Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Artscroll miscellanies

I haven't done an Artscroll oriented post in a while. I shared this list with someone whom I thought would be interested, and do something with it, but he urged me to post it myself.

So, here are a few things from the machzorim:
  1. Shavuos machzor, pg. 226, they write "The piyutim [known as kerovos]," which is subtly a change from their normal policy of explaining it is kerovotz, a notarikon for קול רינה וישועה באהלי צדיקים.
  2. pg, 232, it actually cites the midrash that anokhi is an Egyptian word ("closely resembled the parallel word in Egyptian") and "this Midrash apparently disagrees with the Midrashic teaching that the Jews in Egypt retained their Hebrew language and did not adopt Egyptian." !!! But then you turn to pg. 265 (beit yaakov meam loez) and the comment says "Even the Jews who were forced to communicate with the Egyptians in the language of the land did so only under duress. Among themselves, however, they spoke only the Holy Tongue and regarded Egyptian as a foreign language." Note the source cited - none.
  3. In the machzor's Ruth, it bizarrely quotes from the Torah Temima (pg. 527) to explain why Ruth says "na'arim" while Boaz said "na'arot. "As a Moabite, Ruth was not intimately familiar with Hebrew differentiations between the masculine and feminine forms. In the Moabite language (!), like English, most nouns did not have separate male and female forms. Ruth mistakenly used the masculine without meaning to be suggestive, because, as the Midrash interprets 'She was a Moabite!' Naomi tactfully corrected her mistake [next verse]."
  4. Rosh Hashana machzor, pg 156. After explaining Yigdal, it says "They comprise the basic principles of the Jewish faith. In Rambam's view, to deny any of them constitutes heresy.
  5. pg. 450 it explains that "the Prophets are of a higher order of holiness than the Writings - for the Prophets are the word of God while the Writings are direct prophecies" - what does that mean?
  6. pg. 477, Kalonymos ben Meshullam is described as "a great Talmudic and Kabbalistic scholar."
  7. Yom kippur machzor, pg. 60 on Kol Nidrei "two explanations are offered, one rational and one Kabbalistic"
  8. Pg. 175, it admits that the authorship of Shir Hayichud is "uncertain," but "the general consensus is that it was composed by R' Shmuel bar Klonymos" They then refer to Maharal, Emden, Heidenheim and Baer. That is, they entirely omit any mention of the fact that far from there being a "general consensus," there was a major controversy about the Shir Hayichud. Some thought it was written by a Karaite, and others by a Christian monk named Michael Basilios. And when I say "some," I don't mean "Zunz." Even the Vilna Gaon reputedly subscribed to the view that the author was Michael Basilos (מכאל בזלוש). They mention the Maharal, but not that he was against saying it!
  9. Pg 205 - maybe the most amazing thing yet - they explain that "Scripture in those days was unvowelized (like our Torah scrolls)." But see pg. 61 of The Early Achronim, where it says that "In the preface to [Mesores HaMesores] R' Eliyahu [Bachur] presented his assertion that the punctuation marks used to indicate the vowels are not of Sinaitic origin and had been introduced by the Tiberian Massoretes in post-Talmudic times. This raised a great controversy in rabbinic circles and R' Eliyahu's view was not accepted.
  10. Pg. 532, for some random reason they decided to quote the Arukh about the meaning of "Kalir," who "became wise as a result of eating a cake upon which certain kabbalistic formulas had been inscribed." I'm sure this will edify all the masses in Peoria who bought Artscroll machzorim.
  11. Finally, a general comment, that their "infinitely more than inspired poetry" line about the piyutim seems to be a direct response to Birnbaum, who wrote that Kalir's "numerous prayer-poems" were "imitated by inspired payyetanim on succeeding generations."
As for why one book contradicts another, I guess this is probably because of the actual complexity of the tradition. If there is an attempt to keep a unified position, this can break down in the details.

42 comments:

  1. re 9. Maybe they mean "wasnt accepted in Bachur's times."

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  2. If they meant it, theyd be wrong, since the consensus in rabbinic circles has barely changed.

    But putting aside the inconsistency, it's notable that they'd even write this, as this view contains other implications.

