Torah database

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A Torah database (מאגר תורני or מאגר יהדות) is a 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.

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 28 or 28+ (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, usually between the Passover and Shavuot holidays, although this varies considerably. Sometimes they release an update after the holiday of Chanukah or after the holiday of Purim. It depends on how much they have completed.

In January, 2007, the responsa project became available in an online edition. [2]

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

Currently (as of 2018, version 26+) according to their list the number of seforim listed [3] is about 914 (excluding the Chazon Ish which is only available for searching). The Kabbalah section includes only the Zohar, and a few works listed under Otzar HaMidrashim. However, the other sections contain many essential and important seforim.

DBS Master Library

DBS rivals the Bar-Ilan Responsa project in size. It has less in the overall area of Halakha and fewer responsa, but rivals Bar Ilan's Reponsa project in: Jewish philosophy and Mussar. To date, the latest Bar Ilan and the latest DBS versions are comparable mostly, in terms of number of texts in these areas. Bar Ilan surpasses DBS in the commentaries on Talmud Bavli, the Reponsa, commentaries on the Mishneh Torah etc. DBS surpasses Bar Ilan in the area of Hasidut and Kabbalah. In recent years, Bar Ilan has included a great number of texts that considered to be mostly accurate, and mostly error free and has become the gold standard of any Torah database. DBS has lagged behind, although its Kabbalah section is fantastic, it is not clear which texts were used as well as their accuracy and whether the text presented is accurate.

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, the texts are considered to be inaccurate and may have some errors in them. It is not as comprehensive in many areas, compared with Bar Ilan.

Soncino Classics Collection

Produced by Davka corporation, Soncino Classics Collection [4] includes

  1. Soncino English translations of the Tanach, Babylonian Talmud, Midrash Rabbah, and Zohar;
  2. Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the Tanach, Babylonian Talmud, Midrash Rabbah and Zohar, as well as Rashi's commentary on Talmud.

Soncino Classics Collection is a commercial software.

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 (currently version 2.1) uses the same software as Otzar ha-Poskim'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.

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, [5] but also in electronic form. The project contains four main elements:

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

Tanakh with both vowels and cantillation signs is available in the Mikra'ot Gedolot Haketer package and as online freeware from Mechon Mamre, Hebrew Wikisource and Base HaSefer (see the latter three below). All of these 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. Hebrew Wikisource is similar to both of these versions (see a full description) and the text at Base HaSefer is based on that of Hebrew Wikisource.


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 and as online freeware from Mechon Mamre, Hebrew Wikisource and Base HaSefer.


The Mishnah is included as a keyed-in digital Hebrew text with vowels in all of the general software packages above. 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 are normally vowelized in published editions. DBS's collection of such works includes vowels in the electronic editions.

Some of these are also vowelized in DBS.

Page-Image Software Packages

Otzar HaHochma

This project is based on page-images of over 100,000 scanned Jewish books . The search engine allows to search in over 95,000 of these volumes. It is possible to add additional libraries (Mosad Harav Kook, Machon Yerushalayim Publications, Ahavat Shalom Publishers, and Kehot Publication Society). Additionally, the user can find books by topic. The system has features which turns it to a learning tool.

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

Hebrew Wikisource [6] 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. (public domain images)

This website was founded in order to preserve old American Hebrew books that are out of print or circulation, but it expanded its mission "to include all Torah Seforim (=books) ever printed". About 50,000 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.

The website supports textual search, using optical character recognition to convert the images into text.

A beta version of the site contains enhancements not present on the main site.

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 are taken (with permission) from Mechon Mamre.

The Daat Library (digital freeware)

A wide variety of primary texts, including many of R' Yosef Qafih's ("Kapach") and other more critical editions.

The Sefaria Project

Sefaria is a free culture project that includes interactive bilingual texts collected from public sources or created by volunteer translators. Sefaria highlights interconnections between texts from Tanakh, Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, Halakha, Kabbalah, Chasidut and includes a free tool for making source sheets.

In February 2017, it was announced that the Koren/Steinsaltz English translation of the Talmud and the Steinsaltz Hebrew translation of the talmud would both be placed into the commons with a CC-BY-NC license, and made available through Sefaria. [7] [8] [9]

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. (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.

