Sunday, January 03, 2016

Textual Emendations in Minhag Anglia

Textual Emendations in Minhag Anglia

Harry Freedman

Harry Freedman’s The Talmud: A Biography is published by Bloomsbury Publications. His next book, The Murderous History of Bible Translations will be published by Bloomsbury in 2016

In his book Changing the Immutable Mac Shapiro notes that, for reasons of propriety, the Birnbaum siddur transliterates the words מי רגליים in פטום הקטרת [1], instead of translating them. Philip Birnbaum was not the only translator to be troubled by these words.

In 1890 Rev. Simeon Singer produced a prayer book in London, with the sanction and authorisation of Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler. Singer’s object was to produce ‘a correct text and satisfactory translation’ which could be used in ‘Synagogues, families and schools.’[2] Singer used Yitzhok (Seligman) Baer’s Avodat Yisrael  as his base text.

As befits a prestigious Victorian publication, Singer’s siddur was grandly entitled The Authorised Prayer Book of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Empire. Known ever since as The Singer’s, it became and remains the defining text of Minhag Anglia.

Notwithstanding its source in the gemara, and the fact that מי רגליים is itself a euphemism, its translation must have been considered unsuitable for inclusion in Singer’s family friendly siddur. But unlike Birnbaum he did not transliterate the Hebrew words. Instead he just left out the entire translation of והלא מי רגליים יפין לה אלא שאין מכניסין מי רגליים בעזרה מפני הכבוד. He left his readers with no explanatory note as to what he had done.

In 1904 Arthur Davis and Herbert Adler published a set of machzorim. Popularly known as the Routledge machzorim  they served for many years  as minhag anglia’s definitive yomtov texts. They followed Singer in omitting the entire translation of והלא מי רגליים יפין לה אלא שאין מכניסין מי רגליים בעזרה מפני הכבוד.

By 1939 Singer’s siddur had run to its 16th impression. Now under the auspices of Chief Rabbi J.H. Hertz, those mitpallelim accustomed to saying פטום הקטרת would have been bemused to find the final sentence missing, not just in English, but now also in Hebrew. Dayan Ivan Binstock, the Minhag Anglia editor of the Sacks Koren machzorim, suggests that Hertz required this change for consistency, to bring the Hebrew and English into line. The alternative remedy, of adding an English translation to the extant Hebrew, was clearly not appropriate.

This was not Chief Rabbi Hertz’s only editorial amendment. He substantially reduced the Prayer for the Government (in England this was known as the Prayer for the Royal Family). Amongst other omissions he removed הפוצה דוד עבדו מחרב רעה and significantly reduced the number of verbs required to elevate and protect the monarch. Possibly, such over-anxious concern for the monarch’s welfare was not deemed appropriate for the still-powerful British Empire.

Chief Rabbi Hertz had his own concerns about indelicacy. In the siddur with commentary that he published in 1946 he too omitted all mention, in Hebrew and English, of מי רגליים. But he also ameliorated the words of the Shabbat shacharit Amidah. In the Hertz siddur, the ערלים who do not dwell in the Sabbath’s rest[3] have become רשעים. In his commentary Hertz notes that ‘for many centuries most prayer books had this reading instead of ערלים, which recent editions, through the influence of Baer, have reintroduced’.[4]

לא ישכנו רשעים is found in a number of siddurim including R. Shlomo Ganzfried’s Avodat Yisrael, R. Yehudah Leib ben Meir Gordon’s Beit Yehuda and R. Yosef Teumim’s Higayon Lev. R. Yaakov  Emden[5] and R. Chaim Elazar Spira[6], amongst others, argue against it on the grounds that whereas  ערלים are not obligated to keep the mitzvah of Shabbat, many רשעים are.

Baer, whom Hertz holds responsible for the current use of ערלים, states in a footnote: ערלים: כן הנוסחא בכל ס"י (=ספרי ישנים) ובסדורי ספרדים וברמב"ם. [7]  Hertz’s choice of רשעים in place of reflects at best a minority opinion and has neither precedent nor subsequent in Minhag Anglia. It was almost certainly introduced for reasons of propriety.

In 2006 a fourth edition of the Singer’s siddur was published with a new translation by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. For the first time in the history of Minhag Anglia, פטום הקטרת was printed in full, including the final sentence, in both Hebrew and English. מי רגליים may have not have been brought to the azarah  מפני הכבוד but in our more plain-speaking age its restitution to  פטום הקטרת seems just as much to be an expression of כבוד.


[1] B. Keritot 6a.
[2] Preface to 1st edition of the Authorised Daily Prayer Book, ed. Simeon Singer, London 1890
[3] וגם במנוחתו לא ישכנו ערלים
[4] J.H. Hertz, Authorised Daily Prayer Book with Commentary, p 458-9
[5] לוח ארש, 312
[6] מאמר נוסח התפילה, 23
[7] Siddur Avodat Yisrael, 5628 edition p. 219.

2 comments:

Y. Rosenes said...

In 2006 a fourth edition of the Singer’s siddur was published with a new translation by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. For the first time in the history of Minhag Anglia, פטום הקטרת was printed in full, including the final sentence, in both Hebrew and English.

Thank you for your interesting history of Minhag Anglia, but your account also has an omission - How did Rabbi Sacks translate מי רגלים ? Left in suspense..

Unknown said...

My favorite example of missing translations is the otherwise quite excellent Rosenbaum and Silberman translation of Rashi on the Torah, done in the 1940's. As any student of Rashi knows, Rashi was not Victorian when it came to sexual matters. In Rosenbaum and Silberman, every "indelicate" Rashi is left untranslated.

Print post

You might also like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...