Volume 33 Number 70
                 Produced: Sun Nov  5 13:10:50 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Artscroll Gemorah (5)
         [Chaim Shapiro, Carl M. Sherer, Aharon Fischman, Gidon Ariel,
Jordan Hirsch]
The Artscroll Issue is an old controversy in Pedagogy
         [Russell Hendel]


From: Chaim Shapiro <Dagoobster@...>
Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2000 23:52:57 EDT
Subject: Artscroll Gemorah

> Reb Chaim,
>     have you considered that maybe the point of the torah is to open
> learning to all - not limit it to those who want to shvitz over it?
> Should we eliminate rashi because rashi "explains" things that otherwise
> we wouldn't understand?  Why discount Artscroll?  Is it because it's in
> english and Yeshivas have mostly held gemara as a key to a secret club
> to seperate themselves from baal habatim.

Dear Shaya,

I agree wholeheartedly.  After all, I did say that Artscroll is a
tremendous resource for those who otherwise would be unable to learn!  I
even admitted that Artscroll is a useful tool for me when I am
absolutely stuck on a subject.

However, I must say, Artscroll is not like Rashi.  Rashi is a
continuation of the belief that only the bare minimum necessary for
understanding Torah Shel Bal Peh be written down.  Rashi felt, as did
Rebbe Yehuda and Ravina, that without his input, Torah Shel Bal Peh
would be lost.  Please note that even Rashi is not a bare all
explanation that is easy to understand.  It still requires Amalus
(toil), even from the most advanced learners.

Artscroll on the other hand does not require any advanced sense of
Amalus at all.  It is all written plain as day.  That being the case, do
not misunderstand me, I did not say, nor imply that Artscroll is a
horrible thing and should be abolished.  I just mentioned that in our
desire to open Torah to all, we have as a side effect minimized true
Torah scholarship, as I know too many people (myself included) who could
and should struggle with the Gemorah opt out for the easy path.

In effect, I am happy that Artscroll has opened the key to the "secret
club" of torah.  The wider open the better (although I do worry about
the J 4 J nicks who now have access to Talmud for their immoral
purposes).  But, I am still afraid that with such an easy option, too
much advanced Amalus Btorah will be lost ( for many opening an Artscroll
to learn is indeed true Amalus).  Even the best things have unwanted
impacts!  Do not forget " If someone says, I did not struggle and I
found, do not believe him, but if he says I struggled and I found,
believe him!"

And as a side note, I do not mean to imply that I am an expert at
learning.  That is the furthest from the truth!

Chaim Shapiro

From: Carl M. Sherer <cmsherer@...>
Date: Sun, 29 Oct 2000 16:49:17 +0200
Subject: Artscroll Gemorah

Chaim Shapiro writes:

> I must admit that I am torn on the concept of the Artscroll gemorahs.
> Yes, the Artscroll gemorah opens the beauty of our Talmud to those who
> otherwise would be unable to access it (perhaps it opens it a little too
> wide, as I have now seen J 4 J missionaries quoting Gemorah they learned
> from Artscroll).  The amount of Torah learned because of these new
> Gemorah editions is immeasurable.
> However, I must wonder if these Gemorahs are detrimental to real
> Talmudic scholarship.  First of all, using the Artscroll only, one
> cannot look up what the myriad of meforshim listed in the back of
> standard Gemorahs have to add to any given issue.  While Pshat can
> normally be correctly interpreted in many different ways, using the
> Artscroll, one is limited to the way the Artscroll learns the subject.
> What's worse, I must admit, the ease of the Artscroll is a very tempting
> "crutch" to lean on when one does not want to spend the time figuring
> out a Gemorah on his own.  In fact, my Chavrusah and I have agreed to
> use regular Gemorahs and only refer to the Artscroll if we are
> absolutely, positively stuck and going nowhere.  Otherwise the
> simplicity of the Artscroll is too tempting, and I for one, find my eyes
> drifting toward the English even in a Sugya that we can decipher
> ourselves with enough effort.
> I have to wonder, have we, in a worthwhile and admirable attempt to open
> Talmud study to all, decreased true scholarship?

