Wednesday, January 14, 2015

ArtScroll’s Response and My Comments

 ArtScroll’s Response and My Comments

by Marc B. Shapiro 
My recent post here was more popular than my typical post. I base this statement on the fact that I received more emails from readers than usual and the post was picked up by a variety of different websites. The part dealing with the censorship of Rashbam was translated into Hebrew here (with one of the commenters calling for a herem to be placed on ArtScroll)[ and see also here.
ArtScroll has now issued its response. The following has been sent out to those who wrote to ArtScroll about the censorship.

Let us make clear at the outset, ArtScroll has total and uncompromising respect for Chazal and the classic commentators. We do not censor them. Every one of their words is holy, and we have never deigned to tamper with their sacred texts.

For an understanding of the matter under discussion, it is important to present the background of the published versions of Rashbam’s commentary on the Torah.

·      Rashbam’s commentary was first printed in 1705, based on the only existing manuscript of his virtually complete commentary on the Chumash. That manuscript began with Parashas Vayeira.

·      Subsequent editions were based on that 1705 printing.

·      In 1882, David Rosin published a new annotated edition of Rashbam’s commentary.

·   The new edition also included a commentary on the Parshiyos Bereishis, Noach, and Lech-Lecha based on comments culled by Rosin from Rashbam’s other writings as well as selections from other works that cite Rashbam. Additionally, this 1882 edition included material taken from a newly-discovered manuscript containing one page of commentary ascribed to Rashbam, on only the first chapter of Bereishis ending in the middle of verse 1:31.

·      This manuscript fragment includes an exegesis that appears several times – an exegesis that Ibn Ezra, in his famous Iggeres HaShabbos, vehemently condemns, stating, that it had been put forth by “minim” (heretics). Furthermore, a later exegesis in the same manuscript page (on verse 14) directly contradicts that earlier exegesis.

In our Czuker edition of Mikraos Gedolos, we wished to provide the Torah public with the fullest version of the Rashbam’s commentary, so rather than beginning with Parashas Vayeira, we incorporated additional material from the 1882 Rosin edition, from the beginning of Bereishis. However, given Ibn Ezra’s attribution of this exegesis to “minim,” coupled with a completely contradictory exegesis in verse 14, it is questionable whether Rashbam actually proposed the exegesis attributed to him.  Because of these factors we added only those writings attributed to Rashbam whose authenticity have not been questioned. Far from “censorship,” we have added to the older, standard Mikraos Gedolos editions.

Nevertheless, for the sake of clarity, we should have indicated that the basis for our text of Rashbam was the standard Vilna edition of 1898, with emendations from the Rosin edition of 1882. Indeed, this is what we have indicated in our just-published Sefer Shemos volume, and which will be reflected in future reprints of Sefer Bereishis.

* * * *
In my response I will only deal with the matter at hand, that is, the censorship of Rashbam’s commentary, not with the larger matter of whether ArtScroll really has “total and uncompromising respect for . . . the classic commentators.” I have dealt with this latter point in previous posts and offered evidence that contradicts ArtScroll’s assertion.

Let me begin by saying that the one word that best describes ArtScroll’s statement is “chutzpah”. Here we have an explanation from Rashbam that has been discussed and dealt with by some of the greatest Torah scholars for well over a century, yet ArtScroll feels that it knows better than all of them and thus has the authority to simply delete passages from the commentary. If that isn’t chutzpah, I don’t know what is.

Rashbam’s brother, Rabbenu Tam, famously attacked those who deleted or emended passages in the Talmud based on their own understanding.[1] Rabbenu Tam realized that if everyone had the freedom to do with the text as he wished, it wouldn’t be long before the Talmud was irrevocably damaged. As such, anyone who has a suggestion about a mistake in the text is free to add it in the form of a note or in a commentary, but he is not permitted to alter the text itself. The only honest thing would have been for ArtScroll to have included the “objectionable” passages and then explain why they feel that these texts are not authentic.

The fact that ArtScroll sees the passages that it deleted as heretical is irrelevant. Great people have regarded texts of the Rambam, of R. Kook, and of many others as heretical. Does that mean that we can start deleting these texts? There are aharonim and at least one rishon who believe that there are passages in the Talmud that were inserted by people intent on mocking the Sages (details will be in a future post). Does that mean that if ArtScroll shares this opinion it is entitled to delete these passages as well?

