Monday, May 05, 2008

R. Azariah De' Rossi in - or out of - Artscroll

Here is an excerpt from a review by Zvi Zohar of Artscroll's Aleppo; City of Scholars by David Sutton (link):

Censorship and 'Correction' of 'Improper' Sources Cited in Previous Editions

Not only does Rabbi Sutton ignore academic literature and conceal his use of non-religious sources, he also censors 'improper' sources mentioned in previous editions of LiKedoshim Asher Ba'Aretz. For example: both previous editions quote in full the short work Zichron Divrei Aret"z, by Rabbi Abraham Dayan, which first appeared in 1850.42 In that composition, Rabbi Dayan included a variety of anecdotal information that had reached him regarding the city of Aleppo and the Jews within it, from antiquity until his own times.43 Inter alia, Dayan relates that one elderly scholar told him of a tradition according to which, in each one of the old city's gates was preserved a wondrous ancient object. Thus, in one of the gates there was the tooth of an ancient fish, two feet long, in another gate 'the nail of one of the giants, as [large as] a pillow and a duvet', and in a third gate, a jug of sand from the river Sambatyon. Rabbi Dayan knew that some people tend to discount the factuality of information such as this, and so he wrote:

And as I have seen some persons, wise in their own eyes, who say that “the world goes according to its ways”,44 and they believe nothing unless they see it with their own eyes or unless it's written in the books of Hamirs,45 therefore I shall transcribe for them here what was written in the book of Me’or Eynayim by dei Rossi on p. 88, in the name of the head of the Christian scholars,46 book 15 chapter 9, about the size of the giants' body. That [scholar reported that] he saw the tooth of a man which, if cut according to the measurement of our teeth, could be divided into one hundred [of our] teeth.

In other words, in order to put an end to these skeptics' criticism, Rabbi Dayan reveals that he read Azariah dei Rossi's Me’or Eynayim, and that the author quoted there information from the book of a very major Christian scholar. This Christian scholar reported that he saw a huge human tooth, and this finding verifies the fact that giants existed in the past. From this, the above-mentioned skeptics may conclude, that there is no reason to doubt the report about the giant's nail found in one of the gates of the City of Aleppo.

Let us now see, how the paragraph quoted above is paraphrased in Aleppo:

I have seen some people, convinced of their own intelligence, who think that nothing exists beyond nature and don't believe what they haven't seen with their own eyes or in secular sources. Therefore, for these skeptics I cite a book which quotes secular sources concerning the existence of ancient giants. He writes of scientific finds of the teeth of giants that are one hundred times the size of average human teeth.47

The contrast between this "translation" and the original text is striking! The title Me’or Eynayim has been exorcised and it is now cited anonymously as "a book", and the information dei Rossi attributed to “the head of the Christian' scholars” is now attributed to "secular sources". Furthermore, while that Christian scholar reported [one!] giant tooth that he saw with his own eyes, in Aleppo's rewriting this report became "scientific finds" of "teeth of giants" [=many teeth of many giants].

In order to explain this amazing transformation we should recall, that the book of Me’or Eynayim raised a huge debate when it was published, for the writer was of independent critical thought and dared to raise difficult questions regarding various traditions found in Rabbinical literature. The Rabbis of Venice imposed a ban (herem) upon ownership of the book and upon reading it, and the same was done by Rabbis in other towns in Italy, as well as by the Rabbis of Safed. The Mahara"l of Prague attacked Azariah dei Rossi and Me’or Eynayim in his book Be'er haGola.48

The fact that Rabbi Abraham Dayan, son of the most aristocratic Jewish family in Aleppo and author of several 'kosher' religious books, read Me'or Eynayim, treated it as a reliable source and attributed credibility to information quoted in it in the name of a major Christian scholar – does not at all cohere with the portrait of the characteristics of the Aleppo community and its scholars, which Rabbi Sutton would like to cultivate among his readers. Based on his (not unfounded) confidence that nobody within the English speaking Aleppan community would be likely to discover the change, Sutton permitted himself to 'purify' the original text by Abraham Dayan – a text that neither David Zion Laniado nor Mordechai Attiah had thought to change. Furthermore, knowing that English readers in the early 21st century attribute credibility to scientific findings, Sutton decided to write that in this anonymous text there are "scientific finds of the teeth of giants" – even though all that really appears there is the testimony of one man who saw one tooth.

