Volume 24 Number 18
                       Produced: Mon May 27 20:03:44 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Artscroll and Translations
         [Zvi Weiss]
Covering Eyes
         [Stan Tenen]
Talmud Translations
         [Stan Tenen]


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Mon, 27 May 1996 09:05:55 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Artscroll and Translations

> From: Eli Turkel <turkel@...>
>     Rabbi Karlinsky has made a strong case against the in depth
> Artscroll Talmud translation and commentary. Nevertheless, I must agree
> with Rabbi Bechhofer, Rabbi Broyde and Perry Zamek that there is a
> difference between someone learning in a yeshiva and someone learning a
> hour or two a day.  As daf yomi approaches Chulin I wonder how much most
> Jews understood learning Chulin without some sort of translation (or
> attending a slaughter house).

 This sort of analysis misses the point (imho) entirely.  Nobody appears
to say that one should not have access to "external data" *explaining
the physical circumstances* that the Gemara is discussing.  If that was
all the Art Scroll actually did, I am sure that there would be little
arguement.  The concern is that the translation of the *gemara, itself*
leads to a corruption of the "learning" process.

> I have used the various pictures in books to learn Eruvin. I don't
> understand the purpose of struggling to figure out what kind of yard the
> Gemara was talking about. To my mind this is not in-depth
> learning.

 Again, presenting historical information about how "yards", courtyards,
alleyways, etc. were designed is not the issue of complaint.  Rather,
once one has that "physical data", can one now go back to the gemara,
study the commentaries, and develop an understanding?  Or is one now
going to read the English without even bothering to "toil" over the

>      Having attended detailed shiurs (be-iyun) in addition to daf yomi I
> can state that most rabbis do not know all the commentaries brought by
> the Artscroll. Once someone mentions an opinion brought by the
> translation it can then be discussed by the whole group. I also don't
> understand the difference between reading a translation and listening to
> a tape.

 I do not know that "virtuosity in learning" is based upon the quantity
of commentaries that can be cited.  Rather, it is how one works with
some number of commentaries to *understand*.  When I was in Yeshiva
(back in the stone age), the focus was on undrstanding the Gemara
"through the eyes" of a relatively small number of commentaries. Simply
bringing down opinions for discussion is not necessarily a disciplined
rigorous approach to "real learning" -- i.e., "toil in Torah".  Further,
I nam not at all sure that one would consider "listening to a tape" to
be a form of "real learning" either.

>      I have however, a separate complaint not against the Talmud
> translations but against the Artscroll halakha series (several books on
> shabbat, mourning etc.). As with Rabbi Karlinsky my complaint is not
> about the quality but rather because of the top quality. There are too
> many people who are using these books as there only source of
> "paskening" questions. I suspect that in the near future even pulpit

 I am not surprised.  If one thinks that "learning" can be achieved from
Art Scroll, it is not such a big "jump" to think that Halacha can be
determined the exact same way.  If *learning* no longer requires a Rebbe
and "toil", why should Halachic decisions?  OTOH, if we would recognize
that Art Scroll can provide *information*, background, overview -- but
NOT LEARNING -- which really requires effort, hard work, and (almost
always) -- a Rebbe, then people would similarly recognize that Art
Scroll is NOT a substitute for an erudite and sensitive Posek (decisor).

>    On a different topic, several people have expressed doubts about daf
> yomi as not really being learning. I find this an amazing opinion. Daf
> yomi was introduced early this century by some gedolim and has probably
> been the most successful innovation in many years to increase
> learning. It has given rise to halakha yomi, Rambam yomi (which Rav
> Schach opposes) etc. I feel that it has tremendously increased knowledge
> in the community. 

 While Daf Yomi has led to lots of "good things" -- that does NOT mean
that it is **learning**.  We just read in last week's torah reading
about "Walking in the statutes of G-d" -- which RASHI cites as "Ameilim
Batorah" **TOILING in Torah**.  While the Daf Yomi provides background
and overall understanding of Torah, is it "Ameil Batorah"?  Is it
"Toil"?  I am not denigrating one who "goes through Shas" this way --
but let us be honest and NOT tro to turn the Daf Yomi inot something
that it is NOT.  I am not denying the "Achdus" (unity) that the Daf
generates.  Nor the discipline; nor the knowledge and appreciation of
Shas.  But I will ask: is an hour a day racing through SHAS to be
considered "Ameil" -- as opposed to someone who spends a WEEK on a daf
(also learning an hour a day) by *working* to fully understand it?