As I mentioned, the chutzpah is seen in the fact that ArtScroll feels that it knows better than such great figures as R. David Zvi Hoffmann[2] and R. Yaakov Kamenetsky.[3] Both of these men were not simply great talmudists but were also great biblical scholars, and they expound Rashbam’s view. It never occurred to them to delete the passages or to claim that they aren’t authentic. Cassuto was another great biblical scholar and he believed that Rashbam’s understanding of the verse is correct.[4]

Every student of Torah is taught the virtue of humility. What this means is that if you don’t understand something you seek out people greater than yourself to hear their perspective. How come ArtScroll didn’t follow this route before taking the drastic step of deleting the comments of Rashbam?

Unfortunately, if ArtScroll’s mikraot gedolot becomes the standard, anyone who uses the commentaries of R. Hoffmann, R. Kamenetsky, Cassuto and so many others will be very confused. These commentaries will cite Rashbam and explain his words, but the reader who opens up his ArtScroll mikraot gedolot to see what Rashbam says “inside” won’t be able to find it. If he doesn’t read the Seforim Blog, he won’t know what is going on.

For over a hundred years people studied Rashbam’s commentary without any problem. Different interpretations were offered, all in order to make sense of Rashbam’s words. Around fifteen years ago a few people, none of whom have any scholarly or religious standing, started making noise that there is heresy in Rashbam’s commentary on Genesis chapter 1.[5] This led a couple of haredi publishers to delete some or all of the “problematic” comments (different editions have different deletions).[6]

ArtScroll has chosen to follow this regrettable path. When this nonsense first began with the haredim in Israel, the great R. Yehoshua Mondshine, whose recent passing is an enormous loss for all, published the following letter in Kovetz Beit Aharon ve-Yisrael.[7]



The disdain he shows in this letter would be magnified if he were writing about ArtScroll, as one would expect ArtScroll to know better. It is unfortunate that ArtScroll did not heed his final words directed towards publishers inclined to censorship.

יש להתרות במו"לים שלא יהיו נחפזים "לצנזר" את פירוש הרשב"ם מכח סברות תמוהות וקלושות, ויחרדו לנפשם מאזהרות הקדמונים דלייטי ליד המגיה בספרים.

Following R. Mondshine’s letter, there appears a very lengthy letter by R. Menahem ben Shimon[8] explaining that Rashbam’s comments at the beginning of Genesis should not be controversial at all. He concludes by comparing censorship of Rashbam to the burning of Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed, and adds

יש בזה עזות מצח, וביזוי דברי הקדמונים, והתייחסות לדבריהם כאילו חלילה מדובר בתקליטור עם משחקים חינוכיים "בהכשר הרבנים", וכיו"ב, וכבר הזהירונו חז"ל להיזהר בכבוד תלמידי חכמים שכל דבריהם כגחלי אש.

I have to acknowledge that some people are having a good chuckle right now at my expense. Call it naiveté, but I was convinced that the response of ArtScroll would be to admit the mistake, blame it on an error in “editing” or something like that, and correct matters in the next printing. That would have been a great outcome. I, more than many others, was shocked by ArtScroll’s response. 

In its response ArtScroll states: “[G]iven Ibn Ezra’s attribution of this exegesis to “minim,” coupled with a completely contradictory exegesis in verse 14, it is questionable whether Rashbam actually proposed the exegesis attributed to him.”

The first thing to note is that in the preface to the Iggeret ha-Shabbat, where Ibn Ezra explains what led him to write the work, he does not attribute this exegesis to “minim”. ArtScroll would have you believe that Ibn Ezra stated that the passages they have deleted are heretical interpolations. Even if this was the case, it would only be Ibn Ezra’s opinion. This would not entitle ArtScroll to delete the passages, just like they don’t have the right to delete other passages that some commentator thought were not authentic. But in this case ArtScroll is simply wrong, and I hope that they are not intentionally misleading people. (I also hope that they informed the sponsor of the new mikraot gedolot that they intended to delete passages from Rashbam.[9])

Here is the text from Ibn Ezra.[10]


As you can see, Ibn Ezra responds very sharply to the interpretation mentioned by Rashbam. Although Rashbam is not mentioned by name, the standard view in traditional and scholarly circles is that Ibn Ezra was indeed directing his words at Rashbam and not at others who shared this perspective. This would explain his use of the words ולא תשא פני איש which would only be used with reference to an outstanding scholar.[11] David Kahana suggests that, as a sign of respect, Ibn Ezra does not mention Rashbam by name and he also does not curse the author of the explanation he is attacking.[12] He only curses the one who reads it aloud and the scribe who writes it. If Ibn Ezra was directing his comment against some heretic, we would expect him to curse this person, so the fact that he does not do so is quite significant and indeed points to Rashbam as the “addressee” of Ibn Ezra’s Iggeret ha-Shabbat.

