Volume 23 Number 89
                       Produced: Thu May  9  0:03:34 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Posting on Talmud Translations
         [Stan Tenen]
Talmud Translations (5)
         [Mordechai Lando, Harry Maryles, Perry Zamek, Frank Silbermann,
Melech Press]


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Thu, 2 May 1996 12:17:44 -0700
Subject: Posting on Talmud Translations

Brilliant posting!  Thank you!  (...and this from a very late starter
who really needs the English.)

One quibble: Besides learning from the original language, it is also
necessary that a student master geometry and topology.  Otherwise
technical allusions become misinterpreted as mysterious allegories.  -
But I suppose this is included in the need for students who have
mastered logical analysis, et. al.

Thanks for the posting.



From: <Mordechai.E.Lando@...> (Mordechai Lando)
Date: Fri, 03 May 96 11:53:53 EST
Subject: Re: Talmud Translations

I want to enthusiastically thank Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky for his essay on
Talmud Translations.  I have long felt as he does, but could never
express it as eloquently as he did.

Several years ago, when my son was preparing for his bar-mitzvah, one of
his goals was completing a seder of mishnayos to be able to make a siyum
at the bar-mitzvah seudah.  At one point, concerned about his pilpul,
his layning and the siyum in addition to his regular school
responsibilities, he said to me: "Aba, if you want me to make a siyum,
let me use the Artscroll Mishnayos.  I'll be able to progress much more
rapidly."  I explained to him the concept of ah'may'la ba'to'ra (working
or struggling in studying torah).  I told him it was preferable to learn
b'ah'may'lus even if that meant sacrificing the goal of making a siyum.
He ho'r'ved (yiddish for struggled) and made the siyum.  Now, on his
infrequent visits home from yeshiva, when I kvell (shep nachas) as he
tells over a chabura he said or some other chidush; both of us can see
the rewards of his ah'may'lus.

BTW, I recently saw in a chassidishe sefer (I believe it was the Yismach
Yisroel from the Alexander Rebbe) that one is rewarded for ah'may'lus
ba'torah even if, after the struggle, one does not comprehend the text.

A gut g'bensht shabbos

From: <Harrymaryl@...> (Harry Maryles)
Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 19:06:07 -0400
Subject: Talmud Translations

 R. Shaya Karlinsky's points are well taken (and beautifully and
thoroughly expressed ) It is true that one must be ameil (work hard)
BaTorah in order to be Koneh it. (i.e. understand it at the level that
R. Karlinsky speaks about In the name of Rabbi Schachter who brings it
down in the name of Rabbi Akiva.)  Using the Artscroll does undermine
that kind of necessary hard work.  As such It should not be routinely
used in Yeshivos as students will never pick up the necessary skills to
know how to learn.  Unfortunately it is almost impossible for the
Artscroll translations to be completly banished from the Bais Hamedrash.
The fact is though that this is not a completly negative thing.  There
are always Bochurim that are not able to master the art of learning no
matter how much they try and for them this is the only way they can ever
learn gemmorah.  But I think we need not worry that Klal Israel will be
bereft of future gedolim because of the Artscoll gemmoras.  There are
those very bright, even brilliant, young students who, with proper
encouragement and their own determination, will rise to the top of their
game w/o the Artscroll.  I think we have to set realistic goals for our
yeshiva students at an early age so we can know who to encourage into a
life of learning Torah L'shma so that he will rise to the level gadlus
required of every generation and who we should encourage to learn Torah
L'shma and perhaps a parnossah (career, trade, etc.)  in the process.
The fact that there may be some borderline case wher a student who may
have been able to master learning w/o an Artscroll somehow always
managed to get one (sort of Like a Cliff notes for Bochurim in a
Yeshiva) and, falling thru the cracks, and never pick up the skills
neen't worry us.  Chances are that this Bochur would not have been the
next Gadol Hador anyway.
     What remains then, is the question: Does the benefit of an
Artscroll translation outway the it's negative aspects?
 I think the answer is a resounding YES!  The negative effects as I see
them (above) are minimal.  The positive effects are enormous!  There is
more learning Torah today then at any time in history.  It's true that
the quality of that learning is not on par with previous generations but
that would be true even w/o the artscroll.  There has been a virtual
explosion of Daf Yomi shiurim here in Chicago as well as Chavrusa
learning.  I am, convinced that the artscroll gemorras have
significantly contributed to this phenomenon.  I believe it is also true
that the quality of learning by baal habatim is much enhanced by the
artscroll translations.  More bal habatim learn now than ever in
history.  It has also opened up the gemorrah to people who, otherwise
would have never had the ability or background to do so.  It's true that
there are other reasons contributing to this phenomen (e.g. Community
Kolleim) but I have to believe the contribution of the Artscroll
gemmoras are invaluable.
 Harry Maryles

From: <jerusalem@...> (Perry Zamek)
Date: Tue, 07 May 1996 08:34:58 +0300
Subject: Talmud Translations

In volume 23 no. 87, Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer discusses the use of Talmud
translations for Daf Yomi review and preparation. In doing so, he has
focussed on one of the areas that Rav Karlinsky seems to have overlooked --
the nature of the users of the translation. 

