Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Commentator, Feb. Issue

This issue of The Commentator is amazing. Everything is worth reading.


Anonymous said...

Do you agree with the trend and current status described here:

Joel Rich

Gavi said...

Prof. Shawn Zelig Aster's article is right on... I have known Shawn for some time, and I can attest that I agree wholeheartedly with his analysis.

Once, my chavrusa and I were sitting in our local kollel learning Tur hilchos melicha. An acquaintance, possibly mistaking my chavrusa for a beginner, asked him if he wished to join a gemara shiur "where they translate everything word-by-word." He then looked at the text we were learning... (My chavrusa has since earned semicha from Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz.)


This is the current state of yeshiva education in Chu"l, and as such, the Jewish people is headed for a major crisis of organized ignorance (cf. the Artscroll phenomenon). It hurts me to see otherwise intelligent people struggle with our basic texts, because the establishment cannot be bothered to teach basic literacy skills.

This is one of the many reasons why I speak to my son in Hebrew... and I believe that, notwithstanding all the problems there, moving to Israel is a good choice for chinuch (since the kids have the potential to learn Hebrew as a mother tongue).

Chana said...

Joel and Gavi,

Yes. Dr. Aster's article describes many people I know, including myself (not that I never learned a Rashbam inside till Stern. Rather, that I haven't the faintest ability to read Hebrew in a semi-coherent manner, and therefore must make do with translations.)

Anonymous said...

Then it is indeed a scandal! and very, very sad.
Joel Rich

Ari said...

Joel Rich said:

"Then it is indeed a scandal! and very, very sad."
And why is that? Not everyone has an ear or an ability to learn another language(Hebrew included). I attended a bilingual school (Hebrew spoken from 7:30 am till 12:30 pm and the rest of the day the classes were conducted in English) and can tell you with absolute certainty that half of the people schoo-lwide needed help with translation,but they learned their stuff. Let's not belittle those who make an effort and succeed.

The Talmid said...

Very interesting article. It's certainly true, and very sad.

But here's something that shocked me when I saw it: are we allowed to have translations of the Chumash? The Mordechai, Megilla 786 (first chapter, daf 8 or so) says you may either write a Torah in Hebrew (in Ashuri script) or Greek in Greek letters (because of the Septuagint)...From this [Gemara] Rabbeinu Yoel prohibited geirim copying a translated Torah that the [non-Jewish] priests used, even though the geirim did not know lashon hakodesh. It seems they were writing it only as a chumash, yet Rabbeinu Yoel prohibited it.

Also, R. Boruch Halevi Epstein in his essay Safeh L'neemanim (available here: ) also says it is prohibited to translate more than a small portion of Chumash.

By now it may be eis laasos laShem hefeiru torasecha to translate it, but I don't know anyone great enough to pasken that.

Is the availability of translations causing less focus on teaching how to read & translate Chumash, or does our current literacy rate happen to occur at a time when there is a lot available in translation?

Anonymous said...

Let's not belittle those who make an effort and succeed.
I didn't belittle anyone. It's sad because a translation rarely imho communicates the nuance of the original.
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

Actually the 'illiteracy' article surprised me a little. I actually thought that the problem would be worse for people coming out of more yeshivish/charedi schools, especially for girls. There's much more of a push in centrist/modern schools and culture for language comprehension and respectable fluency.... both English and Hebrew.

As for Gemara and Aramaic.... it's hard, and I'm dubious that any school system has a great approach to generate widespread literacy and comprehension. I think a lot of students get left behind in standard yeshivas though.

Gavi, I think that's true.... ignorance and intellectual decline are the inevitable children of illiteracy.