August 19, 2014 5:27 am at 5:27 am #613454
I am sorry, I can not read in Hebrew.August 19, 2014 5:52 am at 5:52 am #1195169
I can’t imagine why not, paper is from trees. Then again, the ink might have some coloring from bugs. But they would be Nosain tam lif’gam. Based on this I think that it is mutar to eat bedi’eved.August 19, 2014 7:47 am at 7:47 am #1195170
This Midrash translation is part of the Soncino series of translations. About kashrus it’s hard to say anything. The Soncino group were graduates of “Jews’ College of London,” definitely not yeshivah-grade people. They kept Shabbos, but ….
The big problem is competence, or rather their total lack of it. They had only the most superficial knowledge of their texts, only the most rudimentary learning skills, only the vaguest notion of what Chazal were trying to teach. You certainly will not get an accurate idea of the Midrash from this work.
For that matter, given the tremendous depth and subtlety of Midrash, and its close relation to Hebrew grammar and orthography (from which midrashim are derived), even I, a veteran yeshivah scholar and moreh tzedek in my town, would not agree to attempt a translation.
I am a multi-lingual translator of some fifty years’ experience, most of it spent dealing with sefarim. After all these years, my only advice to everyone is, “Learn Hebrew, no matter how hard it is for you, and never use a translation.” There is a reason the Torah was given in leshon hakodesh — the same reason the world was created with it. Learn your native language and don’t compromise.August 19, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am #1195171
Is any translation “kosher” (which means fit, not necessarily as food). Is it possible to translate from Hebrew into English without losing most of the context? Hebrew is as similar to English as either language is to Chinese or Cherokee. Just consider the problem of translating between Hebrew with at most three tenses (really only two, the “present” is a gerund kludged into use as a present), and English with over a dozen very exact tenses.August 19, 2014 1:29 pm at 1:29 pm #1195172
Ylavon, thank you for your answer. It’s always gratifying to read a post that presents the facts accurately. I am nowhere near as learned as you, but even from the little I know, I can see that reading a translation of a passuk or a Rashi always misses something, even if it’s just a slight nuance. Lashon Kodesh is a very precise language; the grammatical construction of every word holds worlds of meaning. The Chachamim who wrote the Torah She’Baal Peh likewise were very selective in their choice of language. Their brief statements hold so much meaning that is often lost when attempting to translate into a different language.
There are those, however, who have no choice other than using a translation. I don’t think it would be correct to tell them to give up learning all together. There are translations that come from questionable sources that it is unwise, at times maybe even forbidden, to make use of; others written by Talmidei Chachmim can be a great help. Personally, I don’t use any Soncino translations. But “personally” is not an answer to the OP.
Is there someone out there, ylavon or other poster, who can offer the OP a serious answer to his question?
I hope so…August 19, 2014 1:44 pm at 1:44 pm #1195173
akuperma, I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about. Or that you know what you’re talking about.
If you multiply the sheva (7) binyanim by 3- avar, hoveh, atid, you get 21 different constructs for every verb. That’s before you mutiply each by 10 different pronouns which don’t exist in English (there’s no gender difference in English pronouns). Also, the conjugation of verbs in English, unlike Hebrew, most often does not change with change of pronoun (I think, you think, we think; he wrote, she wrote, we wrote; you will dance, we will dance, they will dance). There is also no such concept as an arbitrary “exception to the rule” in Lashon Kodesh (I swim, I swam; I think, I thought; I go, I went: I eat, I ate). Every nekudah and dagesh in Lashon Kodesh can be analyzed and dissected based on the rules of Dikduk. There is no such thing as a letter that disappears or appears without a reason. Enough? Which language, Lashon Kodesh or English, would you say is more “exact”?
And to answer your question (forgive me if it was rhetorical)- yes, it is possible to offer a translation that will present the reader with a basic understanding of the text in a “kosher” manner. The ultimate goal is, of course, to read words of Torah in the language in which they were written. But there’s no need to disparage the use of a translation when necessary.
Anybody out there read Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch’s writings in Hochdeutsch?August 19, 2014 2:15 pm at 2:15 pm #1195174
Lost: Artscroll is currently working on/just finished translating the Midrash Rabbah. I would use theirs. That is not to say that the Sonsino is unreliable, but Artscroll definitely put more work into it (and the footnotes make it worth it).
To respond to earlier posters, it is the exact opposite. The reason Hebrew is so untranslatable is because it is a far less precise language than English. Especially in Chumash (but also in Midrashim), words can have multiple meanings and nuances that any one translation often just misses.August 19, 2014 2:45 pm at 2:45 pm #1195175
“Moreh nevuchim” written in Arabic, “Pirush Hamoshnayos min Horambam”‘ written in Arabic, “Chovos halevovus’ written in Arabic….and many others….Translations are not as accurate as the original but often,especially with dedicated translaters, it comes close.August 19, 2014 3:15 pm at 3:15 pm #1195176
The binyanim are not tenses. They are actually a very easy to use device to manipulate roots. It also allows one to “invent” a word as needed, which happens all the time.
