Artscroll Is Not To Blame

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119 Responses

  1. Ezzie says:

    You’re right, and that’s very sad. What does it mean for the future of right-wing Orthodoxy, when the nuts hold the power? Whatever it is, it can’t be very good.

  2. sidney fenyes says:

    I would like to read the treatment of the Three Oaths by Avnei Nezer and the
    Meshech Chochmah. Where can they be found ?

  3. Calev says:

    Your analysis rings true. What a sad, very sad situation it is. But can’t the gedolim resist these people? Surely the Torah greats of our generation, who are committed to seeking Judaism’s eternal truths, have the capacity to counter blinkered members of our community? Or do we have to wonder whether they have the inclincation to do so?

  4. HILLEL says:

    As a member of the “zealot” minority, I take exception to Rabbi Alderstein’s characterization of me as a “trrorist.”

    I think Nosson Scherman and the other fine people at Artscroll are engages in a vital project of making Torah accessible to the broad masses of the Jewish People.

    It would probably be fair to say that they have, single-handedly, made Daf-Yomi a mass phenomenon by making the Talmud much more accessible in both English and Hebrew.

    Rabbis Kook and Soloveitchik are controversial figures among many sectors of the Orthodox Jewish community. It would be poor judgement for Artscroll to jeapordise the important work that they are doing for the Jewish community by taking controversial positions and creating conflict.

    Rabbi Sherman has wisely sought consensus–Shalom.

  5. S. says:

    En hachi nami. But given that, it isn’t really unfair when people identify these shortcomings and criticize Artscroll for them. After all, as a consequence of Artscroll’s success to a great many people the Torah is the Stone Chumash, and the Talmud is the Schottenstein and hilchos tefillah is whatever is written in Yitzhaq Yair or the other siddurim. This plays an enormous role in influencing and indoctrinating many Orthodox Jews into a particular point of view which, if you are correct, is influenced by what you call “the Army of the Doctrinally Pure,” and I’m sure you know how frightening that particular turn of phrase is. Naturally those who know of a whole ‘nuther side to the tradition are dismayed at its persistent whitewashing at the hands of Artscroll, perhaps motivated by the bottom line–and fear.

  6. David Brand says:

    Artscroll is for-profit? Take a look at any edition of the Artscroll Shas. You’ll find many, many sponsors there. How is it that a for-profit would need donations?

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    Presumably, my posts on this issue prompted R Adlerstein’s above response. I think that the following observations in order. ArtScroll projects itself as a project that publishes traditional Torah publications and thought. However,R Adlerstein concedes that, as a publisher, it looks over its right shoulder. Whenever, the “elucidators” refer to the superb edition of the Ritva that was published by Mosad Harav Kook that even the Satmar Rav ZTL had in his study,,it does so as “RITVA MHK” as if it is inferior. I think that the publishing list, especially in the hagiography division speaks for itself. I disagree with the claim that it displays “intellectual openness.”

    The notion that ArtScroll is aware that its view of the “three oaths” by the Gdolim that I mentioned has to make me wonder-if that is the case,their views should have at least warranted a footnote. The issue of R Zevin ZTL in HaMoadim BHalacha is another case where a translation was rendered that was at total variance with the intent of the author.As far as RYBS and RAYHK are concerned, they are accorded a minimal view, if at all.Bothm IMO, are wrong. The discussion of the three oaths simply is not an accurate discussion of the mitzvah , especially since the Balfour Declaration . The rendition of Hamoadim BHalacha is clearly wrong because the sefer was republished numerous times in the life of R Zevin ZTL and the passage in question ( “Ashreinu Shezacinu lach”) was never changed. The claim that R Zevin ZTL “changed his mind” is a posthumously assertedclaim that was asserted but never verified. WADR, those episodes go beyond an “editorial transgression” or two, especially when the publisher is looking over its right shoulder. IMO, they show a willingness to tamper with a source or preset a discussion of a sugya in a certain way to please its base.

    RYBS is quoted , albeit sparingly,in the Stone Chumash . RAYHK is nowehere mentioned in the Chumash-not even in the bibloigraphy. RAYHK was portrayed as a Zionist tool or worse in a hagiography of RYC Sonnenfeld ZTL. Despite the fact that R Chavel ZL enabled us all to learn Ramban either from an excellent rendition of Kisvei Yad ( especially when the development of such sefarim was in its infancy in the US)and published an excellent English translation, I think that one can argue that the ArtScroll Ramban is inferior and unneccesary, especially when it goes out of its way to barely give hakaras hatov to the Mossad HaRav Kook edition. OTOH, the Shas was funded by Charedi and MO people-just look at the acknowledgements if you need verification of this fact.

    As far as my comments on the quality or lack thereof the hagiographies, I stand by my comments as to the plot and lack of any insight into the inner dynamics of the Gadol who is the subject of the book. R Y Rosenblum’s works on REE Dessler and R Y Kaminetsky Zicronam Livracha are exceptions to this rule.

    I also reject the notion that its treatment of the Shoah is fair and nuanced. It is neither fair nor nuanced. The overriding views are “Mipnei Chatoseinu” with a heavy dose of spiritual resistance and casting all blame on all other elements in Klal Yisrael. I have seen nothing that mentions the role of R M Ziemba or R Gustman ZTL-both of whom supported physical resistance.

  8. Edvallace says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    Your point is well taken and I’m glad you wrote what you did in defense of Artscroll. I have my own [minor]issues with Artscroll but by and large, to deny their positive effect on the Torah world is to deny reality. One need not agree with a every book published by publisher to recognize the value that they’ve added to the English speaking religous and secular community. The explosion that we’ve seen in the field of Kiruv is due in no small measure to the recent availability of works on every aspect of Torah in English thanks to the ARtscroll/Feldheim/Targum Press/Ktav publishing houses.

    I only wonder whether you feel the same sense of sadness [or disgust?] when you read comments from commenters who never miss [and even create] an opportunity to lambast the broad Hareidi public for every conceivable offense to mankind throughout history? What “anonymous” wrote was foolish and uncalled for and drew a resounding comback from you explaining that he and his ilk drive many good people away from the Hareidi camp. I couldn’t agree with you more. But do you also feel that certain commenters who bend over backwards to slander the Hareidi public do the very same damage in reverse. I’m certain they don’t speak for all in the MO camp, but you can be sure that to read their rantings about the Yeshivah world causes many an otherwise openminded Yeshivaman to dismiss the whole bunch of them as good-for-nothing lowlifes who seek only to discredit the yeshivah world and all it has to offer.
    I’ve never seen you make mention of this before and I wonder what your feelings on the matter are.

  9. Steve Brizel says:

    It is indeed a tragedy that zealots and zealotry dictate the texts that are translated and how they are translated. One can only respond to such threats and hooligans by learning the Torah of the Gdolim who are damaged by such tactics and listening to shiurim from their Talmidim Muvhakim.

  10. Neil Harris says:

    You are correct. Artscoll knows its market. It’s because of that market a book like
    Meyer Schiller’s THE ROAD BACK, would have never been picked up by Artscoll, or even, the
    often referenced, EYES TO SEE. It was only because the Stone Chumash was being marketed to
    OU shuls that the editors included commentary from Rav Soloveichik. It kind of make you
    wonder what the orthodox landscape would be like if we had an Arscroll biography of Rav Kook?

  11. Menachem Lipkin says:

    For the very reason you mention, that Artscroll is a business and are “keeping an eye on the bottom line”, we davka can “blame” them for their editorial decisions. You’ve merely provided background and rationale for what they do, but that in no way mitigates their culpability. That you’ve brought to light the fact that the staff at Artscroll is progressive and open-minded only makes it worse in my eyes. As a consumer of their products I have every right to “blame” them for their choices. And as a consumer I can, and do, decide what products of theirs to buy based on this. Thus, in general, I don’t waste money on their biographies, but have no problem buying their translations.

  12. Moshe P. Mann says:

    WADR, I beg to differ with R’ Adlerstein’s entire article. Artscroll’s reluctance to publish more nuanced and open-minded views is not so much out of a fear of “zealots” but rather out of a policy of respect for them. You’ll notice that Artscroll, despite its clientelles’ differences with the Satmar community, is much more reserved of it’s criticism toward the Satmar shitah than it is to RW and MO. Their piece on the JO about R’ Teitelbaum z”tl states this quite emphatically:

    “Similarly, Rabbi Reuvain Grozovsky… had made it a policy of never responding to criticisms ‘from the right'”

    In fact, the Stone Chumash quotes extensively from RYBS and even has a tribute to Norman Lamm! So why haven’t the “zealots” put the Stone chumash in cherem? Artscroll knows full well that it can include MO shitas if it wants to (and if it gets paid enough $$$), but out of a warped respect to Satmar/Neturei Karta, refuses to do so.

    Sorry to all the well intentioned Artscroll apologists, but it’s time to face the fact that revisionism is a part and parcel of the chareidi establishment, not just limited to a couple of anonymous “zealots”. Blaming the defects of the chareidim on a group of zealots (just who are they – Neturei Karta? Eda Chareidis? The Yated Neeman?) is just intellectually dishonest.

    Thank you in advance for your response, and kudos for your thought provoking article.

  13. Steve Brizel says:

    Sidney -Look first in HaTekufah HaGedolah by R MM Kasher ZTL. Then look in the Encyclopedia Talmudis under YIshuv EY.