Ibn Ezra never denies the authenticity of the interpretation he is responding to; he just attacks it. His attack on Rashbam’s view is just like Nahmanides’ attack on Maimonides’ view that the angels who came to Abraham were really just part of a prophetic vision. Nahmanides does not deny that Maimonides said this, but he does say that it is forbidden to accept what Maimonides says. It is the exact same thing here. Ibn Ezra is not denying that Rashbam offered the interpretation. He is simply saying that it is forbidden to accept this approach. (I should also add, since we are discussing a dispute between Ibn Ezra and Rashbam, that by any traditional measure Rashbam must be regarded as a more significant and authoritative figure than Ibn Ezra.)

ArtScroll also states that since Rashbam’s commentary to Genesis 1:14 contradicts what he says in the passages deleted by ArtScroll, this gives weight to their assumption that the other passages were not written by Rashbam but were instead inserted by some heretic. To begin with, since there are five[13] “problematic” comments and one “non-problematic” comment, perhaps it is the “non-problematic” comment to Genesis 1:14 that is to be regarded as inauthentic and should be removed. I say this only tongue and cheek, since ArtScroll should have realized two pretty basic things.

1. Rashbam often offers explanations, even in matters of halakhah, that are in line with the peshat of the text but diverge from the talmudic understanding. I understand that in some contemporary circles this would be regarded as heretical, since they assume that the meaning of the verse, especially in halakhic matters, can only be what the sages of the Talmud declare. Yet Rashbam had a different perspective, and he allowed for a peshat that diverges from what the Talmud states.

2. If you have contradictory explanations in the same chapter, the proper thing to do is to see if they can be reconciled before deciding that some of the comments are not authentic and can therefore be deleted. This was the approach of the great scholars of the last century who discussed Rashbam’s commentary. If ArtScroll had “uncompromising respect” for these figures, who devoted great time to understanding what Rashbam was saying, they would not have dared delete Rashbam’s comments, since by doing so they are in effect claiming that they know better than R. Hoffmann, R. Kamenetsky, and so many others.

Let me cite some other writers, including outstanding Torah scholars, who discussed Rashbam’s comments on when the day begins. In ArtScroll’s eyes this was all a big waste of time, since Rashbam never could have said what appears in his commentary. I guess we should all feel sorry for these Torah scholars that when they wrote they didn’t have ArtScroll around to set them straight. The more important question is why didn’t ArtScroll think that any of the explanations offered by these scholars were enough to save Rashbam’s comments from being deleted? (My own sense is that the individual who made the choice to censor Rashbam did not begin to understand the issue and was unaware of the sources referred to in this post.)

1. R. Menahem M. Kasher discusses Ibn Ezra’s attack on Rashbam and offers an explanation for Rashbam’s position, distinguishing between how the days were structured in the first six days of creation and what occurred afterwards.[14] R. Kasher also cites R. Pinhas Horowitz, Ha-Makneh to Kiddushin 37b, that before the giving of the Torah night came after day, and this can also be an explanation for Rashbam’s approach. In support of his assumption, R. Horowitz cites a verse not mentioned by Rashbam, Genesis 8:22:  ויום ולילה לא ישבתו. As you can see, in this verse night comes after day. (R. Horowitz repeats this explanation in his Panim Yafot to Genesis 8:22.) R. Moses Sofer cites this point from R. Horowitz and notes that even today it is only with regard to Jews that night precedes day, but for non-Jews the halakhah remains that day precedes night.[15]

R. Ezekiel Landau agrees with R. Horowitz that before the giving of the Torah the day did not start at night.[16] In support of this approach, R. Samuel Mirsky refers to Ugaritic literature which he regards as real evidence for Rashbam’s position.[17]

R. Moshe Malka also takes note of R. Horowitz’s position.[18]  Based on it he claims that

נחה שקטה תמיהתו של הראב"ע על הרשב"ם, כי הוא דבר על מעשה בראשית לפני מת"ת

R. Catriel David Kaplin also refers to R. Horowitz’ perspective and explains that Rashbam agrees with it.[19]

R. Kasher further cites R. Isaac Israeli (14th century) as agreeing with R. Horowitz. In his Yesod Olam[20] R. Israeli writes

וכן נהגו כל ישראל ממתן תורה ועד עתה להתחיל קדושת השבת ושאר ימי מקראי קודש מתחילת הלילה . . . ועל העיקר הנכון הזה יסדו לנו קדמונינו וקבעו בחשבון מולדות הלבנה ותקופת החמה.

R. Kasher calls attention to the words ממתן תורה ועד עתה and concludes that R Israeli is telling us that before the giving of the Torah the day began in the morning.

Finally, R. Kasher points to two separate rabbinic texts, one talmudic and one midrashic, that he feels can support Rashbam’s approach.

2. Da’at Mikra to Genesis 1:5 (p. 10 n. 168) explains that Rashbam’s understanding of when the day begins only refers to the six days of creation.

