Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Artscroll's grammatical correction of the Bobover Rebbe.

In the Artscroll edition of the Kinnos (The Complete Tisha B'Av Service) there is a kinnah for the Holocaust by Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam, admo"r of Bobov. Artscroll included the Bobover Rebbe's account of how he came to write this kinnah. For decades he felt unworthy of writing one until he happened across this passage in Seder Ha-yom, which states that whoever can compose kinnos should do so. As a public service Artscroll makes this kinnah available for free download (link).

I noticed something interesting. In the translation one Hebrew phrase is transliterated into English rather than translated. But obviously "Roshei Yeshiva" is not exactly a transliteration of "ראשי ישיבות." It is surprising that Artscroll not only chose to make a grammatical correction but to do it so visibly.

Click the image below to enlarge:

(If anyone is curious, in the Otzar Ha-chochma "roshei yeshiva" returned 795 results, "roshei yeshivos" returned 2890 (both spelled in Hebrew, of course). I'd say this makes a decent case that "roshei yeshivos" is acceptable rabbinic Hebrew. Included in the "roshei yeshivos" users were people like R. Yaakov Emden, and Italian rabbis like R. Samson Morpurgo and R. Aviad Sar Shalom Basilea, who knew about grammar.

For comparison purposes I also searched and the Bar Ilan Responsa database, which essentially confirmed that "roshei yeshivos" is, descriptively speaking, rabbinic Hebrew. Spelling it in English, or in Hebrew, Google returns results for "roshei yeshiva" by the tens of thousands more than "roshei yeshivos.")


  1. So now we know what your Tisha b'Av is like. ;-)

  2. I think that while one says ראשי ישיבות in rabbinic Hebrew, in English they are called Roshei Yeshivah. So in this case being a translation (I guess for a yeshivish crowd) they are using the proper English form.

  3. I guess that would be impressionistic, and your impression can't refute mine and vice versa. But if we're talking about proper yeshivish, I think it's hard to argue that "roshei yeshiva" is more proper than "roshei yeshivos."

  4. Fotheringay-Phipps1:06 PM, August 10, 2011

    The terms mean different things. "Roshei yeshivos" means heads of yeshivos. "Roshei Yeshiva" means people with the title "Rosh Yeshiva". The first is a description, and the second presumes that the term RY has already become some sort of title.

    Both are acceptable from a grammer standpoint, but they mean slightly different things.

    I imagien the older version would be "roshei yeshivos" and that the title version is more recent, as is the title itself.

  5. I know they mean different things. Even taking that into account I think I am correct that descriptively speaking "roshei yeshivos" is proper RH meaning the same thing as "roshei yeshiva." And regardless of the Bobober's intention, he wrote "Roshei yeshivos" and not "Roshei yeshiva," so it's at least somewhat interesting that the translation changes it.

  6. I guess this post barely misses earning the right to belong to your "What's Bothering Artscroll?" blog. -- Phil

  7. The Koren/OU version translates the line "Revered teachers of Yeshivot".

    I couldn't help but notice the reference to soap in R' Schwab's kinna. Doesn't take long for myths to take hold...

  8. Neither could I. It was written in 1959. No surprise there.

  9. According to the dikduk I learned (primarily at YU), the correct plural form of a term in semikhut such as "rosh yeshiva" is always "rashei yeshiva," that is, plural noun-single noun. The reason that "rashei yeshivot" (or "roshei yeshivos") is so widely used as a plural of "rosh yeshiva" is probably because plural noun-plural noun "sounds" right to the ear. But technically, "rashei yeshivot" would be correct only as the plural of "rosh yeshivot" (a head of more than one yeshiva).

    That this variety of "mistake" goes back centuries is attested by the appearance of the form "batei kenesiyyot" in the Shabbos morning davening. Similarly, in Hebrew-based Yiddish, "balebos" become "balebatim." However, popular usage does not always follow plural noun-plural noun. For example, my sense is that "ba'al tefillah" doesn't generally become "ba'alei tefillot." But I could be "wrong."

  10. The father of the author of the Kinnah, who was murdered in 1941, had established many small yeshivas of which he was the titular head. This could be what is being referenced.

  11. Nachum, are you saying that the story about the Nazis making soap from Jews is a myth? Would you like to double check that, and talk to the nephew of the chemist who made that claim? He goes to my shul.



    In any case, it seems that it is true and the focus on it being a myth is entirely about whether it was produced on an industrial scale, which is what seems to be untrue. Given the horror of it all, and the fact that it is true, it doesn't seem to me like Rabbi Schwab included a myth at all.

  13. And then there's this:
    "Polish study confirms Nazis made soap from human bodies" Updated: 09/Oct/2006
    Maybe you're basing yourself on information older than 2006? -- Phil

  14. My last comment was typed before I read S's last comment. My last comment was addressing Nachum's comment. As far as S's last comment is concerned, it sounds about right to me. -- Phil

  15. Actually it's kind of interesting - a myth about a myth, to the extent that the myth is that the soap is something which was debunked.

  16. "Rashei Yeshivos" is found both in both reshuyos for Chasan Torah & Bereishis.

    Even more telling is "rashei galvasa" in yekum purkan, rather than "rashi galusa" (how many diasporas are there?)

  17. @Dan Klein, this type of pluralization is not a mistake at all. It's merely a dialect difference.

    It's true that if you were writing Modern Hebrew, even in a yeshivish context, nowadays, you would have to pluralize as you wrote, first word plural, second word singular. E.g. batei sefer.

    But in the Mishna and rabbinic literature, there are numerous examples of smichut plurals, where both words are pluralized. Batei kneisiyot, amei ha'aratzot, 'orchei hadayanim. presumably even talmidei chachamim.



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