Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Shevat 5759 - Jan. 20, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
Editor's Notebook
by Mordecai Plaut

In lieu of an editorial this week, we are publishing these comments and observations that we want to share with our readers.

Nothing these days seems to be like it used to be, including these days themselves. Time seems to be moving faster. Most adults feel this, but the surprising thing is that many children feel the same way. Although no systematic study has been done that we know of, informal polling finds that many children also say that things move very fast.

All this comes to give some perspective on our retrospective. Yated is now ten years old. Ten years is a relatively long time, but perhaps not as long as it used to be.

The Hebrew Yated Ne'eman was started by Maran HaRav Shach, shlita, and the Steipler Gaon -- who gave it its name. There is something to this name. When HaRav Shach started the English edition, Rabbi Avrohom Kosman was there on the spot and he put out the first issues. He felt that the name was even more obscure in English than in Hebrew (it is based on a posuk in Yeshaya), and suggested that another name be used, but HaRav Shach explicitly insisted on the original Hebrew name.

The audience was defined by HaRav Shach as the chareidi community in general, and not just the bnei Torah.

Actually this was innovative. The English edition of Yated Ne'eman was the first broad publication whose target audience is specifically the chareidi community. Other English language publications had always aimed for a lower point of commonality between the chareidi community and the uncommitted. Yated is unapologetically frum, and written for the expectations of the frum community.

The main purpose was often said by the Vaada Ruchanit that controls the paper, to be the spread of da'as Torah.

If that is the main purpose, we can also identify other effects of a weekly newspaper for the worldwide English-speaking Torah community.

Social Cohesion

There have been times in which the presence of an efficient channel to publicize the Torah view swiftly has been obvious and dramatic. In cases such as the Goldstein massacre in Hebron, to which Yated responded with an unequivocal condemnation of the wanton violence, there is no doubt that large-scale confusion was avoided, and perhaps even insidious attempts to tarnish the entire Torah community. The Israeli ambassador in London, for example, at first tried to pin the blame on the entire religious community.

The importance of a weekly source of news and perspective is easy to underestimate. In fact, it provides for social cohesion even across large distances, as people are all up-to- date about the same events. Moreover, the subtle and continued presentation of things from our perspective has many ripple effects that are difficult to quantify and even to detect.

How the Paper is Produced

There are two editions: one printed in Tel Aviv and another in New York City. The edition printed in Tel Aviv is more widely distributed, as it goes all over the world. Major centers of circulation are England, Israel, South Africa and Australia.

The American edition is printed separately and produced separately. A core of features is common to both, but even those are selected in America. Much material in the American edition originates there.

The main Hebrew paper in Bnei Brak is tightly controlled by a Vaada Ruchanit made up of rabbonim. This control is extended to the English edition that is produced in Israel: a representative of the Vaada Ruchanit reviews the material, in consultation with the Vaada Ruchanit when necessary. Often, material that appears is at the initiative of the rabbonim.

Separate arrangements are made in America.

Other Achievements

While always conscious of our obligation to serve the interests of our readers, we have tried to combine this with promotion of various worthwhile causes to the benefit of everyone concerned.

One form this takes is reviews of issues that are relevant to Jewish life but that people may not be so familiar with. Examples of such issues that we have covered, some of them on several occasions, are kila'ei ilan (the problem of grafts used in common nursery fruit trees), the presence of bugs in food, the construction of modern eiruvin in cities, ma'aser kesofim, terumos and other matonos, chodosh, the halachic aspects of smoking, the halachic aspects of unearthing graves, shatnez, and many more.

We have, of course, offered hespedim and appreciations of our past gedolim. The complete list is very long.

We also write about various institutions that serve the chareidi community. In those cases we try to ensure that the article has content which is interesting for its own sake, and is not just an advertising brochure for the institution, however worthwhile the cause.

Our Approach to Translation

In our paper we use a significant amount of translated material. In a given issue, as much as 90% is originally written in English and always more than half, but nonetheless there is a significant amount of material that was originally written in Hebrew and has been translated and adapted to English.

People often comment to us about the quality of the translations when they find something incorrect in the paper. However, it often turns out that the offending article was originally written in English. In fact, it is easier to control the level of the translated work than of the English material. We set standards for whom we use as a translator, but have no control over the quality of the writing in the press releases put out. Thus, the quality of the English writing that we get varies much more than the quality of the translations.

