Volume 23 Number 95
                       Produced: Sun May 12 22:34:44 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Explanations of the Gemara
         [Micha Berger]
Talmud Translations (2)
         [chips, Israel Pickholtz]
Talmud Translations - Reply
         [Jerome Parness]
         [Sholom Parnes]


From: Micha Berger <aishdas@...>
Date: Wed, 8 May 1996 14:30:19 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Explanations of the Gemara

The way I read R. Karlinsky's article was not that he objected to
translating the Gemara, but the idea that these new editions have a
running commentary included. It's the explanation, not translation,
that's the issue.

What if, however, someone found an accepted Rishon and used the Rishon's
commentary as a running explanation. Did the publication of Rashi create
a similar debate? (Which then leads to the humorous speculation that
Rashi's family, in order to re-obfuscate the Gemara, then got together
to write Tosfos. :-)

If we look at the Rambam, Hilchos Talmud Torah, we find that he defines
"Gemara" as "contemplating how one thing comes from another".  The whole
idea of Gemara is to sweat, think, use deductive powers. If one were to
learn the Talmud Bavli with a guide, it would not qualify, by this
definition, as Gemara! This kind of learning, reviewing what has already
been laid out, is Mishna.

If what we call the books is related to how Chazal [our sages obm]
intended them to be studied, then spoon-fed Gemara is not the point.
Mishna exists for this purpose. For that matter, this was also the
Rambam's motivation for writing the Yad [Mishne Torah].

Which then leads to R. Bechhoffer's comments about Daf Yomi [an
international program of study whereby one learns a daf, a folio, of
Gemara daily]. I'm not sure of the point of a one-hour Daf Yomi
class. It would seem that this is outside the intent of the
Gemara. Perhaps Mishna Yomi or Rambam Yomi, or even Amud Yomayim
[learning one side of one page of Gemara every two days] would be more
appropriate for someone on that kind of schedule.

[Trans: bikiyus - knowledge of quantities of material; bi'iyun -
knowledge of depth of the material.]

To put it another way. The point of Gemara is to be learnt
bi'iyun. Bikiyus, IMHO, has its palce -- only as a way to get a large
supply of facts to manipulate in further Gemara study.

I think of bikiyus as the Rambam's "mishnah" and bi'yun is his "gemara".
If one wants to learn bikiyus not merely as the means to an end, why not
study texts designed for this?

Micha Berger 201 916-0287        Help free Ron Arad, held by Syria 3448 days!
<AishDas@...>                     (16-Oct-86 -  1-May-96)
<a href=news:alt.religion.aishdas>Orthodox Judaism: Torah, Avodah, Chessed</a>
<a href=http://haven.ios.com/~aishdas>AishDas Society's Home Page</a>


From: chips <chips@...>
Date: Wed, 8 May 1996 09:28:14 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Talmud Translations

Rabbi Karlinsky posted a critique of the ArtScroll translations of
Gemorah which I have maintained since they first started.  The Soncino
volumes merely provided a somewhat literal translation of the Mishna &
Gemorah only. You were still forced forced to think, focus and learn the
daf. In addition you had to go thru Rashi. The Soncino removed the
stumbling block of poor vocabulary.  The ArtScroll's , on the other
hand, can be merely read thru, like an art history book. This might be
fine for a very "Bikius" seder, but should no way be used for students.
And, yes, I do speak from personel experiences.  :)


From: Israel Pickholtz <rotem@...>
Date: Sun, 12 May 1996 19:44:48 +0300
Subject: Talmud Translations

With all this talk you folks are having about Talmud translations, I
cannot help but wonder if Rashi didn't have the same kind resistance
getting into the standard texts as we know them.  After all, it is
certainly a more superior mental exercise and "amal baTorah" to learn
Talmud - or even Humash - without Rashi.

