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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

ArtScroll's Assault on Truth

Mesorah's ArtScroll publications tend to elicit strong and diverse reactions.  Their multiple imprints encompass a vast range of translations and original works, so the content and writing quality naturally varies considerably.  More fundamentally, however, ArtScroll's substance and tone often reflect a particular religious outlook which will either attract or irritate, depending on the reader.  

But anyone who values truth and integrity -- regardless of any consideration, including communal affiliation and religious ideology -- must protest ArtScroll's latest transgression in a now-familiar pattern of editorial dishonesty. 

First, there was the misrepresentation of Rashi's commentary on Song of Songs.  Rashi takes a hybrid approach to Shir Ha-Shirim, interpreting the text both literally and allegorically.  But ArtScroll truncated Rashi's introduction to his commentary, in which he clearly outlines this methodology, and ignored entirely his 
commentary's literal layer.  Anyone who uses the Stone Chumash for an English translation and commentary on the Song of Songs is a victim of ArtScroll's distortion of Rashi.

Then came the blatant censorship of R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin's Ha-Moadim Ba-Halakhah. Rabbi Zevin made an offhand remark expressing gratitude for the State of Israel.  The line was excised from ArtScroll's translation.

Most recently, in a shameless act of textual fraud and an insult to the intelligence and integrity of bnei Torah (and to Rashbam himself), ArtScroll has released a censored version of Rashbam's commentary on the Torah within their new punctuated edition of Mikraot Gedolot.  As Marc B. Shapiro has shown, ArtScroll concluded that parts of the commentary are unworthy of publication, no doubt for ideological reasons.  For example, they censored sections of the commentary to Gen. 1:4-5, in which Rashbam argues that night follows day in the plain reading of the verses.  No explanation was provided for the omissions.  

In the financial world, fraud results in regulatory fines, bans from the industry, and sometimes imprisonment.  Should we hold those who publish fraudulent versions of religious texts to a lower ethical standard?

Please contact ArtScroll to request an explanation and to demand that this fraud be corrected in the next printing.

Postscript:

ArtScroll responded to what must have been several complaints.  Here is Marc Shapiro's analysis of the response.