Re: Book Review of the Hirsch Chumash
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Re: Book Review of the Hirsch Chumash

January 24, 2010 10:27AM
Dear Shalom,

I must admit to being a bit surprised by Prof. Levine's challenge to my review. As I will demonstrate, the claim that the new edition includes the omissions in the Levy edition is simply not true. Furthermore, the contention that whenever there is a difference in the two editions, the new edition is more faithful is, at the very least, highly questionable.

Concerning the specific points that he makes: 1) Regarding the use of the nicht sowohl... aber, Levine claims that the 19th century usage is different than contemporary usage, I will have to trust him on that, as this is beyond my expertise and I don't have the time to research the claim. 2) As far as the use of the word auch, it seems clear to me that it is not qualifying the term vanity as Levine would claim but rather, as Levy has it, indicating that vanity is not the only reason that Yosef is drawn to the sons of the maidservants. 3) As for the contention that Rav Hirsch never used the term new testament, I would leave it to the reader to decide whether the phrase "not in the old testament but the new," is considered mention of the new testament or not. As I mentioned in the review, Rav Hirsch is in fact implicitly criticizing the new testament and Christianity in Bereshit 25:8. Yet in the new translation, the contemporary reader loses out on this criticism which shortens the quotation by removing the latter part of the phrase.

I alluded to another such omission in the same section about an additional swipe make by Hirsch against the philosophers, stating that they make mistakes or otherwise fallacious assumptions "in many places." This phrase also appears in the original German and Levy but is cut out of the Haberman edition.

I pointed out very clearly that these changes are not due to conscious revisionism. Were it that, one would expect satisfaction with attacks on Christianity and philosophy. But whatever their motivation, the editorial decisions of the new edition do take away from the bold and polemical nature of Rav Hirsch's writings.

Let me also make clear that I only gave a few examples in my review but there were many more. Each time I came upon such a change, I checked it against the original German. At the same time, it should be noted that the older Levy translation is far from perfect and that there are many corrections that have been made in the Haberman edition. On the whole however, when it came to issues of substance and especially of tone, my opinion is that the Levy edition is more faithful to the original. I don't expect the editors of the new edition to agree with me.

If some were upset with my comparison to the changes in Shemirat Shabbat (as I have received such correspondence offlist), the comparison was never meant to be exact, as there was a much clearer and self-conscious agenda in the changes of that publication. My point was that even the more problematic revisions of Shemirat Shabbat were ultimately of little concern to the larger audience. Thus, I was indicating that regarding the milder and less ideological changes of the new Hirsch Chumash, certainly very people need be concerned. At the same time for educators that do care and for the record, I think it was important to make the points that I did.

Finally, none of this should take away from my recommendation of the new translation as a highly readable and useful edition of one of the most important works in a modern Jewish library.

Respectfully Yours,

Francis Nataf

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/24/2010 10:48AM by mlb.
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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