Monday, May 09, 2011

A clarification regarding my source-roundup posts

Mississippi Fred MacDowell (/ S., of On the Main Line) called my attention to a critique of my weekly source roundups, over at Yeshivaman's blog. This has certainly not been the first critique. I'll try to clarify some of my thought processes, and why certain things are in the order that they are. There is actually a combination of little thought and a lot of thought involved.

Regardless, I am gratified to hear that this is a helpful to people learning through the parasha. My primary purpose is really to help myself learn through the parsha and prepare my weekly parsha posts, since it makes these sources much more readily accessible. But I publish it as well, so that others can also make use of it.

On the the critiques:
OK, I agree the listing on the parsha is a wonderful tool. (This weeks is located here) This is especially true for those who have a ipod and can cache for when they have no internet connection. I greatly appreciate this service.
However I would like to make few small suggestions. The order of commentaries is entirely wrong. Now I fully understand that Shadal is greatly admired in the Jewish Blogs,(and I concur, albeit with certain reservations which are not for now) but does he need to be before Chizkuni, Rashbam etc?
Mississippi Fred MacDowell gave a good defense in the comment section there. Indeed, the source listings grew over time. The earliest ones were just links to an online Mikraos Gedolos, by aliyah and perek. Then, as I found various meforshim, I added them as I found them. So it is essentially a link dump. Each time I found a new one, I placed it at the bottom. Look at the history, where it exists, and you will see how it grows. I could reorder them, I suppose, to reflect hashkafic preferences, but at present, preparing that particular post already takes a few hours. Yes, many of the sources are already there from last year, but a whole slew are not. I copy the old post from the previous year into the Blogger editor, and then look to the previous week's source listing to find what is new. I copy those new items into the NOTEPAD program, follow the links to each one, advance the link to point to the current parsha, and paste the edited link into Notepad, under the title of each sefer. Then, I take the new listing, of alternating titles and URLs, into the Blogger editor. I do this for each section -- Meforshim, Rashi, Masorah, Targum, Midrash, and so on. Later on, I do more drudge work of copying each URL, selecting the title, clicking the HTML Link button, and pasting the appropriate URL, for each of the sefarim.

Here is why I am reluctant to reorder them on hashkafic grounds. (1) First, it would take even more time to prepare, and I would need to rearrange it every week. This is no longer just a cut and paste. This is time better spent finding and adding even more sources. (2) Secondly, at present all new additions are at the bottom, rather than interspersed. This makes it easy to ensure that all the new seforim have been added. If I have to read through the list each week and insert at various positions through the list, it will take even longer, and will introduce the possibility of missing a few of them.

Indeed, a few have been reordered. Chizkuni, Ibn Caspi, some of the writings of Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz, and so on. Many of these are to keep authors together. It is something I always have to remember, and there have indeed been times I have missed  them entirely, or encoded them incorrectly. For example, just last week, for Kedoshim, I put in the link to Chizkuni, but forgot to change the URL into a link.

Why is Chizkuni in this particular order? Here is what I can best reconstruct. Early on (Vaera 2009), I had two Chizkuni links, one in Meforshim from HebrewBooks and one in the JNUL section, from JNUL. Due to a copying mishap, I think, Chizkuni got lost from the Mefoshim section, such that by Yisro 2009, it was only in the JNUL section, for which you need a special plugin. And so it went directly from Rashi to Shadal. Some time later, I realized what had happened, and wanted to put Chizkuni back in, and in the place it originally stood, because that was where I was used to looking for it. I placed it next to the Daat links, among the list of a bunch of other classic meforshim. It turns out I was off by one -- or by now, off by two, because I had put Mishtadel, Shadal's shorter work, next to Shadal's longer commentary.

Maybe one of these days I will get around to revamping the categories, orders, etc. But it is not going to be any time soon. Sorry.

So, as you can see, it is a combination of a lot of thought and a little thought, but certainly no attempt to slight Chizkuni. This is somewhat reminiscent of the criticism of the Shteinsaltz gemaras, by the way.

The second critique:
Another thing, don't worry we know you are an intellectual, you need not link to the Samaritan text, no one needs it (especially after linking C. D. Ginsberg.)
As I noted at the outset, these source links are really for me. And I do make use the Samaritan text, in many of my posts. If I did not include these links, it would be a whole lot less useful for me. Vetus Testamentum has a rather nice side-by-side comparison, as well as variant Samaritan and Hebrew texts. CD Ginsbug is nowhere near as nice in its presentation. Targum Shomroni is under the Targum section, and is not covered by Christian David Gisberg. Shadal refers to the Targum Shomroni at times, plus the targum gives us a hint as to how they vocalized their text. Once I had the Samaritan Targum, from Google Books, I decided to include the Samaritan Torah from Google Books as well, since not everyone has the required plugin (including me, on some computers). That is why it is in the Targum section. And as S. pointed out in the comments there (thanks!), I most often use the Samaritan text to defend our masorah.

So there is some thought behind it, but it is not to try to impress others that I am an intellectual.

On to the next critique (maybe):
Certain bloggers (I don't mean parshablog, He just got me going) seem to revel in their ability to quote such people and "get away" with it, because "Ha ha, those closeminded yeshiva guys don't even know what the C stands for". However if one is truly trying to promote Torah study and not just to show off, when such books are linked to, it should be noted that these are not always reliable precisely because people don't realize. Do we really need to fool people into reading what they dont want to?
Even though he does not mean me, in fact I also refer to Christian David Ginsberg as CD Ginsberg. This is not to trick anybody, because the second they click on the link, they will see his name in Google Books, at the very top. Rather, people were complaining about Christian advertisements, which are automatically generated by Google Ads based on the text of the post. For instance, I had a post about Kupat HaIr and their pamphlet about yeshuot, and so I spoke about this yeshua and that yeshua. And guess what sort of advertisement popped up? Also, people could get the wrong idea, that I am promoting Christianity, with someone named Christian up there. And so I changed it to CD Ginsberg, and people who would follow the link would presumably know who he is.

It is rather silly of me to make such an extended defense post. But anyway, here it is.

Update: Also, this other post there. I left a few comments there. We'll see if they get published.

Update #2: He noticed the posts and published them. Also, a very mentchlich retraction and mea culpa. Thanks!


Ezzie said...

I don't think you need to 'defend', but this was interesting regardless. :)

Who cares said...

While it was a nice thought I never paid attention to the order at all. However some people do notice these things. They made a Mishneh Brurah a few years ago with the Shulchan Aruch/Rema in the middle then the pirush from the MB on the side (like a normal Shulchan Aruch with Magen Avraham and Taz) so where did the Bar Hativ go? Below everything...Someone once was looking at this MB in shul and what did he say "chutzpah! they should put the bar hativ BELOW the MB!!"

I never looked at that MB since I don't like the print but even when I did I never noticed it.

Seemed to me the list was compiled however it was and that was it.


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