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The Schmooze

A Chatroom For the Five Books

For generations, scholars and cheder students have lugged around the Tanakh, the bedrock tome of Judaism, otherwise known as the Hebrew Bible. For some years now, they’ve also had access via their laptops to online versions.

On September 8, the Torah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim – the three subsections of the Tanakh – will join the interactive digital revolution as the Tagged Tanakh, becomes an online platform for bible commentary and research as well as plain old reading.

The site, administered by the Jewish Publication Society (publisher of the most popular English-language translation of the Hebrew Bible), will be a “place to conserve and share commentaries and people’s responses and interpretations of commentaries,” J.T. Waldman, director of Interactive Media for JPS, told Publisher’s Weekly yesterday.

The subscription-based site will allow users to search the Tanakh by book, weekly reading or using a single search word. Have a kashrut question? Simply type in “kosher food laws.” Or, search “environmentalism” and read Deuteronomy 20:19-20:20, along with user reflections, and click on relevant tags, like “trees” or “nature,” that take you to even more commentary. Passages can be read in Hebrew or English and a dual-language viewing option is in the works.

The site already counts 1,000 users, mostly bloggers and scholars. Waldman said Facebook and cell phone applications are in development. In its current state, the Tagged Tanakh functions like an online forum, sprawling and somewhat disorganized, with lots of unconsolidated information.

Kind of like a noisy cheder.

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