  14. David Miller says:

    Surely, seeing as Artscroll are in a position of such awesome power and reach, they have a responsibility to stand up to the zealots and present Torah truthfully rather than caving in to fear. Doesn’t a judge have to give a truthful ruling, even if it will cause resentment amongst some?

  15. Steve Brizel says:

    Hillel-Just curious-when you learn Gemara, do you learn only the conclusion or the multiple views that are presented, analyzed, attacked and rejected? When you ignore Gdolim either because they are “controversial figures “, offer a mistranslation of a phrase in a sefer and fail to present all sides of a machlokes, that is not “making Torah accessible for the Jewish people.” It is presenting only one version. Take a look at the Yam Shel Shlomohin BK on the consequences of not setting forth Torah in a proper fashion to a secular authority, let alone Jews who are seeking answers and an approach.

    Edwallace-One can ask whether English language Judaica is at all related to the explosion in kiruv. The works that you have mentioned are nice for the beginner but we know that the Mesorah cannot and has never been preserved in translation. One has to wonder whether the emphasis on translation of so many key texts is a byproduct of the kiruv world’s emphasis on hashkafic “answers” for a BT, as opposed to the equally and probably even more important goal of textual literacy in such basic sources as Tanach, Mishnah , Talmud and Halacha.

  16. HILLEL says:

    I’m puzzled!

    The MO people who are calling on Artscroll to show more tolerance and open-mindedness are doing so with anger and venom.

    Artscroll’s main mentor was Rav Avrohom Pam, ZT”L, of Yeshiva Torsh Vodaath. He was not a MO Rabbi–he was a traditional Rosh Yeshiva and a true leader of Klal Yisroel.

    It is unfair to criticise his faithful students for loyalty to the Torah of their Rebbe, as they received it from him.

    For those who seek the viewpoints of MO leaders, there is MOssad Horav Kook, which is a very large publisher.

    By the way, while Artscroll makes a profit on SOME of their products, I believe the Schottenstein Shas and some other Torah translations are sold below their actual cost and need to be subsidized, so that they will remain within the reach of every Jew who wants to reclaim his heritage. This is a noble undertaking, worthy of our admiration.

    Much of the BT phenomenon would not be possible without Artscroll’s translations.

    Artscroll’s approach has been blessed with success–Lemaaloh Miderech Hateva. They must be doing something right. May they be blessed with many more years of success in spreading our Holy Torah among the Jewish People.

  17. Nachum says:

    A few years back, a new petition went out: Using a kamatz with a straight bottom line was now assur. Avos Avoseinu always made a kamatz with a round bottom, and this is how we must do it. Of course, this is simply nonsense: There’s no halacha of drawing nekudos, and the nekudos are not MiSinai (a thousand years ago, there were a few systems of nikkud, and they had just been invented). Various gedolim had signed on, though, but I have no idea of how that process works.

    Anyway, Artscroll, which had been using a straight kamatz for over twenty years, instantly buckled under, apologized and grovelled, and changed them all starting with their next editions.

    I ask you, Rabbi Adlerstein: Is it really that bad? Did Artscroll really have to do that?

  18. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested in an assessment of RAYHK as a posek and gadol and those who opposed him, check out the letter by R TP Frank ZTL ( the author of ShuT Har Tzvi and Mikraei Kodesh) posted by Chardal on his blog.

  19. Steve Brizel says:

    As far as BTs and English Judaica are concerned, the OU and NCSY should have published a profile of some of its many success stories a long time ago. One article in Jewish Action simply was insufficient. Although OU and NCSY dinner journals sometimes discuss the history of NCSY, a formal history of this pioneering organixzation is long overdue. I think that many BTs could relate to the story of a R Z Leff, frum lawyers, doctors, etc who found their path to Torah and Mitzvos in NCSY.

  20. shmuel says:

    Hillel’s comment unfortunately substantiates R Adlerstein’s post. If “Rabbis Kook and Soloveitchik are controversial figures among many sectors of the Orthodox Jewish community” why does merely quoting them mean that ArtScroll is “taking controversial positions and creating conflict”. Worse yet why is it that quoting a non-controversial Torah thought (and the majority of divrei Torah which they said were NOT controversial) by someone “jeapordise the important work that they are doing for the Jewish community”?

  21. Harry Maryles says:

    I posted the following at another site that referenced this post but it’a worth repeating here.

    These Kanaim are real, they are dangerous, and they exist all over. Look at how certain Briskers were Mevazeh Rav Elyashiv was Mekil about some Kvaros and they disagreed?? Look at what is going on in Ponevezh. Blood was drawn there. And look at the Kannaus of Rav Elyashiv’s Askanim WRT to RNK and RNS? One Gadol called these people “murderers!” and rightly so in my view, and in the view of many others… Charedim included.

    The question is not whether they exist but why they are allowed to? Why isn’t Charedi leadership banning them?

  22. TzviNoach says:

    Steve Brizel writes (comment 7):
    I disagree with the claim that it displays “intellectual openness.”

    Steve, Rabbi Adlerstein did not claim that ArtScroll displays intellectual openness. He claimed that the many ArtScroll people he knows display intellectual openness, but are afraid to publish accordingly. While initially stating that this is astute business sense, he then explains that the real fear is of the “zealots”, whom he compares to terrorists.

    Sort of like the many editors in the US and throughout the world who are really intellectually honest, and enjoy a good cartoon now and then, but have better business sense than to publish something that could get their establishment firebombed.

  23. Steve Brizel says:

    Hillel-Don’t drag R Pam ZTL into this mess. R Pam ZTl was responsible for ensuring that R D N Lamm was on the dais for the Daf Yomi Siyum in 1997 . There is no evidence that he was consulted on the issues that I raised. I await your answer on whether one learns Gemara by running to the conclusion without considering all of the views that are raised, considered, attacked, and rejected. Mossad HaRav Kook just doesn’t publish the works of RAYHK-its editions of Ritva, etc are unsurpassed and are used by alll except by those who feel it is an issur to possess the same ( See ShuT Beer Moshe) However, it is known that the Satmar Rav ZTL owned a set as well.

    For the record, while the Shas is a noble venture , one cannot present only one side of a machlokes as if the other side is “Modern Orthodoxy.”

  24. Bob Miller says:

    American consumers can always find the products they want. If not from one supplier, then from another. Once a large enough new demand is discovered, the supply is created. But a consumer can’t demand that one particular supplier should supply what he wants.

  25. Steve Brizel says:

    Bob Miller-that’s why a demanding customer will not and should not limit himself or herself to one supplier, especially in the realm of Torah and should insist upon intellectual honesty as the overriding concern, as opposed to pleasing the zealots of our community.

  26. Boruch Horowitz says:

    I have had the opportunity to hear many shuirim from one of the people responsible at Artscroll for making senior editorial decisions, and I have no doubt that notwithstanding the business element, Artscroll’s intention is l’shem shomayim. I agree with R’ Adlerstein that Artscroll would be able to make more flexible decisions if they didn’t need to be concerned about criticism from certain “zealous” elements.

    Sometimes people make the mistake that all gedolim think monolithically, or that they know better than a godol themselves about what the gadol’s own ideas are. As a support for R Adlerstein’s assertion, Hamishpacha recently published an interview with Hanoch Teller stating that he received criticism for writing in his biography(which included a glowing Haskomah from the Noverminsker Rebbe and others) about the warm relationship between Rav Kook and Rav Aeurbach, Zichronam Livrocha. However RSZA’s own family was happy with the book; indeed, as related in the biography, R’ Shlomo Zalman did not allow the deletion of R’ Kook’s haskomos from his own halachic work. I was happy with Rabbi Teller’s decision, and I am proud to be in such illustrious company as R’ Auerbach’s family!

    Note as well that Rabbi Yonason Rosenblum in the preface to Artscroll’s R’ Yaakov biography has noted something to the effect that “no attempt was made to distort the facts of the subject’s life to portray him in a preconceived notion”.

    More generally, two issues which have been raised are A) how much to include in Gedolim biographies, and B) how to present “non-mainstream ideas”( a subjective term) on the sensitive topics of Zionisim, secular studies, women’s issues etc. The first, is relevant to most books of the gedolim genre, while the second was discussed by commentators regarding the omissions from the translations of “My Uncle the Netziv” and R’ Zevin’s sefer.

    The issue of including information in Gedolim biographies is particularly relevant to events of the past month(vameivin yavin). There are sources in Chazal which speak of withholding information; on the other hand, there are issues in blanketly applying them to every situation. I personally, see a difference between inherently negative information, and between sensitive issues, i.e., that a godol studied secular studies. It should be noted as well that every biography, whether published by Artscroll or Ktav, needs to find balance on how much to include, as a author of an “academic” biography on a Western European Gadol recently wrote in a review article. I thus see room for legitimate disagreement on how much negative and sensitive information to include.

    Regarding the second issue of “non-mainstream ideas”, perhaps one solution could have been to faithfully translate the exact words with a footnote as to why the editors felt that R Zevin retracted his position, or why it had to be understood in the context of his life, or other works, etc. Similarly, an accurate translation could be published with an explanation stating why, in the editors opinion, the fact that one Rosh Yeshiva’s wife’s study of mishnayos, should not be taken as a precedent for changing the Beis Yaakov curriculum. As Rabbi Alfred Cohen has noted in an article in Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society regarding similar issues , “… on the whole, the Orthodox Jewish community today is blessed with many fine and committed people, who are not ignorant either of the Torah or of secular matters. I think they could handle serious discussions of communal issues, or appreciate in-depth explanations of certain aspects of current hashkafa.”