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  3. My favorite is
    http://web.archive.org/web/20031013131155/http://www.artscroll.com/Books/stohl.html

    note who will sign it.

    Also there was a comment on Shalosh Seudos in the early Siddur that quoted the Aruch Hashulchan as saying that it corresponded to the 3 meals of Esther. A slight misreading of HEH MEM NUN. While its easy to catch mistakes the first reference is indicative of the real issue.

    Midwest

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  4. In case what you are saying isn't obvious to all, I will spell it out: the author of the Chumash ("it will be signed by the author") is Rabbi Nosson Scherman.

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  5. "the author of the Chumash ("it will be signed by the author") is Rabbi Nosson Scherman."

    Rabbi Art Scroll's secret identity is revealed!

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  6. something I wanted to do for a long time: compare noted in the English Schotenstein to the Hebrew. Since the Hebrew is a later publication, you can sometimes find interesting changes. For example, in Bchoros 44 they deal with the Braisa that states that the urethra is divided in 2 (which isn't true). In the English they have no problem referring to Hishtanut Hativim Behalacha by Rabbi Dr. Nariya Guttel. In the Hebrew they omit this reference and insert instead a referral to Emek Halacha, a tshuva sefer.

    Yeedle

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  7. i can't recall where, but i recently noticed artscroll citing from the besamim rosh. i was a bit surprised. or is this common/accepted? (i.e., using it as a source even though its provenance is known)

    btw fred, you missed one biggie from the machzor dealing with the state of israel. i was once going to write about it in a post entitled "the day the artscroll censor slept late"

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  8. Yeedle, something I've wanted to do is scan the entire Shas and OCR it.

    By the way, while plenty of hasagos of this sort can be made on the Shas, I've become more and more impressed with it. It's hard not to admit that it is monumental.

    Abba,

    I also have noticed that it quotes Besamim Rosh, but according to Dan Rabinowitz it is a different Besamim Rosh

    http://www.ottmall.com/mj_ht_arch/v48/mj_v48i42.html#CLH

    Actually, R. J. David Bleich cites the actual Besamim Rosh, even though he footnotes an understated that it "is commonly attributed to Rabbenu Asher ben Yechiel, although the authenticity of this work is questioned by many."

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  9. The difference between nevi'im and kesuvim is a brisker chiluk.

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  10. No, I was asking what are "the word of God" and what are "direct prophecies." I understand each individual word, I just do not have any idea what they mean.

    Fine, let's say that the point is that in Nevi'im it says "Ne'um hashem" all the time, but the best you can say is that in Kesuvim it isn't "ne'um hashem." But what does "direct prophecies" mean and how is this different from "ne'um hashems?"

    (I agree that it's a Brisker chiluk.)

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  11. 1. Shavuos machzor, pg. 226, they write "The piyutim [known as kerovos]," which is subtly a change from their normal policy of explaining it is kerovotz, a notarikon for קול רינה וישועה באהלי צדיקים.

    I'm not looking at the books inside right now, but I thought they use the קרוב"ץ explanation only for Purim -- and if so, Artscroll is hardly to blame. For some reason, the name קרוב"ץ, rather than קרובות, has been associated specifically with the Purim one for several hundred years now. (Yes, I know that in the middle ages, the two spellings were used indiscriminately for all pieces of this genre, but there's a large gap between the end of the Middle Ages and Artscroll.)

    2.

    What's your point here -- that in one place, they admit that midrashim can disagree, but in another place, they insist on one and only one midrashic opinion, and don't provide a source?

    3.In the machzor's Ruth, it bizarrely quotes from the Torah Temima (pg. 527) to explain why Ruth says "na'arim" while Boaz said "na'arot."

    Yes, I noticed that years ago. Amusing, because the Moabite language is practically identical to Hebrew (see the Mesha stele), but the mistake is Baruch Halevi Epstein's, not Artscroll's. In fact, of the two of them, he is the one more likely to have exposure to the Mesha stele, I think.

    Rosh Hashana machzor, pg 156. After explaining Yigdal, it says "They comprise the basic principles of the Jewish faith. In Rambam's view, to deny any of them constitutes heresy.

