Thursday, August 12, 2004

Translator's Intro. to "Eight Chapters" (Part 2)

This is part of my upcoming translation
of Rambam's "Eight Chapters", to be
published shortly by Judaica Press.

Interested in dedicating this work in
loving memory of someone or for other reasons?
Please contact me at

Translator's Intro. (Part 2)

When I first decided to translate and comment upon this dynamic work, I was immediately taken aback by the enormity of the task. Like the author of The Duties of the Heart, Bachya Ibn Pakudah, said about himself in his introduction to that book, I too felt ill-equipped for the task, and wondered if “I was burdening myself with something that would only demonstrate my limitations” and was “over stepping my bounds”.

But as Ibn Pakudah put it, I knew full well that “many good ideas were rejected because of fear”, so I too “forced myself to endure the writing of this book and to explain its subject as clearly and vividly as I could.”

So I drew from others’ works, including from Rabbi Yoseph Kapach’s new translation from the original Arabic to Hebrew along with notes (which serves as our primary text), Rabbi Yitzchak Shilat’s later translation into Hebrew with notes, Professor Joseph Gorfinkle’s 1912 translation into English with notes, and Rabbi Mordechai Rabinowitz’s notes to his Rambam L’Am edition. But the notions contained herein are my own, and aren’t to be saddle upon the backs of these scholars; for I mainly made use of their syntactic and contextual insights, and most especially of the wealth of Rambam’s other writings they directed me to in my own research.

I took certain liberties with the text, including changing third person to second in many instances (for reasons of style), and I subdivided the chapters on my own for ease of reference.

It became clear that I had to offer a lot of notes to clarify Rambam’s meaning and illustrate my point that his message is essential for us in our own day and age. Yet I didn’t want to daunt the reader with having to wade through so many notes in a relatively short work. So it occurred to me to present each chapter as it is (which I provided explanatory prologues to, for clarity’s sake) to allow the reader to take Rambam’s words in. Then I offered the text again with my notes to explain the many difficulties. I also provided a synopsis of the original text itself at the end for review.

Several of the more difficult ideas called for a longer, more technical explanation; and certain themes presented in The Eight Chapters that were presented in Rambam’s earlier and later works called for comparison and contrast to what’s said here. So I provided the reader with supplementary notes.

Lastly, I provided a translation of Rambam’s comments to Pirke Avot (as well as of Pirke Avot itself). But know that Rambam's text of Pirke Avot differed at times from the ones we're familar with, and that the numbering system he used is also at variance with many of ours.

I thank God Almighty for allowing me the strength, time, resources, and all else it took to produce this work.

I also thank my beloved wife, Sara, for her comments, insight, encouragement, and life-partnership; and our children, Nechama, Aryeh and Dina.

(C) 2004 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman