Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Entire Torah in your Hand - Hebrewbooks.org

I see that hebrewbooks.org
has begun selling an external plug-n-play miniature hard drive pre-loaded with over 40,000 seforim for $100, available in local seforim stores.

I assume the price is for the cost of the hardware, as the seforim are all free, available for download on their website. Of course it will take quite some time to download 40,000 PDF's.

This will be an invaluable resource for those who have a computer but do not wish to be connected to the internet.

If you are a Rosh Kollel, this offer is available for free. See this previous post.
free offer from hebrewbooks.org

UPDATE: This offer is no longer valid

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Mouse or the Hole

"It is not the mouse (that steals the food) that is the thief, but rather the hole (where the mouse can hide) that is the thief" (Gittin 45a).

What does this have to do with Jewish blogging?

It seems to me that many jbloggers post on controversial topics, and when the commenters post Loshon Hora, they claim that THEY did not post the Loshon Hora. In my opinion, there may be a Lifnay Iver issue.

Admirable is the blog that does not accept comments. Rabbi Dr. Marvin Schick Esq. runs such a blog. mschick.blogspot.com
I am gratified to see that FKM
has undergone Mechaye Hameisim and is posting once again, albeit without comments. Although I don’t always see things the way he does, it is refreshing to have a voice emanating from the wilderness, balancing out the jblogosphere.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hebrew Books in the Digital Age


I’ve written several posts about Hebrewbooks.org.

It is my belief that digital learning is the wave of the future. There will come a time when printed matter will be in short supply, and almost all learning will take place on Kindles, or the like.

Of course seforim will never really go away because of Shabbos etc., or at least until they figure out how to run these gadgets without violating any of the 39 Melachos. But as seforim become rarer and rarer, and as OCR gets better and better, I see a time when the only existing copies will be in electronic format.

The concern then becomes, who will maintain these digital libraries? How will we know if the electronic data matches the original? The opportunity for forgery abounds. The “1984” scenario will allow for those who control the data to change any text that does not fit with their current ideology.

Which is why Hebrewbooks.org is so important. Keeping copies of seforim in PDF format will allow us to view the originals. Allowing anyone and everyone to download any sefer will ensure that there will be multiple copies available everywhere to confirm the original text.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Chaim Bashevkin writes beautiful, meaningful poetry every week in the Yated. This week his column features reminiscing about the great songs of yesteryear. Jep, Journeys, Ohr Chodosh and Megama. I take this opportunity to give wider audience to one of my favorite poems. Whenever the outlook is bleak, one can think about the beauty in nature and the world, to lift one's spirit.

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be happy*,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Badei HaShulchan

To be a Rabbi years ago, one needed to know Shas and Shulchan Aruch. Nowadays, so the saying goes, one need only be proficient in the laws of Kashrus, Nidah and Aveilus.

So I was gratified to see the publishing of the newest volume of Badei HaShulchan on Hilchos Aveilus. The first volumes of Badei HaShulchan were published in 1980/1982 on Hilchos Nidah/Tevilah. The laws of Basar B’Chalav and Taaruvos were published in 1999 through 2001, and now the laws of Aveilus, first part published in 2006, were just completed, marking the end of the trilogy.

It seems that it takes 10 years of study to complete one of these works. Congratulations to Rabbi Shraga Feivel Cohen on this monumental feat.

Updated and corrected 01/26/10

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snow Days, Yeshiva, Bais Yaakov and the Internet

I recall the wonderful wintry days of my youth, watching the soft snowflakes drop, creating the brilliant white wonderland that we relished to play in. We’d warm ourselves by the radiator, watching in awe as the great white playground was slowly created to perfection.

Part of this ritual was turning on the radio, listening to the never ending list of school closings, hoping to hear the name of our institution. Then on came the outer-gear, as we braved the elements to enjoy a day of sledding, snowman building and snowball throwing.

Today, we are more sophisticated. We now have the INFO-LINE, where the administration can leave a recorded message announcing the delayed opening or full closure of the school. Unfortunately, these INFO-LINES are more often than not, busy, as they are servicing the entire school’s population.

My simple idea would be for each school to set up a free blog where this same information can be uploaded, then viewed by many simultaneously. I can understand the hesitancy on part of the schools to use the internet, or in any way put their imprimatur on it, but sooner or later, it will happen.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jew of the Decade

Aish.com has announced the winner of their “Jew of the Decade” contest, and some are upset with the choice.

I understand their hesitancy to declare a winner for several reasons. Most notable is the fact that the primary website running the contest will invariably skew the results in favor of the founder of that organization.

Secondly, it is not really possible for humans to gauge which Jew had the largest impact on the previous decade.

Thirdly, there are so many denominations and geographical locations to consider, that making such a choice is nearly impossible.

Yet if I would vote, the Jewish blogger would certainly be my choice. Whether we are better off now with the transparency that the blogger has brought to Jewish life, I don’t know. But no one can deny the impact that the blogger has wrought in their few years of service.
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