The Talmud Is Finally Now Available Online

In South Korea, where I live, the Tal­mud is a best­seller. Just a few years ago the New York­er’s Ross Armud report­ed on the improb­a­ble pub­lish­ing suc­cess, in this small east Asian coun­try, of Judais­m’s “dense com­pi­la­tion of oral laws anno­tat­ed with rab­bini­cal dis­cus­sions, con­sist­ing of about two and a half mil­lion words.” Some of those words deal­ing with such press­ing ques­tions as, “If you find a cake with a pot­tery shard in it, can you keep it? Do you have to report the dis­cov­ery of a pile of fruit? What do you do if you find an item built into the wall of your house?”

The much short­er “Kore­an Tal­mud,” Armud writes, with its para­bles, apho­risms, and top­ics that run the gamut “from busi­ness ethics to sex advice,” makes a read­er feel like “the last play­er in a game of tele­phone.” But Joshua Foer, the sci­ence writer who co-found­ed Atlas Obscu­ra, might say that the Jew­ish Tal­mud has long left even Jew­ish read­ers in a sim­i­lar state of befud­dle­ment — if, indeed, they could find the text at all. Look­ing to get a han­dle on the Tal­mud him­self back in 2010, he found that, shock­ing­ly, the inter­net had almost noth­ing to offer him. And so he began work­ing, along­side an ex-Google engi­neer col­lab­o­ra­tor named Brett Lock­speis­er, to cor­rect that absence.

“Last year, after years of work and nego­ti­a­tions, Foer and Lock­speis­er final­ly suc­ceed­ed in their quest,” writes the Wash­ing­ton Post’s Noah Smith. “Through a non­prof­it they cre­at­ed called Sefaria, the men are bring­ing the Tal­mud online in mod­ern Eng­lish, and free of charge.” Sefari­a’s library, avail­able on the web as well as in app form, now includes a vari­ety of texts from Gen­e­sis and the Kab­bal­ah to phi­los­o­phy and mod­ern works — and of course the Tal­mud, the cen­ter­piece of the col­lec­tion, the rel­e­vant resources for which had not been in the pub­lic domain and thus required no small amount of nego­ti­a­tion to make free.

Sefari­a’s cre­ators have com­bined all this with a fea­ture called “source sheets,” which allow “any user on the site to com­pile and share a selec­tion of rel­e­vant texts, from Sefaria or out­side, sur­round­ing a giv­en issue or ques­tion.” (Smith points to the most pop­u­lar source sheet thus far, “Is One Per­mit­ted to Punch a White Suprema­cist in the Face?”) At about 160 mil­lion words with 1.7 mil­lion inter­tex­tu­al links and count­ing, the site has made a greater vol­ume of Jew­ish texts far more acces­si­ble than ever before. Read­ers, even non-Ortho­dox ones, have been dis­cov­er­ing them in Eng­lish, but if Sefaria wants to increase their traf­fic fur­ther still, they might con­sid­er upload­ing some Kore­an trans­la­tions as well.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ancient Israel: A Free Online Course from NYU

Intro­duc­tion to the Old Tes­ta­ment: A Free Yale Course

Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment His­to­ry and Lit­er­a­ture: A Free Yale Course

Har­vard Presents Two Free Online Cours­es on the Old Tes­ta­ment

Har­vard Launch­es a Free Online Course to Pro­mote Reli­gious Tol­er­ance & Under­stand­ing

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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