Book Review of the Hirsch Chumash
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Book Review of the Hirsch Chumash

January 24, 2010 10:25AM
In a recent Bookjed Digest -
Francis Nataf reviewed the new translation of the Hirsch Chumash. The following discussion is based on the criticisms that appear in that review.



Reb Sholom,

I forwarded a copy of the review of the new translation of the Hirsch Chumash by Francis Nataf to a staff member of the Rabbi Dr. Joseph Breuer Foundation. Below is his reply to the criticisms that were made in Nataf's review.

The reviewer of the Haberman edition of the Hirsch Chumash criticized three points:
1. Bereshis 25:27. The reviewer feels Levy is more correct in saying "not so to." However, the German states "nicht sowohl...aber" which in 19th Century German means "not only...but" as Haberman has.

2. Bereshis 37:1-2. The reviewer feels Levy is more correct with "his vanity." However, the German states "auch Eitelkeit" which in this context is better translated as Haberman does with "a touch of vanity."

3. Bereshis 25:8. The reviewer feels that mention of the New Testament is avoided.

The German has a quotation "The older Testament does not mention after-life while that mention is the merit/advantage [great contribution] of the newer one." The New Testament (formally) per se is not mentioned in the German [though Levy uses the term !]; only the Old Testament is formally mentioned in the sentence following the quotation. Rav Hirsch used many German expressions in quotes (familiar expressions of his time) and these had to be translated to convey the meaning of the expression; meaning could not be sacrificed to verbatim translation. Thus the Hebrew used Tanach for the "older Testament" because that is exactly what is meant. The main point: Rav Hirsch is posing the question--why is after-life not specifically mentioned in the Torah? Rav Hirsch uses the expression to make the point that in the Old Testament/Tanach there is no clear mention of after-life and that is how Haberman/Breuer translated it. The expression is used to point out the "arrogance" of those who say that the Old Testament is lacking mention of an after-life. That arrogance can only mean that in their book there is mention of after-life. The "merit [contribution] of the newer one" is later on pointedly made when Rav Hirsch writes: "Only when sects alien to the spirit of Judaism began to deny the immortality of the soul did it become necessary to teach this doctrine publicly" [in the New Testament as well as l'havdil our post-Tanach literature]. Indeed, mentioning this point separately from the quotation that the Old Testament lacks mention of after-life makes the idea of the "merit" of the New more clear.

Haberman conveys exactly what Rav Hirsch says; the words New Testament do not appear in the German.

As noted in the editors' foreword to the edition, the contribution of Dr. Levy z'l is immeasurable; without his translation, the Commentary would have been lost to the immediate post-War generation. The new edition includes the omissions in the Levy edition and where there are differences between the two editions, the Haberman edition faithfully follows the original.

I hope that you will post these remarks on the Lookjed list, because they do refute Francis Nataf's criticisms of the new translation by Rabbi Haberman.


Yitzchok Levine
Subject Author Posted

Book Review of the Hirsch Chumash

Yitzchok Levine January 24, 2010 10:25AM

Re: Book Review of the Hirsch Chumash

Francis Nataf January 24, 2010 10:27AM



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