By renee bravo
August 30, 2010

The Soncino Chumash (Pentateuch and Haftorahs) was the favoured choice of most orthodox synagogues prior to the arrival of the Artscroll series. It was edited by Chief Rabbi Dr. J. H. Hertz in 1936/7, and is popularly known as the Hertz Chumash. In the preface he wrote, "I am deeply grateful to the committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society (a Christian organisation), for their courtesy in generously granting me the use of the plates of their standard and beautiful edition of the Hebrew text. Jewish and non-Jewish commentators, ancient medieval and modern, have been freely drawn upon. 'Accept the truth from whatever source it comes, is a sound rabbinic doctrine." At the end of the book is an index of sources consulted. It includes the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Bible;; the King James version;, "The Bible in Colloquial English", by James Moffat in 1924; and twenty-six non-Jewish commentators and translators.

Let us now look at some of the things that Rabbi Dr. Hertz says in his commentaries. On the creation, "Ages untold may have elapsed between the calling of matter into being and the reduction of chaos to ordered arrangements. A day in God's life could be a thousand thousand ages. The morning and evening could be the morning and evening of life." On the creation of light, he quotes the astronomer Halley. "These nebulae reply fully to the difficulty which has been raised against the Mosaic description of creation, in asserting that light could not be generated without the sun". Hertz again, "Man is gifted with freewill and moral freedom. Man alone can guide his actions in accordance with reason. Rabbinic tradition states that the Torah is not one continuous work, written at one definite moment. The Torah was given to Moses in separate scrolls".

In his notes to Genesis, he writes, "While the fact of creation has to this day remained the first of the articles of the Jewish creed, there is no uniform or binding belief as to the manner of creation The manner of the divine creative activity is presented in varying forms by Prophet, Psalmist and Sage Several ancient rabbis believed in successive creations. Maimonides said, "The account given in Scripture of the creation is not, as is generally believed, intended to be in all parts literal".

This short piece has only looked at Genesis. I am sure that if we were to look at the whole Chumash, as well as all his other writings and sermons, we could find much more evidence. Our present Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, in an article The Times on 29th August, 2009, wrote, "Religion is about open hearts, not closed minds".

There is an old saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I have always disagreed with this. A great deal of knowledge, channeled into a narrow tunnel, with no way out at the end, is far more dangerous.



Mon, 08/30/2010 - 22:37

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no, i have a copy of the soncino chumash, and it was edited by the rev dr a cohen in 1947, not by hertz

the soncino and hertz chumashes were rivals (most synagogues had one or the other, some synagogues had both), but both were published by the soncino press

the soncino chumash only quotes from classical scholars, but the hertz chumash quotes from modern (including christian) ones

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soncino_Books_of_the_Bible#First_edition

The Soncino Books of the Bible is a set of Hebrew Bible commentaries, covering the whole Tanakh (Old Testament) in fourteen volumes, published by the Soncino Press. The first volume to appear was Psalms in 1945, and the last was Chronicles in 1952. The editor was Rabbi Abraham Cohen (editor).
Each volume contains the Hebrew and English texts of the Hebrew Bible in parallel columns, with a running commentary below them.

The English translation is the Jewish Publication Society of America Version of 1917.

The only exception was the Soncino Chumash, covering the Torah and Haftaras, first published in 1947 and frequently reprinted. It was felt that to have a modern commentary in that book would unnecessarily duplicate the book The Pentateuch and Haftarahs edited by Chief Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz, also published by the Soncino Press.
Thus instead there was a summary of the views of the most important medieval Jewish commentators, such as Abraham ibn Ezra, Rashi, Ramban, Radak, Sforno and Ralbag (Gersonides).


Tue, 08/31/2010 - 10:37

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"There is an old saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

It's a pity you didn't consult the original source:

A Little Learning

by Alexander Pope

"A little learning is a dangerous thing ;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring :
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts ;
While from the bounded level of our mind
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But, more advanced, behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise !
So pleased at first the towering Alps we try,
Mount o’er the vales, and seem to tread the sky ;
The eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last ;
But those attained, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthened way ;
The increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes,
Hill peep o’er hills, and Alps on Alps arise !"


Tue, 08/31/2010 - 10:40

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"I am sure that if we were to look at the whole Chumash, as well as all his other writings and sermons, we could find much more evidence."

No comment.

renee bravo

Tue, 11/30/2010 - 12:58

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I have never agreed with the idea that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. A great deal of knowledge, channelled into a narrow tunnel, with no outlet, is far more dangerous.


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