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The Babylonian Talmud Is Now Available Free Online in English and Hebrew

The non-profit Sefaria has fulfilled a dream that dates back to Albert Einstein

Yair Rosenberg
February 07, 2017
Samuel Hirszenberg, Talmudic School, c. 1895-1908.Wikipedia
Samuel Hirszenberg, Talmudic School, c. 1895-1908.Wikipedia

One of the most accessible Hebrew and English translations of the Babylonian Talmud is going open source. Today, Sefaria, an online nonprofit bringing traditional Jewish texts to the internet, announced that it will be posting the entire compendium with the crisp bilingual translation of Jerusalem polymath Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Yisrael.

A multi-decade scholarly effort first published in Israel, the Hebrew Steinsaltz Talmud has long been a print staple of the beit midrash, while the English edition has been distributed by Random House and Koren Publishers. Now, however, both translations will be available to anyone with an internet connection, thanks to a grant from the William Davidson Foundation.

Sefaria has already posted the Talmud’s first 22 tractates in English; the rest, along with the modern Hebrew translations, will be rolling out through 2017. Unlike previous attempts at translating the ancient Jewish legal-literary corpus like the Soncino Talmud, the Steinsaltz edition is prized for its clarity and accessibility, making it ideal for public and not just academic consumption.

Why does this matter? Consider the words of Albert Einstein back in December 1930:

The scientific organization and comprehensive exposition in accessible form of the Talmud has a twofold importance for us Jews. It is important in the first place that the high cultural values of the Talmud should not be lost to modern minds among the Jewish people nor to science, but should operate further as a living force. In the second place, the Talmud must be made an open book to the world, in order to cut the ground from under certain malevolent attacks, of anti-Semitic origin, which borrow countenance from the obscurity and inaccessibility of certain passages in the Talmud.

To support this cultural work would thus mean an important achievement for the Jewish people.

You can access the William Davidson Talmud online at Sefaria here.

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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