In general, I would suggest that there are three models for the study
(reading) of a passage of the Talmud:

1. Study in depth, in a Yeshiva or chevruta environment -- in this
situation, I have no argument with Rav Karlinsky that this requires word and
passage analysis, both to understand the text and to understand the flow of
the argument. In this model, the role of the chevruta is to propose ideas
and oppose "incorrect" interpretations. This is the "shakla ve-taria" (give
and take) of Talmud study. The benefit of this form of study is to hone the
analytical skills of the participants, so that they can derive their own
conclusions (see also the discussion on Rabbi-Talmid relationships in recent
mj issues).

2. Study in breadth (bekiut): Here the aim is, as one of my teachers used to
put it, "to get blatt under your belt", i.e. to cover ground. This is (as
Gavriel Bechhofer rightly points out) where a *good* translation is useful
-- to help make up gaps in our understanding, both of terminology and of
logical structure, so that the study can flow. However, the use of Talmudic
dictionaries and so on may also serve the same end.

3. The Talmud as reference: Here, a passage of the Talmud is studied not for
it's own sake, but as an adjunct to some other study (e.g. I'm trying to
understand a Tosafot or a Rambam, and the refernce is to some Gemara that
I'm not currently studying). In this situation, the lack of a translation
can be a hindrance to the study in hand.

On another point, I notice that the Soncino translation of the Talmud is
treated rather disparagingly in some of the discussion. I believe that, for
the purposes of the discussion at hand, we should be aware of the following:
1. There are two editions of the Soncino translation: a. the original, which
was published in English only; and b. the (more recent) facing page edition,
with the translation faciong the page of Gemara.
2. The translation was not designed as a tool for the study of Gemara, at
least not in the sense that Rav Karlinsky understands it. It would have no
place in a Yeshiva environment. It was, rather, an attempt at a scholarly
translation of a difficult text, just as there are scholarly (and annotated)
trasnslations of (le'havdil) Homer and Aristotle and so on. 
3. The market at which it was aimed was the scholarly market i.e. University
libraries, scholars of Aramaic and middle-eastern language (that is why the
original did not have the talmudic text -- it wasn't meant for "learning").
In addition, it was hoped that the members of Anglo-Jewish communities (who
did not generally have a knowledge of Hebrew, let alone Aramaic) would
acquire it, read it and thereby become acquainted with part of their
heritage that was otherwise cut off from them. It was only as a result of
the growth in the Baal Teshuva movement that a need was felt for the facing
page edition (this was prior to the Artscroll and Steinsaltz editions).
4. The Soncino translation did, to a certain extent, answer the needs of the
third model of Talmud study (reading) that I noted above. However, its
language was somewhat convoluted (not surprisingly, considering the problems
of translating the text), and as a result, it does not make for a good tool
to *study* the Talmud. However, at least in the few instances that I have
used it, I have found that the footnotes have generally followed Rashi.

There is an Italian saying, which I hope I am quoting correctly: "Traduttore
tradittore" ("Translators are traitors") -- there is always a danger that
the translation may not totally reflect the meaning of the original. With
that in mind, we can better use the translations for what they are really
designed -- as a tool to aid our study of the Talmud, rather than the text

Perry Zamek   | A Jew should hold his head high. 
Peretz ben    | "Even in poverty a Hebrew is a prince... 
Avraham       |       Crowned with David's Crown" -- Jabotinsky

From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Tue, 7 May 1996 08:42:21 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Talmud Translations

In Volume 23 Number 87, Jonathan Katz defends English Talmud translations.
>	English translations of the Talmud, as well as other sifrei kodesh
>	[holy books], have brought Torah to people who would have been unable
>	or unwilling to learn otherwise. This is meritorious in itself,
>	and reason enough for work on such translations to continue.

The fact that the Talmud was written in Aramaic, and not in Hebrew,
suggests that it was _originally_ intended to be readable by the masses.
But I think Talmud study has since acquired additional purposes which
might not be served by readily-available translations.

