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A Torah database (מאגר תורני or מאגר יהדות) is an electronic collection of classic Jewish texts in electronic form, the kinds of texts which especially in Israel are often called "The Traditional Jewish Bookshelf" (ארון הספרים היהודי); the texts are in their original languages (Hebrew or Aramaic). These databases contain either keyed-in digital texts or a collection of page-images from printed editions. Given the nature of traditional Jewish Torah study, which involves extensive citation and cross-referencing among hundreds of texts written over the course of thousands of years, many Torah databases also make extensive use of hypertext links.

A Torah database usually refers to a collection of primary texts, rather than translations or secondary research and reference materials. For the latter, see Judaica database.

Digital Text Software Packages

The Bar-Ilan Responsa Project

The very first such database was the Bar Ilan Responsa Project, which began in 1963 at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, migrated to Bar-Ilan University soon thereafter, and was up and running by 1967. It became available in time-sharing mode from university terminals in 1979, was transferred to CD-ROM in 1990, and version 1.0 was offered for sale to the public in 1992. The current version is number 17 or 17+ (the "plus" version contains an important secondary reference called the Encyclopedia Talmudit). [1]

The Responsa Project tries to base its electronic texts on the most accurate printed editions (though it seems that it is sometimes prevented from doing so because of copyright considerations), and it has a reputation for relatively error-free electronic texts based upon those editions. It also features approximately 360,000 hypertext links between the various collections within the database, as well as a topical halakhic index for the Shulchan Aruch and selected responsa. Since its early years it has employed a sophisticated search-engine specifically designed for Hebrew language texts.

In recent years (at least since version 10 in 2002), the Responsa Project has made updates available once a year, between the Passover and Shavuot holidays.

In January, 2007, the responsa project became available in an online edition found at www.responsa.co.il.

In April, 2007 the Responsa Project won the Israel Prize for Jewish studies.

DBS Master Library

DBS rivals the Bar-Ilan Responsa project in size. It has less in the overall area of Halakha and hardly any responsa, but it includes far more in the following areas: Jewish philosophy, Kabbalah, Hasidut, biblical commentaries, and late halakhic works. The major subcollections within DBS are also sold individually.

DBS contains a good number of Hebrew texts with vowels (niqqud); see below. Criticisms: It does not have extensive hypertext links between its various large collections, and it has also been criticized for poor proofreading and error-laden texts.

The Torah Bookshelf ("Halamish")

Otzar ha-Poskim (also see below) produces "The Torah Bookshelf," a large digital collection of basic texts called "Halamish" (Ha-Sifriyah ha-Toranit) in Hebrew, currently in version 3.0.

Ariel

Ariel (currently version 2.1) uses the same software as Otzar Haposkim’s "Torah Bookshelf" and is similar to it in scope (a large basic collection), but many of the titles in the two collections are not the same.

Judaic Bookshelf

Also a very large collection

Mikra'ot Gedolot Haketer

Bar-Ilan University's project to produce an entirely new critical edition of the Mikra'ot Gedolot is also being made available not only in printed volumes,[2] but also in electronic form. The project contains four main elements:

  • The biblical text (based on the Aleppo codex and a careful reconstruction of its missing parts) is keyed-in, including vowels and cantillation signs, allowing for sophisticated research on details of grammar.
  • The masorah is also keyed in (also based on the Aleppo codex and supplemented by a special commentary).
  • The Targum is included with vowels, based on the Yemenite Taj.
  • The biblical commentaries are also keyed-in as fresh new critical editions, including textual variants from manuscripts.

The CD-ROM is currently in version 2.0 (beta).

(Note: Although also under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University, this project is unrelated to the Bar-Ilan Responsa Project.)

Digital Hebrew Texts with Vowels (Niqqud)

Tanakh

Tanakh is available as a keyed-in digital Hebrew text with vowels (niqqud) in all of the above software packages.

The Mikra'ot Gedolot Haketer package includes not only the vowels, but also cantillation signs. Tanakh with both vowels and cantillation is also available as online freeware from Mechon Mamre (see below). Both versions are based on the Aleppo codex, but Mechon Mamre's edition is based on the editing method of Rabbi Mordecai Breuer, which differs slightly from the Mikra'ot Gedolot Haketer edition in some small details.