    What's the point here? The latter sentence is true. The former sentence would be true according to Rambam -- is your point that they don't mention his name until the second sentence?

    pg. 450 it explains that "the Prophets are of a higher order of holiness than the Writings - for the Prophets are the word of God while the Writings are direct prophecies" - what does that mean?

    Yes, that is weird.

    pg. 477, Kalonymos ben Meshullam is described as "a great Talmudic and Kabbalistic scholar."

    OK, an anachronism. However, if they think of "Kabbalistic" and "mystic" as synonymous, then the sentence is true.

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  12. Yom kippur machzor, pg. 60 on Kol Nidrei "two explanations are offered, one rational and one Kabbalistic"

    What's wrong with that?

    Shir Ha-yichud

    Certainly from the circles of the Chasidei Ashkenaz. So some rabbis had some weird conspiracy theories about it -- so what?

    Pg 205 - maybe the most amazing thing yet - they explain that "Scripture in those days was unvowelized (like our Torah scrolls)."

    What's the context of the quote?

    Pg. 532, for some random reason they decided to quote the Arukh about the meaning of "Kalir,"

    Well, it's cute.

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  13. were does the Gra say that the auther of Shir Hayichud was Michael Basilos? Also,who is the first source for this opinion?

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  14. "What's the context of the quote?"

    That they would read Scripture to the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur night. They're trying to explain how it could be that an unlearned KG could not even read Scripture. I'll respond to the other points soon.

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  15. Oh, nice!

    One thing which I've been wondering lately, but I don't really know much about, since I don't spend my time reading illustrated editions of the Mishna, either ones made for children or ones made for adults, is:

    When the Mishna says that they would read Ezra, Job, Chronicles, and Daniel to the High Priests, to the pictures show scrolls (as would be historically [and halakhically -- heheh] accurate), or codices?

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  16. "were does the Gra say that the auther of Shir Hayichud was Michael Basilos? Also,who is the first source for this opinion?"

    Abe, the opinion of course comes from the fact the end of Yom Shlishi forms the acrostic "מכאל בזלוש." Some believe the source is R. Moshe Taku because he reports that some say it was written by one "R. Betzalel," whose identity is otherwise unknown. Since the "Michael Basilios acrostic was identified" some believe that "Betzalel" is identical with this "Basilos."

    I said the Gra is "reputed" to have held this opinion. See Otzar Nechmad v. 3 pg. 81, the footnote.

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  17. Moshe Taku *hated* the Chasidei Ashkenaz. He attributed the text Pereq Chira, which they esteemed to Karaite quackery.

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  18. From Malachi Beit-Arié's dissertation:

    עדות מפורשת ראשונה לאחר עדותו של סלמון בן ירוחים והעדות הראשונה מאשכנז כלולה בחיבורו של ר' משה בן חסדאי מתקו "כתב תמים". הקטע המצוי בידינו מחיבור זה הוא כידוע פולמוס המכוון בעיקר כנגד חסידות אשכנז, שעיבדה טקסטים אנתרופומורפיים לפי דרכה. בפולמוסו תוקף משה תקו גם את פ"ש במפורש, עם שהוא כורכו עם שיעור קומה וחיבורים אנתרופומורפיים אחרים. חיבורים אלה, "שלא נמצא בתלמודינו ולא בתלמוד ירושלמי ולא במדרשים הגדולים", הוא מוצא כספרי מינות שזויפו בידי הקראים: "כי יש ספרים שזייפו המינים להטעות את העולם כמו פרק שירה וכתוב בסופו כל מי שהוגה בו תמיד זוכה לך וכך ופלוני ופלוני ערבים ... כל מי שיודע רז זה אמר ר' ישמעאל אני ועקיבא ערבים ואין להאמין, כי כותבים כך כדי להחזיק דבריהם. וכבר שמענו מרבותינו כי ענן המין וחביריו היו כותבין דברי מינות ושקר וטומנים בקרקע ואח"כ היו מוציאין אותם ואומרים כך מצאנו בספרים הקדמונים."
    [עמ' 9] כסלמון בן ירוחים ממש כורך משה תקו את פ"ש עם שיעור קומה ורואה בו מעשה זיוף פסבדואפיגראפי של הקראים. הקראות והיהודת הרבנית-התלמודית מאשימים זו את זו בזיוף מטעה ומכשיל של פ"ש! משה תקו, המגן על הדוקטרינות של היהדות התלמודית ודוחה כל אינטרפרטאציה פילוסופית או מיסטית, שופך חמתו גם על פ"ש. אמנם אין הוא רומז להמנונים, אלא לנספחות הפסבדואפיגראפיים בלבד, אך מן הסתם מתייחס הוא בעיקר לפרסוניפיקאציה של כלל הבריאה שבפ"ש כ"דבר של תמהון ... שלא נתפרש באגדות של תלמודנו שעליהם אנו סומכין", אם כי למען האמת גישתו הפשטנית והמגשימה עשוייה היתה לכלכל את פ"ש כפשוטו, כדרך כתובים ותיאורים רבים במקרא ובאגדה.

