One of the most famous examples of haredi censorship & Artscroll

One of the most famous examples of haredi censorship relates to R. Zevin. In his classic Ha-Moadim ba-Halakhah, in the section “Ha-Tzomot”, end of ch. 5 (p. 442 in the most recent edition), in discussing if one still needs to do keriah upon seeing the destroyed cities of Judea, R. Zevin writes:

מסתבר, שעם שיחרורן של ערי יהודה משלטון נכרים והקמת מדינת ישראל (אשרינו שזכינו לכך!) בטל דין הקריעה על אותן הערים.

This is not an extreme Zionist statement. It is simply an expression of happiness that the State of Israel came into being. I have no doubt that the typical haredi agrees that this was a good thing (and see in particular the comments of R. Moshe Feinstein quoted later in this post). However, even this very “pareve” statement was too much for Artscroll. Here is how Artscroll translated this passage (The Festivals in Halachah, vol. 2, p. 294):

It could be argued that since the liberation of the cities of the Judean hills from gentile rule, the law of rending the garment for these cities may no longer be in force.

The first thing to notice is that while R. Zevin wrote מסתבר, which must be translated as “it is reasonable”, “it makes sense”, or something similar, Artscroll has turned this into a tentative argument (“it could be argued”). Yet this is not what R. Zevin is saying. “It could be argued” implies that R. Zevin is on the fence on this matter, while מסתבר shows clearly what his view is.

However, the really egregious action of Artscroll comes later in this sentence where Artscroll deletes mention of the establishment of the State of Israel and, most significantly, R. Zevin’s feeling of joy at this event: אשרנו שזכינו לכך!

I have learnt that the men who run Artscroll did not originally know about the censorship just mentioned. They never authorized any distortion of the translation and were surprised to find out what had been done. Yet once learning what had happened, they never took any steps to correct the translation and even defended the alterations. To this day, the matter has not been rectified. It is one thing if in its own works Artscroll tolerates or even encourages distortions, but to take the work of someone else, especially a great Torah scholar, and “correct” it so as to bring it into line with haredi “Daas Torah” is unforgivable. Furthermore, it is a violation of a sacred trust which every translator should be cognizant of. I also wonder if there isn’t a real issue of geneivah involved. If you sell a book supposed to be a translation, and you alter the translation, it is not merely a matter of geneivat da’at but real thievery, since you are selling a product that is not authentic.

Marc B. Shapiro, “R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin, Kitniyot, R. Judah Mintz, and More”, The Seforim Blog (14 October 2013) []