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May 05, 1995 - Image 113

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-05-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Teacher Par Excellence

A former Detroiter
takes on the
ambitious task of
translating Rashi.



or the better part of a mil-
lennium, Rashi has been
the bedrock of Torah and
talmudic commentary.
The writings of the 11th-
century commentator
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki of
Troyes, France, are as
well-known to students of
Torah as the words and phrases
those writings interpret.
Now, in an ambitious project
undertaken by Mesorah/ArtScroll
Publications, former Detroiter
Rabbi Yisrael Isser Zvi (Mitch)
Herczeg is making Rashi's com-
mentaries available to the Jew-
ish masses. Rabbi Herczeg, who
lives in Jerusalem's Har Nof
neighborhood with his wife, the
former Phyllis Eisenman of Oak
Park, and his six children, is
the principal translator on
ArtScroll's new Sapirstein Edi-
tion of Rashi, The Torah: With
Rashi's Commentary Translated;
Annotated and Elucidated. The
first two volumes, Shemot (Exo-
dus) and Vayikra (Leviticus),
were published in May and No-
vember 1994, respectively. The
next volume, Bereishit (Genesis),
is scheduled for publication in
While Rashi is an acronym of
Rav Shlomo Yitzhaki, Rabbi Her-
czeg explains, it also has been

Rabbi Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg: It's like "studying Rashi full time."

interpreted as an acronym of
"Raban shel Yisrael" — teacher
of Israel.
"He has been the teacher of
Israel par excellence — excellence
for the past 1,000 years," Rabbi
Herczeg says. "There is virtually
no serious study of Torah done
without referring to Rashi's corn-
The appearance of the Saper-
stein edition of Rashi is a land-
mark in the English-language
Jewish publishing world.
ArtScroll, one of the world's
premier publishers of English-
language Judaica, has produced
several Hebrew-English and Ara-
maic-English editions of Judaica,
including prayer books, a Chu-
mash and Talmud, that have
become standard stock in the
English-speaking Orthodox Jew-
ish world. The ArtScroll Hebrew-
English siddur (prayer book),
which appeared in 1984, has sold
about 750,000 copies, making it
"unquestionably" the best-selling
siddur in the world today, ac-
cording to Shmuel Blitz, director
of Mesorah/ArtScroll in Israel.
ArtScroll's, Rosh Hashanah and
Yom Kippur machzorim each
have sold more than half a mil-
lion copies since they came out in
the mid-1980s.
What makes these three vol-

umes so popular is not just their
typography and bindings but the
manner in which they are laid
out and elucidated. ArtScroll
came up with a formula that
seems to please nearly everyone,
from the frum(observant)-from-
birth who purchase the siddur
and machzorim for their ele-
gance, legibility and commen-
taries on the prayer service, to
the not-religious and newly reli-
gious, who find in them a road
map to the intricacies of Ortho-
dox davening. The works even
include explicit instructions on
when to bend the knees and bow
one's head.
Rabbi Herczeg's volume, which
contains both a translation of the
original Rashi and an antholo-
gy of the commentaries on the
Rashi, interspersed with the au-
thor's original remarks, could
have a similar impact on English-
speaking Jewry.
Rabbi Blitz says that when
ArtScroll came up with the idea
several years ago, "the concept
was to try to produce a Rashi that
would explain every Rashi in the
Chumash and, in addition to
that, try to portray on every
Rashi (commentary) what was
bothering Rashi. Those are things
that none of the other transla-
tions of Rashi (do)."
Rabbi Herczeg brings an
extensive list of credentials to
this massive task. The son of
Hungarian Holocaust sur-
vivors, Rose and the late
David Herczeg of Detroit, he
received his elementary edu-
cation at Yeshiva Beth Yehu-
dah and his high school
education at Hebrew Theo-
logical College in Chicago.
Upon completing high school,
he returned to Detroit and re-
ceived a bachelor's degree in
history and a master's degree
in education from the Uni-
versity of Detroit, while
simultaneously continuing
his Jewish studies. A little
more than two decades ago,
Rabbi Herczeg came to Israel
temporarily to learn at Etri
Yeshiva in Jerusalem and
Hadera; he never moved back
to the United States.
Eventually, Rabbi Her-
czeg's yeshiva background
and master's in education
combined forces, and he be-
gan teaching Gemara, Chu-
mash and Jewish thought at
Jerusalem yeshivot Aish Ha-
Torah and D arch e
Noam/David Shapell College

of Jewish Studies. After 13 years
of -teaching, he also began trans-
lating major Jewish works.
Rabbi Herzeg's first transla-
tion was the Abarbanel Hag-
gadah, which contains the
commentary of the 15th-century
statesman, Torah scholar and
commentator, Don Isaac Abar-
"It's addressed to everyone, not
just for the scholarly crowd, and
it's something everybody can
use," Rabbi Herczeg explains of
his choice for his translating de-
but. "It's probably the single-most
popular commentary on the Hag-
Ready to market his first work
of translation, Rabbi Herczeg de-
cided to start at the top and took
the Haggadah to ArtScroll. It was
published in 1990.
The Abarbanel Haggadah, was
followed by a translation of Bets
HaLevi al HaTorah, Rav Yosef
Dov Ber Soloveichik's commen-
tary on Bereishit and Shemot,

The text is
"addressed to
everyone, not just

— Rabbi Herczeg

published in 1990 and 1991 by
Targum Press, headquartered in
Southfield. In 1993, ArtScroll
published Rabbi Herczeg's adap-
tation of the Vila Gaon Hag-
Rabbi Herczeg says of his new
work, "I love studying Rashi.
Even before I started this project,
when I taught Gemara, the main
focus of my class was to have my
students concentrate on the very
precise working of Rashi and try
to understand what he was con-
"It gives me the opportunity to
study Rashi full time, and there's
really nothing I'd rather be do-
Though Rabbi Herczeg is the
principal translator on the pro-
ject, he describes the production
of the Saperstein edition of Rashi
as a team effort. Since the begin-
ning, he has worked with an edit-
ing team conprising Jerusalem
rabbis Yosef Kamenetsky and
Yaakov Petroff, and Rabbi Avie
Gold of ArtScroll in New York.
When work began on Bereishit,
Rabbi Yaacov Blinder of

TEACHER page 114




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