Online resources for research, analysis, and teaching of the Talmud are well-represented on the Web. Digital collections and databanks of Talmudic texts and manuscripts are becoming increasingly available. An array of websites and social networking applications offer introductory material, insights, and linguistic and educational tools to assist in the study of the Talmud at all levels. New computing tools such as optical character recognition, three-dimensional computer graphics, text encoding, text and data mining, and image recognition enable scholars to look at the Talmud in interdisciplinary and innovative ways, individually and collaboratively. This article aims to guide scholars, faculty, and students to some of the best sites currently available. Not all of these sites are academic or critical in their conception or sponsorship, but they can be useful for their content and interface, and readers should visit them for more information.
Full texts of the Tanakh, Mishnah, Tosefta, Babylonian Talmud, Talmud Yerushalmi, and the Mishneh Torah of Rambam can be found in text format at the Ma'agar Sifrut ha-Kodesh and Mechon Mamre. The National Library of Israel (formerly JNUL) Digitized Book Repository contains scanned parts or complete editions of some of the earliest editions of the Talmud.
While the above-noted sites offer the full text of the Talmud as either JPEG graphics or in text format, a complete Talmud Bavli that has been scanned and undergone optical character recognition (OCR) has been mounted at the Hebrewbooks.org site with permission from Moznaim Publishing. This online edition offers full-search capabilities, and it is also possible to copy and paste any part of a page into a Word document or other tool for educational and teaching purposes. In addition to the six orders of the Mishnah, the site also includes the full text of the Gemara, Rashi, and Tosafot, a Daf Yomi calendar, and an index of commentators.
Additional full-text resources freely available on the Web include:
- The Soncino Babylonian Talmud in English translation is available online in its entirely as a PDF and about 63 percent in HTML format.
- The Primary Textual Witnesses to Tannaitic Literature is part of a large Bar-Ilan project. The site includes full transcriptions of all extant manuscripts of the Tosefta, Mekhilta, and work is being done on the Sifra.
- Tosefta Online offers a host of online resources about the Tosefta, including several manuscripts, the full text of the first printed edition, an English translation of the text, and an interesting blog. A similar site exists for the Talmud Yerushalmi.
In 1991, Bar-Ilan University launched the Responsa Project in a CD format. In 2007 it was uploaded to the Internet on a platform provided by C.D.I. Systems. Among its trove of rabbinic texts are the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmuds with commentaries, Midrashim, the Zohar, and a collection of more than eightythousand responsa. Access to the majority of the materials at the site is via subscription.
The National Library of Israel's Online Treasury of Talmudic Manuscripts brings together Talmudic manuscripts held only by other institutions. The manuscripts are indexed by standard citation.
The first printed edition of the Yerushalmi was published by Daniel Bomberg in Venice (1523–24). The only extant manuscript that was used by him for his edition is housed at the University of Leiden and was recently digitized in its entirety.
The Cairo Genizah includes a large number of Talmudic fragments. A noted characteristic of the Cairo Genizah is that fragments of the same work are very often scattered geographically in different libraries and collections. A number of libraries are digitizing their collections of Genizah fragments. The Taylor-Schechter Research Unit of the Cambridge University Library, which houses the largest single collection of Cairo Genizah fragments, has recently received a grant to digitize all their fragments.
The Friedberg Genizah Project is spearheading an effort to create a single unified database of Genizah fragments which, while geographically dispersed, are becoming unified under one virtual roof. It is now possible to compare online Talmudic fragments from the same manuscript that were housed in two different libraries and view them side by side on a single screen.
Websites and Tools
For novices, a good place to learn how a standard printed Talmud page is constructed is the hypertext Page from the Babylonian Talmud. This site functions as a commentary on the constituent parts that commonly comprise a typical page. Linked to the page image are overviews of the Tosafot and other commentaries, glosses, the Gemara, and Ner Mitzvah. Princeton University Library has issued another basic resource: Chapters of the Talmud is a site in Hebrew that helps users locate the tractate of a particular chapter of the Talmud, if they only have the title.