    Some readers may also be familiar with Hamishpacha magazine , in which they serialized a story called “Hearts of Gold”, and which caused much discussion. I think that they handled the controversy well. There was nothing inherently wrong about the book; however, certain elements were concerned that it “aired dirty laundry in public”(i.e., gambling addictions, and vindictive in-laws), and that it portrayed Kollel couples inaccurately as being hedonistic.

    The simple idea of printing a disclaimer at the beginning of each installment resolved the issue and restored peace, more or less. This is an example of how sensitivity, and creative “out of the box” thinking went along why in resolving this type of issue.

  27. YM says:

    Just for clairification: I believe that Artscroll is for-profit. Then there is the Mesorah Heritage Foundation, which is a charitable, non-profit organization. The Mesorah heritage foundation is the organization that created the Shottenstein Shas, Stone Chumash, etc. They created the content. They then gave it to Art Scroll to sell. As long as the price of an Art Scroll Talmud covers the cost of printing, shipping, etc, then Art Scroll makes a profit. Paying all of the Rabbi’s and researchers who actually wrote the Shottenstein Talmud was the job of the Mesorah Heritage Foundation.

    If we calculated the total cost of the Shottenstein Talmud, and then divided it by the number of copies that could be
    sold, I believe that the cost would be astronomical and it would never have been published.

  28. YM says:

    Steve Brizel: You need to become very wealthy, so that you can donate big $$ to the Mesorah Heritage Foundation, so that they can publish the Brizel edition of the Oros (or is it Orot?)

  29. Mark Frankel says:

    As a big fan of Cross-Currents, I just want to voice my disapproval at the increasing negativity here and the continuing need to bash those we disagree with.

    I know, I know it’s all totally L’Shem Shemayim, but it does make you wonder whether this is how we want to represent Torah Judaism to the world.

  30. S. says:

    WRT the kamatz fiasco, I’ve seen no evidence that Artscroll “caved.” Their kamatzen seem to still be flat bottomed.

    FWIW, the real ‘traditional’ kamatz is a horizontal line with a dot beneath it, but disconnected from it. A glance at any masoretic codex (e.g., Leningrad, Aleppo) demonstrates that.

  31. S. says:

    >American consumers can always find the products they want. If not from one supplier, then from another. Once a large enough new demand is discovered, the supply is created. But a consumer can’t demand that one particular supplier should supply what he wants.

    Bob of course the consumer can demand better product from the supplier. Besides, such critiques and complains help promote yashrus in a company. Do not think that Artscroll has not already taken such critiques to heart. As evidenced by their rather excellent biography of R. Samson Rafael Hirsch–of all people–it is clear that Artscroll knows that they have to do better than they’ve done. The result: better product, more intellectual credibility for Artscroll and more happy campers.

  32. S. says:

    >I have no doubt that notwithstanding the business element, Artscroll’s intention is l’shem shomayim.

    As someone who has critiqued (and praised) Artscroll many times (See sidebar at http://onthemainline.blogspot.com ) I have to echo this point and agree that Artscroll’s intentions seem to be le-shem shamayim, with no reason to posit otherwise.

  33. HILLEL says:

    Steve:

    It’s not just that Horav Kook was “controversial.”

    The fact is that many Torah leaders felt that “His love for Eretz Yisroel, blinded him to the reality of Secular Zionism and its danger to the Torah community.”

    So, many Torah scholars feel that by honoring him, they might unwittingly honor his view that Secular Zionism heralds the Age of Moshiach, which is a heresy.

    These views are strongly held by many important leaders in the Torah community–not just “zealots.”

  34. Steve Brizel says:

    Boruch Horowitz’s post suggested some excellent and simple answers. We have always had hashkafic and halachic disputes and we should not be embarassed by the fact that we are not monolithic in our approach on this or any other issue.

  35. Daniel Weltman says:

    I would not support of an orthodox lawyer or businessman who gave in on professional integrity and honesty with the excuse, “hey, I am for-profit. I sell what people want.” I am sure that Rabbi Adlerstein is not condoning the selling of principles, values and emes for profit. So, if Rabbi Adlerstein is only explaining the reasoning behind Artscroll’s inability to uphold the standards of emes and “midvar sheker tirchak”, why is the post entitled, “Artscroll is not to blame”? Shouldn’t it be, “Artscroll has too much to lose to uphold honesty”? I absolutely mean no disrespect to Rabbi Adlerstein or Artscroll, but I really would like a response to this issue.

  36. Bob Miller says:

    S. said “Bob of course the consumer can demand better product from the supplier.”

    You need economic clout as a major customer to get a specific supplier to adapt to your personal wishes. You need more clout than the other customers pushing in the opposite direction. Individuals generally lack this clout.

    The biography of Rav Hirsch is good because the author had the right background and talent and did his homework in remarkable detail, not due to some pressure.

  37. Steve Brizel says:

    I began this discussion by stating that I am a fan of ArtScroll’s Siddur , Machzor, Mishnayos and the overall achievement of the Schottenstein Shas. Despite that, I maintained that its hashkafic orientation, for whatever reason, leans towards the Charedi street. We now know that it looks over its right shoulder and that it responds to demands for a better product in some instances. Hopefully, as that increases, discussions of this nature may become irrelevant.

  38. Anonymous in LA says:

    I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer why Artscroll translated the Sixth Commandment as “Do not kill” instead of “Do not murder”. The former is not only less accurate, it puts a weapon into the hands of those who call Jews who kill in self defense religious hypocrites.

    Kill and murder (lirhog and lirtzach) are NOT synonymous. Why make a point of translating one of the Aseres haDibros as “kill”?

  39. Nachum says:

    S., check out more recent editions of, say, the Shas. (I might also point out how “HaGashem” suddenly appeared in the English siddurim alongside “HaGeshem.”)

    As to the original shape, you’ve proved my point: Not even the kanaim who issued the kol koreh know how to “properly” make a kamatz, if there even was such a thing.

  40. charedilite says:

    Rabbi Berel Wein once told me that ArtScroll refused to publish his histories because of various reasons- mentioning Rav Kook as an important figure in the early State of Israel was one of them. If I remember correctly, they said that it would subject them to a lot of criticism, which they didn’t want to deal with. He created Shaar Press as a means of getting around this problem- Artscroll could say, truthfully, that they did not publish the histories, only sold them. This would seem to support Rabbi Adlerstein’s contention.

    On a less benign note, a friend (whose family is in publishing) once mentioned that someone he knew who was working on an Artscroll project was told not to include a shita of one Rishon, because “it wasn’t Daas Torah.” My friend was quite upset, stating that it was a chutzpa for anyone today to reject the opinion of a Rishon to the extent that it couldn’t even be mentioned. If the story is true, this is a much less excusable situation.

  41. S. says:

    >The biography of Rav Hirsch is good because the author had the right background and talent and did his homework in remarkable detail, not due to some pressure.

    I didn’t suggest the author felt pressured, but I sure do believe that 20 years of “J’Accuse” leveled at Artscroll for their hagiographies–and there was even an article in the Jewish Observer in 1994 by R. Aharon Feldman ridiculing them–did cause them to clean up in this regard. I believe it is no coincdence that Artscroll’s quality in the biography department cleaned up.

    Why would Artscroll be different from any other company which also monitors and adapts in the face of constructive criticism?

  42. Michoel says:

    “the Charedi street”
    Steve,
    That is a great line. Anyone want to collaborate on a new group blog called “The Charedi Street”?

  43. Steve Brizel says:

    Michoel-Believe it or not, there are blogs ( that neither of us have blogged on !) that have such an orientation.

  44. Ron Coleman says:

    I’m kind of amused at the feigned outrage over a very well known phenomenon: Artscroll has a hashkafah! This is not news, nor is it restricted to Artscroll. Artscroll makes its cheshbon on what lines to cross and which ones to stay away from in order to maintain a supportive relationship from the roshei yeshivah that give haskamos and that permit those who follow them to contribute to Artscroll works. They also happen to know their audience. And they have their own views, which by and large hew to the guidance of those same roshei yeshiva.

    They are what they are, and everyone on earth knows where they are coming from. They have, as has been noted, made some marked improvements, from hagiographia to some much more nuanced — if still essentially one-dimensional — biographies. I myself have actually been disappointed, as a father of young children, to notice a small march in the other direction: Early Artscroll books permitted depictions of fathers without beards. That seems to have stopped some time in the late ’80’s! I suppose the Israel market is involved here.

    Incidentally, I find the comment regarding what Rabbi Wein told someone interesting. (I do think anonymous comments claiming unverifiable factual claims — such as this one and the one about the kamatz — are problematic at the very least.) If he was offended that he could not write more about the impact of Rav Kook, I remain astonished that his 20th-century history book relegated the Bais Yaakov movement to a footnote.

  45. Charles B. Hall says:

    Without the Schottenstein Daf Yomi Talmud, I would not have completed the first three tractates of the current daf yomi cycle and the first 72 pages of the fourth.

  46. mycroft says:

    “Don’t drag R Pam ZTL into this mess. R Pam ZTl was responsible for ensuring that R D N Lamm was on the dais for the Daf Yomi Siyum in 1997”
    As one who hears about Rav Pam practically every Mozei Shabbos-from Rabbi Reisman’s shiurium-I attend one of the satellite presentations. I find that the Rav Pam ZT”L that is presented by Rabbi Reisman is one of a great mensch and makes me wish that I knew the man. But Steve I believe the reason for Lamm’s presence on the dais was the Schottenstein’s who were big supporters of both lamm and Art Scroll. BTW-i see nothing wrong with the Agudah excluding Lamm-Daf Yomi is their game and they can honor whoever they please in their party, demonstration eg Siyyum Hashas.

