October 25, 2010 – With support from Targum Shlishi, the Jerusalem-based Saul Lieberman Institute of Talmudic Research of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America is in the process of establishing a website for its Talmud Text Databank, which will provide a completely searchable text version of all manuscripts, Genizah and other fragments, first printed editions of the Babylonian Talmud, and the Kaufmann manuscript of the Mishnah, with vocalization.
Targum Shlishi has long been a proponent of utilizing technology wisely and of supporting projects whose objective is to bring important resources to larger audiences. “Our only shot at engaging the masses in things Jewish is through the use of technology,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “We, the Jewish people, have not invested enough resources or energy in this field and have been behind, but projects like this and others will hopefully start to close the gap.”
The Lieberman Institute is founded and directed by Shamma Friedman, the Benjamin and Minna Reeves Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at The Jewish Theological Seminary. “Professor Friedman’s projects are revolutionizing the teaching of Talmud,” comments Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University.
The website, currently in development, will help make the Lieberman Institute’s Talmud Text Databank much more widely accessible and more frequently updated than it has been to date—for the past several years, the databank has been available on CDs distributed by sale to individuals and institutions. “Our databank has made a powerful impact, and we’ve updated our CD every few years,” explains Shamma Friedman. “Making the database available on a website will help us reach a much larger usership than is possible by CD and our modest distribution capabilities.”
Scholars have found the Lieberman Institute databank to be extremely useful. Comments from scholars who frequently use the CD include: “What is so special about the present software is the easy access it affords to a vast array of manuscripts from different periods and places, by means of an array of search options. These features make Talmud scholarship an area of study in its own right, and promise fantastic innovations and surprises for all those seeking to understand the corpus,” and “Using the database not only saves the time it takes to locate and decipher manuscripts…it also enables easy searches and analysis of linguistic phenomena.”
The Lieberman Institutes two databases include the following materials:
• The Henkin Talmud Text Database contains the manuscripts of the tractates of the Babylonian Talmud of Oriental, Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and Yemenite origin and first printed editions. Hundreds of Cairo Geniza fragments of tractates of the Babylonian Talmud and European binding fragments have now been added, many as both text and digital image. The database presents the user with the full manuscript texts of the Babylonian Talmud and allows the user to search for specific words and combinations of words within the entire corpus. In the past, full comparison of textual witness of the Babylonian Talmud was a tedious task requiring much effort to acquire copies of the manuscripts in order to analyze the differences. This database enables the user to do a full comparison and analysis of the textual witnesses for any section of the Babylonian Talmud.
• The index of references of Talmudic literature provides bibliographic references to discussions on Talmudic literature and includes close to one thousand works. These works comprise modern Talmud scholarship, medieval Talmud study, and parallel references within Talmudic literature. The references are given throughout the Talmudic corpus including Mishnah, Tosefta, Bavli, and Yerushalmi. The database also includes classics of Talmud scholarship such as Lieberman’s Tosefta ki-feshuta and J.N. Epstein’s Mevo le-nusach ha-Mishna. Its bibliography spans the various disciplines as represented in the following works: Biblical and Talmudic Medicine, The Laws of Qumran, Jewish Values in Psychotherapy and Jewish Women and Divorce.
About the Saul Lieberman Institute of Talmudic Research, Jewish Theological Seminary
The Saul Lieberman Institute of Talmudic Research was founded in 1985 by Shamma Friedman, the Benjamin and Minna Reeves Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at The Jewish Theological Seminary, and is directed by him. The Institute is dedicated to the memory of Saul Lieberman, magisterial Talmud sage and doyen of 20th century Talmud scholarship. The Institute initiates, develops, and disseminates sophisticated computerized research tools designed to facilitate the study of Talmud and related fields. For more information on the institute, visit its website at http://heb.liebermaninstitute.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.