Oral Roberts University has created The Babylonian Talmud Research Guide. This resource includes an abbreviations guide and instructions on how to locate a topic in the Talmud.
The Halacha Brura and Birur Halacha Institute offer the Index to Commentaries on Aggadot of the Talmud. This site indexes the commentaries of the aggadic material of the Talmud found in 130 books of the Rishonim and Acharonim. Users can browse the site by Talmud tractate.
A Proposed Guide for Citing Rabbinic Texts has been mounted on the Web.
The website Database of Midrashic Units in the Mishnah contains all the passages in the Mishnah that contain midrashic elements (interpretations of scripture). Users can search by tractate, biblical reference, code, rabbi, and formal features.
Marcus Jastrow's A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (London, 1903) is available online in PDF at HebrewBooks.org and in a searchable format at the Tyndale Archive of Biblical Studies.
Hebrew Union College has mounted The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon which allows the user to search the Lexicon in both Aramaic and English.
Several blogs related to Talmudic issues traverse the academic and public landscapes. These can offer scholars the quickest and best ways to keep up with the latest developments in Talmudic research. They bring together and mix, often in quirky ways, musings on scholarly dilemmas, reviews, research news, and conference announcements and informal reports. They include the Talmud Blog, Menachem Mendel, Hagahot, and On the Main Line.
"Daf yomi" is the daily study of a passage of Talmud that can be completed in seven years. This project is well suited to the global electronic environment offered by the Web, and many study aids are available for learners. Kollel Iyun Hadaf presents a number of free Hebrew and English resources on its website Dafyomi Advancement Forum. E-Daf.com and DafYomi.org offer JPEG images of the Vilna Shas so that users can follow along as they listen to various shiurim. Other daf yomi audio lessons can be found at MyShiur.net.
In the past thirty years, the library community and other providers of digital content have created a substantial repository of Talmudic and rabbinic texts. New technologies and interdisciplinary collaborations are emerging, encouraging scholars to take advantage of these resources to develop new methods of scholarly research and teaching of the Talmud.
An early prototype of an interactive book was produced by David Small at the MIT Media lab in the first part of the new millennium. In the Talmud Project, the typographer created a program using three-dimensional, movable type to simultaneously display the Talmud and related commentaries on the same screen. Several dials allow the reader to trace ideas from one text to another, examine translations, and find text in the larger context of the full corpus.
In the early part of this decade, a group of Jewish studies faculty and computer scientists at the Collaborative Research Centre at the University of Cologne developed a prototype of a technology-enhanced learning environment for a Talmudic tractate.
An exciting area for digital humanists is computer-based text mining and text analysis. This is a technology that enables scholars to discover and analyze patterns in the texts. Computer scientists at Bar-Ilan University have developed CHAT: a System for Stylistic Classification of Hebrew-Aramaic Texts to tackle a number of scholarly issues related to a corpus of Hebrew-Aramaic texts. Using this technology, the authors hope to be able to verify authorship of specific corpora, determine the chronology of various documents, and determine from which different versions of the same text might a particular text fragment be taken.
There is increasing interest in the field of face recognition in image and videos. Up until now, the methods for identifying and reuniting "matches" from within the Cairo Genizah have been manual. "Matches" are leaves or fragments from a particular manuscript that have been identified as emanating from the same codex or document and, in the case of the Cairo Genizah, have been dispersed among many different institutions and private collections around the world. Utilizing face recognition technology, a team of computer scientists at Tel Aviv University in partnership with staff from the Friedberg Genizah Project have developed a computer-assisted method of automating the system of locating matches from the Cairo Genizah so that they can be properly described and documented.
As we look to the future, traditional methods of Talmud study will continue to be enhanced and even challenged by the emerging digital environment.