  47. mycroft says:

    “I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer why Artscroll translated the Sixth Commandment as “Do not kill” instead of “Do not murder”. The former is not only less accurate, it puts a weapon into the hands of those who call Jews who kill in self defense religious hypocrites.

    Kill and murder (lirhog and lirtzach) are NOT synonymous. Why make a point of translating one of the Aseres haDibros as “kill”?”

    For a few years in the late 80’s I went to Daf Yomi at the Agudah at William St. Just before Mincha 12th floor?
    One day in the daf there was a use of the term and I was curious as to the difference. That night I looked up the concordance and found every time Razach-was one of intent and fault and harag was one of a person was killed-with one exception that bothered me-Cain “haragti…” the next day I asked Rav Elimelech Bluth my problem-he instantaneously answered “Of course Cain even though he was the first Roseach-when telling the lie to Hashem used Harag to claim innocence. A straight non-political dvar Torah.

  48. Jewish Observer says:

    1. “perhaps the single most important factor in determining Artscroll’s policies. Artscroll … is a for-profit business. It … keeping an eye on the bottom line.”

    2. “Full disclosure. I’ve been published by Artscroll, and … continue to work on an ongoing project.”

    3. “I know many of the writers, and people in the upper administration. Those whom I know are bright, principled, and possessed of definite hashkafic views. At the same time, virtually everyone I’ve met in the Artscroll orbit displays far more intellectual openness than you generally encounter in our community.”

    I am trying to connect the dots in the above 3 statements. Am I understanding correctly, Rabbi Adlerstein, who is a for-profit employee of Artscroll with an interest of keeping an eye on his bottom line, is explaining why he has laudatory comments about his Artscroll bosses?

    🙂

    – JO

  49. Toby Katz says:

    MO has the option of starting their own publisher to compete with ArtScroll. Since they don’t like hagiography they can write what they prefer, warts-and-all biographies — or even better, how about “warts-only” versions of ArtScroll bios to fill in what ArtScroll omits?

  50. Pesach Sommer says:

    If you read the introduction of the Stone CHumash CAREFULLY, they are not complimenting Rabbi Lamm. Eiyen Sham.

  51. Tzvi says:

    On a less benign note, a friend (whose family is in publishing) once mentioned that someone he knew who was working on an Artscroll project was told not to include a shita of one Rishon, because “it wasn’t Daas Torah.” My friend was quite upset, stating that it was a chutzpa for anyone today to reject the opinion of a Rishon to the extent that it couldn’t even be mentioned. If the story is true, this is a much less excusable situation.

    Comment by charedilite — March 28, 2006 @ 3:49 pm

    Wasn’t this what happened during the Rabbi Slifkin affair according to one version?
    It’s funny, people want to know how we can say eilu ve’eilu divrei, and yet here is a modern example. There are a few reasons given about the intent of the ban and all are true!

  52. Michoel says:

    Toby,
    Thanks for a little light-heartness. We need that around here!

  53. Nachum says:

    Indeed. Even though, without him, there’d be no Schottenstein Talmud.

    Ron, I can’t say for sure that Artscroll changed its kamatz due to the kol koreh. I do know that it’s too much not to be a coincidence.

  54. HILLEL says:

    Pesach:
    Rabbi Norman Lamm has a lot to answer for. Under his watch at YU, Homosexuals were permitted to organize clubs with official YU recognition–no Yiras Shomaim!

  55. ka says:

    Generally speaking, there isn’t particular reason for Artscroll to quote R Kook or RYBS, and I think that’s among the least valid criticisms of Artscroll. If you hang out in MO, RYBS is quoted constantly; if you hang out in Breuer’s, RSRH is quoted constantly; and if you hang out in chassidus X, rebbes from that chassidus are quoted constantly. In particular circles, one gets the impression that particular personalities had outsize effects on Judaism. I don’t think most MO quote the Satmar rebbe except to refute him, either. There’s nothing much wrong with focusing on authorities whose outlook is compatible with one’s audience.
    What’s wrong is an outright ban, or failure to quote a shita that is directly relevant in an ostensibly scholarly work.
    But overall, this is the least compelling criticism of artscroll. Far worse is their constant need to reinterpret and contextualize lest they not sound “Frum” enough, and always to look for subsidiary perushim that account for some perceived lack of frumkeit or address some potential misunderstanding of the audience, even at the cost of mangling the plain meaning of the text.

  56. Bob Miller says:

    Nearly everybody is asking “why can’t the other guy be more like me?”

  57. Edvallace says:

    Toby,

    Excellent suggestion but why go through the expense and hassle of publishing when you can blog for free instead?

  58. HILLEL says:

    Bob:

    All religious views are not equal. In Torah there is a hierarchy going back to Sinai–We are not Marxists.

  59. David Miller says:

    I think that it would be very worthwhile for someone to catalog all the disortions that have appeared in ArtScroll books. Not to attack artscroll – just in order to correct the record about Torah.

  60. easterner says:

    >So, many Torah scholars feel that by honoring him, they might unwittingly honor his view that Secular Zionism heralds the Age of Moshiach, *which is a heresy*.
    —- i am sure the writer meant to say * which they hold to be heresy*

  61. Nachum says:

    Hillel, you seem quite secure in your beliefs. Kol HaKavod. I’d like to think I’m quite secure in mine. So please tell me- does the “hierarchy going back to Sinai” say (to pull one example that Artscroll did not print) that “we are fortunate to have merited” [“Ashreinu SheZachinu LeChach”] the modern resettlement of Eretz Yisrael or not? If I think we are, am I rejecting Sinai?

  62. Steve Brizel says:

    Hillel-Of course, there is a Mesorah or a hierarchy of views going back to Sinai-We have Tanaim, Amoraim, Rishonim and Acharonim and a Mesorah on many other aspects of Talmud Torah-how to ask a question, how to answer a question, what is a “klutz kashe” and what should not be a kashe ( why Yetzios HaShabbos is in big letters in a box). OTOH, when we learn any sugya, the Tanaim, Amoraim, Rishonim,Acharonim and Gdolei HaPoskim discuss, analyze and subject to further questionning every view-not just the view accepeted as Halacha Lmaaseh. Of course, the highest goal is to learn Halacha Aliba Dhilcasa ( extracting a practical halacha from the Gemara) but the fact remains that the process in getting there entails understanding every view quoted by Chazal so that one understands what is the “nkudas hamachlokes” as opposed to a tangential dispute that is not the center of the machlokes. One errs if one relies solely on the Klallei Psak that are enumerated in Eruvin as opposed to working one’s way thru any sugya that offers numerous suggested answers before the Gemara offers an answer ( Shma Mina), rejects a possible answer as out of the ballpark( Tiyuvta) or suggests that we either live with a kashe until the answer is discovered ( kashe) or Bias Goel Tzedek Bimhearah vyameinu ( Teiku).

    Similarly, nooone made the demagogic claim that all views are equal. That’s overstating the issue. The issue that I mentioned was that on the sugya of the three oaths and how it was treated by the elucidators and comparing the same issue and its treatment in the Encylcopedia Talmudis- a wonderful sefer that is edited volume by volume by Gdolim who are not MO or RZ. I invite anyone who is interested in this issue just to compare the treatment instead of using epithets such as Marxists, attacking R Lamm , or calling Mossad HaRav Kook a RZ publisher. I accepted Baruch Horowitz’s comments yesterday as a way of summing up this trend. R Adlerstein accepted much of my critique and set forth a plausible defense of ArtScroll, as a commercial publisher that looks over its right shoulder and is in fear of alienating extremists. That view, while plausible, raises the related issue of whether such a POV is proper for a publisher whose business is disseminating Toras HaShem and where Emes, as opposed to being “doctrinally pure”, should be the paramount consideration.

    Yet, we see that zealots have used this blog to attempt to thwart a discussion of the issues raised by my post and assumed without any basis that I bashed everythin that ArtScroll published, when in fact I prefaced my remarks by stating that I think that the Siddur, Machzor , Mishnayos and Shas are very important achievements in their own right. It is unfortunate that some of ArtScroll’s defenders interpreted my comments improperly as an all out attack on ArtScroll. My only intent was to discuss a hashkafic orientation that is apparent in the instances that I discussed and which deserve to be addressed as per Baruch Horowitz’s suggestions.

  63. Jewish Observer says:

    “We are not Marxists”

    … yet Groucho still occupies a prominent place in many yeshivaleit’s hearts

  64. Bob Miller says:

    To clarify my last comment for Hillel:

    Yes, there is a right and a wrong, but there is also a range of valid Torah approaches to certain issues.

    When I said “Nearly everybody is asking ‘why can’t the other guy be more like me?'”, I meant to highlight the partisan aspects of this discussion (and many others).

    The Marxists (the Karl type!) I’ve met don’t hold like me; they want to enforce their will, at gunpoint if necessary.

  65. HILLEL says:

    Steve:

    Rav Kook , although a great and highly-respected man, got carried-away by his Ahavat Yisroel.

    To illustrate, in Tisha Be’v of 1929, just prior to the Chevron Yeshiva massacre, a group of radical secular Zionist provacateurs, led by “Rabbi” Klausner, marched on the Kosel Maarovi . The Kosel, at that time, had the status of an Arab property (Wakf), although Jews were permitted to go there and pray.

