A small review of the Koren Mikraot Hadorot

A page of the Koren Mikraot Hadorot with Rashi.
A page of the Koren Mikraot Hadorot with Rashi.

It is not possible to overestimate the work of Koren publishers during the last years: The new Koren siddur, the Steinsaltz Talmud, the Steinsaltz Ḥumash and many other (influential) books and publications. Not to mention the accuracy of the Koren Tanakh.

Now Koren has recently launched another big project. The “Koren Mikraot hadorot” with a selection of 44 Torah commentaries, like Rashi (of course), Ibn Ezra, Ramban, Rabbi Avraham ben Harambam, the Or haChayyim, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson and Nehama Leibowitz, divided into three parts “The time of the sages”, “the classic commentators” and “confronting modernity” – with this approach, the reader (or learner) will find the commentaries organized according to their era. Unexpected for the “ashkenormative” reader is the inclusion of Sephardic commentators (Spanish and North African) like the, already mentioned, Avraham ben Harambam and Hayyim ibn Attar, born in Morocco. Thank you, Koren, for expanding my horizons.

The text of the Torah was translated by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (z’l). The translation was already used for the first book of the “Tanakh of the land of Israel” project (Exodus). Rabbi Sacks created a “readable” text, sometimes close to the original, sometimes paraphrasing it. It is a pleasure to read it.

Rashi has its own part within each volume of the “Mikraot hadorot”. The reader will find the commentary of Rashi in Hebrew (set in the smart Rashi font of Koren and with Nikkud) and a “side by side” new translation by Rabbi Jonathan Mishkin. The text of the Tora with Rashi is opened from right to left, all other commentaries are opened from left to right.

The included commentaries are, of course, only a selection. Digressions on questions of grammar have been avoided, whereas the commentary of Rashi (the right-to-left one) is complete. A full translation of all quoted commentaries would go beyond any reasonable scope. The “Koren Mikraot Gedolot” are thus an exhausting anthology of Torah commentaries with exciting insights. But the large scope has its price. Each parashah of the year will be published in one volume. In the end, there will be a set of 55 volumes – 54 parashot plus a planned companion volume. Interestingly the Koren website announces 48 volumes. In the end, this “library” of commentary will cost around $ 1.097 (19.95 for each volume), or approx. 900 euros, a quiet impressive amount for private buyers. I mean, it’s worth it, for sure, but it is also a big investment.

Two other aspects of this endeavour are noteworthy:
One aspect is “strategic”. Why has Koren decided to start with such a big project instead of publishing the “Sacks translation” in one Hebrew-English Tanah or Humash?
The same is true for the new translation of Rashi. This would have been a marvellous book as well.
Instead of collecting the low hanging fruits, Koren decided to realise a huge project.

The second aspect is “redundancy”. When we talk about books, redundancy is not unimportant. The reader will find the translation of the Torah four times (for every era and with the commentary of Rashi), the Rashi commentary twice – one time in the dedicated “Rashi part” and once again within the part “the classic commentators”, this time abridged. The publisher’s preface is also available twice. Clearly, the capacity of 5.3 inches x 8.5 inches/13.5 cm x 21.5 cm page is limited and the split into eras was a clever move as well, but the repeated use of the translation and the Hebrew text of the parashah is somehow disturbing – on the other hand: I have no other clever solution for the task to show as much as possible commentary on one page.

As a conclusion: Another giant project of Koren, but please provide a dedicated Humash with a “Sacks translation” and a “Tanakh with Rashi” as well – for all those who can’t afford to buy all 55 volumes.

The Koren Mikraot Hadorot is published by Koren publishers. See all details here.

About the Author
Chajm is a writer, blogger, and resident of the German Ruhr district; publisher of the German Jewish website talmud.de. Some of his articles are published in a German-Jewish weekly.
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