To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations — such is a pleasure beyond compare. ~Kenko Yoshida
I am very excited to announce that I am now reviewing books for Koren Publishers Jerusalem (including Maggid books). Over the coming months I will be reviewing the following books:-
5. Orot (Rav Kook) – translated by Rabbi Bezalel Naor (Published end April 2015)
Since August 2012 I have been learning the Daf Yomi cycle and decided to learn using the Koren Talmud. This innovative new translation of the Steinsaltz Talmud was, from the very beginning, a breath of fresh air.
Each volume is divided into two main sections: i) the traditional page of the Talmud and ii) the side by side English translation.
What strikes the reader most is the fluidity of the English text. If one simply wants to read the text as a literary unit then this is easily achievable. The addition of various notes on the page which deal with areas of law, short biographies of the Rabbis and other characters quoted in the text, background information on historical items or animals and explanations of unusual words from experts in linguistics, adds so much to the depth of the text. (An example of the side-by-side translation and notes can be seen below)
Now that I am learning the 17th volume (41 will be published in total) I feel that Koren are trying to strike a delicate balance between an explanation of the traditional text and a more academic approach to the Talmud. For both the newcomer and the scholar of Talmud the text is accessible and at the same time challenging. The layers of halakhic debate are not spoon fed to the reader and the novice may find some of the texts need further exploring (Rashi and Tosfot at the least) in order to gain a clearer understanding.
One of the most challenging Tractates in the Talmud is Yevamot. An extremely complex series of bizarre family trees can leave newcomers and experts bamboozled at the very least. Koren introduced a clear diagrammatic schema to help students come to terms with this Tractate (example below).
Koren have certainly managed to bring the text alive for all to see and experience in the 21st century. It does indeed feel like we are able to “hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations”. For me, coming to the end of each volume, I feel the excitement rising, not only in anticipation of finishing another Tractate, but at the thought of going out to collect my next volume of the Koren Talmud. It certainly will be a long 7 and a bit years of learning but the journey will be so much more pleasurable using the Koren Talmud.