Studying the Old Testament (OT) can be a great challenge. The new app/website Sefaria provides an insane number of very quick connections (if only Logos Bible software was this quick, lol).
Sefaria: This awesome website (and app) visualizes the connections between the Hebrew Bible (TaNaKh, Old Testament) and 3,000 years of Jewish writings (Mishna, Talmud, Gamara, Tosefta, etc.). There are more than 30,000 connections just with the Talmud.
What can you do with this?
Some preliminary uses might be:
- Learning/Reading the Hebrew (with or without English side by side)
- Researching Jewish though on the Old Testament
- Researching/Reading Jewish thoughts on Philosophy and other topics
Before we check this out it will be helpful to know what we are looking at. The Jews wrote many types of commentaries on the Hebrew Bible (OT). In simplistic terms you can think of them along the following lines (see this chart).
- Hebrew Bible written (called TaNaKH)
- Oral Law (tradition) written – called Mishnah
- Commentary on the Mishhan called Talmud
- Babylonian Talmud completed around 500 AD
- Palestinian Talmud completed around 400 AD
- Midrash are explanations of the Law (Halakhic) and Commentary (Haggaidic)
- Targums are Aramaic translations with commentary
- Kabalah is mystical/spiritualized writings
- Grammatica deal with numbers in Scripture
Now let’s try it out!
Let’s say you want to know what early Jewish commentators thought of Genesis 1.
First, you can view the Hebrew and English together, in three different ways (side by side – left or right justified and interspersed by line) by clicking on the “A” in the upper right corner.
Clicking on Genesis 1 will then bring up a list of “connections” with various commentaries, etc. including listing how many connections each source has. By clicking on Bemidbar Rabbah (Midrash: commentary from after Jesus’ time) we find that (although this might not be what you were looking for) Rabbi’s had determined that 70 (picking up from Numbers 7:13) was connected to the idea from Genesis that there were two things not cursed until 70 verses had been written about them – the snake and Haman.This might lead you down a whole rabbit trail on the topic of 70 ….like clicking on the Genesis 50:3 passage in the comments referring to Egyptians mourning for Joseph for 70 days (this brings up a third column of biblical text and when you click on the verse (Genesis 50:3) the various comments available show up again (in a fourth window). By clicking on Rashi we learn that Rashi held that the Egyptians wept so long because they recognized their blessings derived from Joseph. This gives a further link to the Midrash but it is in Hebrew only (as are many of the resources) so we’ll leave it alone!
You can close out some of the windows by clicking on the “x” or back arrow (top right corner of window).
If we go back to our “connections” options and this time pick Targum Jonathan on Genesis we see how Genesis 1:1 was translated in Aramaic
“At the beginning (min avella) the Lord created the heavens and the earth.”
Clicking on the Targum Jerusalem we find “In wisdom (be-hukema) the Lord created. demonstrating the connection between God’s creative acts and wisdom. This concept is further developed in Proverbs 8 and the Wisdom Literature of the Bible.
Going to the Mishan Taanit 4:3 we find that on Sunday’s the portion of Scripture beginnign with Genesis 1:1 was read standing up.
So what does all this mean?
Well, don’t expect to find traditional American commentary information from this process but you should be richly enlightened from various Jewish philosophical, cultural and biblical writings.