Monday, March 08, 2010

Koren Sacks Siddur--tempest over a typo

[I realize that the formatting errors are getting quite annoying, but I have no clue how to edit html, so we're stuck with them. Sorry.]
[New paragraph ¶ ]

Yes, I know this is an old story, but I'm still upset about it.

[ ¶ ]
I said:

1) I find it annoying that the Rabbi Yishmael Omer quotation at the end of Birkot HaShachar continues the differentiation of "echad (one)" in verse 9 and "acher (other)" in verse 10, a difference, in Hebrew script, of exactly one letter. I assume that this error resulted from the similarity of appearance between the letters daled and resh, and probably originated with a typesetter of a previous siddur. The same error appears in the 1941 siddur of Sacks' predecessor as Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, Rabbi Hertz. If anything, the manner in which these two verses are laid out in the Koren Sacks Siddur makes it even more obvious that this is an error. As recently as the 1949 Birnbaum Siddur (Ashkenaz) and the 1977 DeSola Pool Siddur According to the Custom of Spanish and Portuguese Jews, the word was correctly spelled "acher" in both verses 9 and 10. When did this obvious typo become so sacrosanct that it can't be corrected?”

[ ¶ ]
He (the editor) said:

Raphael Freeman said...

. . .
With respect to Rabbi Yishmael omer, I’m curious as to why you think that this is a mistake. This would indeed be a grevious mistake and would change the way we learn Torah. Can you please give some evidence basing your theory?
Frankly, I don’t think either of us came up smelling like a rose on this question. My complaint was not phrased respectfully enough. “Annoying” was not the best choice of words. On the other hand, all I said was that there was a spelling error. I certainly didn’t say anything about changing the way we learn Torah! Why did the editor not address my point? It was perfectly obvious to even this am ha-aretz (Jewishly-illiterate person) that the only way to determine the correct spelling of that word was to check the original source and see how Rabbi Yishmael himself had spelled it. Why wasn’t it obvious to the editor?

[ ¶ ]
See the following comments:

Shira Salamone said...
Concerning the Rabbi Yishmael question, I e-mailed the following to my "G-d Squad" (rabbis and rabbinical students) list:

"Please hold the rotten tomatoes and forgive me for being an am ha-aretz--I really did believe that I was looking at a simple spelling error. But that begs the question: If the Birnbaum and DeSola Pool spell that word one way and the Hertz, ArtScroll, and Koren Sacks spell it another way, it seems to me that *someone* made a spelling error, unless there is more than one version of the Rabbi Yishmael Omer text. Could some kind soul with access to Sifra kindly check the beginning/introduction, where the various siddurim say that this text originates?"
Shira Salamone said...
Received by e-mail from Rabbi Gil Student, of the Hirhurim blog (see my blogroll):

Birnbaum made emendations based on conjecture and he was knowledgeable but not a major talmid chacham. However, De Sola Pool's Hebrew was put together by R. Chaim Chavel who was a major talmid chacham.

That notwithstanding, I checked Dr. Seligmann Baer's Siddur Avodas Yisrael -- Dr. Baer was a famous German grammarian from the mid-nineteenth century -- and he has it with the first as echad and the second as acher.

My suspicion is that the standard siddurim had the split but their source, the Sifra, did not (I checked and it doesn't, at least in the Weiss edition). It is possible that both Birnbaum and R. Chavel decided that to change the siddur text to fit the Sifra. Just a speculation on my part.

Gil Student
Have you seen my new book?
Elie said...
Gil's last comment was essentially what I was going to reply. Birnbaum explicitly addresses the echad/acher issue in the introduction to his siddur. He refers to it as an error in most siddur editions, which he corrected based on the original source of the beraysa, the first page of the Sifra.

Given the above, how could it be argued that the split version is anything but a copyist's error? Are there editions of the sifra which have it the other way?
As I said in the comments to this post, "Mr. Freeman never responded. I’m quite peeved. I take it for granted that he assumed that an am ha-aretz (Jewishly-illiterate person) couldn’t possibly be correct." Therefore, as far as I'm concerned, the final score is Shira Salamone, Am HaAretz--1; Raphael Freeman, Talmid Chacham--0. I may be ignorant, but I'm smart enough to ask an intelligent question--and I expect an intelligent answer.

[ ¶ ]
[ ¶ ]
See also Rabbi Student's more formal reply (and the comments thereto), One or the Other: Rabbi Yishmael Omer.



Anonymous Raphael Freeman said...

First and foremost, I am far from being a talmid chacham and I'm sorry if my lack of following your blog was misinterpreted as my lack of interest to your question. My sincere apologies.

Regarding your specific question, I shall find the basis of Koren's decision for you an endevour to post it as soon as I can. Of course the best place to post such question is the Koren Siddur forum on

Wed Mar 10, 01:09:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

This was my original response to your comment about Rabbi Yishmael omer:

"Regarding Rabbi Yishmael omer, I based my assumption that there is a misprint on the fact that both the Birnbaum and the DeSola Pool use the work "acher" in both verses. Also, having noticed the difference when I switched from the Birnbaum to the ArtScroll, I consulted an Israeli from my congregation--someone far more learned than I--concerning this difference of opinion, simply because I was confused and wished to know which spelling was correct, and he seemed quite certain that "acher" was correct in both instances. My Hebrew and Talmudic knowledge being quite limited, perhaps you can enlighten me."

