Tuesday, March 28, 2006

On Editing a Journal

Ben Yehuda Press recently republished Ben Zion Bokser's translation of excerpts from R. Avraham Yitzchak Kook's writings titled The Essential Writings of Abraham Isaac Kook. It looks like they added an index, which I found extremely helpful. The book is full of extremely good selections from Rav Kook, translated from his virtually incomprehensible Hebrew (at least to me) into relatively readable, albeit somewhat complex, English. To me, the book is a goldmine, especially with the index.

The following is an excerpt from a letter that Rav Kook sent to R. Meir Berlin (pp. 110-111):

My dear, I find myself constrained to express to you several reactions concerning the Haivri [the periodical], vol. 10, whose appearance indicates that it was published without your honor's supervision. All of it lacks that unifying spirit that generally permeated the Haivri, with which only an editor pure of heart and uprighteous of spirit, a person of distinguished talent like you, my friend, could endow it...

I find myself obligated to call to your attention your great responsibility as editor of a periodical which represents authentic Judaism, guided by the light of wisdom and knowledge... The pages of this issue testify that you did not assign to the editorship a person who can maintain his independence in judgment, as you do, my friend. Thus the opening article by Rabbi P. remained trite, without any idea to expand one's thought. We no longer need poems of praise for Rabbi Levy or Mr. Yavitz [Yizhak Isaac Halevi and Zeev Yavitz...] Special articles of critical evaluation of those two distinguished authors, even if all favorable, may be accepted, but when one always focuses on their documentation of the riches of our spiritual life, it appears like a confession of poverty. Though we have no other good and traditionally acceptable works of history, we cannot deny that there are many good elements in writings that we regard as tainted with a nontraditional bias [emphasis added - GS]. Moreover, those two historians were not always right in their tendentious criticisms, and the truth is to be preferred above all else, and only through it can God's praise and our faith be enhanced. The rebuke to Bible critics and to nonreligious writers, when it is uttered only in generalities, does not mean anything and makes no contribution. Among the young people whom we are trying to win over, this style of writing does more harm than good...

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