Friday, February 26, 2010

Reb Artscroll

One score, one decade and four years ago, if a Shul had a disagreement among Mispallelim as to what practice to follow, they asked their Rav. Nowadays, it is many a Rav who just might answer “Well, what does the Artscroll say?”

Artscroll can certainly be credited with the rejuvenation and proliferation of Talmudic learning around the world. Many a Baal Habos would be utilizing their time less wisely had Artscroll not made learning so simple. Yet hopefully this “crutch” will inspire the user to eventually graduate to the Shas of their Zaidy’s, sans the English translation.

Yet the question must be asked: How does Artscroll choose among the many Minhagim with regard to Tefillah? Certainly they have their Halachik advisors, but how do they Pasken for their entire user base? It is true that they realize that there are different customs, and they encourage one to question their local Halachik authority, but their choice of text will influence many for years to come.

Is it Geshem or Gashem? Yisgadal or Yisgadeil?

Imagine the childhood game of telephone. At some point, someone in the middle of the line may try to best create the original message, but at that point it is most probably not what the originator had initially spoken.


  1. Why do you direct that question only to Artscroll? All siddurim have to make the decision between geshem or gashem, yisgadal or yisgadel.

    If you're noheg otherwise, gezuntaheit. If you don't know, then follow what the siddur says. In many instances, Artscroll tries to mention various minhagim. If you look at the small instructions before certain tefillos, it'll say, "Most congregations do xyz, while some do abc." Artscoll has done an exception job of guiding people in davening. Like I said, if you are someone who does otherwise, go right ahead.

  2. No one ever paskened from a Shiloh or a Tikun Meir or a Kol Yaakov.

    The point is that Artscroll has become so prevalent, that those with different Minhagim will, in the coming years, be "forced" into the mainstream Minhag of Artscroll.

    At one time, everyone followed their local Rav. The shrinking world, due to the globalization of the internet, has changed that. Everyone must follow the psak of the Godol Hador.

  3. Wanna

    No other siddur has the marketing power of AS.

    The point of this post was to bemoan the fact that not only do people circumvent their Rav and ask AS, but the Rav himself also turns to AS for guidance. Each Shul should follow their own Minhagim. They should not be influenced by the majority.

  4. >No one ever paskened from a Shiloh or a Tikun Meir or a Kol Yaakov.

    That's only because the mainstream American Orthodox community which had little text skills also had no interest in conforming with the minutiae of halacha. There's a reason why Birnbaum didn't include such minutiae in his siddur, and it's not because he wasn't an expert on the siddur, which he was.

    Artscroll is leading and being led by an entirely different sort of American Orthodox community.

    Does any Rav actually turn to an Artscroll for guidance? I'd like to know more about that. (Unless you simply meant that some rabbonim will assume that Artscroll already did the research and will feel that one "may as well" default to it.)

  5. Adjunct point: most people find it very difficult to not follow the lead of the book in front of them. The same reason why people unflinchingly read the words in the brackets in the Vilna Shas, but don't read the words in the parentheses. Most people haven't the foggiest idea if their "minhag" or their shul's minhag is to read geshem or gashem, but they know what they see in the siddur in front of them, or what they hear people around them saying (eg, yisgadeil).

  6. Welcome back, S. Thanks for your contributions.

    Years ago, each Shul purchased the siddur that most closely followed their Hashkofo. Artscroll has produced such a fine product, that even non-Yeshivish congregations wanted it. Hence the RCA version. Yet not every sub-sect of Yiddishkeit is powerful enough to have AS print them their own version. What results is congregations following the lead from the Siddur, while their Shul Minhag may be different.

    The Shul rabbi may intercede, but in coming generations, many will be following Minhag-Artscroll.

    As for rabbis who follow AS, yes, I've heard one say on more than one occasion: "What does it say in Artscroll."

  7. Unless I'm mistaken, the RCA siddur only differs in that it includes the tefillos for Israel and an introduction by Rabbi Saul Berman. Indeed, one might say that it's failure to have even a single other quibble with a word, a comment or a nikkud doesn't speak very highly of them, at least at the time.

    However, you're right. Shuls did used to purchase other than a single variety of siddur. Even if Artscroll was akin to Google rather than Microsoft (people are entitled to their opinion) competition is good for the marketplace. It could be argued that Artscroll is just that good, but that doesn't explain why they printed an all Hebrew Chumash, and are trying to sell it in EY no less. Competition = good. Monopolies = not so good.


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