Online Library Sefaria Revolutionizes Jewish Learning
Targum Shlishi Supports Digitization of Rashi’s Torah Commentary
(Miami, March 13, 2016)—“Rashi on Torah” is an innovative digital initiative of Sefaria, a living library of Jewish texts online. Targum Shlishi sponsored the posting of the complete and bilingual version of Rashi’s Torah commentary.
“Getting Rashi in translation is just one step towards a much larger goal of making traditional Jewish texts as accessible as possible with as few restrictions as possible,” says Daniel Septimus, Sefaria’s executive director.
Rashi was the medieval French rabbi whose comprehensive commentaries on the Talmud and Tanach are prized for their clarity and concision. His work continues to be central to contemporary Jewish study.
Digitizing Rashi’s Torah commentary was frequently requested and had been one of Sefaria’s major priorities. The process was complex and involved reviewing the translations and seeking legal counsel to determine a version that both had strong features and was in the public domain. The Silbermann edition, published between 1929 and 1934, was identified as the text to work from.
The next steps were to digitize the text, proofread the English, expand abbreviations, and add citations to the sources Rashi quotes. Rabbi Francis Nataf was engaged to write new translations of comments that had not been translated previously. This new translation is known as the Sefaria edition and was released under a Creative Commons license, meaning that it is freely available for anyone to use in any way.
A large percentage of Sefaria users are educators and students in Jewish day schools. Sefaria benefits that audience by facilitating Torah learning. Additionally, it also benefits less advanced Torah learners who have not had a background in Torah study and who visit Sefaria to learn.
“The work that Sefaria is doing is important and incredibly welcome,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “I am delighted that the Jewish world is finally advancing in adapting technological developments that will enhance our religious and cultural heritage. Sefaria has identified this weakness and addressed it. To many, study of Biblical texts without Rashi would be inconceivable. This work is groundbreaking and will make a major difference in the lives of the scholar and lay person. Bravo!”
Sefaria notes that the Rashi translation is one step in the larger picture of making traditional Jewish texts as accessible as possible with as few restrictions as possible. “We’re committed to making these texts easier to find, easier to understand, and free to access,” says Septimus. “Ultimately, by translating Rashi into the language spoken by a large portion of world Jewry, we are facilitating the entrance of innumerable Jews into the great conversation of Jewish learning.”
Sefaria is building a free living library of Jewish texts and their interconnections, in Hebrew and in translation. Founded in 2013, Sefaria was created in response to a unique problem and opportunity: The Jewish world was failing to take advantage of major technological developments that could yield unprecedented new opportunities for learning. Sefaria’s mission is to revolutionize Jewish education and enhance Jewish literacy and engagement. As a living library, Sefaria will constantly evolve, innovate, and improve its platform to grow and interact with its users. Sefaria’s goal is to lower the barriers of engagement with Jewish texts, create interactive opportunities for novel Jewish conversation and commentary, and provide educators, scholars, and technologists with an open source database of texts to make new educational applications simpler and more viable to develop. To learn more about Sefaria, visit its website: http://www.sefaria.org/
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org. Follow Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Aryeh5.