> First of all daf yomi gives a psychological push to learn every day.

 But "psychology" is not what defines "learning".



From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Sat, 11 May 1996 20:01:16 -0700
Subject: Re: Covering Eyes

Lawrence Cher's criticism is both unfair and incorrect.  It is unfair to 
post a technical response without first asking me for an explanation or 
elaboration.  Why?  Because I have been criticized for overly lengthy 
and overly technical postings.  ...And I have posted more details about 
these ideas in the past.

That fact is, if my work and ideas had the normal respect appropriate to 
research recognized as legitimate, then my posting would have been given 
the benefit of the doubt, and checked before put down.   Challenging and 
unexpected ideas should not be assumed to be fair game by default.   - 
So, next time, ask for more detail before throwing stones - please.

While Lawrence Cher is correct in what he is referring to, he is not 
correct in what I am referring to.  I am sure someone will correct me 
again if I am wrong here, but are not Broca's and Werneke's regions 
related to speech and are they not located in or adjacent to the motor 
cortex for the (right) hand in primates?

I am sorry that I do not have ready access to my references.  We moved 
from California to Sharon, MA just this past year.  Everything was in 
storage (in many places) and we are not completely unpacked.  However, 
there have been reports in peer reviewed journals that document 
development of language among hearing and non-hearing children.  As I 
remember these included clinical studies and they did involve PET or MRI 
scans, but I believe that there also was investigation of the types and 
locations of neurological signals.  I am sure I have read at least one 
paper that claims similar neural mappings and signals at parallel stages 
of language acquisition.   If you are still interested, I will send you 
the paper or a reference to it when I locate it.  

 - But, in the mean time, are you saying that this report is spurious or 
implausible?  If you do have explicit information that says so, I would 
like to see it.

In the future I would appreciate a little fair play.  How about assuming 
that I am a serious person who is reasonably competent in his areas of 
expertise, fairly competent in a few related fields and no more nor less 
than a competent, fair, and honest observer and reporter in most other 
fields?  (This means, just like any other non-specialist referring to 
published reports in a field not my own, I can be wrong without being 
WRONG.  Right?)  

How's about assuming that all new ideas are difficult to present, that 
not all technical details can be included in every posting, that even 
experts often disagree, and that I need the help and assistance of those 
who know more than I do in fields where I am not knowledgeable but which 
are necessarily related to my work. 

It is about time that folks stopped taking cheap shots.  The findings I 
am trying to present have been carefully reviewed by some of the 
brightest folks around and they will not go away.  (If anyone needs to 
know "who holds by this", please ask.)  Regardless of my many personal, 
technical, and Torah deficiencies, I have come upon something of 
potentially great importance, I continue to attempt to return it to its 
rightful custodians (the Torah community), I have moved 3000-miles from 
the legendary earthly eden of Marin, County, CA, to the winter-
wonderland of Sharon, MA, (outside of Boston) expressly because this is 
where the Torah Jews are.  (Certainly no one believes we moved for the 
weather, job security, honest politicians, or easy driving!!!!  If I 
wanted to sell organic fertilizer, I would have stayed in sunny 
California where folks pay extra for that sort of thing.)

What more can I do - beyond persistence - to demonstrate that I mean 
what I say?  The geometric and topological models demand competent and 
caring appraisal. If not Torah Jews, who should I ask?  Please help. 



From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Thu, 9 May 1996 09:37:33 -0700
Subject: Talmud Translations

As a person with a limited vocabulary in Hebrew and Aramaic, I am 
necessarily dependent on translations.  Without Soncino, Artscroll, and 
Steinsaltz I would not be able to study nor conduct my research. There 
should be no question that these modern translations are valuable.