>	R. Shaya Karlinsky, however, is worried about those who _have_
>	the ability to learn, or could acquire such ability, but choose
>	to "take the easy way out" by learning from an English translation.
> 	...
>	I do not underestimate R. Shaya Karlinsky's point. I don't think he
>	really minds English translations per se; instead, he resents the fact
>	that today's English translations "spoon food' the answers to the
>	learner.
>	...
>	What is the difference, practically speaking, between reading
>	from the Artscroll Talmud and having a Rabbi from Artscroll
>	come to your house and teach you?  In both cases, you will likely
>	be learning in English. In both cases, there will be someone
>	(or something) there to give you the answer when you can't come
>	to it yourself. In both cases, you will likely only be presented
>	with a selection of possible interpretations of the Talmud.
>	In fact, this is what makes learning from a Rabbi (or book)
>	so valuable compared to learning on one's own, in a vaccuum of ideas.

There is a critical sociological difference between buying an Artscroll
translation versus being taught by an Artscroll author.  By having a
Rabbi from Artscroll come to your house and teach you, you submit
yourself to his authority, thereby reinforcing your ties to Yeshivah
society, and your and dependence upon it.

There is also the issue of parnussah for the less talented members of
the Yeshivah's inner circle.  Consider such a son of a prominent
rabbinical family, a family that takes pride in its rejection of worldly
concerns for the sake of full-time devotion to Torah.

Naturally, such a son would have mastered the Aramaic language, and be
able to find his way around the Talmud, but he might lack a deep
understanding of its issues.  Thank goodness he can earn a _respectable_
living by helping Yeshvia bochrim translate the Aramaic into English.
But how will he serve the community if a _book_ already did this for

Though the lesser Ben Torah might not be able to offer any deep insights
on the Talmud, he might still be reasonbly bright by _ordinary_
standards.  As his role in the Yeshivah is marginalized, he might be
increasingly tempted to leave the Yeshivah and earn a living in the

Under the pressures of the secular world, he might find himself less
eager to ratify stringent decisions on Halachic issues.  With such
pressures affecting children from even the most prominent families, the
Yeshivah world's dissent against the "Modern Orthodox" could be

The issue of Talmud translation thus has subtle, yet very deep

Frank Silbermann	<fs@...>
Tulane University	New Orleans, Louisiana  USA

From: Melech Press <PRESS%<SNYBKSAC.BITNET@...>
Date: Tue, 07 May 96 15:13:29 EST
Subject: Re: Talmud Translations

The discussion initiated by Rabbi Karlinsky about Talmud translations is
an interesting but ancient one.  Similar complaints about the
deleterious effects on Torah learning of various innovations have
constantly been raised throughout recorded Jewish history; the targets
of such attacks have been the likes of R. Yosef Karo (for his subversive
work Shulkhan Arukh), encyclopedists such as the Pakhad Yitzkhok, the
Sdei Khemed and the Entziklopedia Talmudis and the Arukh Hashulkhan for
his organization of the Halakhic corpus.  Arguments of the same ilk have
been voiced against the writers of seforim on Talmudic sugyos. It is
clear, however, that such arguments have been ignored. It is also likely
that similar arguments were at the root of the debate as to whether
Torah Sheb'al Peh was to be written down or not; there too the arguments
in the vein of R. Karlinsky's were ultimately ignored.  Why did Klal
Yisroel and its leaders find such arguments invalid?
 One might even note that there have been G'dolei Yisroel who voiced
similar feeligs about the publishing of much "Yeshivishe Torah"; witness
the decades of Rav Shakh's complaints about how much time yeshiva
students spend reading Akharonim rather than learning.  Here again the
complaints have found few sympathizers; one can assert without fear of
contradiction that the vast majority of those who pestered Rav Shakh
endlessly about nonsense have ignored totally his views on how to
encourage learning. Why again?

I would suggest that there is an obvious answer akin to Rabbi
Bechhoffer's point.  There has always been broad popular and scholarly
support for any innovation that widens the availability of Torah
learning, much less for those that actually contribute to its
preservation.  All the seforim referred to have substantially increased
the accessibility of Torah to larger numbers and the national wisdom has
clearly chosen to prefer this over the risks that some may prefer Cliff
notes to hard work.

I am also unconvinced that the availability of English translations
decreases the number of serious learners.  Rabbi Karlinsky writes as if
most of the Talmidim prior to Art Scroll were profoundly successful
students of Talmud and great changes are now in store. Surely a person
as experienced as he is in teaching knows how difficult it has always
been to develop outstanding learners and how much more difficult it has
probably become in our era of training for universal "gadolhood". My
previous reference to Rav Shakh's distress indicates how widespread the
problem was before ArtScroll.  The number of talmidim who become
profoundly creative analysts has always been small and I would like to
see hard proof that AS has any impact at all.  I even remeber hearing
similar complaints about Jastrow in my youth; they carried little weight
then and I suspect that the current arguments are similar tilting at

Melech Press
M. Press, Ph.D.   Dept. of Psychiatry, SUNY Health Science Center
450 Clarkson Avenue, Box 32   Brooklyn, NY 11203   718-270-2409


End of Volume 23 Issue 89