3. A different approach in explaining Rashbam is taken by R. Moshe Schwerd in a recent article in Or Yisrael.[21]

4. The Lubavitcher Rebbe refers to Rashbam’s explanation of when the day begins in order to illustrate how explanations in accord with peshat can contradict the accepted halakhah.[22]

5. R. Chaim Leib Zaks calls attention to the fact that two medieval authorities explain Genesis 1:5: ויהי ערב ויהי בקר, just as Rashbam did, that is, that day comes before night.[23] The first is the commentary attributed to Rashi, Ta’anit 11b, s.v. למחר.[24] The second is the commentary attributed to Rashi, Nazir 7a s.v. התם.[25]

6. R. Eliyahu Katz, who served as rav of Bratislava under the Communists and later as chief rabbi of Be’er Sheva, published a number of interesting books which appear to be completely unknown. In his Emor ve-Amarta[26] he states that R. Judah ha-Nasi might also have held that according to the peshat night comes after day, and that Rashbam might have based his explanation on R. Judah’s opinion. He also points out that Rashi, Genesis 1:14 writes

שמוש החמה חצי יום ושמוש הלבנה חציו הרי יום שלם

This is a strange formulation since Rashi appears to be agreeing with Rashbam that the day – שמוש החמה – comes before the night – שמוש הלבנה.

7. R. Jacob of Vienna, in his commentary to Genesis 1:5, writes[27]:
וא"ת אימא הלילה הולך אחר היום והכי קאמר ויהי ערב של יום הראשון ויהי בקר של יום שני אז נשלם יום שלם
In his note to this passage R. Zvi Rotberg understandably refers to Rashbam, as R. Jacob might indeed be alluding to him here.[28] The editor of R. Jacob’s volume, R. Menasheh Grossberg, refers to R. Pinhas Horowitz’s view mentioned above.
8. R. Shlomo Fisher, without question one of the top Torah scholars in the world, elaborates on the implication of Rashbam’s view that it is only through Torah she-Ba’al Peh, not the peshat of the verses, that we know that day comes after night.[29] A student of R. Fisher asked him about the censorship of Rashbam, and not surprisingly he expressed strong opposition to any such tampering with the writings of rishonim. He also told this student about a contemporary “scholar” who claims that Rashbam was influenced by evil people who caused him to go astray! Talk about chutzpah![30]
10. Michael Landy called my attention to the fact that Abarbanel cites the interpretation mentioned by Rashbam in the name of יש מהמפרשים.[31]
All of these sources that I have quoted, and believe me when I tell you that there are many more, are simply designed to show that the view of Rashbam expressed in his commentary to the first chapter of Genesis is part and parcel of Torah history and literature. Many of our great minds have discussed Rashbam’s view in a variety of contexts. Yet ArtScroll, on its own, has decided that it knows best and chose to remove the words of Rashbam from the public eye. They have no right or authority to do this. Their action is a betrayal of Rashbam and of those who want to study the writings of Rashbam. It is also an incredible display of disrespect to those great Torah scholars who have devoted time to the matter and explained the comments of Rashbam that ArtScroll prefers to view as heretical.
After all we have seen, let us return to the issue of Ibn Ezra’s attack on Rashbam and ask why it was so harsh. After all, what is so terrible about explaining the peshat of the Torah even if it diverges from the accepted halakhah, an approach that is found in numerous commentators?

The significance of the example we have been discussing is that there were indeed sectarians who observed Shabbat from Saturday morning until Sunday morning. Rashbam’s interpretation was thus dangerous as it could have had real world implications by giving support to the anti-halakhic behavior just mentioned.

In his commentary to Exodus 16:25 Ibn Ezra refers to “many people, lacking in faith” who erred in this matter and did not start Shabbat on Friday night. He tells us that they based their mistaken approach on Genesis 1:5: ויהי ערב ויהי בקר. In other words, they interpreted the verse in the same way that Rashbam did. Towards the end of Iggeret Shabbat, p. 171, he also mentions these “minim” who do not observe Shabbat beginning Friday night. It is thus easy to see why Ibn Ezra reacted so strongly and set out to uproot Rashbam’s interpretation.

