Volume 23 Number 97
                       Produced: Mon May 13 22:56:28 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

English Translations of Mishnah
         [Aaron Aryeh Fischman]
Talmud Translations (2)
         [David Charlap, Michael J Broyde]
Traditional Talmud Translations
         [David Twersky]
         [Zvi Weiss]


From: <afischman@...> (Aaron Aryeh Fischman)
Date: Mon, 13 May 1996 08:40:47 -0500
Subject: English Translations of Mishnah

	I completed a siyum for my Bar Mitzvah, (11 years ago) on
Mishnayot Moed using the brand new Art Scroll Translation of
Mishnayot. A couple years later I completed Nashim, again using Art
Scroll. Several Years later, I completed Zeraim, Nexikin, and Kodshim
using Kehati's Hebrew explanation. Are the effort I put into the first
two sedarim (orders) any less worthwhile than the last three? Without
the English translation, given my background, I most certainly would not
have completed either seders, and only when my abilities in learning
grew was I able to learn without using the Art Scroll.

	But what do I do now. I am continuing to try to complete
Mishnayot, and all that I have left is Taharot. There is no way that my
vocabulary can cover the vast amounts of intricate and different vessels
(keylim) that are covered within the seder. I currently use a Birnbaum a
a means of easily translating the names of most of the unusual
vessels. Again, does this detract from my learning?
	I think my point is that everyone knows what they are learning,
and if they are honest with themselves, they will strive to truly
understand what they are learning and grow from it, and that is the true
accomplishment.  Anyone can read through an English Art Scroll,
Brinbaum, Kehati or anything else. The true challenge is to take the
learning into you.


From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Sun, 12 May 96 22:13:11 EDT
Subject: Re: Talmud Translations

During the reading of everybody's posts on this subject, it occurred
to me that comments about the Steinzaltz edition did not specify
_which_ Steinzaltz edition.

There are two.  Rabbi Steinzaltz has one series (the Hebrew version)
which is very similar to a traditional style Gemora.  The only
differences are:

- the Gemora text is printed with nikudot (vowel signs), to make
  reading unambiguous.
- The page layout is altered slightly.  Rashi and Tosfot are still
  there, (although Tosfot's location on the page is different), but
  Rabbi Steinzaltz adds his own sections:
	- a modern-Hebrew translation/explanation of the Gemora text
	- "Iyunim" - assorted pieces of related information (Rabbi
	  Steinzatz's own commentary?)
	- "Orach Ha'halacha" - pointing out the halachot that are
	  learned from the page's text.
	- etymologies of non-Hebrew/non-Aramaic words the Gemora
	- explanations (sometimes with pictures) of objects mentioned
	  by the Gemora that a modern-day person may not know about.
- Rashei-teivot (abbreviations) are expanded into the words they stand
- To make room for the new material, one page (of the traditional
  layout) becomes two pages in this edition. 

Everything in this edition is in Hebrew.  The only reasonable
complaint I've heard about this edition is that a student won't become
familiar with the rashei-teivot.  The other arguments I've heard seem
to be rather minor.  I used this edition for the four years I was in
yeshiva high school, and the learning was difficult enough.  Forcing
me to figure out what the rashei-teivot and nikudot are would have
served only to make a difficult enough task even more difficult.

On the other hand, Rabbi Steinzaltz also has an English-language
edition.  WRT that edition, I agree with the arguments presented here-
that it is inappropriate for yeshiva studies.  But it is still useful
to the Jew who doesn't have the background necessary to learn on his
own, but wants to try and learn something nonetheless.

From: Michael J Broyde <relmb@...>
Date: Mon, 13 May 1996 10:11:08 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Talmud Translations

I have been reading the exchanges concerning the talmud translation with
quite a bit of interest, and I have come to the conclusion that BOTH
Rabbi Karlinsky and Rabbi Bechhoffer are right, each reflecting their
own roles as a torah teacher.

	Let me elaborate.  There are three kinds of students of torah.
There are those who already have the text and analitic skills needed to
learn any particular area, and are learning to acquire information.
There are those who do not have the text and analitic skills yet, and
who are learning to acquire those skills.  Finally, there are those who
lack either the text or analitic skills, and have given up on acquiring
them, and are learning to acquire the information to function as a Jew.