But this Ultra-Orthodox censorship led the writers of the book to a place where they would surely be surprised to find themselves. For who is this Christian scholar, whose words they converted to "scientific finds"? If one reads the text of Me'or Eynayim one finds that Rabbi Azariah dei Rossi is citing none other than … Augustine of Hippo! Indeed, in his City of God, book 15 chapter 9, Augustine seeks to confirm belief in the veracity of the Bible's reports about the bodily measurements and the life spans attributed by the Bible to pre-diluvian humans. He testifies that on the sea shore by Utica (a city sited in what today is Northern Tunisia) he saw the molar of a human being, apparently one of the giants of yore, that was one hundred times larger than one of 'our' teeth. The bottom line is, then, that the Syrian community inBrooklyn and elsewhere were treated, thanks to Sutton's efforts at censorship, to a text in which the words of St. Augustine in his book 'City of God' were raised to the level of "scientific finds" with an Ultra-Orthodox "hechsher" from Artscroll Publishing! To which we can only say: "this is 'Torah' and this is its reward."

42 The work was published in Livorno in 1850, together with other works by the author: Holech Tamim and Poel Tzedek.

43 This is how Yaron Harel summarizes the contents of this work: 'a random enumeration of various historical events which took place in Aleppo, as traditionally told in the city. Beginning with legends about the city's conquest by Yoab ben Seruyah, and ending with events which took place in the author's times' (Yaron Harel, ibid n. 19, p. 48).

44 Hebrew: Olam ke-Minhago Noheg, i.e., reality follows the laws of nature (and thus, such anecdotes are suspect).

45 The books of Hamirs = the books of Homerus = books considered to be credible by the educated world.

46 Examining the source in the Me’or Eynayim (Mantova 1674 p. 88) reveals that Rabbi Dayan omitted one word here, maybe because it seemed unclear to him. And here is the original text: "the head of the Christians' scholars wrote in his City in book 15 chapter 9, about the size of the body of giants, that he saw the tooth of a man which if cut to the size of our teeth, would be divided into one hundred teeth." For further identification of this source, see text below.

47 P. 11.

48 See Joseph Dan, ROSSI, Azariah, in: Encyclopedia Judaica (1973) 14:315-31, and see also the editor/translator's introduction in Light of the Eyes, Azariah de´ Rossi; Translated from the Hebrew, with an introduction by Joanna Weinberg, Yale University press, 2001.

Please see my prior post 'What would R' Azaryah surely have resented? The portrayal of a controversial rabbi by Artscroll.,' which is probably the first and last time that the name of R. Azaryah de' Rossi will be mentioned in an Artscroll publication. De' Rossi's work Me'or 'Enayim was not only cited by obscure (at least outside of Aleppo) rabbinic figures like Abraham Dayan, but he was also cited by the author of Minhas Shai on the Bible - a massoretic commentary with accepted halakhic authority - by R. Yaakov Emden, by a Lithuanian roshei yeshiva such as Netziv, by modern scholarly rabbis like Menachem Kasher, whose works are considered very valuable and certainly acceptable in the faithful communities which Artscroll hopes to shape the religious thinking of.