But, I also believe that while translations are necessary, they are not 
sufficient.  The Septuagint "translation" of Torah was considered a 
great danger because it represented the story in Torah without the 
deeper levels of meaning carried at the letter level.  This "flattening" 
of Torah led directly to "literal" translations made without regard to 
the Oral Torah and used by non-Jews, neo-Jews, and occultists - even to 
this day.  These translations have been taken as "gospel" (if I may use 
that phrase here in its colloquial meaning) because they seem to stand 
on the authority of their _literal_ meaning. They are now used to 
justify other faiths and to oppose Torah teachings.  (As Rabbi Kook 
said, evil exists when the part usurps the whole.)

It seems to me that modern translations of Talmud carry a similar risk. 

While I read the translation to get the general meaning of a passage, I 
also read the original language and spelling of each word and phrase so 
as to compare the translation to the original.  It is truly amazing 
sometimes how reading the original word can impart a shade of meaning 
never suspected from reading a translation. 

One further note.  There is a good reason why the Greek Septuagint was 
used by so many Jews.  They were _only_ interested in the literal story 
meaning of the Torah.  Among the academic scholars, the Reform, 
Reconstructionist, Conservative and even perhaps most Orthodox, the same 
view is held today.  We extol the Pshat and we avoid the Sod.  All too 
often even among the most serious students, the only Sod we allow 
ourselves are the narrative glimmers offered in some sections of Talmud.  
- And these we rarely dare to study or teach.

Based on my now nearly 30-years of research, I would like to shout from 
the rooftops: rabbis, friends, please do not take the Talmud only on the 
literal, "translation" level.  Do not come to believe that all that is 
needed is reading, re-reading, debating, and redebating what others have 
said.  This is what allows some to not notice how translations 
irretrievably "flatten" the meaning of Talmud.

The real scandal here is the failure of the yeshiva world to come to 
grips with critical thinking.  Great Talmudists must include persons who 
are great at research into primary (Sod) meaning as much as they must 
include persons who are saintly, have great compassion, and who can 
quote a wide expanse accurately.

Many subjects in Talmud are not adequately dealt with by anyone.  For 
example, as long as we fail to study the deep meaning in Ain Dorshin 
(which has nothing to do with human sexual relations!!!!), we start the 
process of "flattening" Talmud into literal modern translations which 
are incapable of carrying the deep meaning in Ain Dorshin.  Once 
translations quash the deep meaning in Ain Dorshin, the academic 
scholars will begin to tell us that there is no meaning in Ain Dorshin - 
just as they now defame the content of kabbalah.   And - in the 
translations - they will be right.  Is this not what has happened to 
Torah?  Is not the King James Bible held up as the literal - and 
_complete_ - "word of G-d" by gentiles? 

The price of failing to study and recover the deep meaning in Talmud 
could be a greater loss of Talmud than was accomplished by the 
inquisition.   - And we are doing this to ourselves.

I have spent many hours with persons who are rightly considered to be 
well-educated.  I have yet to find anyone who could make sense of Ain 
Dorshin. The "translations" are uniformly shallow and misleading.  Many 
Torah Jews apparently believe that the Mishneh is referring to "incest", 
while academic scholars use this misreading to dismiss kabbalah as sex 
magic!  I have found only a few Torah Jews who understand why this is 
wrong and dangerous.  I have found fewer Torah Jews who understood that 
it is our responsibility to do something about this.

I would appreciate comments about this, but I have come to learn that 
many comments are uniformed and quickly devolve into disparagement of 
anyone, like me, who does not have a yeshiva education daring to discuss 
Ain Dorshin in the first place.  This is not intellectually honest, and 
only accelerates the flattening of Torah Judaism.

Critical thinking and unstinting intellectual honesty must be an 
essential rampart of Talmud study.  Integrity must come even before 
meaning.  When this is the case both original language and translations 
have great value.  Without the courage to research the deep meanings of 
the difficult sections of Talmud, even the original will become 
flattened and Torah Judaism will be shamed and injured.

The only reason that the "codes in Torah" are a surprise to us is that 
we have not dared read for deep meaning. We have been lost in the 
grandeur and beauty of a _literal_ understanding of Torah and Talmud. 



End of Volume 24 Issue 18