(Miami, January 18, 2020) – Sefaria: A Living Library of Jewish Texts online, has recently released an annotated English translation of Rabbi Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin’s introduction to his Ha’amek She’elah on Sheiltot d’Rav Achai Gaon. The commentary is known as the Darkah Shel Torah, (the Path of Torah). Targum Shlishi awarded a grant to cover the cost of acquiring the rights, translating and digitizing the work. Considered by Rabbi Berlin to be one of the most influential works of his life, the Darkah Shel Torah is an essential addition to the Sefaria open access library. You can find it here.
“Before the Internet came the printing press. Before the printing press, there were handwritten scrolls. Before that, we relied on oral traditions passed down from teacher to teacher. Each new medium democratized knowledge further, bringing more and more people into the great conversations of Jewish learning. We are the generation charged with shepherding Jewish texts into the digital era in ways that can expand their reach and impact” says Daniel Septimus, Sefaria’s executive director.
Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, often referred to by his acronym “the Netziv,” (meaning “pillar” and/or “governor),” was born in 1816 in Mir, Belarus into a family of Jewish scholars and died in Warsaw, Poland in 1893. He was an Orthodox rabbi, dean of the renowned Volozhin Yeshiva, and author of several works of rabbinic literature.
Published as a preface to the Netziv’s magnum opus, Ha’amek She’elah, this preface is a significant work that stands on its own. It describes the approach and skills that the Netziv considers necessary for fully understanding Torah and claims that in the absence of a Temple, Jews become closest to God through the study of Torah. This work in the original Hebrew is extremely terse and requires significant effort to understand in its entirety. It was translated into English by Rabbi Elchanan Greenman who provided chapter summaries and added to the text to clarify the Netziv’s intent. The translation will provide unprecedented access to this text for learners worldwide.
Aryeh Rubin of Targum Shlishi comments: “I believe that Sefaria, by digitizing the Jewish canon and more, has made one of the foremost contributions to Jewish culture in our times, and we are honored to participate with them on this and other projects. The Netziv himself believed this work to be one of his most important texts, and at the time of its writing encouraged everyone to publish it, forgoing royalties. Targum Shlishi is delighted to partner with Sefaria to share the Netziv’s legacy and invite students and scholars into a deeper understanding of his work.”
The text was released on Sefaria in July, 2019. In the first three months, the text garnered more than 1,000 page views. The average time users spend studying the text is more than 20 minutes, compared to the average Sefaria user session of 7 minutes.
Sefaria is a non-profit organization using technology to build the future of Jewish learning in an open and participatory way. Its 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.
Its free library of core Jewish texts and more than 190,000 user-generated source sheets diversifies and democratizes Jewish learning for students and teachers from all over the world and all sectors of the Jewish community. For many users who live outside of established Jewish communities or who have previously encountered barriers to entry, Sefaria has been their first meaningful encounter with Jewish content.
Since 2013, Sefaria’s library and myriad resources have been used by more than 4.5 million people, making Sefaria one of the most widely used Torah learning platforms in the world. To learn more about Sefaria, visit its website: http://www.sefaria.org/
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, 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. Follow Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director, on Twitter..