Read the rest of Zohar's review (in English translation, as linked above, or in the Hebrew original). It includes such chestnuts as the fact that the book reproduces a photograph from an out-of-print work on Aleppan Jewry from 1910 - by a Jewish Christian missionary without explaining who he is; the book helpfully misspells his name, ve-ha-mevin yavin. Incidentally, this Joseph Segall was allowed by the communal leaders to photograph a page of the Aleppo Codex, which is wonderful because it meant that the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy from the Codex was preserved (see its image here); but also not so wonderful, since it may well be that the reason why after this point the Aleppan rabbis and communal leaders steadfastly refused to allow the entire codex to be photographed by anyone, was because of the Segall incident - a consequence that proved most unfortunate, since a lot of the Codex is now missing, unphotographed).

Monday, March 17, 2008

Can a woman be מדקדק?

Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 61.24

צריך לקרות קריאת שמע בטעמים כמו שהם בתורה. הגה: אבל לא נהגו כן במדינות אלו, ומ"מ יד המדקדקים מחמירים בכך

One must recite the Kerias Shema with cantillation, as the Torah is read. Rema's addendum: But this isn't customary in our [Ashkenazi] countries. Nevertheless, the grammatically-inclined are stringent in this matter.

Here is a typical example of Kerias Shema as found in Artscroll siddurim ("Everyone should have a copy").

(click above to enlarge or click here)

But here is the Kerias Shema as found in the Artscroll Ohel Sarah Woman's Siddur, where the cantillation is not included "for the convenience of those who recite in the manner it is read from the Torah":

Interestingly enough, in the Artscroll "chinuch edition" siddur (Chaim Shlomo) for schoolchildren the cantillation is present (without the note explaining why there is cantillation).

Hat tip goes to Moshi.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hebrew Artscroll gemaras as more revealing than English gemaras?

Menachem Mendel posts on a comparison between Artscroll's English and Hebrew Talmud's treatment of an issue possibly affecting the text of the Torah.

He finds that the notes in the Hebrew version is a serious attempt to discuss the issue, while the English version simply ignores it.

This dovetails with my observation that Artscroll sometimes attempts to hide things, as it were, in English, but not in Hebrew. This example is even more radical, because it seems to mean that the kind of discussions differ in the two versions.

I'm not certain what to make of it. I recall Nosson Scherman noting that Artscroll has made sure that major university libraries have copies of the English Shas, so that readers at universities have an authentic translation to look at (presumably Soncino, Steinsaltz, Blackman, Herbert Danby etc are not authentic). He even cited R. Chaim Kanievsky, saying that he compared the project to R. Yisrael Salanter's never-realized German Talmud translation. It could be that since Artscroll knows that at least part of its English audience is not, shall we say, initiates, it is more reluctant to discuss such things. But more confident about doing so in Hebrew.

"While the Artscroll English Talmud is an important work, it seems that it intentionally avoids confronting problematic passages in the Talmud, at least in this one instance. Are English-readers unable to confront difficult Gemara texts while Hebrew readers can? Ironically, the Artscroll web site says that their edition of the Talmud is for the “intellectually adventurous”, I guess just not too adventurous."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What would R' Azaryah surely have resented? The portrayal of a controversial rabbi by Artscroll.

From The Early Acharonim:

R' Azaryah min HaAdomim
(de Rossi)

b. Mantua, Italy, c. 5271/1511
d. Bologna (?) Italy, 5338/1578

According to an old tradition, the family de Rossi was brought to Italy by Titus after his victory over Jerusalem.

R' Azaryah combined Talmudic erudition with a great proficiency in the Latin and Greek classics, as well as in the writings of medieval Christian scholars. In his works he draws upon Jewish, Christian, and secular sources. De Rossi resided in Bologna and Ferrara, and was present in Ferrara during the terrible earthquake on 17 Kislev (Nov. 18) 5331/ 1570. He and his family narrowly escaped death during that catastrophe, and he devoted a section of his Meor Einayim to a narration of it.