    The Tisha Be’Av march was the culmination of political campaign, led by the Jabotinsky Zionist, to take the Kosel away from the Arab Wakf. “Rabbi” Klausner came to the Kosel with his large group and declared: “Shema Yisroel, Hakosel Shelanu, Hakosel Echad–a sacrilegious playmon our holiest prayer. This was seen–for the provocation that it was–by the Arabs, who attacked the Kosel worshipers that following Friday.

    On the way back from this horrible provocation, which would soon lead to massive loss of life, Klausner and his group went to the home of Rav Kook, who, according to the newspaper Haaretz, gave them his blessing for their loyalty to Eretz Yisroel.

    Shortly thereafter, the Arabs retaliated by massacering the Chevron Yeshiva.

    When it came to Eretz Yisroel, Rav Kook lost his judgment.

  66. Bob Miller says:

    Hillel,

    Do you think Haaretz has ever been a trustworthy news source?

    If you had other sources for your account, why did you refer to Haaretz?

  67. S. says:

    >When it came to Eretz Yisroel, Rav Kook lost his judgment.

    As R. Soloveitchik wrote in Kol Dodi Dofek, Hakadosh Baruch Hu paskened on the Zionist question. And He paskened like Rav Kook.

  68. Chareidi Leumi says:

    HILLEL,

    I debated whether to even answer this. If you want to bother actually researching the historical account rather than the anti-Zionist propaganda version, then I suggest you look into the newspapers at the time (they are generally a better source than the frumteens website). The Arabs were inciting regarding the kotel well before 1922 when the British ordered the removal of benches from the kotel where the Jews traditionally prayed. The Arabs CONTINUED provoking the Jews for the subsequent years and went as far as holding prayer services opposite the wall while Jews were praying there. The Arabs were attempting to claim ownership of the wall which goes against the command of the Torah to make sure that ALL the land, especially the holiest parts of it are under Jewish control. In fact, the main CHAREIDI opposition to the partition plan was in that it declared to the world that parts of the land were not Jewish.

    The ENTIRE Jewish leadership of the land was united regarding the issue of the wall. They ALL felt it was forbidden to compromise even an inch regarding this issue. Here is what Agguda chairman Menachem Porush had to say on the matter (the backdrop was a proposed compromise by the british where the Jews would concede Arab ownership of the wall and still be allowed the right to APPROACH the wall – note that it did not say they had a right to pray there):

    “Rav Kook, upon receiving the proposal, stated that he would not agree to relinquish the Jewish claim to the Western Wall under any circumstances. He also dispatched a personal messenger to Rabbi Zonnenfeld to inform him of his refusal and to beg him not to indicate to the British any weakness of purpose regarding the matter. Rabbi Zonnenfeld, when he received notice of the proposal, also refused to agree. Afraid that Rav Kook might somehow not be firm enough in refusing the proposal, Rabbi Zonnenfeld dispatched his own personal messenger to Rav Kook to inform him of his policy and to request that he not show any willingness to compromise on the matter.

    The two messengers, who were personal friends, met in the street and discussed their missions and messages. Both were relieved and heartened that they did not have to deliver their respective messages. Thus, the plan, which would have compromised Jewish rights at the Western Wall for generations, died aborning. ”

    Here was Rav Kook’s testimony in front of the Peel commision which was set up to find a solution to the wall crisis:

    “What do you mean ‘the commission will decide to whom the Wall belongs’? Does this commission or the League of Nations own the Wall? Who gave you permission to decide to whom it belongs? The entire world belongs to the Creator, blessed be He; and He transferred ownership of the entire Land of Israel — including the Kotel — to the Jewish people. No power in the world, not the League of Nations nor this commission, can take this God-given right away from us.”

    To the response of the chairman of the commision that the Jews have not had control of the wall for centuries, Rav Kook replied:

    “In Jewish law, the concept of ‘yei’ush ba’laim’ (‘owner’s despair’) applies even to land. (That is, the owner of a stolen piece of land forfeits his ownership over it if he gives up hope of ever retrieving it from the thief.) However, if a person steals someone else’s land, and the rightful owner continuously protests the theft, he retains ownership over the land forever!”

    If only we would merit such leaders today!

  69. Edvallace says:

    Steve,

    “Yet, we see that zealots have used this blog to attempt to thwart a discussion of the issues raised by my post and assumed without any basis that I bashed everythin that ArtScroll published”

    The zealots!?? Which zealots? Do you mean those who disagree with your assertions that Artscroll engages in what you term “revisionist history” because they avoid including opinions of individuals that large segment of their redership suspect of heretical beliefs?

    How did they “attempt to thwart a discussion of the issues raised by my post”? By disagreeing with you?

    For someone who posts such withering criticism of others on a regular basis you sure don’t take opposing opinions well at all.

  70. Daniel Weltman says:

    Wow, Hillel, when it comes to Eretz Yisrael, you really lose your judgement. Rav Kook never got carried away by Ahavat Yisrael or the land, he saw both those things as the prime ways to bring Am Yisrael back to G-d’s graces, and ultimately bring the redemption.
    Hillel, next time anti semites in Crown Heights or Berlin or wherever riot and kill Jews, will you blame the Jews for their “horrible provocation” of wearing black hats and jackets, and carrying on the traditions of their fathers?
    Before you blame the victims, who were demonstrating their absolute God given right to har habayit, think for a second.
    You really sound like niturey karta, “the kotel had the status of an Arab property”? What part of “kidsha leatid lavo” dont you understand?
    Stop defending arab mobs of murderers, and you just might find the ahavat yisrael that Rav Kook had. It will serve you well.

  71. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding Chareidi Leumi’s quote from Rav Kook…

    “In Jewish law, the concept of ‘yei’ush ba’laim’ (‘owner’s despair’) applies even to land. (That is, the owner of a stolen piece of land forfeits his ownership over it if he gives up hope of ever retrieving it from the thief.) However, if a person steals someone else’s land, and the rightful owner continuously protests the theft, he retains ownership over the land forever!”

    …I read once in a Breslover book (Likkutei Halachot??) that our daily tefillot are a halachically effective statement that we, the owners of Eretz Yisrael, have not despaired of retrieving it.

  72. HILLEL says:

    My Dear Fellow-Jews:

    Unfortunately, the Messiah has not yetcome, and we have to do as our father Jacob did–bow down before Eisav while we are in our subservient condition of Golus.

    We cannot make demands of the nations, even in Eretz Yisroel, which is truly our natural G-D-given home.

    As to Horav Sonnenfeld, he worked with a Jewish Ba’al Teshuva diplomat, Jacob Dehaan, to negotiate a peace with the Arabs, in which King Hussein’s father would become king of the entire Palestine territories, and the secular Zionists would not become the rulers of the Holy land.

    DR. DeHaan was so successful in negotiating with the British Mandatory authorities that the secular Zionists asassinated him on the eve of his departure to England to consumate the treaty on behalf of the Eidah HaChareidis and Rav Sonnenfeld.

  73. Bob Miller says:

    A claim that HaRav Sonnenfeld did X in situation A does not refute a claim that the Rav did Y in situation B. Our great Rabbonim understand what the occasion requires.

  74. S. says:

    >Unfortunately, the Messiah has not yetcome, and we have to do as our father Jacob did—bow down before Eisav while we are in our subservient condition of Golus.

    Why don’t we do what Mordechai did? There is more than one models for how Jews can behave in times of peril, why should they select one that you prefer?

  75. Steve Brizel says:

    Hillel-Charedi Leumi’s post states history. You stated NK revisionism. Edwallace-As far as my comments re revisionism, I pointed to three specific examples. I have yet to see anyone compare the texts ( HaMoadim BHalacha and its translation), that I cited or the comparison of the treatment of the sugya of the three oaths between the ArtScroll Shas’s elucidators and the Encylcopedia Talmudis or the Charedi bias in the hagiographies. R Adlerstein stated that the zealots in our midst who demand that it ( 1) set forth a misleading understanding of Mitzvas Yishuv EY, (2) mistranslate a phrase in a sefer and (3) have views of Gdolim as “heretics” are at least one of the causes why ArtScroll looks over its right shoulder. Instead, much of the rhetoric , with the exception of R Adlerstein and R Boruch Horowitz, has been the “shoot the messenger” type without even bothering to check the sources. I still look foward to someone who has read the sources and who can rationalize the changes that I discussed in a coherent manner.

    Chazal tell us that Chasumo Shel HaKadosh Baruch Hu Emes. The explanation of all aspects of Torah have to be built upon emes for it to have a lasting effect. When pshat in a sugya is offered in at least an arguably wrong manner against the view of many Rishonim and Acharonim and as if we all live in a pre Balfour shtel , that is not emes. When a Gadol’s words about how a view of the Bach might be applicable ( “ashreinu zecainu lachah”) are completely translated against the intent of the author, that is not emes. When Gdolim and Torah True Judaism are delineated by a litmus test as to whether it will offend the zealots in our community, that is not emes.