Base HaSefer

Base HaSefer (in beta test) aims to enable search and analysis of Sifrei Kodesh as if the content implicitly forms a relational database. It contains the full text of the Tanach and Targum Onkelos with vowels and cantillation marks and contains the following functionality:

Related Research Articles

Mishnah The first major written collection of the Oral Torah.

The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions known as the Oral Torah. It is also the first major work of rabbinic literature. The Mishnah was redacted by Judah ha-Nasi at the beginning of the third century CE in a time when, according to the Talmud, the persecution of the Jews and the passage of time raised the possibility that the details of the oral traditions of the Pharisees from the Second Temple period would be forgotten. Most of the Mishnah is written in Mishnaic Hebrew, while some parts are Aramaic.

Rashi French rabbi and commentator

Shlomo Yitzchaki, today generally known by the acronym Rashi, was a medieval French rabbi and author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud and commentary on the Hebrew Bible. Acclaimed for his ability to present the basic meaning of the text in a concise and lucid fashion, Rashi appeals to both learned scholars and beginner students, and his works remain a centerpiece of contemporary Jewish study. His commentary on the Talmud, which covers nearly all of the Babylonian Talmud, has been included in every edition of the Talmud since its first printing by Daniel Bomberg in the 1520s. His commentary on Tanakh—especially on the Chumash —serves as the basis for more than 300 "supercommentaries" which analyze Rashi's choice of language and citations, penned by some of the greatest names in rabbinic literature.

Hebrew Bible Canonical collection of Hebrew scriptures

The Hebrew Bible, which is also called the Tanakh, or sometimes the Miqra (מִקְרָא), is the canonical collection of Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah. These texts are almost exclusively in Biblical Hebrew, with a few passages in Biblical Aramaic. The form of this text that is authoritative for Rabbinic Judaism is known as the Masoretic Text (MT) and consists of 24 books, while Protestant Bibles divide essentially the same material into 39 books. Catholic Bibles and Eastern / Greek Orthodox Bibles contain additional materials in their Old Testaments, derived from the Septuagint and other sources.

Talmud Central text of Rabbinic Judaism

The Talmud is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law (halakha) and Jewish theology. Until the advent of modernity, in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of Jewish cultural life and was foundational to "all Jewish thought and aspirations", serving also as "the guide for the daily life" of Jews.

Rabbinic literature Collective term for Classic Jewish literature, written by, or attributed to the rabbis who lived prior to the 6th century

Rabbinic literature, in its broadest sense, can mean the entire spectrum of rabbinic writings throughout Jewish history. However, the term often refers specifically to literature from the Talmudic era, as opposed to medieval and modern rabbinic writing, and thus corresponds with the Hebrew term Sifrut Chazal. This more specific sense of "Rabbinic literature"—referring to the Talmudim, Midrash, and related writings, but hardly ever to later texts—is how the term is generally intended when used in contemporary academic writing. On the other hand, the terms meforshim and parshanim (commentaries/commentators) almost always refer to later, post-Talmudic writers of rabbinic glosses on Biblical and Talmudic texts.

Gemara The component of the Talmud comprising rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah

The Gemara is the component of the Talmud comprising rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah. After the Mishnah was published by Judah the Prince, the work was studied exhaustively by generation after generation of rabbis in Babylonia and the Land of Israel. Their discussions were written down in a series of books that became the Gemara, which when combined with the Mishnah constituted the Talmud.

Torah study Studying the Torah, Talmud or other rabbinic literature

Torah study is the study of the Torah, Hebrew Bible, Talmud, responsa, rabbinic literature and similar works, all of which are Judaism's religious texts. According to Rabbinic Judaism, the study is ideally done for the purpose of the mitzvah ("commandment") of Torah study itself.

ArtScroll is an imprint of translations, books and commentaries from an Orthodox Jewish perspective published by Mesorah Publications, Ltd., a publishing company based in Rahway, New Jersey. Rabbi Nosson Scherman is the general editor.

Targum Onkelos Aramaic translation of the Five Books of Moses

Targum Onkelos, תרגום אונקלוס‎, is the Jewish Aramaic targum ("translation") of the Torah, accepted as an authoritative translated text of the Five Books of Moses and thought to have been written in the early 2nd-century CE.

Geonim were the presidents of the two great Babylonian Talmudic Academies of Sura and Pumbedita, in the Abbasid Caliphate, and were the generally accepted spiritual leaders of the Jewish community worldwide in the early medieval era, in contrast to the Resh Galuta (Exilarch) who wielded secular authority over the Jews in Islamic lands.