R' Azaryah is known for his controversial work Meor Einayim (Mantua, 5333-35/1573-75). This sefer is divided into three parts: I. Kol Elokim, a report on the earthquake which hit Ferrara in 5331/ 1570, including an essay on the natural and supernatural causes of natural catastrophes; II. Hadras Zekeinim - a translation (the first in Hebrew) of the epistle of Aristeas which contains the narrative about the Septuagint (translation of the Torah into Greek by seventy two sages in Egypt during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus [3476 3515/285246 B.C.E.]), a partial description of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the answers given by the Sages to some philosophical questions; III. Imrei Binah - the most extensive part of this work. It contains an examination of the writings of Philo, a Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria in the first century C.E.; a comparison of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Bible) in its prevalent version with the reports about it in the Talmud; inquiries into the Talmudic chronology of the first and second Temples, comparing the traditional dates with those given by secular writers; inquiries into the calendar systems in use among Jews in the Talmudic era, i.e., the Seleucid calendar (minyan shtaros) and the now-prevalent custom of dating events from Creation; a dissertation on the priestly vestments as described in the works of Philo, Josephus Flavius, the Epistle of Aristeas and Christian writers; and comments on some wondrous aggados in the Talmud and midrashim.

De Rossi's inquiries led to many conclusions which contradict the tradition of the Tannaim and Amoraim; he maintained that this was permissible in the realm of history and other areas not pertaining to halachah. R' Azaryah's views raised a great furor in the Italian community of his day, and two prominent rabbis - R' Moshe Provencal of Mantua and R' Yitzchak Finzi of Pesaro - wrote letters protesting the author's views, and refuting his assertions. R' Moshe Provencal's criticism reached R' Azaryah while the book was yet in proof form, so he printed it and his rejoinder as an appendix to the book. Various local batei din banned the book, some restricting the ban to people under the age of twenty-five, while others prohibited even having the book in one's house. Some of the extant copies of the Meor Einayim have written dispensations by local batei din attached to them, allowing the owner to keep the book.

News of the controversial sefer even reached Eretz Yisrael, and *Chida reports that in Safed a general ban (cherem) against it was drawn up and was to be signed br R' Yosef Caro, but he died before signing it. The *Maharal of Prague, upon reading this sefer, was outraged that the rabbis of Italy had allowed its publication, and he wrote a lengthy critique of the sefer in his Be'er HaGolah. Nevertheless, some later sages, among them Chasam Sofer, and two of Maharal's pupils, *R' David Ganz Tzemach David) and *R' Yom Tov Lipman Heller, cite Meor Einayim, if only to refute its views. R' Azaryah later wrote another work, Matzreif LaKessef (Edinburgh, 5614/1854), defending his views.

Meor Einayim regained popularity in modern days, when the Maskilim misrepresented R' Azaryah as a progressive Jew, a denomination R' Azaryah would surely have resented.

Yosef Hayyim Yerushalmi, incidentally, makes the following claim (Zakhor, pp. 74-75)

The fact that, in 1794, the Me'or 'Einayim was reprinted in Berlin by the Maskilim, the proponents of Jewish enlightenment, should not mislead us in this respect. By that time the general revolution that is modern critical historiography was about to burst forth in Germany. The Historisches Journal had already appeared in Göttingen for more than two decades, Barthold Niebuhr was eighteen years old, and Leopold Von Ranke would be born a year later. The modern Jewish historian is not the heir of Azariah de' Rossi, but of these men and others.

More controversial rabbis to come...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

When Rav Elyashiv says to print something, Artscroll prints it

But doesn't necessarily translate it...

This note appears at the beginning of the haskama (rabbinic approbation) section of some volumes of their Schottenstein Talmud translation (this is from Babba Metziah).

As you can see, Artscroll quotes R. Eliashiv saying that "Because of the times we live in it is a great mitzvah to proceed with this project." Indeed, from the verbatim Hebrew text of his message, which he requested be inserted, the last five words say this.

But that's five words out of thirty three. What do the other 85% of the words mean?

