Monday, July 29, 2019

Rambam or Maimonides?

Good news: I have finished the first draft of my book Rationalism vs. Mysticism: Schisms in Traditional Jewish Thought. Due to its length and nature, it looks like it will have to be published in two volumes. Part One is a general review of the entire topic. Part Two is a collection of my monographs which take some of the individual sub-topics and analyze them in great detail. Here's the outline contents:

Volume One—An Overview of Rationalism vs. Mysticism
Introduction
Part One: Knowledge
Part Two: The Order of Nature
Part Three: Supernatural Entities
Part Four: The Function of Mitzvot
Part Five: The Nature of Torah
Afterword
Appendix I—The Role of Belief in Judaism
Appendix II—The Authenticity and Authority of the Zohar

Volume Two—Studies in Rationalism vs. Mysticism
1. Sod Hashem Liyreyav —When God Reveals His Scientific Secrets
2. Messianic Wonders and Skeptical Rationalists
3. Maimonides' Naturalization of Miracles
4. Students Disputing Teachers
5. The Evolution of the Olive
6. The Sages vs. Science: The Sun's Path at Night
7. Maharal's Multiple Revolutions in Aggadic Scholarship
8. The Question of the Kidneys’ Counsel
9. Brain Death and Organ Donation
10. The Sages' Powers of Life and Death
11. Wrestling with Demons
12. The Evil Eye
13. Shiluach haKein: The Transformation of a Mitzvah
14. What Can One Do for the Deceased?
Bibliography

But before the book goes further in the editing process, there's a problem with which I am grappling. Some of this material is from papers that I wrote as part of my master's degree or doctorate, and is written according to academic convention. Other parts are taken from material that I wrote on this website or specifically for the book, and with which I wrote according to how I am comfortable writing. Now, the book should presumably have a unified style, even between the volumes. So which material should I bring in line with which?

Rambam or Maimonides? Ramban or Nachmanides? Chazal or the Sages? Abraham or Avraham? Shabbos or Shabbat? Chullin or Hullin? Hirsch or R. Hirsch? R. Moshe Sofer or R. Moses Sofer or Moses Sofer or Hatam Sofer or Chasam Sofer?

On the one hand, this book more-or-less fits in to the style of academic books. Yet on the other hand, the primary people who will be interested in reading this book are the people who speak about Rambam rather than Maimonides.

I would welcome reader feedback on this question!

60 comments:

  1. I'll just say not to dispense with the R.'s even on second usage. Leaving them out doesn't help and it is annoying to those who approach the topics as sacred. Just IMO.

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    1. Thirded. I think in general going academic except where it conveys respect is probably the smart route.

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  2. If your target audience is used to a particular style, I'd recommend using that style unless it contradicts the substance of what you're trying to say.

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  3. Personally I get annoyed when the Chasam Sofer is referred to as R' Moses Schreiber.
    Maybe you should have 2 editions - an academic one for the regular folks where he's Moses Maimonides and a Torah one where he's the Rambam.

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    1. Once bought a siddur for a three year old boy.
      Was offered a choice of a siddur with peyot boys, or boy and girl MO dressed. By a charedi Judaica store.

      Delete
  4. my personal comfort zone (as a sample of one) would be Rambam Ramban Sages Shabbat Chullin Hirsch Chasam Sofer....
    .

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  5. Just write their names in Hebrew, bam, problem solved!

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  6. Leave the -ides to March and Artscroll, and write for your (probable) paying audience. As for adapting writing styles, I'd say leave them as they are; after all, wasn't the Torah written by several authors?

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    1. זכרון דבריםJuly 31, 2019 at 11:35 PM

      No, the Torah was written by One Author.

      The claim of multiple authors is based on willful ignorance, just removing half the evidence to fit into a theory

      Delete
  7. Definitely Rambam, Ramban, Rav Hirsch, etc.

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  8. I think that consistency is key, whichever style is used. I do think the conventional "Jewish" usage may be easier for non-academic readers.