I'm going to do something which is likely to be unpopular on this
list. I am going to agree with Chaim. There are several reasons I
believe that the "phenomenon" of the Artscroll Gemara is an undesirable
one. Here are some of them:

1. It encourages people, who are not truly capable of understanding the
Gemara on their own, to learn without a Rebbe, and sometimes without a
Chavrusa. I see value in the shakla v'tarya (give and take) of at least
*hearing* someone else explain the Gemara. So did Chazal. Chazal in
Pirkei Avos said "Aseh lecha Rav" (make a Rabbi for yourself). The
Gemara talks in several places about the importance of learning with a
Chavrusa (study partner). All of this is lost on the man (or woman) who
can barely read Hebrew (let alone Aramaic), who sits alone in a room or
on a bus with their Artscroll as their sole daily feeding of Torah.

2. Artscroll is more than just a translation. Face it folks - if all we
needed was an occasional word explained, we would do just fine with
Jastrow or Soncino or Steinsaltz (which was only in Hebrew in my days)
as we did twenty years ago when I was a Yeshiva bochur. (In fact, there
was a letter written by Rav Steinsaltz himself, which I recall seeing
twenty years ago, which urged people to use his Gemaras only as an aid,
and not to learn out of them ab initio). Artscroll does much more. It
takes the Gemara, digests it for you, and hands it to you on a silver
platter. It takes all the work out of learning. Look at the hadran
(finishing prayer) at the end of each Mesechta: "Anu ameilim v'heim
ameilim. Anu ameilim u'mkablim schar v'hem ameilim v'ainom m'kablim
schar." (We work and they work. We work and are rewarded and they work
and are not rewarded). What do those words mean? Do they mean that those
who are not engaged in Torah don't get paid? Of course not.  They mean
that we are "paid" for the very act of working, whether or not we are
successful, while in non-Torah endeavors, payment only follows
success. With Artscroll, we're not working. In a best case scenario, we
are sitting and absorbing. Sometimes we're just sitting and not even

3. To the extent that Artscroll causes people with no grounding in the
basics to take on Daf Yomi and similar endeavors, it is diverting
resources from where they could be more gainfully employed. The whole
point of learning Gemara is to learn how to attack a sugya, how to
attack a halachic problem and follow its development through. The result
of Artscroll - IMHO (and without having done a scientific survey) is
that there are people out there who don't know how to wash Netillas
Yadayim properly who delude themselves that they are "learning Shas"
once every seven years. There are "Rabbis" out there (and unforutnately,
there will likely be more in the future) who do not know how to make a
basic leyining (reading) of a Gemara, but who have somehow gotten
smicha. Because they learned with Artscroll, they never had to learn how
to figure out a Gemara on their own. What happens when they have to look
up a tshuva? They cannot understand what the tshuva says, because they
cannot understand the Hebrew, and they cannot go back and look at the
sources for the tshuva, because they never learned how to figure out a
Gemara on their own.

Call me a snob if you wish, but I think there are plenty of other areas
that are important to learn before you start trying to learn all of
Shas. One of them is to learn basic halacha. Another is to learn how to
figure out a Gemara on your own.

I cannot believe that Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt"l, when he approved the
Artscroll Gemaras, ever intended that they would become a substitute for
ninth grade boys learning from a regular Gemara and learning how to
learn. The result is that, at least outside of Eretz Yisrael, in many
communities we are raising kids who cannot read a Gemara on their own,
and therefore will never have a chance of being serious Talmudic
scholars. V'chaval al d'avdan (and woe is the loss).

-- Carl M. Sherer
mailto:<cmsherer@...>  or  mailto:sherer@actcom.co.il
Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for my son, Baruch Yosef ben
Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.  Thank you very much.

From: Aharon Fischman <afischman@...>
Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2000 11:39:55 -0400
Subject: Re: Artscroll Gemorah

Chaim Shapiro Wrote:
>So Aharon, please clarify your point of contention!

I think my disagreement was with the responsibility.  I feel that people
who wish to learn on a certain level need to find that own level.  The
proliferation of Artscroll Gemorah's in bookstores is not the fault or
responsibility of the owners - they are selling items that are
profitable, and that includes Artscrolls.


From: Gidon Ariel <Gariel@...>
Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2000 13:15:09 +0200
Subject: RE: Artscroll Gemorah

I think you have to differentiate between categories of Torah learners.