  76. Boruch Horowitz says:

    Toby Katz’s humorous comments contains what I think is another good idea on the issue of writing gedolim biographies. Instead of focusing on books, why not publish biographical essays written about the same gadol in two different magazines? Take, for example, the case of a gadol who was born in Twentieth-Century Western Europe and subsequently studied in Eastern European Yeshivos. The version of the article written for Publication A would gloss over the books which he read in youth, since some of its readership might deem emphasis on such details inappropriate. Thus, when a newspaper of the Yeshiva World included in a biographical feature on one of the most profound Torah thinkers of the 20th century that this Gadol read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in his youth, one of its readers objected in a letter to the editor that being aware of this fact “would not strengthen emunah Torah and Yiras Shomayim in any one of [the newspaper’s] readers”(note, however, that this newspaper did not issue a retraction even after printing this letter).

    However, the same or a different writer can, and in my opinion should, write a more open and complete biography in Publication B, as the knowledge of such details would assumedly be appreciated by, and would of benefit to this publication’s readership. Everyone still has the option of not buying this latter type of magazine. On the other hand, no one could complain that a “conspiracy” existed to shoehorn a gadol into a generic mold. In addition, the details would also be available for Charedi parents who wish to give their children the complete picture of a particular gadol’s life story.

    Also, a clarification to my earlier comments. I do not think that an author should include details which besmirch a tzadik’s memory. The issue, however, is how to portray that a gadol overcame the challenges of his youth; i.e., including and perhaps emphasizing the details of his life that would seem to work against his becoming a gadol. Rav Hutner has written that the Chofetz Chaim had to overcome challenges to develop into who he was, and that people need to be inspired by that fact.

    Rabbi Berel Wein on a tape concerning “non-conformists” has said somewhat facetiously, something to the effect that he “suspects that some great Jewish leaders were thrown out of class when they were young.” If certain sources indicated , to pick an hypothetical example, that a gadol was kicked out of cheder at the age of five, or even at the age of fifteen, I don’t think that printing that would be considered dishonoring a the Torah leader’s memory(note the famous story of a tzadik returning apples which he stole at a young age).

    I also discussed mentioning events which are not at all negative, but which emphasize a characteristic which is not seen as stereotypical; for example, that a gadol studied secular texts in his youth. Again, depending on the community, many people would in fact appreciate and benefit from the knowledge that not all Gedolim were stereotypical. I think that we all can agree that we need to be aware of the intellectual and Avodas Hashem-related needs that give rise to the differences in what different comminities wish to see emphasized in biographies of our transcendent Torah leaders.

  77. Daniel Weltman says:

    Hillel,
    The Ramban, who the vast majority paskened like since his time up until the present, stated that each Jew and the Jewish nation as a whole has a chiyuv to return to the land whenever they can and claim it. The mitzva to develop Jewish governmental control over the land is not bound to any time, but “even in the times of the galut”, we have to do this if we can. There is certainly no mitzva to bow down to esav during times of the galus. In fact, the gemara states that Yaakov’s children were punished throughout the generations precisely because Yaakov bowed to Esav!
    You have presented a pathetic excuse for not fulfilling the halachos of national mitzvos and mitzvos that relate to the land of Israel. The fact is that the minchas chinuch and most other rishonim and acharonim envisioned a time BEFORE THE GEULA when the Jews would return to their land. This would be impossible if they held of your posture of genuflecting to the enemy because we exist in the galus.
    The gemara in shanhedrin is clear that the Jews will have a government before the Geula.
    Hillel, you ignore the tremendous miracles of the gift G-d has given to us. I really await your response to the points I raised, and hope that you will reexamine your sources without blindly following the “reid” you hear on the “yeshivish streets” as halacha pesooka.

  78. Chareidi Leumi says:

    Hillel,

    What you just wrote is totally irrelevant. But if you must bring this up. Remember that chazal also criticized Yaakov for bowing down to eisav saying that for every time he bowed, the galut was extended further. They also saw his fear of Eisav as not being justified. See Radak in the Katznelbogen edition. Also Tanchuma YaYetze 2, VaYishlach 7, and Pirkey DeRabbi Eliezer 38.

    This is not at all a monolithic issue.

    This is not a debate about geula theology (although if you bother looking at the sources, you will see that your approach is far from the only one or even the mainstream one).

    The fact remains that on the issue which you used to slander Rav Kook Zt”l, almost all the other leaders of the yeshuv were in complete agreement.

  79. Daniel Weltman says:

    By the way, Hillel you say “we cannot make demands of the nations” in the times of galut. Just wondering, do you have a problem with someone demanding that the world end a holocaust, or anti jewish pogrom? Do you not demand of the Arabs to stop trying to kill us, or that the Soviets (in their time) stop oppressing Jews? No demands? You are living in a dream world.

  80. Nachum says:

    “…consumate the treaty on behalf of the Eidah HaChareidis and Rav Sonnenfeld.”

    Hillel, you’re really being deluded here. You actually think that the old yishuv would have signed a treaty with the Hashemites (or better, vice versa), and that it would have some sort of binding force? Please. Don’t ask me why DeHaan was assassinated- probably some old-fashioned socialist “get rid of our enemies” thing- but it certainly wasn’t because he and Rav Sonnenfeld had the power to hand over Palestine to the Arabs.

    Israel, by the way, for better or worse, exists. It doesn’t seem like you’ve made peace with that. And please stop excusing Jew-killers for killing Jews by blaming the victims.

  81. Aryeh says:

    If in 1948 HKBH paskened like R’ Kook, does it mean than in 2005-2006 in Gush Katif and Amona he reversed himself?

  82. Jewish Observer says:

    “When it came to Eretz Yisroel, Rav Kook lost his judgment”

    I am not sure there is the latitude within our charedi viewpoint to make such statements about the gedolim

  83. S. says:

    >If in 1948 HKBH paskened like R’ Kook, does it mean than in 2005-2006 in Gush Katif and Amona he reversed himself?

    Arguably. If so, make your argument. But its silly to pretend that the discussion on Zionism should be conducted as if its 1915, even if its also silly to pretend its 1948.

  84. HILLEL says:

    My Dear Fellow-Jews:

    I am not a a great Torah sage. I’m just an ordinary working Jew, just like most of you, with an interest in Jewish history and Jewish thought and philosophy.

    I will attempt to respond to the issues that have been raised, as best as I can.

    1. MOrdechai’s Defiance of Haman: Mordechai was upholding thehonor of G-D and attempting to rectify the sin of the Jews of Shushan in attending the King’s banquet.–He was not diputing Haman’s claim to some territory.

    2. The Precedent of Jacob bowing to Eisav: The Talmud states “meKahn Shemachnifin Le’Reshoim Be’Shaaaton.”–We must yield to the evildoers (in material worldly matters) when their star is ascendent. The sages of the Talmud used this precedent in practice–They reviewed this chapter of the Torah whenever they had to appear before gentile rulers.

    The prototypical Torah “Shtadlan” is presented in the historical novels of Dr. Marcus Lehman. He is Rabbi Yoseman of Rosheim. He always took care to avoid demanding anything from gentiles–his statements were always presented as request, not demands.

    as a further historical note, Rabbi Sonnenfeld actually met King Hussein’s father during the negotiations over Eretz Yisroel to signify his support of a monarchy, rather than the rule of secular atheists.

    3. My comments on Rav Kook are taken from the appraisals of other great sages. I never met Rav Kook, and I am not qualified to give a personal opinion.

  85. Chareidi Leumi says:

    HILLEL,

    The Precedent of Jacob bowing to Eisav: The Talmud states “meKahn Shemachnifin Le’Reshoim Be’Shaaaton.”

    You are again only quoting one mehalach to the exclusion of others.

    Ever hear of Shimon and Levi? the Hasmoneans? Bar Kochba (yes he failed due to his sins but Rabbi Akiva was clear that there is nothing a priori wrong with the revolt itself). All this is besides the point. There were many GREAT gedolei olam who supported the drive for Jewish independence – the VAST majority of gedolim in the 19th century supported active yeshuv haAretz (with the goal being bringing the geula faster). I am not at all saying there were not gedolim who held like you but to present your POV as the only mehalach is disingenuous at best.

    My comments on Rav Kook are taken from the appraisals of other great sages. I never met Rav Kook, and I am not qualified to give a personal opinion.

    Then may I suggest you do not stick your head between great mountains. No less a godol than Rav Elyashiv once threw a person out of his room for saying something much milder about Rav Kook (who was also his mesader kiddushin)

  86. Chareidi Leumi says:

    meKahn Shemachnifin Le’Reshoim Be’Shaaaton.”

    And BTW, see Rabbeinu Yona who holds chanifa is Yehareg UBal YeAvor. Again, not the only mehalech but one worthy of note by people who would have us believe that it is a clear halacha pesuka that we must behave the same way in EY under Jewish control as we must in a shtetle in Poland.

  87. FKM says:

    >”I think that it would be very worthwhile for someone to catalog all the disortions that have appeared in ArtScroll books. Not to attack artscroll – just in order to correct the record about Torah.”

    Comment by David Miller — March 29, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

    Someone is doing that very thing as we speak. His blog is called onthemainline.blogspot.com and I think he should team up with Yashar Books to create a blogger publishing counter-force to Artscroll!

  88. FKM says:

    Of course then, my blog will be the one to point out all of their faults in turn. This sounds like a statement of Hillel in Pirkei Avos (not the incendiary zelot in these comments with the ironicly identical name): “Those who drowned you will be drowned.” When will it end? I hope it will before it reaches me.

  89. Bob Miller says:

    Hillel may be unwittingly illustrating that skewed or incomplete historical publications can lead to major errors in understanding. I welcome him to detail his sources.

  90. Ron Coleman says:

    As R. Soloveitchik wrote in Kol Dodi Dofek, Hakadosh Baruch Hu paskened on the Zionist question. And He paskened like Rav Kook.