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  9. Lawrence LittlestoneJuly 30, 2019 at 1:44 AM

    Since the bulk of your readership is going to be committed, if questioning, Jews, then write to both those strengths. I would favour a hybrid approach: R. Hirsch, Rambam etc. as being more authentically Jewish in approach while being absolutely rigorous in sources and footnotes.
    Incidentally, I would prefer Chasam Sofer to Chatam Sofer since that is how R Moshe Sofer would have pronounced the title of his magnum opus.
    I think that this,dual approach is beneficial since the somewhat strained academic nomenclature will be an obstacle for a non-academic audience.

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  10. Write to and for your audience.

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  11. If it's an academic work, why don't you go academic style for the published version, and create a digital copy in "frum" style? I definitely think there's a lot of value for a traditional audience, some of which may find it less culturally familiar if you use academic style. But you probably have academic credibility that publishing academically bolsters...

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  12. Peking became Beijing to bring English more in line with how the native speakers referred to it. When writing in English about Hebrew names, we should do the same unless it is meant primarily for interfaith study. Including titles or honorifics, or their abbreviations, should follow the same guidelines.

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  13. For the Rabbi/R issue, you can introduce each person for the first time with the title of rabbi, and for each time you mention them afterward, you can use "R." in front of the surname.

    You also need to narrow down your audience a bit more. Can you use academic terms throughout, after defining the Hebrew equivalents (or vice versa)? Is your audience charedi or Anglo-oriented right-wing? That'll determine if you use Shabbos or Shabbat. Are they familiar with academic writing? That'll help you decide to use Abraham or Avraham. I've seen both "Chazal" and "Sages" used in religious-oriented works, so either one would probably fit here; this is also possibly one of the few terms that can be used in either variation (although I personally prefer "Sages," since I believe English writing should use English words wherever possible). I'm generally a fan of academic writing conventions, but if your audience is more familiar with certain pronunciations, you should use those instead (so if they're religious, use Chullin instead of Hullin, to use your example).

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  14. "The primary people who will be interested in reading this book are the
    people who speak about Rambam rather than Maimonides."
    Why alienate your main target audience by using writing conventions that are foreign to them?

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  15. I remember my first year in Yeshiva where our Rambam teacher had an almost unique approach to the Rambam by learning Mishna Torah together with the Guide for the Perplexed (compare and contrast). He would joke that these books were written by different people and studied in different types of institutions.

    A Philosophy University student may spend a year studying the Guide written by Maimonides, and hardly be aware of the Ramabam's Mishna Torah. Whereas a yeshiva Student may keep the Rambam on hist desk, but may never have heard to Moses Maimonides.

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  16. Regarding transliteration of Hebrew words, Artscroll invented a compromise in which vowels are taken from Ashkenazi pronunciation while consonants are taken from Sephardic pronunciation. Maybe you could come up with something similar :)

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  17. I would choose Rambam/Rav/Abraham/etc and the first time a Hebrew name is used, I would write it in Hebrew in a footnote as well as in "academic English".

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  18. Unless you are looking to get people angry, you should not refer to rabbonim by their last name by itself. As many others have said, think of who you are targeting and use a style that they will be comfortable with.

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  19. Either way I'd buy your book, but please have footnotes in place of endnotes! It's so annoying to constantly flip back and forth. PS you can always change the convention in your encyclopedia. Is there anyone that does read end notes who actually told you that they enjoy constantly flipping back and forth?

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  20. accessibility is key, will transform it from a book i would have on my shelf and dip into to something i would actually read through. I would also suggest the artscroll convention. a palatable compromise.

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  21. I think you should go with the Jewish names but pronounced correctly (i.e. Chatam Sofer, David HaMelech instead of Dovid HaMelech)

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  22. This is a topic that should be of interest to non-Orthodox and even non-Jewish readers. That's an argument for not signaling that they're not welcome by using terminology aimed only at an in-group. And that's particularly true if the books will be brought out by a publisher that doesn't have an exclusively frum audience.

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    1. The reverse is also true. "Abraham" and "Maimonides" signal to the black-hat world that they are "not welcome."

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  23. How about a prefatory page introducing the reader the convention that you will be using?
    For example, "Some of the terms and personalities used to in this volume are referred to in multiples ways by different segments of society. For example, biblical personages may be referred to as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or as Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. Similarly, the Moses Maimonides of the academic community is referred as Rambam in the non-academic community. I have to chosen to follow the following convention... This pages lists those terms and personages that are used often in these volumes. Other name alternatives will be footnoted on the page of its first usage. The index will refer to that footnote."
    Or something like that. You're an author; not me.