These three groups each pose different needs, and use a translation in
different ways.

If one is teaching torah to already learned adults who are striving to
learn more torah, and increase their range of knowledge, (as Rabbi
Bechhoffer does), it seems to me that the Artscroll, Steinzaltz and any
other "crutch" that facilatates learning and helps students overcome the
problems associates with trying to balance the needs of life (wife,
husband, children, work and school) with the needs to regularly learn
torah, is good.  In my opinion, one quickly realizes that the anything
which allows one to keep up with Torah when other parts of life are
overwhelming is a positive development, so long as one does not use them
too much.
 If every person who was going to a daf yomi shiur could not listen to a
tape, use an translation or otherwise seek help for those days when they
miss a shiur, people who grow discouraged or confused, and stop going.
These students, who already have the skills, need a "rebbi" and while
the best rebi is a live one, sometimes a printed one will have to do in
a time of need.

On the other hand, if one is primarily teaching students HOW to learn
(as Rabbi Karlinsky is), one quickly learns that shortcuts are to be
avoided, and the goal is not to master this particular sugya, but to
learn the give and take of gemera, and that can only be discovered the
hard way.  The use of a translation in such circumstances, and even more
so a annotated translation, can be very very bad, as it prevents the
development of the needed langugue and thinking skills to learn.

The hard case is what to do with that group of people who have given up
on learning skills, and just want to learn "stuff" without any skills.
This group is best served by motivating them to learn the skills needed
to function as a full ben torah; on the other hand if they simply cannot
do that, they need to be served with some torah too.  This group
benefits from translations, but pays a serious price for it, because it
allows them to think that they really have handle on torah when they do
not.  However, better that they should learn from a translation than
watch television or play golf.

In short, the question of whether translations are "good" or not depends
on what ones goals are.  If one is teaching in a "night kollel" for
learned balai batim who spent 15 years in yeshiva, and are now working
day jobs while balancing torah with other needs, translations provide
the needed helping hand to sometimes catch up -- it is the crutch to
lean on during those intervals when one is too tired to walk.  If one is
a rebbi in a yeshiva for 18 year olds who do not know how to learn,
translations become a barrier to learning the skills needed to learn --
it is the crutch that the cripple leans on all the time, and causes the
cripple to never learn how to walk.

Michael Broyde


From: <twerskyd@...> (David Twersky)
Date: Sun, 12 May 1996 14:18:37 -0700
Subject: Traditional Talmud Translations

I've read with interest Rabbi Karlinsky's recent comments which I will
call "the 3 T's and the 9 S's": Traditional Talmud Translations --
Soncino, Steinzaltz, & Schottenstein = Shortcuts, Spoon-feeding &
Superficiality, => Sub- Standard-Shteiging.

I perhaps do not have Rabbi Karlinksy's first-hand experience with
Talmud students to allow me to comment directly on the pedagogic merits
of his arguments.  However it seems to me that looking at the phenomenon
of the popular Talmud translations from a historical perspective would
bring one to a more balanced conclusion about the merit of these
particular works.

Since the days of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, redactor of the Mishneh, Gedolei
Yisroel have been hesitant, apologetic, or "begrudging in their
approbations" when it came to the introduction of new forms of study of
the "Oral Law".

Whether we look at the Mishneh itself, the Gemara which was introduced
by Ravina and Rav Ashi a couple of centuries later, or the Commentary of
Rashi which first appeared several hundred years after the Talmud... in
each case the study of Oral Law was revolutionized.  It was not being
studied the way they studied it 'in the old country' or 'in the previous
generations'.  In each case the new introduction simplified the study of
Torah and made it less mentally demanding for the generations that were
the immediate recipients of these 'revolutions'.

The same can without a doubt be said about commentaries such as those of
the R"an and the Meiri and Codes such as those of Ramba"m and the
Shulchan Aruch, to name just a few more examples.

In each case, I dare say there were Roshei Yeshiva who protested that
these innovators were making it too easy for the students, that the
study of Torah was becoming less challenging and the methodology that
would now be used in the study of Oral Law would be inferior to the way
'it had always been done'.

[I might note that even the methodology of study known as "the Brisker
method", which is immensely popular in today's Yeshiva world, was seen
as revolutionary when Reb Chaim Soloveichik introduced it in the
Volozhiner Yeshiva just a century ago.  The 'pilpul' method of study was
seen as 'the way it had always been done' and the only correct way to
apply one's intellectual skills in pursuit of Torah mastery].

