Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Art Scroll Irritates

[First posted in 2005 as part of A whole bunch of post Yom Kippur thoughts ]

It took some doing, but I've determined which of the many annoying bits of the Art Scroll Commentary on the Machzor is most annoying of all. It appear near the beginning of Yom Kippur Maariv: "[The piyutim are] infinitely more than inspired poetry."

Anyone know how to solve this equation?

inspired poetry^infinity=?

Didn't think so. When ArtScroll announces the piyutim are "infinitely more than inspired poetry" do they mean the authors were prophets? Does it mean those verses we read, with their rhymes, rhythms and meters, aren't really poetry, but something else? Or does it mean that the editors of Art Scroll, like too many Torah True Jews in 2005, are poetry Philistines? (Hint: "Yes" is the right answer to that question.)

The only reason the Wise Men of Chelm Art Scroll call it "infinitely more than poetry" is because they inhabit a milieu where poetry is suspect, and possibly treif. "Infinitely more than poetry" is NewSpeak, a way of hiding a frightening fact (ie: that it really is poetry, and that our community, for all it's jive about being "authentic" is failing our fathers, and making a mistake by not teaching our young people to write and appreciate poetry.)

If Elazar HaKalir, Meshullem Kolynomous, and our other leading literary lights lived today, they'd either be living miserably as Jews, with their gifts suppressed and denied, or they'd be flourishing outside the Jewish community. Sadly, there's no longer a place in Torah True Judaism for a genius of letters.

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