2004-08-18

Translating קש''ע מקור חיים

It isn't a secret that there currently doesn't exist a good general halachic guidebook in english, suitable for beginners in halachic jewish observance, converts, and those simple lacking the language skills to access sources in hebrew. "Good" here means clearly written, straightforwardly presented/structured, level-headed, fairly lenient, and offering enough background to the halachot so that they can be understood as part of a meaningful system, but without excess hashkafic commentary. The current options all miss on more than one of these requirements, stranding many without a good reference source from which to learn and get answers to questions as they come up. Leaving these individuals to seek guidance from the available english language sources and their peers opens them to the influence of those who would make observance more difficult than it already is for someone starting out (or, speaking for myself, someone who's been at it for a few years now).

What to do? Well, thinking back to my time at Hamivtar, I recall our Rosh Kollel Rav Reich praising Rav Chaim David HaLevi's קש''ע מקור חיים (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Makor Chaim) for having many of these qualities. See here for a bio. While I'm not intimately familiar with מקור חיים myself, by all accounts it appears to be the only suitable book that might serve as the source for a translation into english.

Translating מקור חיים would be a huge job, but it occurred to me it might be made doable through the use of a wiki. Using a wiki would allow anyone to contribute to a public, web-based translation. Potentially, people or groups could make the project part of their regular learning, moving the translation along quite quickly.

Currently I'm just mulling over the idea of this project, and I'm looking for input on how it might be accomplished. Obviously, the first thing to sort out is the copyright status of מקור חיים. If anyone knows anything about Israeli copyright law (or knows someone who knows) or knows someone in Israel who might be able to look into it, that would be a huge help in getting a translation project off the ground (or finding out if it's even possible). Rav HaLevi died not that long ago, so it is possible that מקור חיים entered the public domain then or the copyright may have been extended. Even if it remains under copyright, we might be able to secure permission as an open access, not for profit profit project.

Beyond that, I foresee the need to put together an editorial board to oversee the project, establish translation guidelines, and monitor/edit submissions. Of course, somewhere must be found to host the wiki, and someone to act as admin for it.

Thoughts?

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