The tenses in Hebrew are Avar and Atid, roughly equivalent to the “Past” and “future” (some would say “definite” and “indefinite”), and to simplify matters we manage to do a “present” by using a gerund. However the complex tenses in English (there are over a dozen, which are true of most Indo-European languages) have no equivalents. Whereas Indo-European langauges have very definite verb constructions, Semitic languages are “laid back” about time. The fact that Semitic languages make limited use of a very “to be” is also a serious complication.
Hebrew closely resembles Arabic and Aramaic. Using a translation of the Rambam from Arabic to Hebrew won’t lose much, and neither will a translation from Aramaic to Hebrew. German (of R. Hirsch) is very close to English – at the time of the Gaonim, the people in England could still carry on a conversation with the people in what is now Germany since the languages weren’t that different yet – while English got a lot easier after the Norman conquest, underneath they are still very similar.
So if someone wants to study our Sefrei Kodesh, best to learn enough of the original langauges so at least you can work with a bilingual linear translation, even if you can’t read them outright.August 19, 2014 3:39 pm at 3:39 pm #1195177
>> This Midrash translation is part of the Soncino series
>> of translations. About kashrus it’s hard to say anything.
>> The Soncino group were graduates of “Jews’ College of London,”
>> definitely not yeshivah-grade people. They kept Shabbos, but ….
>> The big problem is competence, or rather their total lack
>> of it. They had only the most superficial knowledge of
>> their texts, only the most rudimentary learning skills, only
>> the vaguest notion of what Chazal were trying to teach. You
>> certainly will not get an accurate idea of the Midrash
>> from this work.
Thank you for the insight — indeed Hebrew is the unique language. I will learn Hebrew when my situation in life improves. I know only Russian and English.August 19, 2014 3:41 pm at 3:41 pm #1195178
>> I can’t imagine why not, paper is from trees. Then again,
>> the ink might have some coloring from bugs. But they would
>> be Nosain tam lif’gam. Based on this I think that it is mutar
>> to eat bedi’eved.
I read paper books only on Sabbath. I can not afford to buy paper Midrash Rabbah.August 19, 2014 3:44 pm at 3:44 pm #1195179
>> There are translations that come from questionable sources
>> that it is unwise, at times maybe even forbidden, to make
>> use of; others written by Talmidei Chachmim can be a great help.
Definitely, it is forbidden to use Reform or Christian translations.August 19, 2014 3:46 pm at 3:46 pm #1195180
>> Lost: Artscroll is currently working on/just finished
>> translating the Midrash Rabbah. I would use theirs. That is
>> not to say that the Sonsino is unreliable, but Artscroll
>> definitely put more work into it (and the footnotes make
>> it worth it).
Thank you — unfortunately only Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman translation is available online as a free .pdf. I am sorry — I am an unpaid intern.November 27, 2016 4:40 pm at 4:40 pm #1195182
I have gone through every line of the entire Soncino translation. I did this when I was writing my own heoros to Midrash Rabbah, which was published in my book, ????? ??????. I can tell you it is an outstanding translation, and 100% perfectly reliable, even to the “frummest” reader. It is all based on the standard meforshim of Yefeh Toar, Etz Yosef, Maharazu, etc, all of whom are quoted by name in the footnotes. Even auxiliary meforshim like the Rashash are cited.
The Artscroll translation is also very good. I used them too, although parts of Bamidbar Rabbah was not yet available when I was writing my sefer. Obviously Artscroll has a more yeshivish approach. They spend a lot of pages explaining basic points that anyone with an elementary Jewish education already understands (and Soncino takes for granted. Like explaining what “terumah” is, things of that nature.) They also have a big section citing the Ballei Mussar. Anyone with any sophistication whatsoever understands that neither approach is better, they are just different.
Interestingly, both the Soncino and the Artscroll cite the academic Theodore-Albeck edition on Beraishis Rabbah. Artscroll also engages in classic Artscroll censorship (on an Eitz Yosef) as I proved in a post on Seforim Blog, where Dr. Marc Shapiro cited me on this point. You can google it.
Bekitzur, as one of the few (only?) people I know who have actually gone through both translations, I can confidently say they are both excellent pieces of scholarship. Either one is well worth using when you study Midrash Rabbah.
ClevelandNovember 27, 2016 8:43 pm at 8:43 pm #1195183
About kashrus it’s hard to say anything. The Soncino group were graduates of “Jews’ College of London,” definitely not yeshivah-grade people. They kept Shabbos, but ….
If you have Hashkafic issues with the Soncino press, I’d suggest you say away from anything from the Romm publishing house.
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