Tuesday, September 29, 2009

RaMBaN's commentary on the Pentateuch - a comparison of two English translations

Question: I am interested in studying RaMBaN's (Nahmanides') commentary to the Pentateuch. I have been told that two English translations of this commentary have been published - one by Rabbi Charles B. Chavel [New York: Shilo Pub. House, 1971-1976] and one by Artscroll [Brooklyn, N.Y. : Mesorah, 2004-]. Would you assist me in evaluating which is the right translation for me?

Answer: The Artscroll version is much more extensive and user friendly. It uses Chavel’s writings as one of its sources. It contains the text of the Pentateuch in Hebrew and English; the text of RaSHI in Hebrew; the text of Targum Onkeles in Aramaic; and the text of RaMBaN's commentary in Hebrew and English. RaMBAN’s commentary is presented in Hebrew with nekudot - both as one running text and in an elucidated form in which a few words of RaMBAN’s Hebrew are quoted followed by their translation and elucidation. Chavel’s work only contains the translation of RaMBaN's commentary (and Chavel’s notes) - not the original Hebrew or any of the other texts that Artscroll includes. Chavel did publish RaMBaN’s original Hebrew text together with Chavel’s notes in a separate edition [Yerushalayim : Mosad ha-Rav Kuk, 1959]. Artscroll’s translation also seems to have more extensive notes than Chavel provides in his English translation (the notes in Chavel’s Hebrew edition seem to be more extensive than in his English edition).
On the other hand, Chavel has an index, Artscroll does not have one in the volumes I saw. The Chavel edition is already complete in 5 volumes. The Artscroll edition is due for completion (in 7 volumes) in March 2010 with the publication of the volume for Va-yikra. Chavel seems to translate the RaMBaN’s commentary in its entirety. Artscroll’s translation skips some sections that are kabbalistic (they do print the entire Hebrew original and they do tell you what they are skipping).

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