Israel Pickholtz


From: Jerome Parness <parness@...>
Date: Tue, 7 May 1996 17:04:42 EDT
Subject: Talmud Translations - Reply

	I would like to reply to the article by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky on
the effects of the ArtScroll translations of the Talmud (and, possibly,
the Steinzaltz translation, as well).  The basic thesis of his argument
is that the ability to develop the techniques of textual analysis is
lost.  The understanding of nuance in language and the ability to
formulate new thoughts based upon and individually derived
interpretation of that nuance, and acquired by sweat and effort, is only
acheivable by one who is "'Amel ba'torah".  R. Karlinsky's lament is
that the level of Torah learning is at it's lowest ebb this century,
and, if I get his drift, the lowest it has ever been.  R. Bechhoffer has
responded to much of what I was going to say, but I am going to say it
anyway, from a slightly different perspective.

	First, as a "ba'al habayit" who has spent a fair, if not large
amount of time, trying to learn Torah, I will disagree with R. Karlinsky
and say that language is the single most difficult thing to get over
when undertaking to interpret a document that is not in your native
language.  That goes for any sort of document research.  There is no way
that I can understand a newspaper in Cyrillic, even if I speak it,
unless I can read it.  There is no way I can understand the newspaper,
even if I can read the words, if I don't know what the words mean.  Even
more so, when the language of the document is meant to be cryptic - yes
shorthand for the those in the club - as is the Mishnah and Talmud.  The
Mishnah was written as notes for those who already knew all of Torah
She'B'al Peh (Oral Law).  The Gemarrah was transcribed discussions of
the Mishnah which assumes that one already has knowledge of the entire
subject being discussed.  All of this was done in the lingua franca of a
civilization that is over two thousand years old and whose spoken
language is used only by a few thousand people in the language today
known as Syriac - spoken only in a few villages in Syria and their
transplanted descendents around Detroit MI.  For us, the language, as a
spoken language, has been dead for a good fifteen hundred years (it's OK
if I am off by a few hundred years, the thesis remains the same).  In
yeshivah, we never learned Aramaic as a language, never learned gemarrah
as a text, but as an exchange of ideas with particular phrases pointing
to particular ways of thinking.  I have always found that the initial
barrier to understanding anything in the gemarrah stemmed from the fact
that I didn't know what the gemarrah was talking about.  And that's when
I would head for the Jastrow, the major dictionary of the Talmud. In
essence, there is no difference between a Jastrow and any other
translation of the Talmud... it just takes much longer with a
dictionary.  Further, if a sugyah is explained in your translation,
i.e., the background to the problem you are discussing, it saves you
further time.  If the point is to get to the essence of the problem at
hand, the difficulty in the gemarrah facing you, you have to know the
language and the ideas surrounding the problem.  There is no
intellectual advantage to the student of the Talmud in wasting his/her
time in getting the background information with which to deal with the
difficulty at hand. Then, and only then, is it possible to move on.
Otherwise you are only reading the Gemarrah, sort of like an English
major reading an expert's treatise on molecular biology.  It is not
doable in that context.  What is true, is that if you sit in front of
the gemarrah, learn the language, learn all the background ifromation on
your own, do all the research by yourself, you will never forget it.
This is the KINYAN of learning all by yourself or with a havruta.  The
joy of overcoming the barriers to knowledge.
	In a real society, who can afford this true joy on a regular
basis?  What I mean by a real society is one that lives by the labor of
its own hands for its existence.  In such a society only the "yehidei
s'gulah" (select few) could afford to learn at that level.  Not since
the days of the academies of Pumpedita and Sura has Jewish society seen
the number of students learning Torah, at whatever level, than we see
today. Of all those students of Sura and Pumpedita, who did learn
nothing but Torah day and night, never "wasting" their time with secular
studies, how many of them were poskim?  How many of them were the true
Torah leaders of their communities?  The Sifrei She'elot v'Teshuvot that
have come down are precious few.  In every generation, no matter what
level most of the Jewish community is in their ability to learn Torah
She.be'al Peh, only a few ar the true leaders of the intellectual world
of Torah.  I don't care how polemically inclined one is about the old
