Monday, May 15, 2006

The heroic Hertz Chumash

A few years ago there was article article by Ami Eden in The Forward about new Torah translations.

The piece quoted Artscroll general editor R. Nosson Scherman on the archaic Hertz Chumash, the one Chumash that could be found in many, if not most, English speaking Orthodox, Conservative and Reform synagogues for decades.
"The Hertz was a masterpiece in its time, a piece of literature. What he did was heroic," said ArtScroll's Rabbi Scherman. "He was trying to convince people that the Chumash was worthwhile. He would quote Shakespeare, church fathers and other Christian sources. Nowadays, people are offended by that. Now you have people with a yeshiva education. They want to know what the Chumash means to Jews, what the traditional sources have to say."
Essentially, R. Sherman says that quoting Shakespeare, church fathers and other Christian sources in the service of promoting Torah is heroic, albeit offensive to people nowadays.

This is a very frank quotation. Would that I could have heard the entire conversation, but this is all I've got. It's an interesting admission of the point of view of R. Sherman, who authors most of the Overviews [sic] in Artscroll books, a POV which is so very different from the output of Artscroll's press. One thing to consider is to what extent Artscroll itself hasn't contributed to the idea that this approach is offensive, as well as yeshiva education.

That said, it should be pointed out that the Hertz Chumash was an apologetic commentary that used modern scholarship rather than engaged in it (discussed here).

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