ArtScroll

ArtScroll

ArtScroll is an imprint of translations, books and commentaries from an Orthodox Jewish perspective published by Mesorah Publications, Ltd., a publishing company based in Brooklyn, New York. Its general editors are Rabbis Nosson Scherman and Meir Zlotowitz.

Primary publications

ArtScroll publishes books on a variety of Jewish subjects. The best known is probably an annotated Hebrew-English siddur ("prayerbook") (the best-selling The ArtScroll Siddur), its Torah translation and commentary, a series of translations and commentaries on books of the Tanach (Hebrew Bible), and an English translation and elucidation of the Babylonian Talmud. Other publications include works on Jewish Law, and novels and factual works based on Jewish life or history. Over 800 books have been published to date.

According to the ArtScroll Web site, their "classics", or cornerstone publications, are:

  • The Schottenstein Edition Talmud (elucidated below)
  • The Safra Edition French Talmud (a French version of the above)
  • The Stone Edition Chumash
  • The Stone Edition Tanach
  • The Rubin Edition Prophets (A Stone Chumash - style publication for The Prophets segment of the Hebrew Bible)
  • The Sapirstein Edition Rashi
  • Ramban on Chumash
  • The Yad Avraham Mishnah Series
  • The ArtScroll Complete Siddur (more below) and their companions
  • The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Prayer Book Series
  • The Kestenbaum Edition Tikkun (a book used for practicing the Torah reading)

Works in progress

Popular acceptance

Mesorah Publications received widespread acclaim in response to their ArtScroll line of prayerbooks, starting with The Complete ArtScroll Siddur, Ed. Nosson Scherman, 1984. This work immediately gained wide acceptance in the Orthodox Jewish community, and within a few years became the best-selling Hebrew-English siddur (prayerbook) in the United States. It featured beautiful layout and editing, and offered the reader detailed notes and instructions on most of the prayers. Versions of this prayerbook were then produced for the High Holidays, and the three pilgrimage festivals Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot.

In 1993 Mesorah Publications published The Chumash: The Stone Edition, a Torah translation and commentary arranged for liturgical use. It became popularly known as The ArtScroll Chumash, and has since became the best-selling English-Hebrew Torah translation and commentary in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries. To a lesser degree, it has some usage in the non-Orthodox Jewish community. Although they are not used as the official Torah commentaries by any non-Orthodox synagogues, many Reform and Conservative Jews have purchased copies.

Schottenstein Edition Talmud

Mesorah has a line of Mishnah translations and commentaries, and followed up with a line of Babylonian Talmud translations and commentaries, The Schottenstein Edition of The Talmud Bavli ("Babylonian Talmud"). These have received widespread acclaim throughout the Orthodox community, and are also used by many non-Orthodox Jews. In late 2004, the final volume was published, giving a 73 volume English edition of the entire Talmud, only the second complete translation of the Talmud into English (the other being the Soncino Talmud published in the United Kingdom during the mid-twentieth century).

The total cost of the project is estimated to have cost US$21 million, most of which was contributed by private donors and foundations. Some volumes have up to 2 million copies in distribution, while more recent volumes have only 90,000 copies currently printed. A completed set was dedicated on February 9, 2005, to the Library of Congress, and the siyum (celebration at the "completion") was held on March 15, 2005, the 13th yahrzeit of Jerome Schottenstein, at the New York Hilton.

The first volume, Tractate Makkos, was published in 1990, and dedicated by Mr. and Mrs. Marcos Katz. Jerome Schottenstein was introduced to the publication committee shortly thereafter. He began by donating funds for the project in memory of his parents Ephraim and Anna Schottenstein one volume at a time, and later decided to back the entire project. When Jerome died, his children and widow, Geraldine, rededicated the project to his memory in addition to those of his parents. The goal of the project was to, "open the doors of the Talmud and welcome its people inside."

The text generally consists of two side-by-side pages: one of the Aramaic/Hebrew Vilna Edition text, and the corresponding page consists of an English translation. The English translation has a bolded literal translation of the Talmud's text, but also includes un-bolded text clarifying the literal translation. (The original Talmud's text is often very unclear, referring to places, times, people, and laws that it does not explain. The un-bolded text explains these situations to name a few. The text of the Talmud also contains few prepositions, articles, etc. The un-bolded text also takes the liberty of inserting these parts of speech.) The result is an English text that reads in full sentences with full explanations, while allowing the reader to distinguish between direct translation and a more liberal approach to the translation. (This also results in one page of the Vilna Talmud requiring several pages of English translation.) Below the English translation appear extensive notes including diagrams from sources ancient to modern.