Well, if you can understand Hebrew, you know. So there is it. But what if you can't?

I find this interesting because it seems to sort of typify the approach one sometimes finds in Artscroll publications. The Hebrew text is the Hebrew text; they aren't going to tamper with the text. It's there for you to see, and very literally, המבין יבין. But much of the audience of these publications cannot understand much Hebrew, or any, and in that case abridgments must suffice.

Before I translate the words (noting that most of this audience doesn't need the translation and already sees what I'm getting at) I'd like to point out that Artscroll doesn't translate any of the haskamos that appear in these books. While it certainly would be useful if they did, it doesn't seem like any sort of big deal that they don't. It seems like this is common practice in English books that are accompanied by Hebrew haskamos. Surely sometimes haskamos are not as unqualified or praising as one would like, and therefore authors and publishers often would like readers to look at the names rather than the content of the approbations, and that's true across the board. So nothing funny here, or at least nothing funnier than usual.

What's interesting is that while R. Elyashiv does commend the work (Talmud translation)--"because of the times we live in it is a great mitzvah to proceed with this project"--he also explains what sort of times he is referring to.

"Since we live in a breached generation with many translations by lightweights who put their hands on the holiness of the Talmud and the Oral Law, I think there is no es la'asos le-Hashem1 greater than this, and it's a great mitzvah to proceed with this project."

In other words, the complete context of R. Eliashiv's strong suggestion that Artscroll go ahead with their project to translate the Talmud is that this is something that is necessitated by other, bad translations of the Talmud. (I am sure he had in mind the Steinsaltz edition; I am less certain if he also meant the older Soncino or academic editions like Neusner's. That would be a question of whether it was on the Rav's radar or not, and I am in no position to speculate about that.)

All in all, most interesting. As I said, it's right there, black on gray. Obviously a sizable portion of the buying public knows exactly what it said. But many don't, and won't. It's understandable why they don't translate large haskamos (R. Aharon Schechter, rosh yeshiva Yeshivas Chaim Berlin wrote a particularly long one, for example). But this is less than 35 words. I suppose that the editors didn't necessarily want to make a big deal about the fact that R. Elyashiv gave what amounts to very qualified support for their work. No big deal, but interesting, and the wise will understand.

1 The reference is to Psalm 119:126:

קכו עֵת לַעֲשׂוֹת לַיקוָק הֵפֵרוּ תּוֹרָתֶךָ 126 It is time for the LORD to work; they have made void Thy law.

Rabbinically this verse is given as justification for--at times--'making void Thy law,' that is, to violate halakhah because "It is time" to do the Lord's work, that is, to repair a breach, to safeguard the Torah, sometimes the time gives no other choice than to breach it.

In this case, R. Elyashiv is asserting that in this time a translations of the Talmud [like Artscroll's]--which normally, in other times, is undesirable at best, if not forbidden--is necessary and a great mitzvah.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

No hint of textual criticism of the Bible in Artscroll's siddur; Psalm 34, shabbat davening's missing (?) vav.

Alphabetical acrostics are not an uncommon form of Biblical poetry. In this form each stanza begins with a letter of the aleph beis (alphabet), either in descending or ascending order. There are many such examples, including what is perhaps the most famous one*, Psalm 145, beginning אֲרומִמְךָ אֱלוהַי הַמֶּלֶךְ. The next verse begins with a בְּכָל יום אֲבָרְכֶךָּ; ב, and then a ג and so forth. Other examples include each chapter in Lamentations.

Another example from Psalms is Psalm 34.

As it happens, sometimes these poems are imperfect. That is, the precise order of the alphabet is not completely followed (see Lamentations 4:15-17, where נ ס פ ע is the order rather than נ ס ע פ (the equivalent** of M N P O rather than M N O P in the Latin alphabet). Or an expected verse is entirely missing (see: No nun--in ashrei).