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  24. Rambam etc. Gives a chance for those Baal teshuvas that fell in the "chasidut spell" a chance to read it based on a more appealing title

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  25. in favor of footnotes instead of endnotes;

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    1. I couldn't agree more. Found this very frustrating in the Animal Kingdom book. There is no appetite to start flicking back and forth from the endnotes to the main text. Please sort!

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  26. Why are you assuming the primary audience is frum folk? I'm sure many academics would be interested in this, and many University libraries would buy this. I would try to strike a compromise so that it remains familiar to frum audience, while still keeping to academic norms. Maybe use "Maimonides" at first and say "(herefrom referred to as Rambam)" or something like that.
    Definitely use academic norms for references.
    I think a good idea would be to look at similar books targeted to primarily frum but also academic audience, like Chaim Saiman's Halakha, R. Lamm's Torah Umadda, Yoel Finkelman's Strictly Kosher Reading. See how they do it.

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  27. Consider each group's discomfort with the other style. IMHO us "rabble" have a harder time with academic wording, and are reading on the sofa during leisure hours, while the academics in their quest for thoroughness also read popular works, at a desk during work time.

    --

    Shall you not have brief bios of the main authorities, as in Science of Torah (& other works?)? A sample entry might say Rambam (Maimonidies) b. 1135/8, d. 1204, ….

    ---

    Why did this question come up now, after your other books? Are you thinking of an expanded audience you didn't consider previously?

    ---

    Are you only consulting with us rabble? How are you getting the academic perspective?

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    1. Shall you not have brief bios of the main authorities, as in Science of Torah (& other works?)? A sample entry might say Rambam (Maimonidies) b. 1135/8, d. 1204, ….

      That is, at the end of the volume.

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  28. Whatever you decide...please don't put the dreaded "the" before anyone's name!! Rambam yes, The Rambam no!

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  29. Aim for the primary readership rather than going academic. The first time you're referring to the Rambam put after it in parenthesis something like "Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, Maimonides" and similarly for the Ramban. Personally I wouldn't like just "Hirsch" as I think he deserves a title! Consistency is extremely important so I suggest you make yourself a style sheet and stick to it.

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  30. Rambam is a 'catchier' name, whereas Maimonides probably reminds most people of the hospital.

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  31. Definitely "R. Hirsch" : ).

    (It's a quirk of fate that RSRH is often referred to as "Hirsch", even in more traditional circles. I think it's because (a) his chumash is known as the "Hirsch Chumash" and (b) his introduction to the English-speaking world was through highly educated, formal writers.)

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  32. Footnotes over endnotes please. Shabbos over Shabbat or Sabbath. Its a better fit to your style overall, I think.

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  33. Wait, it is going to be in Yiddish, right?

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  34. Academics will always know what you are talking about regardless of how you write it. But to laymen readers, the more "traditional" way of writing would be more appealing and therefore might have more impact. "Rambam" I think would speak more to a traditionalist reader than "Maimonides", because "OMG, the Rambam said what?!!!" And endnotes is the world's biggest pet peeve...

    Either way, can't wait to read this book.

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  35. Just follow what Meiselman did in his book!

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  36. Rambam Ramban Chazal R Hirsch. Your books should be in a beis medrash.

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  37. When Marc Shapiro started out in the 90s, he used the academic convention of surnames, and would speak of Feinstein, Karelitz, Kotler, etc. Readers, including regular people who don't worship rabbis, found it jarring and distasteful to refer to religious teachers in this manner. It got in the way of what the then-young Shapiro was trying to say. He quickly learned that he'd have more influence if he spoke in the language his readers spoke, not that of his academic colleagues. דברה תורה בלשון בני אדם if you prefer. And of course, since then, Shapiro's influence and reach in the frum world has taken off.

    The lesson is obvious.

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    1. Actually, in Shapiro's most recent book (Changing the Immutable 2015), he regularly refers to rabbis by their surnames.

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    2. Marky, why does he oscillate?

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    3. Who says he oscillates? DF is the one making questionable claims. Ask him to substantiate what he is saying.