days in Eastern Europe one is, if you look at the historical data, if
you listen to those who lived it, most of the Jewish population of
Europe were ignorant, even by today's standards.  Only the really
talented made it past the local melamed to a real Yeshiva.  Modern
Western society has given Jews an entree to education that has never
existed in the history of mankind.
	The advantage of the English and Hebrew translations of Torah
She'bichtav and Torah She'b'al Peh is that no Jew today has the excuse
to say I can't learn because I can't get past first base, I can't
understand the language.  Even for those who have spent many years
learning, there are always words, phrases and concepts that are foreign!
For someone like myself, who has limited time for Torah Study, the
advantage of the Steinzaltz translations has been a monumental help.  It
really depends on your view of the Tachlit (purpose) of your study.  If
you want to be a gadol bador, then I guess you should be one of the few
for whom Aramaic is a spoken language, and you should be doing nothing
else but studying Torah.  If you are like me, one of those people who
have to work for a living and would like to know as much Torah as he can
before leaving this world, than I can either get stuck and pass the
sugya by, or have an 'ezer ke'negdi' (helpmate at my side) so that this
particular aspect of Torah does not remain closed to me.  As much as I
would like all of Torah to be "sh'gurah be'fi", I know that this is pie
in the sky dreaming, unless I am willing to be a full time
kollelnik. This something I can not afford and something for whic I am
not temperamentally suited.
	It should be understood that the above comes from someone who
places great stock in understanding language and concepts.  I get crazy
with mispronunciations of words, whether hebrew or aramaic, and I get
nuts when my childrens' teachers teach them chumash with word by word
translations so that they have no concept of pasuk.  Yet at the same
time, I realize that people's limitations should not be what limits
them.  There should always be ways around them.
	So, R. Karlinsky, I think I agree with you in that translated
texts should not be a tool of education in schools of Jewish learning,
but they certainly should be used as adjuncts in one's personal
learning.  And if you don't have time for anything else, you should be
happy that there are those who would take of their precious little time
to delve into the world of Torah with the aid of the great, and I do
mean great, R. Adin Steinzaltz, or the Artscroll or the Soncino
editions.  Whatever turns you on.  And, by the way, Rabbi Steinzaltz's
introduction to the Talmud is a masterpiece.  In that tradition, so is
the Mishnah of R. Kahati, the Sifrei Ezer of Dr. Yehuda Feliks on
Kilayim, Shevi'it, Yerushalmi Shevi'it, and his book called Hatzomeah
Vehahai BaMishnah (Flora and Fauna of the Mishna) without which I
personally don't know how anyone today can really understand these
topics.  Leave the development of the individual to that individual.
Complain, if you will, that our yeshivot, in general, are teaching
Hebrew, Aramaic, and most of Limudei Kodesh in a superficial manner, and
are leaving important education for too late in the education of our
children.  Lament the fact that Yiddish is often better spoken and
understood than is Lashon Kodesh.  Complain that there are only twenty
four hours in the day, that people need eight hours of sleep and waste a
third of their lives.  I personally rejoice at the opportunity for those
who wish to avail themselves of it, to join with the Masters of the Oral
Tradition of Rabbinic Judaism, who would otherwise be left out.  I
personally thank those who have made it their mission to bring as much
Torah as possible into the realm of our collective reality.  It really
is the proper Hakarat Hatov.

	Jerry Parness
Jerome Parness MD PhD           <parness@...>


From: Sholom Parnes <merbe@...>
Date: Sat, 11 May 1996 23:23:17 +0300 (IDT)
Subject: Translations

 Regarding Mordechai Lando's story about his son's struggling to prepare
his bar mitzva Siyum without using the ARTSCROLL;
 When we make a siyum part of the text reads: ANU AMAYLIM VE'HAIM
following parable: A person goes to a tailor to order a suit. The tailor
measures him, the customer decides on a blue suit in a particular
style. Two weeks later the tailor calls to say that the suit is
ready. The style is perfect and the fit too, though the tailor
mistakenly made a gray suit. Even though he was 'AMAYL', the tailor does
not get his Sachar.
 With learning torah, it is not this way: when one toils at torah one
gets sachar for every minute even if one is learning p'shat wrong or
doesn't understand completely. That is the meaning of ANU AMAYLIM
 Best regards from Eretz Yisrael.
Sholom Parnes - Efrat


End of Volume 23 Issue 95