Psalm 34 is interesting because the ו vav verse seems to be missing, but as the ו is the conjuctive in Hebrew, the ה verse naturally contains a word beginning with ו.

The entire verse (Psalm 34:6 reads הִבִּיטוּ אֵלָיו וְנָהָרו וּפְנֵיהֶם אַל יֶחְפָּרוּ They looked unto Him, and were radiant; and their faces shall never be abashed (JPS 1917). I only highlighted the ו in red to show that there is a ו in this verse; if you read on it will become clear why I point this our. However, the next verse (34:7) begins with a ז zayin. Thus, either we are missing the ו or somehow, for some reason, this verse is meant to be split in half and that way nothing is missing.

That is kind of weak, because not only does it involve splitting a verse into two it also ignores the mode of poetry used in this Psalm, parallelism. As the name implies, parallelism simply means that one stanza contains an essential idea stated two different ways or that the second part completes the thought begun in the first. Thus, Psalm 34:1 begins I will bless the LORD at all times and then His praise shall continually be in my mouth. The essential idea given in two forms. The second verse begins My soul shall glory in the LORD and then it is restated as the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad and so it continues.

Although the identification of this chief form of Biblical poetry is attributed to British bishop Robert Lowth's 1753 workLectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, the phenomenon was of course noticed and remarked upon (albeit not systematically) by earlier exegetes. By the 19th century this feature was accepted as a given and it still is seen as such, although it has been subject to modification and even attack in modern scholarship. The reality of parallelism was accepted by modern Jewish exegetes, with the notable exception of Malbim. Central to his system of close reading of the Bible was the idea that there is no such thing as style choices in the language of the Bible; thus, there aren't really any synonyms--all similar words mean subtly different things. Similarly, parallelism isn't correct because the same essential idea could never be restated. That would be superfluous. Rather, a new idea is contained in what we see as restatement. Be that as it may, I think it's fair to say that even among Orthodox Jews Malbim's position about this is not regarded as authoritative and many will agree that there is parallelism in biblical poetry.

If you're still reading, then we now come to the point of this post. In the Artscroll commentary on the siddur*** we find the following comment on Psalm 34 (which is part of the liturgy for shabbos morning): "...David composed this beautiful and profound hymn. Its verses begin according to the letters of the Alef-Beis, to show that we are to praise God with our every faculty, and to acknowledge that whatever He created--from aleph to tav--is for the good."

In their commentary to the aforementioned אַשְׁרֵי prayer we find the following: "Beginning with the word אֲרומִמְךָ, the initials of the respective verses follow the order of the Aleph-Beis. According to Abudraham the Aleph-Beis structure symbolizes that we praise God with every sound available to the organs of speech. Midrash Tadshei records that the Psalmists and Sages used the Aleph-Beis formula in chapters they wanted people to follow more easily or memorize."

As noted in my Ashrei post **** the missing nun is explained as absent due to a specific reason in the Talmud; conversely, a nun verse is found in a Dead Sea Scroll psalter (perhaps an artificial one, perhaps the original one). Artscroll notes this in the commentary: "No verse in Ashrei begins with a נ, because in the context of this verse that speaks of God supporting the fallen, the letter נ can be taken as an allusion to נְפִילָה, Israel's future downfall, ח"ו, and the Psalmist refused to use a letter that could suggest such tragedy. Nevertheless, knowing that downfalls would take place, the Psalmist comforted Israel by saying God supports the fallen ones (i.e., the next verse--MFM). This is an implied guarantee that even when a dreaded downfall happens, the people can look forward to His support." Artscroll then attributes this explanation to the Talmud, Berachos 4b.