    Hmm. Where was he living when he wrote that?

  91. HILLEL says:

    Dear friends:

    We are now debating some fundamental articles of BELIEF. We will not resolve those questions here.

    I believe that Zionism is our modern-day heresy. Certainly, it was founded by a totally-assimilated Jew, named Hertzl.

    The confusion comes from the tactical decision of the Jewish nationalists to reject Uganda and, instead, pick Eretz Yisroel as their nationalist homeland. The holocaust created even more confusion.

    So good Jews now confuse Jewish Socialism and nationalism with the REturn to Zion and MOshiach–what more can I say!

  92. Jewish Observer says:

    “Hmm. Where was he living when he wrote that?”

    during the week, New York City, and on the weekends, Boston.

    by the way, we (Charedim) generally feel it is in approproate to interrogate the personal behavior of our gedolim.

  93. Ron Coleman says:

    Well, as soon as I start “interrogating behavior,” JO, you let me know.

    Meanwhile, I will merely ask the question: If an Odom Gadol writes, in an apparent flash of ruach hakodesh, “Hakadosh Baruch Hu paskened on the Zionist question. And He paskened like Rav Kook,” and that Odom Gadol does not make Aliyah, how do we reconcile this with either our Torah or our Maddah?

    Or does chareidus, as you see it, require us to simply take what we are given by our teachers without question and without reference to the observation of our senses or the application of our critical faculties? In which case we have resolved the Artscroll “problem” that is the subject of this thread, no?

  94. Chareidi Leumi says:

    I believe that Zionism is our modern-day heresy

    If by Zionism you mean the idea that the Jews must gain control of Eretz Yisrael (and for some gedolim that doing so will quicken the geula), then you have just have just accused everyone from the Gra, Alter Rebbe, Rav Akiva Eiger, the Chattam Sofer, Rav Zvi Hirsh Kalisher, Rav Eliyahu Guttmacher, the Yeshuos Malko, Rav Spektor, Rav Moholiver, the Malbim, the Netziv, the Meshech Chochma, Rav Kook, Rav Charlop, Rav Herzog, and Rav Meshulam Raata (to name a few) of heresy. Not a position I would like to be in.

    Certainly, it was founded by a totally-assimilated Jew, named Hertzl.

    Um, I don’t know what the Talmidei HaGra would say about that, or the chovevei Zion who preceded Herzl by a good 20 years and had the support of MANY MANY gedolim. I thihk you are somewhat ignorant of history here, I suggest you study this issue further.

  95. Jewish Observer says:

    “does chareidus, as you see it, require us to simply take what we are given by our teachers”

    good, you are moving in the direction in which I was leading you. so the question is, would you have used the same tone in questioning the personal behavor of R Aharon Kotler.

  96. Bob Miller says:

    Ron has not read the humor in JO’s comments.

  97. S. says:

    >If an Odom Gadol writes, in an apparent flash of ruach hakodesh, “Hakadosh Baruch Hu paskened on the Zionist question. And He paskened like Rav Kook,”

    That is not what he wrote. I apologize for the confustion as, upon re-reading my words, it did seem like I was quoting him. Rather, I was paraphrasing him. He did write something like HKBH paskened, and it was referring to Zionism, Medinat Yisrael etc. The rest was my interpretation.

    Irregardless, the main thrust is unchanged, and it was no more an apparent flash of ruach hakodesh than anything the Satmar Rav or anyone else who ever opined on Zionism said or wrote. But just as those are valid Torah perspectives (aren’t they?) so is Kol Dodi Dofek by R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik.

    As for how one can not be an anti-Zionist and not move to EY, don’t be daft. There is a long literature about how “Zionist” means, essentially, “one who lives in EY” to those who live in EY and “one who supports EY” to those who do no live in EY. It is an interesting sociological quirk to be sure, but you can’t “get” anyone for failing to live up to their ideological commitment by assigning an ideological definition to them which they didn’t share.

    But if he needs defending, then the answer is simple: RIETS needed him in the Diaspora.

  98. HILLEL says:

    To Chareidi Leumi:

    Let’s not get confused–we need to define our terms, before we can engage in a useful discourse.

    Zionism is a secular-nationalist movement that arose in Eastern Europe, side-by-side with other secular movement, like Bundism and Socialism, that sought to mimic the trends that were sweeping the gentile community at the time. All of these movement sought to solve the “Jewish Problem” in a secular manner.

    Zionism proposed a solution, whereby a Jewish-National state, with a Jewish government would be set-up somewhere in the world–not necessarily in Eretz Yisroel. The British proposed Uganda (Idi Amin’s country) in Africa, and Hertzl was ready to accept. The Eastern European Zionists, who made-up the bulk of the movement, vetoed Uganda, because it would not be able to muster popular support–they insisted on Eretz Yisroel as the site of their secular National State.

    The Ramba”n, Talmidei HaGr”a and the other authentic Jewish lovers of Zion did not go to Eretz Yisroel to set up a national state for their party cronies. They went there solely to serve HaShem in His holy land. They couldn’t care less who the rulers of the area were, so long as they could serve HaShem in peace. On the contrary, they preferred the rule of King Hussein’s father to the rule of Ben Gurion and his left-wing atheist kibbutznicks.

    The idea of seizing Ertetz Yisroel from the gentiles and reconstructing a Jewish State by force of arms before the coming of the Messiah has always been considered a heresy by the mainstream leaders of authentic Torah Jewry.

  99. Chareidi Leumi says:

    They went there solely to serve HaShem in His holy land. They couldn’t care less who the rulers of the area were, so long as they could serve HaShem in peace.

    You are SO wrong. They went in order to eventually establish a Jewish political entity – as did the chovevei zion. They VERY much cared who ruled over the land as does anyone who holds of the Ramban’s shita in yeshuv haAretz wherein Jewish control of the land is the main kiyum of the mitzva. As is guaranteeing that foreign nations do not control the land. Look inside the Ramban’s commentary on Sefer HaMitzvot 4th positive commandment which the Ramban felt the Rambam left out.

    The Talmidei HaGra held that by actively settling and redeeming the land from the locals, they were bringing the geula closer – this is ALL over their letters to each other and several have been published in the Kloisner addition of Drishat Tzion.

    I suggest you read Kol HaTor, Drishat Tzion (and Rav Guttmacher’s articles of support for the program), Shivat Tzion, and also the Articles that were published in the Levanon (the newspaper of the old yeshuv in the 19th century) for yeshuv HaAretz. Then go on and learn the positions of the Avnei Nezer, Ohr Sameach, Rav Spektor, Rav Moholiver, and Rav Kook.

    Once again you show your ignorance of History.

  100. Ron Coleman says:

    I’m not being daft; I’m makng a rhetorical point. The fact that Zionists and those sympathetic to it have found a way to rationalize not making Aliyah does not mean that they have actually answered that point satisfactorily. All the more so does the point remain valid regarding the very “spiritual leader” of Religious Zionism.

    We need not reheat that discussion, but it does bring it around to my friend JO’s point. If your point is that we can’t discuss the Rav’s decision because he was “one of the gedolim,” then you are on the wrong discussion board. If your point is that Ron Coleman can’t, or shouldn’t, discuss the question because he, as a “chareidi,” should not personally not criticize or question gedolim, well, I am afraid I must disappoint you, because the Rav, for all his brilliance and influence, is not one of “the gedolim” in my worldview, as large and great of a man as he may have been. I say this with all due with respect, but I must be sincere; as at least a person in the chareidi satellite of certain leaders and institutions in the yeshiva world, I have never learned the Rav’s Torah nor has it been suggested to me by anyone who taught me that I, or anyone else, should. (That is putting it mildly.)

    Regarding Rav Aharon, of course, that is not the case at all — for me. Elu v’elu, brother, right? Even then I would not suggest that those who do not consider themselves talmidim of Rav Aharon or of Rav Aharon’s talmidim could not comment on the choices he made. On the other hand, I am entitled to believe that they are gravely in error if they do so beyond a certain bound, as you evidently believe I am regarding the Rav.

  101. Chareidi Leumi says:

    The idea of seizing Ertetz Yisroel from the gentiles and reconstructing a Jewish State by force of arms before the coming of the Messiah has always been considered a heresy by the mainstream leaders of authentic Torah Jewry.

    So the vast majority of achronim who paskened like the Ramban were not mainstream leaders of authentic Torah Jewry?

    Please! If you want to hold like Satmar, then go ahead, just don’t claim it’s mainstream. The VAST majority of gedolim had no problem with the establishment of a Jewish state per-say. ALL were troubled by the secular component of secular Zionism – SOME to the extent of not supporting Zionism at all while others felt you don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater – still the Aguda sent Rabbi Levin to sign the Israeli declaration of independence. ALMOST NONE were troubled by the idea of a Jewish state before mashiach – the only group which had this problem was Satmar.

    If you want to see an overview of the halachic/hashkafic treatment of the Three Oaths throughout history, may I suggest you take a look at Rav Shlomo Aviner’s “kuntress shelo yaalu baChoma” – it might just open your eyes as to exactly how marginal your POV is.

  102. HILLEL says:

    If you want to revisit how and why Rabbi Levin of the Aguda signed the declaration and what the true views of the leaders of authentic Orthodox Jewry were in 1948, read Rabbi Reuven Grozofsky’s “Boyos Hazman.”