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  19. Thanks. There's much more to say, but in the meantime, the reason why I brought this is up is not because I am contending that the Shir Hayichud isn't actually a product of the Chasidei Ashkenaz, but because if Artscroll had to bring up authorship at all, how can it possibly say "the general consensus is that it was composed by R' Shmuel bar Klonymos" without mentioning, oh, that many rabbis thought it was written by a heretic? This is exactly what people (=me) find wrong about Artscroll's approach. The comment is misleading at best. Better to say nothing about the author if it can't bring itself to bring up the actual history of the discussion over the author and the polemic over it. We are talking about ignoring the opinion of the Maharshal and (reputedly) the Gra. Normally Artscroll relies on a standard of evidence at least as low or uncritically to cite such people. I'm surprised it didn't just cite Yaavets that the author was a Sefardi. I mean, where's the rhyme or reason?

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  20. BTW, if you look look in the Siluk of Shabbos Zachor, you'll see another acrostic for Krovetz. Maybe that is why the Purim Piyut is called as such.

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  21. S. -- I see what you're saying. Thanks.

    There's a lot of interesting stuff in the Beit-Arié dissertation, by the way.

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  22. Fotheringay-Phipps4:38 PM, November 22, 2011

    5. I can't figure the words out either (maybe there's more context at the source). But if in fact it's a "Brisker chiluk", then it's probably a reference to R' Chaim's (or maybe it was the BR's) chiluk. He said the difference is that the prophesies were the words of God told "orally" to the prophets, which were later written down, while Kesuvim were dictated as written texts.

    8. I don't think "general consensus" means that everyone agrees. It means that's the predominant view.

    On another note, is this "Michael Basilios" a known historical person whose name happens to be found in acrostic form in that poem, or is his entire existence deduced from the acrostic?

    9. Again, I can't say without context, but I wonder if you've misinterpreted their meaning here. They may have just meant that texts were typically written without vowels (very noncontroversial), not that vowels had not yet been created (which was RE Bochur's position).

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  23. "Yeedle, something I've wanted to do is scan the entire Shas and OCR it."

    The english or the Hebrew?

    Yeedle

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  24. 5. I'm just commenting on the words, not some conceptual difference. Artscroll doesn't explain it.

    8. Is it the predominant view?

    I don't think it's a known person. I am sure there were several historical persons with that name, since Michael is a common enough name, and Basilios (or Basilos or some other variation) would also be a fairly common, expected second or surname. But if there was a historical person who could write in Hebrew with that name? Not that I'm aware.

    9. I quoted them exactly. They said that Tanakh was written without nekkudos, like our sifrei Torah. I don't know what else that can mean. In what sense did vowels exist if they were never written?

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  25. Yeedle, the English, since I'm more interested in Artscroll as an English phenomenon. Of course for comparison purposes both would be great.

    If I'm not mistaken they've said something about doing a CD at some point, so it may become moot. Let's face it: I am certainly not going to scan even one massechta, let alone all 73 volumes.

    Thus far I haven't been able to get an Artscroll insider to share their docs or pdfs with me. ;-)

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  26. The last time we did this I posted about Artscroll's unique translation of "צֹּ֖אן אָדָֽם" (Ezekiel 36:37) as "sheep men". I really have no idea how something like that can be written or how it could pass the least bit of scrutiny.

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  27. S.,
    When are you going to start posting on Rabbi Reisman's Pathway to the Prophets? Very much looking forward to your he'aros.

