Peirush Kehati on Mishaniot
    A High percentage of the essays written in Techumin

    And I am sure that there are more. It seems to be acceptable practice in RZ circles to use either style. I personally finds that it adds to both the clarity and percision of the essay – it others disagree and prefer the rather meager vocabulary of the rabbinic style – then zei gezunt. I fail to see the major advantages of this style and the best R’ Lichtenstein seems to be able to say to it is that he is nostalgic for it. But to each his own.

  28. lawrence kaplan

    Note that the Rav’s Shiurim in Shiurim le-Zekher Abba Mari z”l are written in modern Hebrew, while his Hiddusihm in Kovetz Hiddushei Torah are written in rabbinic Hebrew.

  29. Kehati is not written in modern Hebrew at all! If it were, there’s no way I would have been able to understand it while I was in middle and high school. In any event, it’s merely a digest- superbly done (taking into account R’ Gil’s comments about it elsewhere)and eminently readable to those without a modern bent.

  30. For what it’s worth, Shiurim LeZekher Abba Mori is essentially Rav Soloveitchik’s careful notes for his yahrtzeit lecture, surpisingly written in Hebrew for a shiur delivered in Yiddish. In other words, they were not initially written for publication.

  31. >Kehati is not written in modern Hebrew at all!

    Of course it is! It has none of the trappings of rabbinic Hebrew. It has very few Amaraicisms and those that it does have are well accepted in modern Hebrew. Its conjunctions are all of the modern style – She instead of De, etc. And it used nouns that were coined in the modern era. It uses phrases like “כשם ששנינו למעלה” instead of using the tradition “כדלעיל” and there are a ton of other examples. It is not a high felutent modern Hebrew but since it was originally published in Israeli newspapers in piecemeal rabbinic Hebrew would have made little sense.

  32. Superintendant Chalmers

    It is clear to me that the writing style in Shiurim lezecher Abba Mori is what accounts for the lack of its widespread use. To me and many others, they are just unreadable. In contrast to the Rav’s Igros, which are works of majesty, written in beautiful classical Brisker language. It is very unfortunate that the Shiurim lezecher Abba Mori were not written in the same style.

    Gil – Shiurim Lezecher Abba mori is a perfect example of what you discussed in the post.

  33. >It is clear to me that the writing style in Shiurim lezecher Abba Mori is what accounts for the lack of its widespread use. To me and many others, they are just unreadable. In contrast to the Rav’s Igros

    Based on which criteria do you determine that Shiurim lezecher Abba Mori is less used than the Rav’s Igros? I have not seen any indication of such.

    The Rav was a master of languages – he mastered pretty much any language he came in contact with and used it in the highest manner in which he could. Therefore his PHD thesis is in a beautiful Hochdeutsch, Halachic Man was written in flawless modern philosophical Hebrew, Lonely man of faith used wonderful English, and so on and so forth. Anyone who can not access these masterful works in the language in which they were written should take it as a challenge to learn these langauges well enough to comprehend them.

  34. Superintendant Chalmers

    Obviously I don’t have statistics or the like, but the fact is that the “lomdim” even in the yeshivishe velt appreciate and use the Igros. The same is not true for Shiurim lezecher Abba Mori.

    The Rav was certainly a master of languages – but in this case it was to his detriment. I, and many others, simply have no patience for the non-traditional language and style in Shiurim lezecher Abba Mori. I reiterate, this is a perfect example of Gil’s point – a work not “making it” due to non-traditional style.

    “Anyone who can not access these masterful works in the language in which they were written should take it as a challenge to learn these langauges well enough to comprehend them.”
    Utter nonsense. When I’m learning, I’m not interested in learning a different type of language. I’m interested in learning. And rest assured, I’m not the only one who feels this way. You can make judgments all you want telling me what I should do, but that’s not going to change the fact that the sefer and the chiddushim within suffer due to the different language and style (a language and style which I happen to find irritating, and again, I’m not alone.)

  35. lawrence kaplan

    Rabbi Elyakim Krumbein in his article “From Rav Hayyim to Rav Lichtenstein” supports Superintendant Chalmers’ view that many lomdim are uncomfortable with Shiurim le-Zekher Abba Mari. He argues, however, that it is not just the modern Hebrew but the content as well that accounts for their discomfort.