Invariably the answer has been that "It is a Time to Act for Hashem, the
Torah has been nullified" [Tehillim 119:126].  If the generation
requires it, then even if it is not the way it's always been done --
even if, perhaps, it is halachically prohibited, it is a time to act!
[Gittin 60a].

Certainly there were contemporaries of Rash"i that felt they did not
need or want Rash"i and there were contemporaries of the Ramba"m who
felt that they did not need or want the Ramba"m.  And so on for the
other examples I cited above.

Likewise today, Steinzaltz is not used in Ponnevitch and Schottenstein
is not used in Lakewood.  No one is suggesting they should be.

However given the great loss of Torah learners and Torah learning that
our century has witnessed and given the great thirst for Torah learning
that has begun, with the help of G-d, to develop in this country and
elsewhere, I view the availability of Talmud translations such as
Steinzaltz and Art Scroll (and even Soncino which today -- and no doubt
for a number of years to come -- remains the only translation on the
entire Talmud, including such tractates as Menochos, which is currently
being studied by thousands of Daf Yomi participants throughout the
English speaking world) as a very positive phenomenon.

The generation needs it, our network of educational institutions need
it, even some of our teachers need it.

May G-d in the Zechus Harabim (the merit of the Community) of this
generation and all future generations, grant Rabbi Adin Steinzaltz the
health and the strength and the length of days to complete his
monumental translation of the Talmud which now includes all tractates of
in the Orders of Zeraim, Moed, and Nashim, as well as Bava Kama, Bava
Metzia, and Sanhedrin in Nezikin.

May G-d speedily bring Moshiach who will take us all to Israel where we
will not need English translations of the Talmud.  But until then, may
Art Scroll (and Random House) go from strength to strength and from
tractate to tractate... ad bias Goel (until the Redeemer comes).

Metzudas Dovid  -- David Twersky on the interNET


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Mon, 13 May 1996 16:11:22 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Translations?

Just a few quick comments:

1. Rashi never translated the Gemorrah word-for-word plus spoon-fed
commentary in the manner of Art Scroll and I think that it is grossly
inaccurate to compare the pre-chewed/already commented material from Art
Scroll with the commentary from Rashi.  Actually, Rashi does JUST the
opposite -- when necessary, he will translate *individual words* to
"La'az" (i.e., Old French) so that a more accurate comparison of Rashi
would be to the Jastrow Dictionary as far as translating is concerned.

2. The issue of "level of learning" ALSO came up when discussing
Kollel/paying people to learn.  One of the more erudite posters (and I
apologize because I forget who -- but it was a very well-thought out
post) also noted that with the proliferation of such institutions, the
*level* of learning appears to have declined.  I am tempted to apply the
same critique to the Daf Yomi -- NOT because it is a "bad thing" but
that as a practical matter, racing thorugh a Daf is -- arguably -- not
an exercise in "learning" at all.  Acquiring informaiton -- yes.
Developing a background in Talmudic concepts -- yes.  But "learning"???
If that is true, I do not see how we can say that English Translations
(which have accelerated this process of 'quickie study') have enhanced

--- Perhaps, the most critical quseiton to consider is: what are we
trying to do when we sit down and learn?  If the goal is simply to
quickly acquire data/understand the structure of Talmud/conceptualize
the overall process -- then perhaps, a case can be made for translations
-- if indeed one needs tham and one is not simply too lazy to "work"
something over.  However, if the goal is to develop an attachment to
Torah; if one wants to reach a state where one can feel that "the Torah
is working for him" even as "he is working for Torah" -- then I would
submit that the English Translation/commentary from Art Scroll is NOT
the way to achieve that.

  So, to all of those people who feel that the Art Scroll is an
invaluable tool, I would ask: What sort of **learning** do you do?  And,
if the issue is one of language, would it not be better to either (a)
use the JAstrow or (b) stick to a Soncino just for the English and then
spend the rest of the time working it out.

  Lastly, for all those from Yeshiva who use an "Art Scroll" -- what
sort fo Yeshiva foundation does a Yeshiva provide when one feels
"comfortable" with the Art Scroll?



End of Volume 23 Issue 97