Chumash is a Torah in printed form as opposed to a Sefer Torah, which is a scroll.

Mikraot Gedolot An edition of the Tanakh

The Mikraot Gedolot "Great Scriptures," often called the "Rabbinic Bible" in English, is an edition of the Tanakh that generally includes four distinct elements:

Jewish English Bible translations

Jewish English Bible translations are English translations of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) according to the Masoretic Text, in the traditional division and order of Torah, Nevi'im, and Ketuvim. Most Jewish translations appear in bilingual editions (Hebrew–English).

Open Source Judaism

Open-source Judaism is a name given to initiatives within the Jewish community employing Open Content and open-source licensing strategies for collaboratively creating and sharing works about or inspired by Judaism. Open-source efforts in Judaism utilize licensing strategies by which contemporary products of Jewish culture under copyright may be adopted, adapted, and redistributed with credit and attribution accorded to the creators of these works. Often collaborative, these efforts are comparable to those of other open-source religious initiatives inspired by the free culture movement to openly share and broadly disseminate seminal texts and techniques under the aegis of Copyright law. Combined, these initiatives describe an open-source movement in Judaism that values correct attribution of sources, creative sharing in an intellectual Commons, adaptable future-proof technologies, open technological standards, open access to primary and secondary sources and their translations, and personal autonomy in the study and craft of works of Torah.

Yosef Qafiḥ, widely known as Rabbi Yosef Kapach, was a Yemenite-Israeli authority on Jewish religious law (halakha), a dayan of the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Israel, and one of the foremost leaders of the Yemenite Jewish community in Israel, where he was sought after by non-Yemenites as well. He is widely known for his editions and translations of the works of Maimonides, Saadia Gaon, and other early rabbinic authorities (Rishonim), particularly his restoration of the Mishneh Torah from old Yemenite manuscripts and his accompanying commentary culled from close to 300 additional commentators and with original insights. He was the grandson of Rabbi Yiḥyah Qafiḥ, a prominent Yemenite leader and founder of the Dor Deah movement in Yemen. Qafih was the recipient of many awards, as well as an Honorary Doctorate from Bar-Ilan University.

Jewish commentaries on the Bible are biblical commentaries of the Hebrew Bible from a Jewish perspective. Translations into Aramaic and English, and some universally accepted Jewish commentaries with notes on their method of approach and also some modern translations into English with notes are listed.

Shabbat (Talmud) Talmudic tractate about the Jewish Sabbath

Shabbat, lit. "Sabbath") is the first tractate of Seder Moed of the Mishnah and of the Talmud. The tractate deals with the laws and practices regarding observing the Jewish Sabbath. The tractate focuses primarily on the categories and types of activities prohibited on the Sabbath according to interpretations of many verses in the Torah, notably Exodus 20:9–10 and Deut. 5:13–14.

Shnayim mikra ve-echad targum, is the Jewish practice of reading the weekly Torah portion in a prescribed manner. In addition to hearing the Torah portion read in the synagogue, a person should read it himself twice during that week, together with a translation usually by Targum Onkelos and/or Rashi's commentary. In addition, while not required by law, there exists an Ashkenazi custom to also read the portion from the Prophets with its targum.

The Bar Ilan Responsa Project is a collection of Jewish texts in Hebrew, sold on CD and more recently on USB flash-drive by Bar-Ilan University.

Menachem Cohen (scholar) Israeli scholar

Menachem Cohen is an Israeli scholar who worked for over 30 years to correct grammatical errors in the Hebrew Bible. The last attempt at this was in 1525, by Jacob Ben-Hayim. Cohen's work demonstrates the extent to which Judaism venerates every tiny biblical calligraphic notation, to ensure that worldwide communities use exactly the same version of the Old Testament.


  2. "Online Responsa Project - vast Jewish sources".
  7. "Technology Partnership with Sefaria". The Official Koren Publishers Blog. 2017-02-09. Retrieved 2017-03-09.
  8. "Setting the Talmud Free". The Sefaria Blog. 2017-02-07. Retrieved 2017-03-09.
  9. "With full Talmud translation, online library hopes to make sages accessible". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 2017-02-07. Retrieved 2017-03-09.