The clarifying English explanation and footnoted commentary in the Schottenstein Edition of the Talmud is based on the perspective of classical Jewish sources. The clarifying explanation is generally based on the viewpoint of Rashi, the medieval commentator who wrote the first comprehensive commentary on the Talmud. The Schottenstein Edition does not include contemporary academic or critical scholarship.

Mesorah and the Schottenstein family have also begun a Hebrew version of the commentary to the Babylonian Talmud of benefit to yeshiva students who use mainly Hebrew and to Israeli scholars, since in Israel Hebrew is the national language, and have begun both an English and Hebrew translation of the Talmud Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud) as well, the former being only the second such translation in existence.

Editorial policy

Works published by Mesorah under this imprint adhere to a perspective appealing to most Orthodox Jews, but especially to Orthodox Jews who have come from less religious backgrounds, but are returning to the faith. Due to the makeup of the Jewish community in the USA, most of the prayer books are geared to the Ashkenazic custom. In more recent years, Artscroll has collaborated with Sephardic community leaders in an attempt to bridge this gap. Examples of this include a Sephardic Haggadah published by Artscroll, written by Sephardic Rabbi Eli Mansour, and the book Aleppo, about a prominent Sephardic community in Syria.

In translations and commentaries, ArtScroll works with the traditional framework of Halakha (Jewish law) accepting midrashic accounts in a historical fashion, and at times literally, and generally disregards (and occasionally disagrees with) textual criticism.

ArtScroll transliteration

The ArtScroll transliteration of Hebrew language words for readers of the English language generally uses Ashkenazi consonants and Sefardi vowels.

The two major differences between the way Sefardi and Ashkenazi Hebrew dialects are transcribed are as follows:

  • the letter Tav without a dagesh (emphasis point) is transcribed as [t] and [s] respectively
    • ArtScroll uses the latter
  • the vowel kamatz gadol, is transcribed [a] and [o] respectively
    • ArtScroll uses the former

As such you would have the following transliterations:

Ashkenazi Sefardi ArtScroll
Boruch Baruch Baruch
Shabbos Shabbat Shabbos (ArtScroll makes an exception due to widespread usage)
Succos Succot Succos
Avrohom Abraham Avraham
Akeidas Yitzchok Akedat Yitzhak Akeidas Yitzchak

Criticism

This line of books has come under criticism from some scholars (both Orthodox and non-Orthodox) on a number of points:

  • In their Tanach (Bible, "Old Testament") and in their siddurim and machzorim (which are used during prayer services), Shir HaShirim (the Song of Songs or Song of Solomon, a poem describing the intimate relationship of a man and a woman) is translated following Rashi's commentary. This provides a non-literal metaphoric explanation in which the erotic elements have been eliminated. (in the one-volume Shir HaShirim a full literal translation is included.)
  • The Torah translation has been criticised by a few Modern Orthodox scholars, e.g. B. Barry Levy, and by some non-Orthodox scholars, as mistranslating the text. The dispute comes about because the editors at Mesorah Publications consciously attempt to present a translation of the text based on rabbinic tradition and medieval biblical commentators such as Rashi, as opposed to a completely literal translation.

It is important to note, however, that the ArtScroll library is explicitly sectarian, and is not meant to represent a secular historical view, but rather a traditional Orthodox view. ArtScroll does not make the statement that the positions its editors favor represent the only legitimate ways of ruling on a halakhic issue or rendering a text.

In much of the Haredi and Modern Orthodox community, Mesorah Publications is credited with spurring a movement that is allowing classical Judaism to be relevant to modern Jewry, and arguably saving Orthodox (and by religious and demographic extension, American) Jewry. Now, several Orthodox Jewish publishers publish with similar typefaces, outlooks, etc. Artscroll's influence extended to the non-Orthodox movements as well. A new siddur and commentary published by Conservative Judaism's Rabbinical Assembly, Or Hadash, was noticeably inspired by Artscroll.

Bibliography

  • Rabbi B. Barry Levy. "Our Torah, Your Torah and Their Torah: An Evaluation of the ArtScroll phenomenon.". In: "Truth and Compassion: Essays on Religion in Judaism", Ed. H. Joseph et al. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1983.
  • B. Barry Levy. "Judge Not a Book By Its Cover". Tradition 19(1)(Spring 1981): 89-95 and an exchange of letters in Tradition 1982;20:370-375.
  • Jacob J. Schacter, "Facing the Truths of History" Torah u-Madda Journal 8 (1998-1999): 200-276 (PDF file).
  • Jacob J. Schacter, "Haskalah, Secular Studies, and the close of the Yeshiva in Volozhin in 1892" Torah u-Madda Journal

External links

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