Friday, February 12, 2010

Futuristic Beis HaMedrash

I love the Beis HaMedrash. Every time I enter, a cacophony of sound greets me amidst the lively give and take, as the participants delve into the intricate texts of old. The newcomer is bedazzled by the decibel level. Those of the secular world are puzzled as to how one can study under such circumstances. They are used to the sterile atmosphere of the library, where the stern glance of the librarian will shush even the most obnoxious patron.

Seforim piled high, chairs askew, animated conversations and pacing to and fro are some of the familiar sights.

Yet one thing that always bothered me was that at the end of the Seder, as the study hall empties of participants and fills with a serene quietness, the Seforim are left alone, bereft of users, left to be scooped up by the Gabai Seforim.

The Musar greats of yesteryear would decry such insensitivity. Why not restore the Seforim to their proper shelves? Even the great Halachists, most notably the Steipler Rav, have railed against this practice. Yet human nature seems to prevail and the Seforim remain strewn about, only to find refuge when the aforementioned Gabai does his duty.

Which brings us to the futuristic Beis HaMedrash. As mentioned before, the futuristic BH will feature a large screen monitor by each seat with all Seforim available by the push of a button. The text of the Gemara will appear in the middle of the screen. The Rishonim will be accessible by merely mousing over a text and choosing the Meforesh of your choice. Hyper links to the great codifiers will also be available with the click of a mouse. Obscure Seforim will all be available, in PDF (Tzuras HaDaf format) or easy-to-read block letter text.

At the end of the day, you will log off and your Seforim will be neatly packed away on the Yeshiva’s File Server.


  1. A large screen monitor is so 2009. Each student will have one or more lightweight Tablet computer like the iPad.

  2. The Tablet is more prevalent for on-the-go studying. The large-screen is more appropos for the Beis HaMedrash environment, where you would probably want to view several Seforim simultaneously.

  3. See this earlier post, where SF posted on Tablets...

  4. Wont happen. Too many people like looking in seforim. Like the book feeling. Not the computer feeling. MAYBE in YU. Or something like that. This will never hit it big in the yeshivos.

    Next point. An additional benefit to sefarim is the added yegiah of getting up, looking for the sefer on the shelf, opening it and finding the page. All helping the "yegiah" which eventually leads to the "metzia" and of course adds to the schar.

  5. That is what people said about newspapers. But every newspaper almost without exception is now available online. Of course this will take time, but it will happen eventually. Not totally, as Shabbos still presents a problem.

    I agree with you regarding "yegiah". Yet, I recall the days when I spent 30 minutes searching through the BH for a particular sefer. Will I get schar for that? Or will I be told "Batlan, I gave you the ability to learn from that sefer online"!

    Look at's new feature where you can access any Halacha of the Rambam, and it immediately tells you which Meforshim are available on that Halacha, complete with the accompanying text. Will I get more schar by spending an hour going through all the Nosei Kailim until I find what I am seeking?

  6. what about if someone wants to learn on shabbat?

  7. See here for a discussion about a fancy turntable used by rich students in the 15th century, which was criticized by R. Isserlein.

  8. Thanks for the excellent referrence. I'm pasting the part that supports my position for the benefit of those who are too lazy to follow the link...

    ...R. Yitzchak Hutner, in his approbation to the Otzar Mifarshei HaTalmud, explains why the Otzar is a good thing. As many are aware, the Otzar collects all (or almost all) the literature on a particular passage of the gemara (or mishna as is the case with the volume on Hallah). This avoids the need to look through many books to see what, if anything, they have to say on a particular passage. R. Hutner cites to a statement from the Hazon Ish, that "people confuse looking (hipush) with study" and, according to R. Hutner, the Otzar eliminates that problem. Thus, it can be argued that both according to R. Hutner and the Hazon Ish, there is no benefit or merit per se in the act of getting a book or looking to see if that book has anything relevant. This appears in conflict with the Leket Yosher...


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