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  38. In a different setting, I was told that it's impossible to cater to everyone. Just look at all the conflicting responses right here. But much of the fussiness is before the fact. Once it's a fait accompli things will quiet down. Meanwhile, a decision needs to be taken.

    --

    Regarding footnotes vs. endnotes, see the Artscroll/Klugman bio of Hir--I mean RABBI Hirsch ;). They have a nice compromise. The idea is that things that can hold general interest belong on the page. Technical ones are in the back.

    Another model is the Gemara itself. Would you like the Mefarshim from the back--protypical endnotes--relocated to page itself, and/or Rashi and Tosfos--protypical foot-/side- notes--sent to the back? And do you prefer those new Shulchan Aruchs with the Pri Megadim on the page, or the old style with it in the back?

    Sometimes you encounter a footnote and halfway through you decide it's been your personal waste of time and you'll be careful not to repeat that mistake by reading these (personally useless) notes. Sefer X put out by MRK regularly annoys people, who complain that the editor wrote his own sefer with a scanty line of the original on top of each page as an excuse for you to read *his* sefer.

    OTOH, that which is of general interest shouldn't be endnoted, as others have already requested.

    Gone are the days when an author was inaccessible to complainers. Hatzlachah Rabah!

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  39. Dear R' Slifkin,
    I believe this question is secondary to a more fundamental question which you yourself may still be grappling with - if and to what extent you are hoping to have an influence in the chareidi or yeshivish world. You've undeniably and understandably taken steps to separate yourself from it, but there are still many within it who look to your writings for an enlightening and intellectually honest hashkafa, and would be encouraged to see such a sefer addressed to them. It would be a work with which to arm themselves in whatever small battles they fight to promote a rational approach in their own circles.
    Alternatively, addressing this sefer to the academic community would provide scholars with a valuable and organized resource in the dynamics of this schism. It would be useful, but not transformative. Interesting, but not illuminating. It's fairly clear where my bias lies, but it's only because I view your work as such a fertile ground for change in our community that I'm heartbroken to imagine your sefer crammed into the dusty bookcase of an academic, when it could have served as the first spark in the perplexed mind of a young yeshiva student. Hatzlacha rabba, I look forward to the sefer in whichever format you choose.

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    1. in whatever small battles they fight

      Care to elaborate?

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    2. For example, I regularly learn with baalei battim in my community, and I make an effort to explain underlying concepts or hashkafa to them in a rational way. I've also had some pretty lively exchanges with friends in kollel regarding the proper place of the Zohar and kabbalah in general. I call these "small battles" because I'm almost always fighting certain preconceptions of my listener, even the baalei battim who have only a slight familiarity with the subject. The Jewish world, by and large, has taken a mystical bend, and any attempt to challenge or even question that requires a great deal of knowledge and willingness to be controversial.

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  40. @Dovid, at a meeting with Mechanchim, a Godol was once asked how to answer a certain question if students ask it. He paused and answered, "if students ask? How do we answer for ourselves?"

    Why share rationalist Hashkafah against your tide? Imagine your students as children, well, sort of, and cater to their needs and what goes down smoothly and helps them grow. Cite your sources. Look to help.

    But if you need a Chavrusa to discuss rationalistism with, look for the right individual and stay low-key. Good luck.

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    1. What goes down smoothly and what helps someone grow are often not the same thing. I'm not sharing these views with students because I need someone to talk to. I'm sharing them because I'd like to help them develop a balanced, rational, and integrated approach. Following the tide is fine if you don't mind getting washed out to sea. I prefer a more directed approach.

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    2. I can't judge from afar, but I meant smoothly similar to the context of dealing with children, that the primary goal is of course growth, but growth needs as much smoothness as possible for the situation. If you aren't satisfied where things stand now why not reconsider the assumptions? Do the baalei battim incline to rationalism or mysticism? Why are you opting for an integrated approach? Do you have Kiruv professionals to consult with? Have you read, for example, Aish'es 'Eye of a Needle'?

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  41. For my taste, make it all according to your current idiom. It's your book after all. I'll be buying it to read your words and consider your positions. Shouldn't they be in your voice?

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  42. Since Rambam and Ramban were not Greeks, nor are we, what purpose is served by our giving them these -ides names? In a Jewish book, why not use their full Hebrew names? Or, if justified somehow, their Hebrew abbreviations?

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