    Reb Reuven, ZT”L was recognized as one of the foremost leaders of Aguda, and he explains that the Edah Hachareidis may well be right in boycotting the new State of Israel, because it is wrong to seize the Holy Land by force before Moshiach comes. But he, reluctantly, joins the Government, in order to salvage whatever he can for Orthodox Jewry from the hands of the secular atheists who run the Government.

  103. Jewish Observer says:

    “the Rav, for all his brilliance and influence, is not one of “the gedolim” in my worldview”

    this is what I was trying to get you to say. you would not dare to speak with such chutzpah about gedolim.

  104. Boruch Horowitz says:

    I think that one needs to define what is meant by the term “Gadol”. It seems to me that people disagree on this term. If we define Gadlus as greatness in Torah and a leader of a specific community(as opposed to having the exact same Mesorah on every issue as that held by other Gedolim), Rav Soleveichik and Rav Kook ZT”L definitely qualify as Gedolim.

    Although I am not from the MO world, I personally have tremendous respect for these two Gedolim and would have liked to have met them. This does not mean necessarily that I follow, or agree with every one of their positions.

    I am certainly sensitive to the fact that the respective communities of the above-mentioned two Torah leaders view these Rabbonim as Gedolim. Rav Dov Eliach, in a recent interview, mentions that he took into consideration the sensitivities of some groups within the Charedi community when writing one of his biographies. I feel that the same goes towards those not within the Charedi community. If we want others to view our leaders with respect, we should show the same respect towards their leaders. Showing such respect is not a contradiction to strongly maintaining one’s own positions.

  105. Jewish Observer says:

    “Showing such respect is not a contradiction to strongly maintaining one’s own positions.”

    exactly!

    check out the respect that RMF demonstrated for RYBS. granted, other charedi gedolim did not accord him that much respect. still, we can surely be mekil like R’ Moishe himself was in this regard. It’s got to be at least as good as kli shlishi or cholov stam

  106. Steve Brizel says:

    Statements such as “the Rav, for all his brilliance and influence, is not one of “the gedolim’ in my worldview” illustrate what the issue quite clearly. Some of us view concepts such as Kivud Talmidei Chachamim, Ahavas Yisrael, Sinas Chinam as applicable only to those Gdolim that they consider as Gdolim. Baruch Horowitz’s latest statement provides a much needed corrective in this regard. FWIW, R D Eliach also encountered much grief when he attempted to write about the legitimate battles between Chasidim and Misnagdim in his bio of the Vilna Gaon.

  107. Chareidi Leumi says:

    Reb Reuven, ZT”L was recognized as one of the foremost leaders of Aguda, and he explains that the Edah Hachareidis may well be right in boycotting the new State of Israel, because it is wrong to seize the Holy Land by force before Moshiach comes. But he, reluctantly, joins the Government, in order to salvage whatever he can for Orthodox Jewry from the hands of the secular atheists who run the Government.

    So why in the world do they need to sign the declaration? They could participate in the elections without signing any such document!

    You are once again falling victim to chareidi revisionism of history. Almost EVERY godol in EY at the time supported the establishment of the state. RAv Zvi Pesach Frank, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, Rav Tokitchinski, Rav Yechezkiel Sarna, Rav Moshe Yaakov Charlap. They all supported the establishment of the state. To say these people were not “leaders of authentic Orthodox Jewry” is horrid beyond belief!

    Hillel, Don’t take my word for it, just learn the sources from ALL the books, not just the current chareidi revisionist ones, and if that is not enough then go back and research the documents yourself – they are all publicly available. Go to Yerushalaim and ask Rav Elyashiv who was there during the time – he will tell you the truth. But for goodness sakes, don’t spout revisionist histories and hashkafas which you obviously know very little about.

    The truth is that almost no one was choshesh about the three oaths in any real halachic way. There are a couple teshuvas in the rishonim which mention them but they were not included in any halachic code at all – not in the Yad, the Tur, the Rif, the Shulchan Aruch. No where. It was basicaly a polemic tool used by the Rebbe Rashab of Lubavitch, the Minchas Eliezer, and the Satmar Rav (who had the Yismach Moshe to rely on) in order to fight against Zionism. IT IS IN NO WAY A MAINSTREAM APPROACH. It was rejected by the overwhelming majority of gedolim and among them were those who opposed secular Zionism for other reasons – mainly because they saw it as an agent of assimilation. So please, stop with the falsification of history and the Torah and simply write that you hold like Satmar – don’t drag the other gedolim into this with you.

  108. Chareidi Leumi says:

    (as opposed to having the exact same Mesorah on every issue as that held by other Gedolim)

    What in the world does this mean? Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach had VERY different hashkafos than the Chazon Ish or the Brisker Rav. Does anyone doubt that all three were gedolim??? For that matter, the Chazon Ish generaly opposed the whole Brisker derech in limud. There is no such thing as what you describe above – it does not exist.

  109. HILLEL says:

    Chareidi-Leumi:

    Well, I see we won’t agree on this Zionism vis-a-vis Judaism issue. So, maybe the best way to sum it up is to say that you’re Chareidi-Leumi, and I’m Chareidi non-Leumi.

  110. Chareidi Leumi says:

    Well, I see we won’t agree on this Zionism vis-a-vis Judaism issue. So, maybe the best way to sum it up is to say that you’re Chareidi-Leumi, and I’m Chareidi non-Leumi.

    I have no problem with disagreements. I have a BIG problem with hashkafic and historical revisionism. Feel free to state your case, just don’t push it on all of those gedolim who disagree (or imply that they were not Torah-True leaders). Doing so is a bizayon to the Torah greats of the past and a bizayon to truth.

    I have no doubt that you are writing what you are leShem Shamaim but you should have little more trepidation when writing about those gedolim of yesteryear who do not fit into your conception of what the Torah demands. Our sages teach us that the kavod of Chachamim is similar to the kavod of Heaven – please be more careful not to disparage Maran HaRav Kook Zt”l just as I am careful not to disparage the Satmar Rav and maybe we will all be Zoche to see the final geula quickly in our day.

  111. Ron Coleman says:

    Statements such as “the Rav, for all his brilliance and influence, is not one of “the gedolim’ in my worldview” illustrate what the issue quite clearly. Some of us view concepts such as Kivud Talmidei Chachamim, Ahavas Yisrael, Sinas Chinam as applicable only to those Gdolim that they consider as Gdolim.

    There are people who consider the Lubavitcher Rebber to have been the Gadol Hador. Are we all forbidden from questioning his many questionable decisions? I know people who think of Rabbi Meyer Kahane that way. What’s the dividing line? Or do they all get gadol treatment? I mean, Steve, how much more pareve can my statement be? I didn’t say he was anything but an odom gadol. Is “not one of the gedolim in my worldview” an example of a lack of ahavas yisroel? Of course not. Is it sinas chinam? Of course not. What possible sinah is it? These are straw men, and your raising them doesn’t speak well of what I otherwise perceive to be noble intentions. Perhaps you are emotionally engaged out of the honor you feel has been inadequately expressed toward RYBS.

    Now, as to number 3: Is my statement kivud talmidei chachomim? Well, that’s arguable, I guess. Do I have to agree that a talmid chochom is a “gadol” to be yotzi kibud talmidei chachomim? I’d like to see a source for that. I’d also like to know how it is such a conclusion would square with the likes of people many, many madregos above me — actual talmidei chachomim — who do not and did not view the Rav as a “gadol” because of their disagreements with his hashkafoh. What, you say? If they say that they’re not gedolim if they say that?

    Wait a minute. That’s can’t be how it works. Can it?

  112. Ron Coleman says:

    I mean “is my a statement a chesoron in kivud talmidei chachomim?”

  113. HILLEL says:

    Amen!

  114. Chareidi Leumi says:

    What’s the dividing line?

    If someone knows the entire Torah (both talmuds, rishonim, shulchan aruch, etc), and leads a significant portion of Am Yisrael in an halachic manner, then they are a godol – even if you greatly disagree with them. Of course this definition can be more refined but I believe it is sufficient for the purposes of the Amcha like you and me.

    Even if I was a talmid of Rav Shach, I would still think 10 times before I ever said anything that had a shemetz bizayon to the Lubavitcher Rebbe Zt”l. He was a godol by any definition of the term. The last time the whole Jewish world got into a gedolim world war was the Emden-Eybeshutz controversy and that was probably the greatest cause of the destruction of Rabbinic authority that we suffer from to this day! We should stay away from such machloket like the plague.

  115. Ron Coleman says:

    By your definition, Chareidi Leumi, of course RYBS was a godol.

  116. Boruch Horowitz says:

    Chareidi Leumi,

    I could’t have said it better!

  117. Steve Brizel says:

    Ron-your comment illustrated what you denied doing-evaluating the Gadlus of Gdolim,no more, no less.Despite the fact that the SR, the LR and R Shach Zicronam Livracha all made statements that any of us could disagree with, I would never say that their hashkafic views rendered them ineligible for the pantheon of Gdolim.

  118. Ron Coleman says:

    I don’t think so, Steve. But then again, you have the advantage here, in a way: The people I think are gedolim, you (must, and do) agree are gedolim. And that is not the case in the other direction except under DL’s definition. It’s true, though; I am stuck: I can’t see how someone these gedolim don’t view as a gadol can be viewed by me as a gadol. That doesn’t give me license to be disrespectful to them, etc., but there you have it. Tsorech iyun.

    But surely we grow fatigued at this point?

  119. Jewish Observer says:

    I’d rather be a big koton than a small godol

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