Who were these sectarians Ibn Ezra refers to? Presumably the Mishawites, a group that we know started Shabbat on Saturday morning.[32] Benjamin of Tudela records meeting sectarians in Cyprus, again presumably Mishawites, who indeed observed the Shabbat in this fashion.[33]

In the last paragraph of the ArtScroll letter it states that from now on they will note that their text of Rashbam is the standard Vilna edition of 1898 with “emendations from the Rosin edition of 1882”. This is clearly obfuscation as we are not dealing here with any “emendations” suggested by Rosin. To repeat what the issue is: Rosin printed from manuscript Rashbam’s commentary to Genesis chapter 1. This section of the commentary does not appear in the standard Vilna edition. ArtScroll chose to include Rashbam’s commentary to Genesis chapter 1 in its recently published mikraot gedolot. However, ArtScroll also chose to delete those sections of the commentary it didn’t like, assuming (without any evidence) that these sections were written by heretics. This is censorship of  Rashbam. That is all people need to know.[34]

ArtScroll has done some great things. They have also done some pretty disappointing things. But as I said in the prior post, nothing comes close to this. Deleting comments of one of the greatest rishonim is simply outrageous. Some have said that what ArtScroll did is unforgivable. I think this is going too far. If ArtScroll acknowledges its error and reinserts that which has been removed, I think that we all would be very happy to put this behind us. One of the most important aspects of a Torah personality is the ability to recognize when one has made a mistake and rectify it. If ArtScroll is able to do this, it would lead to great admiration.

On the other hand, if ArtScroll refuses to acknowledge that it has made a terrible error, even after seeing the evidence presented in this post, then one must conclude that ArtScroll is knowingly suppressing the words of a great rishon. One can only hope that ArtScroll does not wish to have this blemish permanently attached to its name.



[1] ArtScroll and other publishers should pay close attention to the words of Rabbenu Tam, which I would have thought would be enough to scare off the censors. Sefer ha-Yashar, ed. Rosenthal (Berlin, 1898), p. 75:

ומגיהי חנם, בעיני דינם, למדורי גהינם

P. 105:

כי כאשר לא יודעים, העולם מטעים, וכאשר תוהים, הספרים מגיהים. ואתם הרעות מהם, כי הם כותבים ה"ג בהגהותיהם, ולכן ניכר מעבדיהם. ואתה לא כן, אך סותם הגהותיך וסומכים עליך וטועים . . . אין עצה ואין תבונה, רק להעמיד על האמת ולזרוק מרה במגיהי הספרים

Even if they are not scared of מדורי גהינם, one would have thought that they would have seen the wisdom of what Rabbenu Tam writes in the introduction to Sefer ha-Yashar, ed. Schlesinger (Jerusalem, 1985), p. 9:

והדין נותן אם לא ידע אדם הלכה יכתוב פתרונו לפי ראות עיניו אם ירצה אך בספרים אל ימחק שדברי תורה עניים במקומן ועשירים במקום אחר ואם דבר רק הוא ממנו הוא [רק]
                       
[2] Sefer Bereshit, trans. Asher Wasserteil (Bnei Brak, 1969), pp. 26-27. Hoffmann writes as follows:

כמו גם פרשנים חדשים רבים הוא [רשב"ם] סבר, שבימי מעשה בראשית נמנו הימים באופן שונה מדרך מנייתם לאחר מכן, בימי מתן תורה, כשם שגם תחילת השנה לפני מתן תורה שונה – לדעת ר' אליעזר – מזו שלאחריו.

[3] Emet le-Yaakov (Cleveland Heights, 2007), p. 17.
[4] Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, trans. Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem, 1998), p. 28.
[5] As far as I know, the first one to assert that Rashbam’s comments are heretical interpolations was R. Yehudah Nachshoni, Hagut be-Farashiyot ha-Torah (Bnei Brak, 1981), vol. 1, p. 262, but this had no impact on the haredi world. Here is the page from Nachshoni.



He writes:

לדעתו יש לחשוש שמא חלו ידי קראים בדברי הרשב"ם

What this means is that Ibn Ezra thought that perhaps Rashbam’s metaphorical interpretation of the commandment of tefillin in Ex. 13:9 is a Karaite interpolation. This is complete nonsense as Ibn Ezra says nothing of the sort. I think, therefore, that there is a typo and the first word should read לדעתי. It is still nonsense but at least now the sentence is understandable. Following this, Nachshoni adds another absurdity, stating that Rashbam’s interpretation of when the day starts is also a Karaite interpolation. (Prof. Daniel Lasker has confirmed to me that all Karaites began the Sabbath on Friday night.)

Now comes the real irony. ArtScroll published a posthumous translation of Nachshoni’s book in 1988. Apparently ArtScroll was embarrassed by what Nachshoni wrote so ArtScroll censored it! Here is the English version, Studies in the Weekly Parashah, vol. 2, pp. 414-415.



In 1988 ArtScroll censored the writings of Nachshoni because he said that Rashbam’s comments were heretical interpolations, but in 2014 ArtScroll accepted this very position and instead censored Rashbam! Can it get any crazier than this?

