Page 27 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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LEVY / ORTHODOX PUBLISHING EXPLOSION IN PERSPECTIVE
15
firm the impression that the book was composed simultaneously
on two levels for two different kinds of readers. The English-only
reader is given the basic information needed to conduct his life
according to halakhic norms; the more knowledgeable one also
finds the sources on which the decisions were based. More impor­
tantly, he is given the information needed to answer questions
about many of the doubtful cases (designated as areas in which a
competent rabbi should be consulted), which, at least in many of
the examples in his volume on Hilchot Niddah, are cases in which
lenient precedents have been established. Obviously this infor­
mation could have been made available to all readers, but this
two-tiered writing is designed to camouflage certain information.
This practice has been developed even fu r th e r in Rabbi
Avrohom B lumenkrantz’s
Gefen Poriah
(New York, 1984), a
mikveh manual and guidebook on Orthodox sexual mores. Writ­
ten for the rightist Orthodox community, this book has both
Hebrew and English notes, sometimes woven back and forth
from one language to the other, and printed boustrophedon.
Again, the interested reader will discover major differences
between the nature of what is revealed to the English-only reader
and what is not.15
These practices call into question the extent to which English
works can really possess religious authority. Hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of English volumes have been produced for Ortho­
dox use, but there exists a clearly documentable if unstated pref­
erence for Hebrew as the medium of serious religious discourse.
Rabbinic publications carefully avoid using the English books
referred to above, and everyone but the average folk for whom
most of the volumes are intended seems to appreciate the extent
to which many o f them actually undermine their own value. Eng­
lish Orthodox books are for laymen; rabbis still prefer to commu­
nicate orally in Yiddish and to publish in Hebrew, but there is an
interesting exception.
15 This is analogous to the practice o f early translators who left untranslated or
rendered into Latin the sexually explicit passages in writings o f the Church
Fathers (usually in discussions o f gnostic perversity). See, also, the Latin
passages in Heidel’s English translation o f
The Gilgamesh Epic
(Chicago, 1946).
In both cases, the Roman clergy or learned classes were allowed access to cer­
tain descriptions or facts that were kept from those who did not know Latin.