Thursday, December 4, 2008

Torah Web resources

[Note: I wrote this in a bad mood, so it's a little darker than I would like. Still, I believe the message is essentially correct, so I am leaving it as is.]

Two weeks ago I taught a class on "21st century Jewish publishing."

My main talk was really about modern changes in the way we think about creating content and marketing content, as well as the way that marketplace changes are affecting the quality and type of content being produced.

One of my main conclusions is that the fate of Torah on the web is to be largely, with relatively rare exception, amateurish in quality and poorly presented. There is no comparison between the parshah websites out there and what one will find in a beis medrash, or in a sefer printed before printing became cheap and easy. Sources are mis-quoted, pesukim are mis-quoted, simple ideas are passed off as deep, it's just sad.

This is because serious scholars are, with rare exception, not publishing on the web, and the people who are publishing on the web have no incentive, in terms of market or audience demand, for putting real work into what they produce.

I include myself very much in this. The divrei torah I post on this blog, other than the ones that are reproduced from my shul material, do not involve a lot of research. I don't put up erroneous things (I think!) , but I don't present the full depth of a topic, either. When I am blogging, I generally just write about whatever has been going through my head, and that in shorthand.

Bottom line: If no one will criticize, and no one will incentivize, the work will be less thorough. It's true in every field of labor. Pride in one's work does not win out over the demands on our time - and when it does win out, most people choose not to publish.

So, that part of the class was pretty much a rant, and I could go on and on about it. However, there are some really good exceptions to this rule. The Webshas and HaMakor sites I created while learning at YU are better than this.

Here are some of the exceptions, from various categories. The list was not meant to be exhaustive, by any stretch of the imagination; it was just a sampling of good sites. Please add any other sites you find useful, in the comments:

Jewish texts - Originals and translations
Hebrew language


Hebrew (Hebrew wikipedia)


On the Parshah

“Ask the Rabbi” resources

Email lists

For children, and for parents/teachers of children

Keeping Kosher

Virtual Yeshiva

Multimedia - Audio and Video

Reference information


Hebrew/English Dictionary:

Instructions for installing Hebrew on Windows XP:


  1. Nice list! thanks for the resource listing.

  2. It may've been a little dark, but still on the spot.

  3. Tzipporah-

    Thanks. Regrettably, I have to agree. I've thought about this post off and on today, and thought about pulling it, but it's the truth and I can't think of another way to present it.