Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"Improved" Making of a Godol

R. Nathan Kamenetsky has republished the first volume of his book, "Making of a Godol." This new edition is labeled "Improved Edition." The reasons for the improvements are well-known. The original edition was placed under a ban due to perceived slights in the honor of certain Gedolim.

In this new edition, there is a helpful index which shows what exactly has been improved upon. According to the index only one story has been removed in it's entirety. That story, in which R. A. Kotler responded to an interruption during his shiur from a "red-bearded scholar." R. Kotler responded by saying "Red Heifer, be still!" This was removed due to the source of the story. Apparently, the source for this particular story did not support R. Kamenetsky when R. Kamenetsky questioned the validity of the ban, and thus R. Kamenetsky did not want to include this persons comments.

According to the index there are no more omissions in this new edition. Instead, there are numerous elaborations, corrections, and a significant amount of new information. R. Kamenetsky states in one of the first "elaborations" that "the unexpected ban issued on the original, unimproved, version" helped the current edition be of value for all time.

unfortunately, this improved edition still suffers from a serious lack of editorial oversight. Although, the book has been altered to conform and appease those that issued a ban, it was not altered to make it more reader friendly. The improved edition still utilizes the same format of text followed by excursuses with numerous footnotes and tangents. It still requires, as R. Kamenetsky points out, a pencil and paper to be able to be able to flip back and forth through the book and keep track of what page one is on.

There is one important addition to the book, while not solving all the difficulties, at least alleviates some of them. R. Kamenetsky included a timeline line which tracks both significant events in world history with a parallel timeline that tracks significant Jewish events. When the Jewish events appear in the book, R. Kamenetsky included a footnote to alert the reader which page they can be found on. This allows, if one so desires, to read the book in a chronological order.

Although, the original book was only $40 (when it was published, subsequent to the ban the book was selling and continues to sell for outrageous prices) this improved version is $125. I assume that the steep raise in price was to allow for R. Kamenetsky to recoup some of his losses he suffered from the first edition. There were only 1,000 copies of the first edition published, however, R. Kamenetsky stopped selling and ordered his distributor to stop distributing them once the ban was pronounced. While it is impossible to know with certainty, this probably left him with numerous unsold copies thus causing significant loss. R. Kamenetsky implemented this policy even though he stood to profit immensely from the ban, he has said he felt bound by the ban even if he felt it was unjust.

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