Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Prophet Milton (PBUH)

For no other reason than that it bugs me, here I protest against the Anglicizing of personal names of people in Jewish history. I understand why Biblical personalities are Anglicized. That is how they are popularly known. But why would a 3rd century amora like Shmuel need to be called Samuel, when in fact few outside of scholarly circles would have heard of him in any case? Why does Moshe ben Maimon have to be called Moses ben Maimon? Why is the Maharal known as Judah Loew and not Yehuda Loew? The Vilna Gaon is R. Elijah instead of R. Eliyahu. The Hafetz Hayyim is called R. Israel Meir ha-Cohen, as if great confusion will result if he is called R. Yisrael Meir ha-Cohen instead. Can it be that people will be so perplexed at the unfamiliar form that they must be condescended to? I doubt it. Who would think to call Gorbachev "Michael"? Or Muhammad "Milton" (or Mahomet)?

On the other hand, if they were known in their own time by another form, ala R. Moses Feinstein (see his stationary) I guess it's no big deal (as is, ultimately, the whole problem of Anglicizing names -- I just want to be annoyed at things sometimes).

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