Menachem Mendel

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The Artscroll English vs. Hebrew Talmud

I was aware that there were differences between the Artscroll English and Hebrew Talmuds since the Hebrew edition is not a translation of the English one, and it has different editors and commentators. I decided to do a little comparison regarding the bottom of Kiddushin 30a, discussed partially here, and was surprised at the scope difference between them. A quick summary of the bottom half of this page of Talmud is that there are a number of sources which discuss numerous aspects of the text of the Torah, Tanakh, and other specific books of the Tanakh, e.g. What is the middle verse? How many verses are there in a certain book? As I pointed out in my post, there is a disparity between some aspects of the Biblical text that the Talmudic sources were familiar with and that we use today. So how does Artscroll address these issues?

English version: They pretty much ignore these issues totally. Besides pointing out that some letters are larger than others in our text, they have almost nothing to say.

Hebrew version: The Hebrew commentary is a very serious attempt to discuss the issues that the text raises. First of all they try to explain why these sources are brought here at all, bringing numerous Rishonim who addressed the question. Then, in note 26, they say this:

כל המנינים של האותיות והמלים והפסוקים שנאמרו להלן בגמרא אינם מתאימים למנין שלפנינו בתורה ובנ“ך…ונתקשו בזה ראשונים ואחרונים, ובהערותינו להלן נביא מדבריהם על כל פרט ופרט

All of the counts of the numbers, words and verses that were mentioned below in the Gemara are not the same as the count that is in our Torahs and Prophets/Writings…and the Rishonim and Ahronim found this difficult, and in our comments below we will bring from their words on every detail.

While often the answer given in the commentary is that of the Gemara, “אנן לא בקיאינן” (“We are not experts [in the plene or defective]”), they do not ignore the problem. In the commentary they also bring sources from Massechet Soferim and Otzar ha-Geonim, and point out some variant readings (which the English edition does in other cases, just not here). While the Artscroll English Talmud is an important work, it seems that it intentionally avoids confronting problematic passages in the Talmud, at least in this one instance. Are English-readers unable to confront difficult Gemara texts while Hebrew readers can? Ironically, the Artscroll web site says that their edition of the Talmud is for the “intellectually adventurous”, I guess just not too adventurous.

2 Responses to “The Artscroll English vs. Hebrew Talmud”

  1. 1

    I left the following comment regarding this on “What’s bothering A.S.?”:

    The Artscroll Hebrew begins as a word-for-word translation of the English. It’s then worked over by a team of editors who tailor it for the Hebrew-speaking public.

    As far as hi;;ding things, it’s actually much easer to hide things in Hebrew, as one can always resort to simply quoting the source, without getting into details. The English does not have this option.

    You should realize that one cause of differences between the Hebrew and Enlish works is that the early English volumes were done on a much lower level than the later later ones. The Hebrew, however, was begun late in the English project, and attempts to bring those lighter English volumes up to speed. Kiddushin is somewhere in middle – more comprehensive than the very early volumes – but not as comprehensive as the later volumes.

  2. 2
    Menachem Mendel:

    I haven’t used the English Artscroll enough to be able to see a difference between the volumes. I don’t see why it is easier to hide something in the Hebrew. While they could quote a source which is difficult to understand and needs explanation, at least they quote the source.




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