Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Artscroll advertising blitz in Israel

Artscroll Advertising Heavily in Eretz Yisroel
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Artscroll is launching a sales campaign in Israel for all of its books through heavy advertising in the press, in botei knesses and via direct mail. The company has already distributed over 120,000 brochures in the form of newspaper inserts in the Hebrew editions of Yated Ne'eman and Hamodia as well as samples in botei knesses. The company plans to focus its marketing efforts on the Schottenstein Edition of the gemora, considered the Jewish publishing project on the largest scale (over 15 years and running), with the greatest investment (total cost of over $20 million) and the highest demand (about 20,000 copies of each volume are sold) ever. The new Compact Size Edition is a precise replica of the Full Size Edition designed to make available a more lighter, portable version to complement the home edition.

The new entirely Hebrew siddur, Ner Naftoli, is also being heavily marketed. Sales have been brisk in Chutz La'aretz and now an Israeli edition has been published based on the halochos and customs practiced in Eretz Yisroel.

To promote sales, 1,000 copies of the siddur have been distributed for free at selected locations around the country, including 150 at the Kosel Maarovi, 70 at Beis Knesses Itzkovitz in Bnei Brak and dozens at Beis Haknesses Hagodol. The advertising account has been handed over to Chen Advertising, which has worked with Artscroll for years. According to Chen Advertising some $150,000 will be invested in advertising over the coming months.

from Dei'ah Vedibur

Monday, May 15, 2006

The heroic Hertz Chumash

A few years ago there was article article by Ami Eden in The Forward about new Torah translations.

The piece quoted Artscroll general editor R. Nosson Scherman on the archaic Hertz Chumash, the one Chumash that could be found in many, if not most, English speaking Orthodox, Conservative and Reform synagogues for decades.
"The Hertz was a masterpiece in its time, a piece of literature. What he did was heroic," said ArtScroll's Rabbi Scherman. "He was trying to convince people that the Chumash was worthwhile. He would quote Shakespeare, church fathers and other Christian sources. Nowadays, people are offended by that. Now you have people with a yeshiva education. They want to know what the Chumash means to Jews, what the traditional sources have to say."
Essentially, R. Sherman says that quoting Shakespeare, church fathers and other Christian sources in the service of promoting Torah is heroic, albeit offensive to people nowadays.

This is a very frank quotation. Would that I could have heard the entire conversation, but this is all I've got. It's an interesting admission of the point of view of R. Sherman, who authors most of the Overviews [sic] in Artscroll books, a POV which is so very different from the output of Artscroll's press. One thing to consider is to what extent Artscroll itself hasn't contributed to the idea that this approach is offensive, as well as yeshiva education.

That said, it should be pointed out that the Hertz Chumash was an apologetic commentary that used modern scholarship rather than engaged in it (discussed here).

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Did Rashi mean Canaanite?

:צידנים יקראו לחרמון שרין והאמרי יקראו−לו שניר

"Sidonians would refer to Hermon as Sirion, and the Amorites would call it Senir" (Artscroll)

On this verse, Rashi comments:

:שניר − הוא שלג בלשון אשכנז [שנעע] ובלשן כנען

Rashi explained that senir, שניר means שלג, snow, in the languages of Ashkenaz and Canaan.

Although Biblical Ashkenaz wasn't Germany, it is obvious that לשון אשכנז means German, for in Rashi's day Germany was called Ashkenaz. As discussed here, in Rashi's time Canaan reffered to the Slavic and Baltic territories. So Rashi is saying that Biblical "senir" is similar to the old German and Slavic words for snow, which Rashi transliterates as שנעע, s-n-'-' (roughly, snow).

How does Artscroll translate the words "לשן כנען"?

Canaanite. Rashi is saying that "senir" is "snow" in the German and Canaanite language.

How did Rashi know the Canaanite language? What was the Canaanite language?

The answer to the second question is, roughly Biblical Hebrew (see Isa. 19:18 שפת כנען and related commentaries, also see related). If so, that certainly answers the first question, since Rashi did know Biblical Hebrew! But that isn't what Rashi is talking about at all. It would be like assuming that ancient Italians spoke Pig Latin.

The Judaica Press Tanach with Rashi translatesmore or less correctly (even if using 19th century lingo) as "Slavish," citing Abraham Berliner (1833-195) who published the first critical edition of Rashi in 1866. Who is responsible for the Judaica Press Tanach with Rashi? Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg. Who is Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg? He has worked extensively for Artscroll, putting out many editions of their Yad Avrohom Mishnayos.

If an Artscroll associated rabbinic scholar plainly knew how to translate לשן כנען then why the error in Artscroll's edition? Clearly this isn't esoteric maskilische knowledge.

For what its worth, the same error can be found in the Metsudah Chumash with Rashi.

So here's the question: why did Artscroll get it wrong? Metsudah is a solitary enterprise, although I assume R. Avrohom Davis has his works peer reviewed. Artscroll is a huge company with dozens of writers. Is it simply a case of one hand not knowing what the other's doing? After all, in addition to being an entity, Artscroll is also composed of hired writers of varying ability and quality. Is the sort of maskilische knowledge and source that A. isn't desirous to incorporate or cite? As will be shown in future posts, A. has an uneven record on this regard.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What's Bothering Artscroll?

On my main blog, On the Main Line, there is a sidebar marked "On Artscroll," which links to many posts I made about Mesorah Publication's Artscroll series. Clearly this publishing giant is something I am interested in, and in due time I will explain why. But I felt the time has come to deal with subjects like the ones I dealt with at Main Line in a totally separate blog. And here it is, with the very unwieldy URL elucidation-not-translation.blogspot.com:

What's Bothering Artscroll?

I ask this question not in the sense of "What is their problem?" but in the sense of the well known question "What's bothering Rashi?" The premise behind the question is as follows: Rashi's commentaries on the Torah and Talmud contain deep insights. To really grasp them one should understand why Rashi said what he did. Sometimes Rashi asks a question, but sometimes he just makes a comment. When he comments, the punctilious student will want to know what question is underlying that comment. What was bothering Rashi, so to speak.

As Richard Elliott Friedman puts it:
Torah is not to be read. It is to be studied. And at various times during one's studies, one needs a teacher. Studying the Torah with Rashi's commentaries is a joy because he shows what questions one can ask of a text. Look here! Is this a contradiction? Look here! This can have two opposite meanings. Which is right? Why does the Torah not tell us this piece of information that we need to understand the text? Why does it give us this fact that seems to be of no significance at first glance?
Thus far Rashi. While the truth is the world can always use people dedicated to exploring What's Bothering Rashi, this blog will try to explore the Artscroll world by asking the question, What's Bothering Artscroll?

I hope to explore a wide range of Artscroll materials, from meforshim on Chumash to siddurim to biographies to children's books to promotional literature--even to cookbooks, although that may be pushing it!

But the emphasis will be mainly on the Stone Chumash which is unique in that since it is an anthology of comments rather than a primarily original work one can legitimately wonder why this or that comment was chosen, out of all the possible ones. It will also focus on the Schottenstein Talmud edition (which is never called a translation by Artscroll...).

In 1969 Harry Orlinsky published 'Notes on the new translation of the Torah', a fascinating book which is a "systematic account of the labors and reasoning of the committee that translated The Torah" (the 1962 JPS edition). Such a work should be required of anyone who translates (or annotates and elucidates) but as it can't be required and as Artscroll has never published such a work, we'll be exploring the Artscroll giant right here!


Monday, May 08, 2006

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Overviews, elucidations and annotations

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