As an aside, let me also note that I find it strange that ArtScroll does not give Nachshoni the title “Rabbi” on the title page of its translation of his book, even though he is referred to as such in the preface.
[6] It is possible that the haredi publishers who censored Rashbam did so purely for financial reasons. After putting a lot of money into their editions, a pashkevil directed against them, incited by some extremist, could be financially devastating. In the haredi world it is often enough to say that there is a “problem” with a book for people not to buy it. The masses won’t have a clue about the issue, but if there is a choice between two competing mikraot gedolots, they will feel safer buying the one which has not had any questions raised about it.
[7] (Kislev-Tevet 5760), p. 150.
[8] Ibid., pp. 151-155.
[9] I don’t have the newly published ArtScroll mikraot gedolot on Exodus (and will refuse to buy it until Rashbam’s commentary is fixed). I was curious if Rashbam on Ex. 13:9 appears in full or if it too was censored. Here Rashbam states that the commandment of tefillin in this verse: והיה לך לאות על ידך ולזכרון בין עיניך, is to be understood metaphorically. Ibn Ezra, in his commentary on Ex.13:9, harshly criticizes the metaphorical interpretation. A friend sent me a copy of this page of Rashbam and the commentary appears in full. I did notice, however, that in the following verse in Rashbam, Ex. 13:10, it reads חוקת הפסח with a dagesh in the kuf. This is a mistake, and in the next printing the dagesh should be removed.

If ArtScroll is looking for something to censor in the newly released volume, Or ha-Hayyim to Ex. 31:16 probably fits the bill. In this controversial passage Or ha-Hayyim states that we don’t violate Shabbat to save the life of someone who will not live until the next Shabbat. This contradicts an explict talmudic passage, Yoma 85a, that one violates Shabbat even for hayyei sha’ah. See R. Ovadiah Yosef, Hazon Ovadiah: Shabbat, vol. 3, pp. 296ff. R. Judah Aryeh Leib Alter, Sefat Emet: Likutim (New York, 1957), p. 77a (Ki Tisa), already suggested that an “erring student” wrote these words in Or ha-Hayyim.
[10] It appears in Kerem Hemed 4 (1839), pp. 160-161.       
[11] See Aharon Mondshine, “Li-She’elat ha-Yahas she-Bein Perusheihem shel R. Avraham Ibn Ezra ve-Rashbam la-Torah: Behinah Mehudeshet,” Teudah 16-17 (2010), p. 17.
[12]  Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (Warsaw, 1894), vol. 1, part 2, p. 45 n. 4.
[13] In the previous post I noted four examples of ArtScroll’s censorship with regard to Rashbam’s peshat  understanding of when the day begins: Gen. 1:4, 5, 8, 31. I neglected to mention Rashbam’s commentary to Gen. 1:6 which is also censored by Artscroll. Regarding why Rashbam's commentary to the first three parashiyot of Genesis were missing from the manuscript, see Itamar Kislev in Tarbiz 73 (2004), p. 229 n. 12.
[14] Torah Shelemah, vol. 10-11, pp. 276-279.
[15] Hiddushei Hatam Sofer to Shabbat 87a. R. Akiva Eger points out that R. Horowitz’s position leads to a very interesting conclusion. Here is the summary in R. Yaakov Moshe Shurkin’s commentary to Teshuvot Rabbi Akiva Eger (Lakewood, 2003), vol. 2, p. 769 (Pesakim, no. 121):

וכתב רבינו דלפי חידושו של הפנים יפות הנ"ל, דדין עכו"ם ששבת חייב מיתה הוא ביום ולילה שלאחריו, יש להמליץ זכות על אלו שבאו להתגייר ומרגילים את עצמם לשמור את השבת גם קודם שנתגיירו כנ"ל, די"ל שאינם עוברים בזה באיסור דעכו"ם ששבת, דסגי להו אם יעשו מלאכה במוצאי שבת, וכדברי הפנים יפות הנ"ל. ואין צריך למחות בשפחות הנ"ל מלשבות בשבת.

[16] Tziyun le-Nefesh Hayah to Pesahim 116b.
[17]  “Midot ha-Parshanut ha-Mikrait,” Sura 1 (1954), p. 396.
[18] Be’er Moshe (Lod, 1994), p. 14. He also questions R. Horowitz’s position by citing Mishnah, Hullin 5:5:
                  