  36. a few comments on modern verses “rabbinic” Hebrew. Gil and other who complain that the use of modern Hebrew limits the audience of a sefer betray an america-centric bias. the fact that a sefer is written in modern Hebrew would not be a barrier to tamidim in chevron or ponovitch. On the other hand, most graduates of yeshivot hesder probably find RAL’s shiurim murech easier to read in modern Hebrew. I certainly prefer to read modern hebrew whose style is far less elliptic than rabbinic hebrew.

    Further more as Professor Kaplan has alluded to repeatedly. There is a connection between style and content. In the case of the Rav, the iggros reflect Rav’s early period, when his practiced classical brisker formalism where as the SLZAM reflect the rav’s more mature and independent version of the brisker derech. As for RAL, I cannot imagine his shiurim in anything but modern Hebrew or his distinctive dialect of mid 20th century English. to “Translate the Rav or RAL into yeshivish hebrew would inevitably strip their work of some of their distinctiveness and place them in the mold of conventional lomdus.

    Finally, an serious ben torah should be comfortable reading torah texts in Hebrew in all of the stages of development from the tanach through the present day. those who can should be embarrassed.

  37. Superintendant Chalmers

    Moshe Shoshan – I assume you meant to say “those who can’t should be embaressed.”

    I strongly beg to differ. Maybe those who are uncomfortable reading or writing in Rabbinic Hebrew should be embaressed.

    See Rav Michel Feinstein’s michtav bracha to Rav Yitzchak Adler’s Iyun BeLomdus, where he essentially says (I’m paraphrasing here) this is a good sefer, but we don’t need sfarim written in a modern Hebrew style. Rabbinic Hebrew has served us quite well over the last thousand years.

    “Translate the Rav or RAL into yeshivish hebrew would inevitably strip their work of some of their distinctiveness and place them in the mold of conventional lomdus”
    I think the Rav’s own style in the Igros is far more unique and distinctive than the modern Hebrew of SZLAM. Very few have had such a command and mastery of Toras Brisk as to be able to produce a work as magnificent as the Igros.

  38. I think the answer is that chiddushim which are mainly written in the tosfos style have to be written in rabbinic hebrew. Rambam and the sefardi geonim never wrote these kind of seforim and therefore could write in Arabic. Even today I dont think there are any such seforim written in English. Artscroll do not ‘translate the Tosfos’.

  39. >When I’m learning, I’m not interested in learning a different type of language. I’m interested in learning.

    That is a bit sad. Becuase some forms of language are very limited in the scope of ideas they are capable of expressing. If the Rav used a particular form of language, when rabbinic Hebrew was available to him, it is probably because he felt that rabbinic Hebrew was too limiting and simply could not express the ideas that he needed to express.

    >Maybe those who are uncomfortable reading or writing in Rabbinic Hebrew should be embaressed.

    Why should anyone be embarassed for not preffering a narrower and more limmiting type of expression? There is only so much you can do with classic yeshivish hebrew and most of the people that move beyond it simply have a broader POV and mindset – that is something to be pround of – not something to be embarassed about.

    >Rabbinic Hebrew has served us quite well over the last thousand years.

    That is just it. It has not – it has only served a very narrow specturm of expression – mainly halachic – but even within halacha, only halachic categories that are overwhelmingly geared towards the invidividual and his “daled amot shel halacha” – the style is extremely cumbersome for philosophy, Jewish history, poetry, etc. Which is why when Jews started to wake up for the missery of the past 1000 years and became more broad-minded, they required a form of language that is able to express the full range of life’s experience (before this they generally wrote in the vernacular, Arabic or German, etc). Something that rabbinic Hebrew has proved incapable of doing. The fact that you can not understand the Rav’s most important writings really means that you have cut yourself off the part of his personality that is really most interesting and relevent for the modern era – and this is lamentable.

  40. The lack of experience with, and as we see here the unwillingness to experience, Torah scholarship in the language one lives and thinks in is a symptom of the sterility and disconnect that characterizes all of US Orthodox Jewry. In the chareidi community this disconnect is intentional, out of fear that if people really think about what religion means to their lives, they will realize they that they disagree and abandon religion. In the MO world there are many individuals with enthusiasm. But in the absence of a language which is both understood and Jewish, their enthusiasm and vision is difficult to communicate to others, and MO ends up divided between an elitist elite and vast masses with extremely limited knowledge and commitment. DL has many flaws, but regarding the depth of knowledge and commitment it absolutely puts MO to shame.

