Page 20 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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produced by Orthodox writers and publishers is both broad and
deep, affecting virtually all aspects o f Jewish publishing and the
specific needs of the Orthodox communities. Bible, Talmud,
Midrash, halakhah, liturgy, Hasidism, history and biography
(more properly hagiography),5 politics, homiletics and mysticism
are the standard areas, to which must be added a series o f jo u r ­
nals, newspapers, and the in-house publications of major O rtho­
dox institutions. Translations of classical works of thought and
exegesis (biblical and talmudic) are in constant production, as are
anthologies and condensations of many types. They are joined by
many kinds of original works and materials designed to aid in the
education of Orthodox youth.
A recent catalogue of The Artscroll Library lists over one hun ­
dred volumes for sale, most of which appear in carefully planned
projects and series: (1) almost thirty volumes o f liturgical mate­
rial, including editions of daily and holiday prayerbooks, intro­
ductions to and explanations of many prayers, holidays and reli­
gious occasions (e.g. circumcision, Hanukkah, the Shema, the
Kaddish, Tashlikh); (2) twenty volumes of an anthologized com­
mentary on the Bible that should be at least three times this size
upon completion; (3) eleven volumes of a commentary on the
Mishnah that will exceed forty volumes when complete; (4) ten
volumes o f translations o f Judaic classics; (5) over fifteen
5 The difference between what many Orthodox writers understand to be his­
tory or biography and what academics mean by the same terms is problematic.
In brief, scholarly attempts at history and biography tend to be more carefully
researched, more broadly based, and less concerned with the model o f piety
that emerges from the research than the parallel religious publications. Aca­
demic histories and biographies try to present their subjects in their historical
contexts and discuss both their accomplishments and failings; they do not nec­
essarily describe a subject or event in a way that allows the religious reader to
use the information as a guide for conducting his or her life. Hagiography is
very concerned with the emerging religious message (sometimes to the exclu­
sion o f all else) and often presents its subject in unrealistic ways. It is far from
insignificant that religious writers frequently employ the mythological terms
“giant” and “titan” when describing halakhic and religious leaders. These
works are not historical in the conventional sense and perhaps are best seen as
a form o f religious romance.