מה יום אחד האמור במעשה בראשית היום הולך אחר הלילה

Rashbam could easily reply that the Mishnah is not speaking in terms of peshat. However, I am surprised that neither R. Horowitz nor R. Landau discuss this text which would appear to contradict their approach, as they assume that the Talmud agrees that before the giving of the Torah night came after day.
[19] Keter Nehora (Jerusalem, 2004), p. 114.
[20] (Berlin, 1848), vol. 1, p. 35 (2:17).
[21] “Hagdarat Zemanei ha-Yom ve-ha-Laylah al pi Halakhah u-Mahashavah” Or Yisrael (Nisan 5770), pp. 226ff.
[22] Sihot Kodesh (1967), part 2, sihah from 12 Tamuz 5727, p. 284.
[23] “Be-Inyan ha-me-Et le-Et shel Ma’aseh Bereshit,” Ha-Maor (Oct. 1957), pp. 4ff.
[24] This source was also noted by R. Abraham Elijah Kaplan. See Divrei Talmud (Jerusalem, 1958), vol. 1, p. 42 n. 97:

וזה מזכיר דברי רשב"ם שנלחם בם ראב"ע במחברתו אגרת השבת

[25] Kaplin, Keter Nehora, p. 115, also refers to this commentary to Nazir.
[26] (Be’er Sheva, 1994), vol. 1, pp. 26-27.
[27] Peshatim u-Ferushim (Mainz, 1888),  pp. 9-10
[28] Le-Misbar Kera’e (Bnei Brak, 2005),  p. 49.
[29] Derashot Beit Yishai (n.p., 2004), p. 48 n. 11.
[30] E-mail of this student to me.
[31] Commentary to Genesis, p. 33 in the standard edition.
[32] Regarding the Mishawites, see Zvi Ankori, Karaites in Byzantium (Jerusalem, 1968), pp. 372-416. Regarding whether the Dead Sea Sect started the Sabbath on Saturday morning, see Lawrence Schiffman, The Halakhah at Qumran (Leiden, 1975), pp. 84-85. See also Jacob Z. Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays (Cincinnati, 1951), pp. 446ff.
[33] See The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, ed. Adler (London, 1907), pp. 17-18 (Hebrew), p. 15 (English).
[34] Here is the page listing the texts used in preparation of the ArtScroll mikraot gedolot for the Book of Genesis.


There is no mention of the Mossad ha-Rav Kook editions, perhaps because of copyright concerns. But there is no doubt that in preparing its text of the mikraot gedolot, an important source for ArtScroll for the commentaries of Ibn Ezra, Ramban, Hizkuni, R. Bahya ben Asher, and Sforno were the Mossad ha-Rav Kook editions (and perhaps also Bar Ilan’s Mikraot Gedolot ha-Keter).

For instance, look at the description of Hizkuni. The page from ArtScroll states that its text is based on the first printing and the manuscript thought to be from the author. This is exactly what one finds in Chavel’s edition of Hizkuni published by Mossad ha-Rav Kook. Does anyone really think that ArtScroll compared, line by line, the first printed edition to the manuscript? This work was already done by Chavel. All ArtScroll had to do was use the text provided by Mossad ha-Rav Kook. So how come ArtScroll can’t tell us this, and instead puts on this charade?

ArtScroll does not mention consulting manuscripts with any of the other texts included in its mikraot gedolot, only with the ones already published by Mossad ha-Rav Kook. ArtScroll also says that its edition of Hizkuni is based on the first printing, Cremona 1559. Yet the first printing was in Venice 1524. ArtScroll simply repeated Chavel’s mistake. See Chavel’s introduction to his edition, p. 11.

The title Hizkuni (which I don’t italicize since it is now used as a personal name) comes from the author’s introductory poem to the work. Here is the relevant page from the Chavel edition and on line 7 you can see the word vocalized.



Louis Jacobs, Jewish Biblical Exegesis (New York, 1973), p. 69, claims that the word should be vocalized as Hazekuni, which is the piel plural imperative (“strengthen me”; dagesh in zayinsheva under zayin). R. Chaim Mordechai Brecher made the same point. See G. Kressel, ed., Ha-Ahim Shulsinger (Jerusalem, 1986), p. 119. I don’t see why this is preferable as Hizkuni is also correct, as the kal plural imperative, and the kal imperative is actually much more common in the Bible than the piel imperative. Furthermore, Hizkuni rhymes better with yizkeruni, the parallel word in the poem. Finally, look at the sentence in its entirety

ויקרא שמו בישראל חזקוני, למען קוראיו בשמו יזכרוני

This means that one who pronounces the title of the book, Hizkuni, will be reminded of the name of the author, Hizkiyah. This mnemonic only works if the title of the book has a hirik under the het, like in the author’s name. See A. Ben Ezra in Kressel, ed. Ha-Ahim Shulsinger, p. 119.

Here is the introductory poem from ArtScroll’s edition. The word חזקוני is missing a dagesh in the zayin which means that ArtScroll understood it as an imperative. (Chavel places a dagesh in the zayin, meaning that he understood it as  piel plural perfect.)