  41. “In the chareidi community this disconnect is intentional, out of fear that if people really think about what religion means to their lives, they will realize they that they disagree and abandon religion.”

    LOL!

  42. Superintendant Chalmers

    “it has only served a very narrow specturm of expression – mainly halachic – but even within halacha, only halachic categories that are overwhelmingly geared towards the invidividual and his “daled amot shel halacha” – the style is extremely cumbersome for philosophy, Jewish history, poetry, etc”
    We’re not talking about philosophy and history; to my understanding we are talking about gemara/halacha/lomdus. And the point still stands – if it’s written in a different style it’s not going to make it, which is the fate of SLZAM.

    “The fact that you can not understand the Rav’s most important writings…”
    I never said I can’t understand them, I most certainly can. I find the style irritating. It grates on me. Which is why it’s not accepted as part of the mainstream lomdishe discourse.

    I surely can understand

  43. Superintendant Chalmers

    why someone might want to write in a non-traditional style that they might be more comfortable with, but the Rav was certainly comfortable in traditional Rabbinic Hebrew, and there is nothing in SLZAM that would be limited by Rabbinic Hebrew.

  44. “LOL!”

    I should have clarified: they are afraid that a fraction of the community will leave, not all.

  45. >We’re not talking about philosophy and history; to my understanding we are talking about gemara/halacha/lomdus. And the point still stands – if it’s written in a different style it’s not going to make it, which is the fate of SLZAM.

    Well, from my understanding, most of the authors that use modern Hebrew take an interdisciplanary approach to their thinking as well as their halacha. That being the case, the old style is simply not fit for such an approach. As far as SLZAM, I agree that unlike the Rav’s other writings, it COULD have been written in the traditional style and I do not know why he chose not to use it.

    >I never said I can’t understand them, I most certainly can. I find the style irritating.

    But since traditional rabbinic Hebrew was insufficient to communicate the ideas in these works, what would you have the Rav do? He used the languages and styles that were best suited for the topics he wrote about. The fact that the yeshivish velt won’t go beyond their comfort zone is simply a sad statement on their intelectual state and said nothing about the Rav’s choice of style.

    >I surely can understand

    Then do your community a favor and try and translate these works into the style they can swallow.

  46. lawrence kaplan

    Some of the essays in SLZAM are standard lomdus, but many others, as stated explicitly in the note to “Keriat ha-Torah be- sheni, Hamishi” (IIRC), are a mixture of halakhah and aggadah or halakhah and religious experience. I believe that only the former but not the latter could have been written in standard rabbinic Hebrew.

  47. lawrence kaplan

    Chardal: In a certain sense such translation was what R. Shurkin attempted to do.

  48. It may be very well that both volumes of Shiurim LZecer Abba Mori ZL , and that many of the other reconstructions of RYBS’s drashos ( Al HaTeshuvah, etc) are also written in Modern Hebrew, but for any Lomdan, they are easy reading compared to the Igros which , as another poster indicated, are written in classic Brisker style. R Shurkin’s seforim are an attempt to “kasher” RYBS’s shiurim for the yeshiva world, but if one looks carefully , much of RYBS’s style, especially on Seder Leil Pesach and Kinos, remained intact.

    With respect to the ET and R Zevin ZL’s works, the text in both works is in modern Hebrew, but the sefarim mentioned in the footnotes obviously are not. I would add SSK as another example of a sefer in Modern Hebrew, but which has copious footnotes to classical sefarim.

  49. It seems to me that this post really isn’t about language, but about finding reasons not to consider certain ideas either because of the source or because of the content of the ideas. Although certain nuances are lost in translation, translations are indeed possible and done all the time, and are not an impediment to understanding a work. I think R. Gil and those who think like him are simply finding an excuse for not allowing certain people or ideas to influence their thinking. That is certainly their option, but let us not be be misled by the rationale. After all, at some point in time using aramaic was something new and different, using Yiddish was something new and different and seem to be ‘accepted’ modes of communication. It brings to mind a comment attributed to Rav Shaul Lieberman, who upon reading a new sefer was said to have exclaimed “the author must be a great talmid chacham, the ivra is so terrible.” While I think he was belittling the author’s knowledge of Hebrew and grammer, the point is that ideas can be expressed in a variety of ways, and the ish ha-emet will ignore the wrappings, and concentrate on the ideas. Those who have less interest in the truth or other agendas will have no difficulty finding reasons to ignore it.

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