Page 24 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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that writers frequently edit the texts they translate in the interest
of shortening or clarifying the originals. Translation implies ren ­
dering the original as faithfully as possible, and condensations
violate this need by definition. But even when translations are
described as edited, the reader has no way o f determining what
has been changed, and a careful comparison reveals that some­
times the intentions of the original authors have been altered.
Some cases are innocuous, but others seem to be motivated by a
commitment to less than universally accepted contemporary
Orthodox doctrine.10While this may make some otherwise prob­
lematic books more serviceable to certain readers, the price of
integrity is a high one to pay. Many readers prefer to judge the
suitability of such controversial passages for themselves, and
omitting them discredits and casts pervasive doubts on the o ther­
wise commendable service that is being offered by what seems
like an army of people. This problem is rarely discussed, though,
and it seems that this type of accuracy is far from universally
valued, as can be seen from the popularity of many publications
that have not shared this concern.
One of the areas of Orthodox publication that is executed with
the most care is halakhic literature. Sabbath and holiday hand­
books, kashrut guides, and mikveh manuals are particularly plen­
tiful, but almost every area of Jewish law is more accessible to the
English reader today than twenty years ago, when virtually the
only available text was the translation o f the
Kitsur Shulhan Arukh.
This literature demonstrates in the most vivid way the nature of
10 The omission o f some mystical passages from his translation o f Nahmanides’
commentary to the Torah (New York, 1971 ff.) seems less appropriate today
than it did to C. B. Chavel in 1971; see vol. 1, p. xiii, note 24. Also, note Aryeh
Kaplan’s weak defense o f omitting outdated scientific arguments from his
translation o f
MeAm Lo3ez,
vol. 1, p. vii. The works o f Samson Raphael Hirsch
have been a constant source o f tension. Jacob Breuer’s reworked version o f
Bernard Drachman’s translation o f
The Nineteen Letters
(New York, 1899),
published in New York, 1969, claims to improve on definitions o f terms and
sentence construction, and “its style has been adapted to the thinking o f the
contemporary reader.” See also the prefaces and introductions to Isidor
Grunfeld’s translation o f
(London, 1962) and
Samson Raphael Hirsch,
The Collected Writings,
vol. 1 (New York, 1984).