However, there is no Talmudic explanation for a missing vav verse in Psalm 34. Artscroll therefore does not mention it. In fact, Artscroll doesn't believe there is a missing vav verse. It prints this psalm the following way (I used red where bolded in their text):

אברכה את-יהוה בכל-עת; תמיד, תהלתו בפי
ביהוה, תתהלל נפשי; ישמעו ענוים וישמחו
גדלו ליהוה אתי; ונרוממה שמו יחדו
דרשתי את-יהוה וענני; ומכל-מגורותי הצילני
הביטו אליו ונהרו;
ופניהם, אל-יחפרו

זה עני קרא, ויהוה שמע; ומכל-צרותיו, הושיעו

As you can see, the editors chose to separate verse 6, הביטו אליו ונהרו; ופניהם, אל-יחפרו, into two lines--the only verse so separated--bolding the first letter of the second half of the verse, creating a vav verse, as it were. Obviously Artscroll could not go so far as to truly create a new verse, so the comma is found after the first part and a period only after the second. Technically the entirety of the verse is preserved. But now parallelism is lacking only in these two lines. And even if you choose not to accept that there is any such thing as parallelism in Biblical poetry, following Malbim, it certainly is curious that the acrostic was meant to include one complete verse as two distinct stanzas.

In my opinion the more likely explanation is that there is a vav verse missing, just as there is a nun verse missing in Ashrei. However, lacking an explanation from the Talmud Artscroll will not even draw attention to the missing vav verse! Instead, through creative formatting it appears that nothing is amiss. In the Birnbaum edition its absence is noted without ceremony, introducing neither Biblical textual criticism nor a new formatting that runs contrary to the idea of parallelism of the masoretic separation of the verses.

Paranthetically, I might add that the final verse of Psalm 34, after the ת verse, begins with a פ and may be an appendix of sorts or--and this is completely ad-hoc and discard it if you like--maybe there was some doubt as to whether this was the missing vav verse (itself missing its vav!) and was therefore appended to the end of the Psalm.

* Due to its prominence as the core of the אַשְׁרֵי prayer of the Jewish liturgy, recited three times each day.
** I don't mean a letter by letter correspondence; I simply thought that M through P provides a good English example, with some equivalence (e.g., נ and N).
*** As it happens, I've used the Artscroll Rosh Hashanah machzor, since I had it on hand. But the commentary for the parts of tefillah that are the same as the shabbos liturgy is the same here as in their siddur.
**** Interestingly enough, and I'm sure there is some reason for this, my post on the missing nun in Ashrei is probably the single most searched post I have ever done. For whatever reason a lot of people out there are looking for info about that missing nun!

EDIT: this post got lengthier than I intended, and in its wordiness I forgot to mention a point that I had planned to make; Mivami reminded me; the occasional lack of order in the alphabetical acrostics, like my example of Lamentations 4, may not be a corruption of the text. There is ample evidence (in the form of Semitic abecedaries) which indicate that at first the precise order of the Aleph Beis was not entirely stable. If so, a chapter like Lamentations 4 might have had verses in the order of נ ס פ ע rather than נ ס ע פ simply because the former was an acceptable alternative order at that time. This wouldn't be very unlike what one does with the final forms of the kaph, mem, nun, tsadei and peh letters in Hebrew. Is it appropriate to give them after the initial form or list them after the entire alphabet? The choice is entirely up to you, although conceivably in the future there will be some rigid convention which no one would dream of breaching.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Artscroll: one should not be dogmatic.

משנה עדיות א''ד

ולמה מזכירין דברי שמאי והלל לבטלן ללמד לדורות הבאין שלא יהא אדם עומד על דברו

And why do we mention the words of Shammai and Hillel to nullify them? To teach future generations that a person should not stand by his words--

note 2. (Schottenstein ed.) reads:

I.e. one should not be dogmatic, which is a serious character flaw and a great impediment to arriving at the truth (Tiferes Yisrael).


(Actually, the Tiferes Yisrael (יכין) says here להיות (רעכטהאבריש) שהוא חסרון גדול בנפש האדם ומניעה גדולה מלבוא אל האמת .

רעכטהאבריש , rechthaberisch means all-knowing or overly opinionated.)

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