While paging through these (and getting plenty of chuckles along with groans), I decided that for our Shabbat study session this week, Mrs. Yid and I should take a look at Song of Songs.
"The one with all the sex?" she asked.
"Not according to Artscroll!" I said.
Yes, for those who don't know, Artscroll's approach to the Song of Songs is somewhat unique. You see, the Song of Songs is, for the Tanakh, somewhat graphic. And there's a longstanding Jewish tradition that it's meant to be read allegorically as a love poem between God and Israel, not two lovers. Fair enough, I can understand that approach. But what Artscroll does really takes the cake. Rather than argue for why it should be read allegorically, they treat it as an accepted fact.
To both the Sages of the Talmud and the classic commentators, it was clear that Song of Songs is an allegory... Its verses are so saturated with meaning that every commentator finds new themes in its beautiful and cryptic words. All agree, however, that the truth of the Song is to be found only in its allegory. That is why, in the interest of accuracy, our translation of the Song is different from that of any other Artscroll translation of Scripture. Although we provide the literal meaning as part of the commentary, we translate the Song according to Rashi's allegorical translation.
At this point Mrs. Yid actually got mad. "Artscroll! What are you doing? How can... how can they even pretend to have any intellectual honesty anymore?"
I read through some of their translation, and it was pretty entertaining. I particularly like the part where "my nard gave forth its fragrance" becomes "my malodorous deed gave forth its scent as my Golden Calf defiled the covenant." Another good one is when the line about breasts gets glossed as being about the Ark of the Covenant: "The long staves of the Ark pressed against the curtain that separated it... in the Tabernacle, causing breastlike protrusions on the other side..."
I think the whole thing is funny, but Mrs. Yid was quite bothered by the sheer force of double-speak. She says she may have to consider an Artscroll boycott in our house. (But then how will our kids learn good middos?)