Translating the TorahLiving Torah, Stone, and the Gutnick Chumash in Comparison
Submitted to: Books 
Posted: June 05 2008


The Gutnick Chumash features a soulful modern English translation, the product of a unique philosophy – utter devotion to Rashi’s classic commentary. It presents readers with peshuto shel mikrah (the literal, contextual meaning) by integrating Rashi’s explanations directly into the fabric of the English text, carefully demarcated in parentheses. By clearly stating the exegetical biases of his work, author Rabbi Chaim Miller has produced an honest and unswerving effort that also affords the reader outstanding readability and an enjoyable, engaging encounter with the text.

This is not the first time an English Torah translation attempted to weave in traditional rabbinical commentary. In 1981, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan produced a popular Torah translation which endeavored to be, first and foremost, clear and readable, with a secondary goal of remaining faithful to the precise wording of Scripture. While English readership raved, critics argued it mis-represented the text by paraphrasing rather than rendering a straight translation of the text, skipping over awkward phrases entirely.

The Stone Edition of the Chumash became available to the English-speaking audience in 1993, and enjoyed widespread popularity, but the translation’s philosophy has often been criticized as sacrificing natural expression in the name of conservatism and accuracy.

The Gutnick Chumash strikes a careful balance between Stone’s faithfulness and Kaplan’s flow. A good example is the approach to translating the word “hinei”. Kaplan ignores it completely, consistent with his emphasis on readability over accuracy. Stone offers the stuffy, yet grammatically appropriate, “Behold”. The Gutnick Chumash, however, employs the surprising and effective “Look!”

By way of example, here is Numbers 13:25 and the account of the spies in the Gutnick Chumash:

At the end of forty days, they returned from scouting the Land. They went (with bad intentions, and their intentions were still bad when) they came to Moshe and Aharon and the entire congregation of the children of Israel in Kadaish, in the desert of Paran.

They brought them back a report (to Moshe and Aharon), as well as to the entire congregation, and they showed them the Land’s fruit.

The same section as translated in the Living Torah:

At the end of forty days they came back from exploring the land.

When they arrived, they went directly to Moses, Aaron and the entire Israelite community, [who were] in the Paran Desert near Kadesh. They brought their report to [Moses, Aaron], and the entire community, and showed them fruit from the land.

And the same passage in the Stone Chumash:

They returned from spying out the Land at the end of forty days. They went and came to Moses and to Aaron and to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel, to the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh, and brought back the report to them and the entire assembly, and they showed them the fruit of the Land.

In the Gutnick Chumash, the passage assumes a completely different tone: the spies not only came back to report, they returned to complete their premeditated act of sabotage. Thus, their famous wicked and negative report is fully appreciated against the background context.

The result is a very reader-friendly account and full access to the ideas of Rashi – invaluable to attaining a basic understanding of the text.

The Gutnick Edition Chumash - Synagogue Edition

Published by Kol Menachem

Edited and Adapted by Rabbi Chaim Miller

Hardcover / 1600 pages / ISBN 978-1-934152-01-0 / $59.99 (Hi Resolution Cover Image Available)


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    Yonason Gordon
    Kol Menachem  

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