English Translations of Seforim

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    Do most of the main Seforim have an English translation by now?

    Are the translations reliable and can someone unable to learn from the original Loshon Kodesh use the English translation almost as well as learning from the original Sefer?


    Kli sheni eino mevushal.

    This is what I believe about translations.

    However, if one doesn’t have at least 4-5 years to go to a yeshiva and develop the vocabulary and skills to learn Gemara, Rashi, Tosfos, Rishonim, and Poskim in the original, they shouldn’t absolve themselves of the chiyuv to learn.

    Many major mefarshim on Chumash are in translation- Rashi, Ramban, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra, Baal haTurim, Tzror HaMor, Shadal, Torah Temima, Meam Loez (written in the vernacular tongue of Ladino), Onkelos, Rav Hirsch (written in the vernacular tongue of German), and many others, mostly from R’ Munk.

    Thanks to Chabad and Breslov, much of the classic Chasidic sefarim of these movements are available in translation.

    Mishna Berura is in translation, Kitzur, Ben Ish Chai, and a project is underway for there to be 33 volumes of Yalkut Yosef, the sefer of R’ Ovadia Yosef’s psakim, in English. Much of the Chagim are already complete.

    Rambam is available, and R’ Michael Broyde from Emory and the Beis Din of America was translating Aruch haShulchan, but is in need of funds and a major sponsor to complete this project. I believe Hilchos Shabbos was completed.

    In Lubavitch, they continue to put out translations of the Shulchan Aruch haRav (as a student of halakha and its historical development, I welcome many opportunities to study the Baal haTanya’s Shulchan Aruch, since this sefer basically set the tone for and defined Hasidic halakhic scholarship, and continues to do so). Kehot is publishing this, and a brilliant talmid chacham from Eretz Yisroel, R’ Yaakov Goldstein, is producing translations of much of the hilchos chagim, and has done so for Shabbos and Basar v’Chalav from the Shulchan Aruch haRav.

    Shulchan Aruch and Nosei Kelim are available in translation from Pirchei Shoshanim on a variety of inyanim.

    Artscroll is ubiquitous. Kollel Iyun haDaf has translations of Tosfos on many masechtos, as well as pshat-style mefarshim.

    Master a Mesikhta Series is excellent in its presentation of many mefarshim, similar to the Shas Illuminated series.

    I would like to see a translation of major rishonim and acharonim on the important perakim studied in yeshivos and on major sugyos a ben torah should know, from Nezikin, Nashim, and Moed, that will give you Rashi/Tosfos/Ritva/Ran/Rashba/Rif/Rosh/Rambam and mefarshim/Tosfos Rid/Meiri/Pnei Yehoshua/Ketzos/Nesivos/Shev Shmaysa/Aruch LaNer/Maharsha/R’Akiva Eiger and others as needed.

    Someone said this would be like an English Shas Mesivta.

    R’ Yonoson Hughes, a talmid chacham in England, also came out with a translation of parts of Reb Chaim.


    I think it a good idea before learning from a translated sefer to take a look at the translator’s/publisher’s preface to get an idea of what they had in mind. A translation is almost inevitably a perush because Hebrew is deep while English is broad. That is, the translator must choose among multiple meanings and nuances that attach themselves to the Hebrew/Aramaic expressions. This limits the depth of learning that a translation allows; that’s in the best case. In the worst case, the translator chooses or is instructed to “adjust” the text to what the non-Hebrew-reading learner is “supposed” to understand. By saying this, I am not attacking “haredi revisionism.” The most egregious example I’ve seen is in a purported translation of a collection of Rav Kook’s drashot.


    Translations are rarely exact, since many words can’t be translated, but elucidated conceptually. For example, if a rishon refers to something as a nafka mina, you have to explain what that is.


    There is also an unbelievable range of Mussar and Hashkafat seforim availible — like Chovos Halvovos, Mesilas Yeshorim, the Kuzari, Moreh Nevuchim, Orchos Tzaddikim, Derech Hashem and many other contempory mussar seforim.


    1. Many things have never been translated.

    2. Most translations are poor.

    3. The goyim has a saying that “translators are traitors”. Translations inherently distort.

    4. A good analogy would be to someone who studies a subject on a college level (the person who uses the real text), very someone studying the same subject on a middle school level (the person using a translation).

    5. Translations between Hebrew and either Arabic or Aramaic are not necessarily so bad, since those languages are close. Translations to English are especially problematic since English is totally unrelated (English having as much in common with Hebrew as it does with Chinese or Zulu, whereas Hebrew’s relationship to Arabic and Aramaic is similar to English’s relationships with French and German).