Artscroll, Shteinsaltz, R Sabato's HaTalmud HaMuklat, and other such
"crutches" unquestionably open the Talmud to some people who probably
wouldn't learn otherwise, and others who definitely couldn't. I'll call
this group "beginners" (even if some of them might be perpetual

Intermediates, like yourselves (please pardon my labeling, I am just
sticking most of the Torah learning community into this midway
catch-all) will probably use these tools for hespek/bkiyut, and realize
that iyun requires true understanding of the text.

Gdolim do the writing of these tools, not the using.

Here is as good a place as any to mention my dream: an Interactive
Multimedia Talmud. Not just an indexed, hyperlinked text file, but a
sugya-by-sugya presentation of the gmara, formatted according to
guidelines suggested by each sugya itself (Powerpoint type animation,
timelines, video, etc); personalities; and more. I think that such a
project needs Torah scholar intermediates(see above:-)) and multimedia
developers. Once we have one of each, we can start with one perek (or at
least one sugya or a few) and then look for funding. My personal
position would be creative consultant and project manager.

Any takers, esteemed colleagues?

Gidon Ariel
Technical Writer, CD Line
NDS Technologies Ltd., Israel

From: Jordan Hirsch <TROMBAEDU@...>
Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2000 09:09:48 EDT
Subject: Re: Artscroll Gemorah

<< have you considered that matbe the point of the torah is to open
 learning to all - not limit it to those who want to shvitz over it?
 Should we eliminate rashi because rashi "explains" things that otherwise
 we wouldn't understand?  Why discount Artscroll?  Is it because it's in
 english and Yeshivas have mostly held gemara as a key to a secret club
 to seperate themselves from baal habatim.  and now the secret is out.
 Sorry for being so sarcastic but you sound like too many what I call
 "born-again" jews who think that "ameilus b'torah" means to suffer, not
 work at it alot. >>

This obfuscates the serious pedagogical issues involved. The Artscroll
Gemara is a wonderful resource, and for the Baal HaBos who goes to Daf
Yomi, is a very good tool to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of
time. But to learn Rishonim properly, including Rashi, one cannot get
anywhere if one cannot make a decent Leining in the Gemara, from
Aramaic. Artscroll has a point of view, based on whoever happened to
work on the translation for a given Daf. Any translation does, its no
big deal. But if the learner uses someone else's point of view, instead
of developing his or her own, it makes it that much harder to develop an
understanding of the thinking of the Rishonim, who are at the heart of
learning Gemara B'Iyun. And I deliberately include Rashi in this. Rashi
is not a crutch. He is a Rishon, and should be approached in the same
way other Rishonim are approached. That means that, excepting the few
Rashi's that give background information, (which can usually be obtained
from Reference Seforim like Otzar HaTalmud or Jastrow), one needs to
have a working Pshat before reading a bulk of the Rashis on the
Daf. This allows the Talmid to get a much more comprehensive view of
Rashis approach to a sugya, and often makes clearer the reasons and
methods for the differences of the Baalei Tosafos.

This issue is at the heart of all of the Artscroll work. As aids, or
review material, they are great. But by predigesting information, they
take a serious learner out of the process of critical thinking, which is
so essential to creative learning.

To criticize entirely is wrong, but to accept Artscroll in all situations is 
also wrong.

Jordan Hirsch


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 8 Oct 2000 12:48:44 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: The Artscroll Issue is an old controversy in Pedagogy

Chaiim Shapiro eloquently asks

>>>It bothers me that I went into a bookstore today to purchase the new
Meshichtah I am staring to find the Artscroll in ample supply, but not a
single copy of the standard edition.  And this is a popular Meshichtah
(Baba Metziha)!  It bothers to hear stories from yeshivot where the
entire Freshman class brought Artscroll gemorahs for the first day of
yeshiva, not the standard Gemorahs!

I have to wonder, have we, in a worthwhile and admirable attempt to open
Talmud study to all, decreased true scholarship?>>>

I **agree** with Chaims question but disagree on **what** it is asked.

Quite simply Chaim is asking the age old pedagogic question of BREADTH
vs DEPTH. Is it "better (pedagogically)" to study a small amount of
material but in depth vs studying a large amount of material with just
the simple meaning

This question is of course well founded. But it is NOT a question on
Artscroll but rather a question on pedagogy which has implications for

(If it is not already clear I would encourage discussion of the question
with however a focus on WHAT yeshiva bachurim should be learning)

Russell Jay Hendel;Phd ASA
Moderator Rashi is Simple


End of Volume 33 Issue 70