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  28. The point about Moabite was made years ago in a Tradition article. I remember he simply quotes Artscroll and then says, drily, "Moabite is a Semitic language, like Hebrew, and like all Semitic languages distinguishes masculine and feminine."

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  29. "By the way, while plenty of hasagos of this sort can be made on the Shas, I've become more and more impressed with it. It's hard not to admit that it is monumental."

    Ehhhh . . . . The Artscroll shas was written over almost twenty years, by more than a hundred diffrent people, and fills about 78 volumes. It's really no big "kuntz" to produce a substantial product with unlimited time and resources. Not to mention that its not even a first english translation, and moreover artscroll already had already produced a comprehensive english mishna to more than half of shas. To the contrary, and I'm sorry to be such a grinch, but the shas is comparatively narrow in scope [because of its poltical views] and only monumental because of its sheer size. There have been countless other great literary projects in history produced by one man, or one man with a few volunteers and a shoestring budget.

    Agav, there's also some good artscroll hack on the Rationalist Yiddishkeit blog.

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  30. R'DF,
    link to blog?
    KT

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  31. I didn't say it's a "kuntz." The point is, they did it. And I am impressed with the notes more than the translation. Look, Soncino is 10x more philologically sound, but let's face it: Artscroll gives you much food for further study and thought in the notes. Of course it would have been best if they hadn't eschewed modern scholarship and philology, blending the best of both worlds. And the language is still that annoying, stilted English. Too bad, but it's still pretty impressive.

    I agree that it is bloated beyond reason. For example, they could have shaved off 35 pages of redundant dedications per volume, and multiplied over 73 volumes that would be 2500 pages!

    Anonymous, he means Rabbi Slifkin's Rationalist Judaism blog.

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  32. Yes, that is true. It is undeniable indeed that the shas is an impressive work, even though its nothing more than you would expect, given the money and resources that went into it. I was just saying that there are many, far more remarkable accomplishments that were completed by less men, in less time, for less gelt.

    When you get right down to it, Artscroll certainly does a lot of things right. How could it not, with so many titles under its name? That it makes many errors, or that it does not match the viewpoints of all us argumentative yids is to be exepcted. What annoys people about Artscroll is its distasteful and self-serving boasting that it is the standard chumash or whatever. It may actually be true, but is that something to brag about? The masses are ---es, and particulalry uneducated orthodox ones. That's who they're boasting they appeal to? [Occasionally they claim they are also used by scholars, which simply isnt true, unless their definition of "scholars" is "imbeciles"]

    Also anoying, and really something I would have thought Artscroll would have outgrown by now, is its implications, or outright staetments come to think of it, that their presentaation is the only "authentic" way. Those are insulting words. I mean, like you said somewhere, smart people know enough to smile at such duncery, but charlie baalteshuvah in peoria doesnt.

    [End rant, exit left. slow business day.]

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  33. R'DF,
    R' Eisenman of Passaic recently wrote about the need for "over the top" advertising in many areas (e.g. international kinus tshuva, intergalactic chesed concert....) [me-but of course we are not affected by the world around us]
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  34. My problem with Artscroll is a lot of people's problem. It makes "a tradition" into "the tradition," whether they say so explicitly ot not. Many sources simply do not exist as far as they are concerned, even though they are "part of our beis midrash," judging by the fact that they are cited and used by rabbis of "our beis midrash." Also Artscroll never has a problem citing obscure, or less weighty sources so long as it supports the general hashkafah. Isn't this exactly the criticism of Conservative Judaism, or (now) Modern Orthodox Judaism? Thirdly, it glosses over complexities and in its simplicity it departs from the truth. My thing about Shir Hayichud is a case in point. You want to discuss authorship? Then tell the truth. No one said they had to mention an author in the first place. They wisely avoid this for Nishmas, and that's fine. By their scholarly standard they ought to believe that Nishmas was written by St. Peter. But like I said, just don't mention it then. And believe me, it is more plausible that Shir Hayichud was written by Michael Basilios than that Elazar beribbi Kalir was the tanna R. Elazar ben R. Shimon.

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  35. but of course St.Peter was...