    We need a good curriculum in place to teach people the vocabulary needed to master Shas, Rashi, Tosfos, and Rishonim/Acharonim.


    There is a “Guide to Lashon HaKodesh” I should probably study it so that I can learn how to use Hebrew seforim without continuing to spend a fortune on English translations (I keep on purchasing both Hebrew and English versions of seforim for school… I am in seminary and have about 20-30 seforim and could theoretically purchase more… If anyone is in Jerusalem and needs to purchase a Hebrew version of Messilas Yesharim, let me know never been used 16 shekel…


    Shavua tov and a chodesh tov.

    I am looking through the catalog from Torah u’Mesorah and they have the sefer described by snowbunny 3318.

    I think the key is to develop strong skill sets. I was told that there are about 500 milim that appear all throughout Chumash, and slightly more that appear all throughout Shas.

    I hear good things about the Zobin Method, as well.


    There’s a saying attributed to Reb Chaim or the Brisker Rov or some other rosh yeshiva which goes, “az s’ felt in hazboreh, felt in havoneh.” Or as Albert Einstein allegedly said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

    If there are no good translations, doesn’t it follow that none of the translators are understanding the originals well enough? And if that’s the case for professional translators, what does that say for amateurs?

    If you ask me, most translations are good. All the major ones are fine, you just have to bear in mind that the translation will reflect the translator’s general hashkafa, because it’s not always about translation as much as it is about interpretation. So if you come across anything you aren’t quite sure about, do some research. But by all means, read.


    generally with translations, I go with Artscroll and Judaica press because that is what my teachers last year recommended I use when I didn’t understand anything in any of my classes (I went to one of the local bais yaakovs in the community where I grew up just for 12th grade and do not have such a strong background).


    You will notice a large stylistic difference between pre-WWII English translations and those translated post-WWII. Artscroll, in particular, has introduced a level of clarity that set a new standard in translated works.


    Artscroll is brilliant, but we need more of the me’akev texts translated, which would to my mind, mean the main Rishonim on Shas that constitute the yeshiva curriculum (Ramban, Rashba, Ran, Tosfos Rid, Meiri, Ritva, etc. on each daf). Such texts would sell like hotcakes.

    (Rambam, Shulchan Aruch are mostly available now, just leaving a hole of rishonim and acharonim, and with the shiurim of R’ Shalom Rosner and Shas Illuminated, I am confident we will see some development in this area).


    English is not one of the languages that the Torah was translated into on Teves 8th, which is a minor fast days in Megillas Ta’anis, mourning the translation of the Torah into Greek and some other languages, so nothing wrong with an English Translation.

    By the way, the English in “Blackman Mishnayos” is excellent and very accurate & high quality.

    Needless to say, Rav Gukavitzky’s translation into English & modern French is impeccable & on the ball.


    What did R’ Gukavitzky translate? And who is he?


    There is a great new English translated Mishna Berurah out by Ohr Olam.




    I note that the number of languages of the different sefarim is quite large: Biblical Hebrew, Rabbinic Hebrew, Palestinian Aramaic, Babylonian Aramaic, Classical Arabic, Ladino, Yiddish, and Modern German. Without knowing *all* of these, we need translations. Not to mention that English language sefarim need to be translated into French, Russian, and Modern Hebrew.

    ☕ DaasYochid ☕



    Most major Jewish books have been translated into English, though the quality of translations is poor, even if the translators didn’t deliberately leave things out on the theory that non-Hebrew readers are too simple to understand certain concepts, and assuming the translator had a solid command of both language (otherwise one gets a translation into Yeshivish or Brooklynese, not standard English). A major problem is that Hebrew had totally different syntax than English, and only two tenses (what we call the “present” in modern/zionist Hebrew is a gerund being used as a verb). As an example, if you say in Hebrew that Ha-Shem created the world, you are saying he not only did it at some point in the past, but he is still doing so. That has a profound difference in meaning, and can’t be translated. While translations are helplful tools, if you think you are getting “the whole story” you are deceiving yourself.

    Neville ChaimBerlin

    Charlie: To be fair, a lot of the languages you mentioned have significant overlap. Eg. the difference between “Rabbinic Hebrew,” and “Biblical Hebrew” is mostly grammatical, not vocabulary. It’s not like you’d truly have to learn 2 different languages.

    Avi K

    When Rav Kook went to London to be the Rav of the Machzikei haDaat synagogue he realized that he had to learn English. He did not want to mevatel Troah so he used English translations of the Tanakh and Talmud. When he made his first speech he used words like “thou” and one non-Jew present said “He speaks like a prophet”.

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