Aside from being peeved, I was also quite taken aback that you never replied. Blogging is not a hit-and-run operation--when a commenter poses a question, the person being asked expects the questioner to return to that post to read the answer. I thought your failure to do so was quite rude, not to mention counterproductive--if you were really concerned that there might be a "grievous mistake" in this siddur, why would you not want to see the "evidence basing your theory" that you yourself had requested?

Unfortunately, since I'm scarcely in a position to provide such evidence, my reply had, essentially, asked you to see whether *you* could be so kind as to do so. It was only when you failed to reply that I e-mailed my "G-d Squad."

That's the history of this "tempest."

Thank you for taking a moment from your busy schedule to reply and apologize. I appreciate your derech eretz (courtesy).

Now that I have your attention (thanks to commenter "sanesc" who suggested, in this post, that you'd been led to my original post "by a web-tool" that had spotted the words "Koren Sacks" in the title), I'm looking forward to reading "the basis of Koren's decision" here. I'm sorry to say that I haven't been able to access the forum either yesterday or today.

Wed Mar 10, 09:17:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Raphael Freeman said...

So a few comments:
1) Thank you for alerting me that the forum isn't working. I have sent a request to the senior web designer to sort this out.
2) Yes, I am alerted to the blog via google alerts and don't follow individual blogs. No offence intended.
3) We do have an answer for you. It's being composed at the moment. I will try and get it posted asap. I apologise for the delay.

Thu Mar 11, 11:10:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

1) Thank you in advance for having the forum access problem fixed. I'm interested in having a look at that forum.

2) As I said in my previous comment, now I know how to get your attention. :) I may yet post some more thoughts about the Koren Sacks Siddur, so you might want to keep an eye on that "web-tool" of yours. :)

3) Yoffi (wonderful)! I'm looking forward to reading the answer. Thank you.

Thu Mar 11, 11:42:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Raphael Freeman MISTD said...

1. Check out It should be working.

2. the webtool is simply google alerts. It's something that I usually check off-hours...

3. Here is your answer. Please bear in mind that this is written by a native Hebrew speaker so excuse the grammar. I hope you forgive me for not putting this answer through our English editorial staff, but our resources to replying to blogs is somewhat limited.

Here goes:

"To begin with, the distinction between “echad” and “acher” is not a modern-day typo of someone who can’t proofread siddurim – it goes all the way back to the very first Ashkenazi siddurim printed, Prague 1519 and Tuhingen 1561, and was explained by the ShL”H.
While it is true that the first edition of the Torat Kohanim has “acher” in both places (and later editions copied it) – this is absolutely no reason to suppose having twice “acher” is the original – in fact, it is more likely to have been a correction by some proofreader, who supposed the original had such a mistake. Publishers ammending things which they thought were wrong are, as a rule, more common than miscopies.

But the story goes further back in time. In the 15th century, the Tashbetz (the most prominent rabbi in North Africa at the time), wrote a commentary to the Beraita of R’ Yishma’el. He noted that while all the siddurim had “acher” twice – the manuscripts of the Torat Kohanim had “echad” – the opposite of what 16th century Ashkenaz had!

The Tashbetz was the last among several commentaries on this Beraita from the Rishonim period. I think it is clear that the Ra’avad did have “ehchad”, while Rashi, the Roke’ach (in his peirush to the siddur), as that is the way it is in Rabbeinu Bechaye on Bamidbar 12:14 – although contextually, R’ Bechaye could be read either way, and one might argue his peirush was also miscopied.

And one should take into account the earliest version, of Rav Sa’adyah Gaon, who had in both cases “ויצא לטעון טעם אחר”.

Which is the most correct? According to the full version we have in Torat Kohanim, which enlarges and explains the beraita, the version with two “acher” does indeed seem more correct; although it fits with RS”G version even better – and as Rashi’s commentary seems a bit out of place with it, I can’t help suspecting that Rashi had a different version, out of which two sources our present nusach was combined, with the two “acher” being a residue from RS”G’s version.

Be that as may, I think there is a basis to the suggestion that the Sephardi siddurim’s version (which the blogger advocates) is correct, although there is no proof; and I would never change an Ashkenazi tradition of all siddurim in the last 500 years, which is attested by Rishonim and is reasonably indicated to be Rashi’s version – just because the arguments in favour of the other version are a trifling more convincing."

I hope that this explains our decision to keep with this tradition and that you forgive us that this answer was somewhat slow in arriving.

Sun Mar 14, 11:31:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I'm embarrassed to say that I'd never heard of Torat Kohanim before--please pardon my ignorance of divrei kodesh (sacred texts)--so I found this response rather challenging to understand. If I follow the explanation correctly, the question of which spelling is correct seems to have been raised by both the earliest printed Ashkenazi siddurim and also by possible variant texts of the b'raita itself. I'm going to follow Rav Sa’adyah Gaon and continue to use "acher," since his seems to be one of the oldest references. In all honesty, if there were clear-cut proof as to the original spelling of the quote, I wouldn't have much patience with a minhag (custom), however old, that uses a different spelling--either you're quoting or you're not. But since Rashi's commentary seems to indicate that the version of the b'raita of which he was aware had the spelling "echad," it appears to me that one could make a case for "echad," if only out of respect for Rashi. Thank you for the response, and for providing me an opportunity to advance my Jewish education.

Mon Mar 15, 12:04:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I suspect that this post of mine concerning the translation of the Koren Sacks Siddur may prompt some eye-rolling. (I'm a hopeless literalist.) Some interesting comments--which you may appreciate more than my post :)--have already been published.

Mon Mar 15, 12:15:00 PM 2010  

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