Targum

Both Targum Onkelos on the Torah and Targum Jonathan on Nevi'im are vowelized (based on Yemenite manuscripts) in the digital texts of Mikra'ot Gedolot Haketer. Targum Onkelos is vowelized in the Judaic Bookshelf package.

Mishnah

The Mishnah is included as a keyed-in digital Hebrew text with vowels in all of the general software packages above except for the Bar-Ilan Responsa Project. The vowels in the "Halamish" package seem to be based upon the Albeck edition of the Mishnah (see Mishnah).

Siddur and liturgy

Siddur: Digital siddurim with vowels (according to various customs) are included in DBS (Ashkenaz, Sefard, Sefaradi/Edot Mizrah), Judaic Bookshelf (Ashkenaz, Sefard), and Ariel (Ashkenaz, Sefard, Sefaradi/Edot Mizrah). The latest version of DBS (version 10) also includes mahzorim, selihot, and the Passover Haggadah.

Popular ethical works (musar)

Popular ethical works are normally vowelized in published editions. DBS's collection of such works includes vowels in the electronic editions.

Popular halakhic works

Some of these are also vowelized in DBS.

Page-Image Software Packages

Otzar HaHochma

This ambitious new project is based on page-images of over 22,000 printed books (and even a few manuscripts). Over 14,000 of these volumes are also searchable. The system allows the user to add notes to the texts and create his/her own hyperlinks.

Otzar ha-Shut

Otzar ha-Poskim produces "Otzar ha-Shut" (hyperlinked images of individual responsa indexed according to the order of the Shulhan Arukh). This package also includes "Halamish" (see above).

The Steinzaltz Talmud on CD-ROM

The Steinsaltz Talmud is available as searchable PDF images on CD-ROM. All material from the printed edition is included, but it can be copied and pasted only as images and not as digital text.

Wikimedia Torah study projects

Text study projects at Wikisource allow contributors to help build free content Torah databases at Wikimedia through volunteer typing and editing. Please note that in most instances, these projects proceed much faster in Hebrew than in English.

Free Torah Libraries Online

All of the databases listed in the main article are patented commercial products, and may not be used without permission of the copyright holders. There are also some online projects that make either digital texts, or public domain images of old books, available to the public for free:

Hebrew Wikisource

Contains thousands of free content Torah texts in a digital library that is continually being expanded and improved by volunteers.


The ארון הספרים היהודי (Aron Ha-Sefarim Ha-Yehudi) project at Wikisource has hundreds of texts available online.

HebrewBooks.org (public domain images)

This website concentrates on the works of North American rabbis (in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English), but now contains thousands of older works. About 40,000 out-of-print books and journals may be downloaded as PDF images. While many titles are in the public domain in the United States, they may not be in the public domain in other countries. Additionally, there are also many copyrighted works that have been submitted by the original authors or their families for inclusion within this website.

Mechon Mamre (digital freeware)

Mechon Mamre makes the following digital Hebrew texts available as freeware (but claims a copyright on them):

The digital texts available at Snunit[3] are taken (with permission) from Mechon Mamre.

Sages of Ashkenaz (digital freeware)

Sages of Ashkenaz provides free digital text to various Ashkenazi seforim.

Seforim Online (public domain images)

"Seforim Online" ("seforim" means "books") provides PDF images of several hundred classic rabbinic texts for downloading. Many or most of them are hard-to-find or rare editions, and all are in the public domain.

TorahTexts.org (searchable Torah Texts)

Provides single point of search and access to many Hebrew and English texts available on the Internet

Sifrei Kodesh Search - (Firefox add-on for searching texts)

A convenient way to search through many Hebrew texts directly from your browser. It also allows you to narrow your search down to a specific text or genre of texts.

Torat Emet

Program that may be downloaded freely containing a major library of Torah texts.

External links

Commercial software packages

Free Torah Libraries Online

(based upon the texts at Mechon Mamre)

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