It is important to realize that our approach to translation is not monolithic. We treat different material differently. In fact, our goal in translation varies considerably, and there are frequent instances when we are not really interested in disguising the fact that what we are printing is a translation.

Let us take two extreme examples as illustration: a routine news article, say for example about Israeli fruit consumption, and a translation of a speech by HaRav Shach, shlita. (Note that we are discussing our goals here; we cannot be sure that we always meet them.)

When preparing the article on fruit consumption, our main concern is to convey the information accurately and smoothly. In such a case we try to translate in such a way that it will not be evident that the material was translated. There is nothing to preserve from the original beyond the core information -- no subtleties or overtones -- and leaving in the residue of the original Hebrew disturbs the reader. So we try to eliminate it as much as possible, and even to change things, maybe reorder them or rewrite them, to make the article as easy to read as possible. If we are successful, the reader will have no idea that the material originated in Hebrew.

When we are preparing an article such as a speech from Maran HaRav Shach, shlita, the situation is quite different. The content is complex. The original may be include allusions to general Torah concepts and/or careful phrasing meant to convey a very precise message. And there is a premium on translating the speech as accurately as possible.

In such a case, the concern about the published piece reflecting the fact that it is a translation is much lower on the scale of values. Everyone knows that it is a translation, anyway.

Furthermore, in this case and many others even more so, the finished piece should "point back" to the original. There is value to the use of Hebrew constructions and very literal translations in that they remind the reader constantly that it is a translation that he or she is reading, and to be sure that they capture the entire content and all the nuances of the original it may be necessary for them to read the original. It is also desirable to read the original when practical since it puts the reader in more direct and immediate contact with the great person whose thoughts are expressed.

The translation is always mediated by the translator, whether competently or not. Keeping the translated product close to the original and more literal reminds the reader of this.

In a limited way it also helps him to become familiar with the original if the translation makes use of Hebrew constructions and literal translations of phrases that are not native to English.

For example (taken from Maran HaRav Shach's Yarchei Kallah address in 1992-5742), a phrase like, "let the din cleave the mountain," are well-known in Hebrew but not in English. Even here, using the original word "din" rather than translating it as "law" preserves more of the original and refers more directly to the Hebrew. In our judgment, it also makes it more "comfortable" to read by the typical chareidi reader.

Or again, the phrase, "then salvation will come to the Yehudim from another source," is a reference to Megillas Esther, 4:14. If it were translated "alternate means will certainly present themselves," or something equivalent, then this reference would surely be lost. Perhaps nothing important is lost -- but who is to say? Our choice is to preserve the reference even at the cost of smoother English.

These two extremes demonstrate another important point. There is no difference in reading a story about Israeli fruit consumption in Hebrew or English. However, divrei Torah are best read in loshon hakodesh. That was the language designed for them, and the geist of the Torah is best expressed in that language. It is certainly not possible to reach any serious achievement in Torah without complete mastery of its material in the original language. Thus it is altogether appropriate for words of Torah to emphasize their origin in loshon hakodesh, to incorporate elements that are native to loshon hakodesh and thus to remind and encourage all readers to try to go to the original.

How We Transliterate

First of all, we are a newspaper and not a classroom. So we do not feel that it is absolutely necessary to be fully consistent and we are willing and in fact feel it our duty to sacrifice consistency to reader expectations and comfort. In addition, we have not established standards for ourselves for the spelling of many words and, until we do, we find it technically difficult to enforce consistent spellings across the paper. We thus enforce consistency only within an article.

The transliteration we follow generally is the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the chareidi community, except where there are words with established spellings.

The long "a" sound is indicated by "ei." The shevo no is indicated with an "e" and not with an apostrophe. The apostrophe is used only for an 'ayin or an 'alef.

We use an apostrophe in a transliterated word in place of or before an ayin or an alef (optional) (e.g. da'as). Where there is no ambiguity or there is an established spelling, the apostrophe may be omitted (e.g. laaretz).

We use "o" for both the komatz and the cholom. By this rule, "Torah" should be spelled "Toroh" but we spell it the first way because it is well established.

Patoch is "a." Segeil is an "e." Chirik is an "i."


We do recognize it as our duty and obligation to produce a paper that has content that is appropriate to a newspaper for the chareidi community, and also with a high level of technical achievement. We believe that we have accomplished much, but we can do more.

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