Ein Gedi

Ein Gedi
Overlooking the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi's beautiful springs and hikes are my motivation to go to Israel next summer again and make new memories!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Torah on the iPad?

Should our students be allowed to study Torah on an iPad? Does it change the Kedusha of the text?

For thousands of years Jewish tradition was rooted in the oral passing of history.  In the first and second century when Yehuda HaNassi compiled the Mishna, he changed the future of Jewish education.  I can see the riots and criticism he must have dealt with from the 'traditionalists' and others who thought he was lessening the importance of learning these sacred pieces of our religion.  However much it changed when the Mishna was compiled, the move towards printed material centuries later when the printing press was established changed our way of studying ten-fold or more.  

Today, we are in a new stage of progress, we could call it a technological revolution, moving from books to ipads and computers.  The text remains the same but the access is vast and always expanding to meet our broad needs and provide us with an abundance of text in moments.  People today are 'wired' differently--pun intended--and our movement towards increased technology in Jewish education goes along with the progress in other elements of lives.  

Studying Torah on the iPad for an older person today might seem strange, counter productive, too high tech, and possibly flat out wrong.  When you're used to books, flipping pages, and being surrounded by a large library or Beit Midrash, using a small screen that can hold all those texts seems weird.  But, todays students are used to the technology, seek new ways of learning, and like to connect in simple ways.  By teaching Torah on the iPad, our students can learn quickly, move through a large amount of texts at a high speed, and can make learning Torah as accessible as everything else they do in their lives.  

The initial feelings of studying your Torah portion or learning a daf of Gemara on the iPad might seem strange but when you realize the amount of knowledge and wisdom you possess at your fingertips, it's inspiring.  Our students don't want to be brought into the past, they want to transform the future.  The way we teach can inspire holiness in the text and bring the words of our tradition to life in a fascinating way.  


  1. I thought it was interesting when you mentioned how the Mishnah must have been highly criticized. I also can't imagine what life would be like if the printing press had not been accepted. It proves a good argument for "rolling with the times" and progressing as society does so. Maybe students should be using iPads to read sacred texts. Who knows what other kind of revolutions await us in the future?!

  2. Unfortunately my two-paragraph response was just erased because I hadn't filled in the "Comment as" below.

    To sum up, I agree that technology has definitely taken us "off the page", where we can now pull up any text and any commentary on that text in an instant, and don't have to confine ourselves to the commentaries provided by a specific publisher/editor who made that decision of "who's in and who's out" at a particular time in history.

    The question does remain, though, whether having sacred text lumped in with all the other things we have on our devices, lessens the sacred nature of those texts...

  3. Very thoughtful exposition and response. Truly, you make the case that mobile text learning is a reality. Therefore, the most important thing to do is for us to train our students to understand the inherent kedusha of the text and not the device.

  4. I think Stu's question is an interesting one. I asked a rabbi at Pardes what the halakah was on erasing a name of God once I had typed it into a Word document on my computer. His psak was that it could be erased without worry as this format of writing is seen as temporary. I suppose, with that in mind, my computer does not go up in holiness if I study Jewish texts on it. This transfers the holiness back into the process of learning. Outside of saving space in your local geniza, I think this is a really positive development in how we think about the tools we use to educate ourselves. It takes the focus off the tool and puts the focus back on us as learners.