I am almost done with Melachim, for which I was using Artscroll Rubin edition. I have been reading a perek a day, in English, and then reading through the commentary to that perek.
There were a few things I liked about that edition:
- The translations and the commentary are fairy well-written.
- Side bars contain helpful information, introducing each new king or event, so it is easy to follow the narrative.
- The haftorahs are marked on the side.
- The text is clearly set.
Unfortunately, the Artscroll did not continue with the rest of Nach. There is a translation of pshat (literal text), but no commentary. The only options I encountered were Judaica Press edition and fully translated Rashi on chabad.org . Having such slim pickings, I decided to get Judaica Press Isaiah and see how it goes.
One of the nice things about Artscroll is their clearly-set text. Judaica Press edition was copyrighted in 1983, and it shows, ad once is forced to squint at the text, especially the Hebrew commentaries. It looks like xeroxes of some older edition of Mikraot gedolot. I am not sure how the translation will be, whether it is literal or poetic, and whether modern or archaic English is used.
Which makes me wonder: is there no market for Nach to be translated and elucidated for detailed study in English? Or is it supposed to remain a closed book unless you are fluent in Biblical Hebrew and are at ease navigating through mounds of commentaries? Or is the baal teshuva market saturated with self-help and insirational books, so there is no place left for in-depth learning?
Much of Melachim is not a fun, inspirational read. This is a nation, split in two, declining, at times at the brink of civil war, in upheaval, and not living up to its potential. There are miracles and horrors, but, at the end, there will be exile. None of the miracles have the lasting effect, and neither do the horrors. People do whatever they see fit, from the kings, to the priests, to the commoners. The end result is exile. A sobering message indeed. Is this not an important lesson?
For now I will stick with Judaica Press and I hope that other publishers wake up and make the rest of the Nach accessible to the less educated. Rambam wrote in Arabic, to make his works available to the masses, so are we holier and more perceptive than Rambam?