Marc Shapiro, the Modern Orthodox historian, has an erudite, wide-ranging, and entertaining post over at the Seforim blog (thanks to S.); the conceit here is that Shapiro is trying to find mistakes with Artscroll. Buried in the middle is a nugget which points up (to me) why even Modern Orthodoxy can be difficult to understand.
Shapiro wonders how to translate אדון עולם, i.e. the first two Hebrew words of Adon Olam: "eternal Lord" or "Lord of the world"?
[ . . .] I was pleased when I found the perfect example of an Arscroll error, and this in a prayer that we all know well, Adon Olam. What do these words mean? To answer this, most people will open their Arscroll siddur. Artscroll translates, “Master of the Universe”. This, or similar translations (e.g., Lord of the Universe, Master of the World) seem to be standard. Yet for a while I was convinced that the proper translation was “Eternal Lord.” After looking at the song as a whole, and seeing how it speaks of God’s eternity, it appeared clear to me that this is what the first two words mean.Agreed! And refreshing (thought I) to see recognition in Orthodox circles (okay, recognition by one Orthodox writer) of a text's plain meaning.
But it was not to be. In Shapiro's words:
A few weeks ago I received a letter from R. [Meir] Mazuz[, a Sefardi scholar], and well, let’s just say that I won’t be trying to impress people any more by pointing out that Artscroll has mistranslated Adon Olam. To begin with, R. Mazuz insists that Adon Olam is identical with Ribbono shel Olam. As for my point about “olam” never meaning “world” in the Bible, he writes:This is very frustrating! R. Mazuz seems to believe that the interpretations of Chazal trump pshat, even when other readings are more plausible and even (in this case) when the piyyut in question is post-Biblical, not to mention post-Talmudic! It feels weird, like Shapiro is being yanked back into line by the unseen hand of Orthodoxy.זו דעת החוקרים האחרונים שעולם בתנ"ך פירושו נצח, אבל חז"ל לא הבינו כן
As proof for this he refers to Berakhot 54bכל חותמי ברכות שבמקדש היו אומרים: עד העולם. משקלקלו הצדוקין ואמרו אין עולם אלא אחד התקינו שיהו אומרים מן העולם ועד העולם
At the conclusion of the benedictions said in the Temple they used at first to say simply, “forever.” When the Sadducees perverted their ways and asserted that there was only one world, it was ordained that the response should be "from world to world” [i.e., two worlds].
He also called attention to a passage in Sanhedrin 58b where the verse in Ps. 89:2, עולם חסד יבנה, is understood not as “forever is mercy built,” but as “the world shall be built up by grace.”
As I said, I am forced to conclude that in this case Artscroll gets a pass.