Look at the third line from the bottom on p. 8 where ArtScroll has

ומבואר [נ"א: ומכוער]

Anyone who understands Hebrew can see that ומבואר is incorrect (and this error also appears in the Venice 1524 edition). When ArtScroll prepared its mikraot gedolot it had Chavel’s edition in front of it. Chavel’s edition is based on what appears to be the manuscript of the author. In this manuscript (which ArtScroll claims to have consulted) one finds the reading ומכוער. So how come this is not the word that appears in the text published by ArtScroll? This is the original reading, not a נוסח אחר. (At best, ArtScroll could have put ומבואר in brackets, but why would this even be necessary in a non-critical edition?) If ArtScroll thinks that it is important to cite the Cremona reading, then how come immediately following this it doesn’t have כי מי ימצא בו דבר חכמה מפואר. As you can see, this is what appears in the Cremona text, and again, one who knows Hebrew will realize that it doesn’t make much sense.



In the manuscript, which is the basis of Chavel’s version, the text reads אשר ימצא בו דבר חכמה מפואר. This is what appears in ArtScroll, with no indication that there is an alternative text. So why did ArtScroll feel the need to add [נ"א: ומכוער] in the previous part of the sentence? Is this just a way of showing the reader that ArtScroll is “scientific” and has examined the different versions?

If you compare ArtScroll’s version of the introductory poem to that which appears in Chavel’s edition, which is based on the manuscript, you will find that other than the example just mentioned, ArtScroll relies entirely on the mistaken text from the Cremona edition instead of using the correct version from the manuscript. Just skimming through the commentary I found other examples where ArtScroll ignores the manuscript reading in favor of the Cremona edition. I don’t know why ArtScroll did this, but it again shows that ArtScroll’s new edition of mikraot gedolot was not properly edited. 

I also found what I think is a punctuation mistake in ArtScroll's edition of the poem. See the page from Chavel printed above, the second column, second to last line: ובעיני א-להים יישר. Chavel punctuates יישר as a pual imperfect. ArtScroll punctuates it as a kal imperfect. Because of the rhyming, I think Chavel is correct.

The issue of how ArtScroll uses works of prior scholarship requires a more detailed study than I can provide here. I would, however, like to point to one problematic aspect. Let us look briefly at ArtScroll’s Five Megillos, the earliest ArtScroll publication. ArtScroll is very proud of the fact that it only uses traditional rabbinic sources. On the first page of the commentary to each of the five megillot, we are informed that all material in square brackets is a comment from the author, which we are to assume is an original insight.

Here is ArtScroll’s commentary to Ruth 4:10.


Now read what appears in the Soncino commentary to Ruth 4:10.


ArtScroll’s entire comment is lifted from Soncino. Quite apart from the plagiarism, I find it troubling that ArtScroll feels that Soncino is good enough to be used, just not good enough to be mentioned by name. (When ArtScroll changed some of Soncino’s wording, a mistake crept in. Soncino has “sacred duty of building a home.” ArtScroll intended to change this to “sacred task of building a home,” but instead of “task” it reads “text”.)

After David Farkas called this example to my attention, it did not take me long to find other examples, of which I offer two. Here is Soncino’s commentary to Ruth 4:1.



Now look at ArtScroll on this same verse.



It is obvious that Soncino is the basis for what is found in ArtScroll. (Note the words “fairly large edifice” in both Soncino and ArtScroll.) 

Here is Soncino’s commentary to Esther 2:20.


Now look at ArtScroll on this same verse



Again, it is obvious that Soncino is the basis for what is found in ArtScroll. (Note the words “filial piety” in both Soncino and ArtScroll.)

1 comment:

elisha said...

As much as I agree with Rabbi Shapiro's post about the Rashbam censorship issue I want to mention one point.

In the Sefer HaYovel in honor of Rav Soloveitcik published by Mosad haRav Kook there is an excellent article by Rav Mordechi Breuer on the differences between the different schools of Orthodox Bible scholarship in Germany.

The school of the Orthodox Berlin Seminary of Rav Hildesheimer viewed some scientific approaches to Biblical criticism as permitted to view, use, and grapple with. Rav Dovid Zvi Hoffman's peirush on Chumash is an excellent example of this approach.

Rav Hirsch on the other hand dismissed completely the validity of any scientific approach to Biblical criticism and exegesis as espoused by Wissenschaft scholars.

Bringing an argument against Artscroll's approach from Hoffman or Cassuto is less potent than quoting a more traditional scholar such as Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky since Artscroll would maintain as Rav Hirsch did, that any approaches to Biblical interpretation outside of traditional Orthodox scholarship isn't valid.

Elisha Paul

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