Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On Artscroll's Stone Chumash introduction

Back over on the DH/ TC post at Cross-Currents commenter Charles B. Hall posted:
It is clear that arguing over vav’s and yud’s misses the point—that there is enormous agreement on the text of the Torah. Given the examples given here, why does Artscroll say, “Rambam sets forth at much greater length the unanimously held view that every letter and word of the Torah was given to Moses by God; that it has not been and cannot be changed; and that nothing was ever or can ever be added to it.” We’ve seen that we have the few discordant spellings between Ashkenazim, Sefardim, and Yemenites, we have the normative opinion that the end of sefer Devarim was actually written by Yehoshua bin Nun (which is mentioned in an Artscroll footnote at the appropriate verse!), etc., etc. Why would Artscroll make this obviously inaccurate statement?

Charles B. Hall
Its impossible to divine unstated motives with certainty, but it seems like Artssroll (not an amorphous entity, I know) was making a polemical argument, not a scholarly (or talmideichochm-y) one. Artscroll's MO for dealing with complex subjects that touch upon dogmas in Orthodox Judaism (the list is far more expansive than the Rambam's ikkarim) often seems to be assume that if the reader needs an Artscroll translation or an overview by R. Nosson Sherman then he or she is not entitled to a nuanced picture of the subject. Such might be the case here. It is clear that R. Sherman, who wrote the quote in question, knows a great deal more about the subject than he indicates.

In other words, either you're of the masses or you're not. If you're reading Artscroll, for all practical purposes you're assumed to be of the masses and are given simplistic generalizations like the one Charles quoted.

It also should be mentioned that another possible motive may have to do with avoiding controversy or censure from the right.

One thing seems more clear: it can't be a space-saving issue since the quote needn't exist at all. This isn't the authorized "'al regel achas' version of the transmission of the text of the Torah.

1 comment:

  1. It would make even mainstream Chareidi rabbis heretics if you said that they all have to maintain that the text was inviolable, since the Talmud mentions not being certain about spelling. Still in heaven where time does not prevail they are now retroactively having Moshe ascend to heaven to get the Torah to give it to the Jews at Mount Sinai and what does he see? A fine Torah of fire published by Artscroll. Hey if you can't beat them, join them since the Torah is now on earth as Rabbi Yehoshua was quick to point out to Rabbi Eliezer despite heavenly proofs for his side of arguments in halacha.



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