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  36. Fotheringay-Phipps1:19 PM, November 23, 2011

    S: "8. Is it the predominant view?"

    Now it is, at least among those whose opinion Artscroll respects.

    "I don't think it's a known person. I am sure there were several historical persons with that name, since Michael is a common enough name, and Basilios (or Basilos or some other variation) would also be a fairly common, expected second or surname. But if there was a historical person who could write in Hebrew with that name? Not that I'm aware."

    In that case, the acrostic is very tenuous indeed.

    "9. I quoted them exactly. They said that Tanakh was written without nekkudos, like our sifrei Torah. I don't know what else that can mean. In what sense did vowels exist if they were never written?"

    Did they say "never"? Presumably they meant that the CG would not have had access to material written with nekudos, since most of what was available was the type of scrolls that we have now without nekudos.

    [FWIW, my understanding is that a subtext to all this discussion of nekudos is that the Zohar mentions them, so that the issue is bound up with the dating of the Zohar. If the nekudos have mystical meaning then they existed in the sense that on some mystical level they represented those sounds, much like all the rest of the kabbalistic imagery.]

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  37. "Now it is, at least among those whose opinion Artscroll respects."

    Talk about a tautology.

    On the contrary, it is outside of traditional circles that the view predominates that it is authored by a Chasidei Ashkenaz figure. All the hock about the heretics is from "those whose opinion Artscroll respects."

    "In that case, the acrostic is very tenuous indeed."

    The whole thing, as a historical matter, is tenuous. It wasn't written by a heretic or a Christian.

    "Did they say "never"?"

    You're too much.

    "Presumably they meant that the CG would not have had access to material written with nekudos, since most of what was available was the type of scrolls that we have now without nekudos."

    And the CG wouldn't have had access? Does that make any sense at all? Who then had access?

    Correct, the subtext is (mostly, but not entirely) the early date of (at least those parts) of the Zohar. Another subtext is the reliability of the masorah.

    As for mystical meaning, it is hard to say that there was a mystical meaning to the specific forms of things which didn't exist, and when they did exist, they came in several devoloping varieties, and what's more, this was taught centuries before they came into existence. You could say it, but do you actually believe it?

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  38. About the nequddoth and te'amim: beyond the question of their existence, there's also the question of their shape: the Zohar says that the zarqa looks like a snake, but the zarqa didn't look like that until the 12th century or so. See Jordan Penkower's book on the topic, in Hebrew, published by Cherub Press.

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  39. Speaking of Artscroll and Soncino, there are at least some places where Artscroll's translation is word-for-word Soncino. I wish I could remember where...the review of Ruth I mentioned earlier points out that at least some of their Tanach translation is word-for-word taken from the (new) JPS.

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  40. S. said...

    My problem with Artscroll is a lot of people's problem. It makes "a tradition" into "the tradition," whether they say so explicitly ot not. Many sources simply do not exist as far as they are concerned, even though they are "part of our beis midrash," judging by the fact that they are cited and used by rabbis of "our beis midrash."

    Well, but that's a flaw in a lot of things, not just Orthodox things.

    I've been reading Daniel Abrams' new book on editing Kabbalistic texts. He writes about the flaw inherent in both his 1994 edition of Sefer haBahir and Peter Schafer's early 1990s Synopse zur Hekhalot-literatur: that just by existing, as an edition made from a collection of manuscript witnesses, they become THE edition. That is, even though Schafer just took a few mss. and compared them, or Abrams took 3 mss. with some later annotations, all three from one family of mss. (one recension, more or less), later scholars look at these books as "THE collection of mss. on this topic," and don't do their due diligence of checking ALL the known mss. when writing about some specific passage or another. Much the same happened with R Margoliot's 1950s editions of the Zohar and associated books - by being mildly critical, even though they themselves are composites from several known mss., they have become THE edition of the Zohar, Bahir, etc.

    Just by being there, and making some pretense of being comprehensive, even if both the authors and the critics know it's not, Artscroll becomes THE standard interpretation.

    BTW, Abrams recognizes this flaw in his 1994 Bahir, and is assiduously working on a revised version. Which is, I imagine, why he let the 1994 edition go out of print, such that it's now made of unobtanium.

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