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Visualizing Connections

I’m convinced that there’s meaning in the broad weave of the Talmud – in the larger conversations that emerge from the spans of pages and chapters. What topics are returned to from many different angles? Who are the personalities that keep coming up in a chapter? What passages in Tanach are quoted and compared? Under the light of questions like these, unifying threads start to shine through.

Last month at Sefaria, we parsed through our Talmud text and caught a good few thousand links to Tanach.  I was curious what sort of patterns they formed. Where are the concentrations? Are there tight pairings between books of Tanach and books of Talmud? What areas don’t get coverage? With just a gut sense that the result would be interesting (and really wanting to try out the D3 data visualization toolset), I set out to visualize the connections between Talmud and Tanach.

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And here we have it! Our first interactive application for exploring link structure. From the first screen you can see the curious blue diagonal swath. The books of Torah, on the top left, are most heavily referenced in the Talmud section of Kodshim, on the bottom right, which deals with temple service and kashrut. You can hover over a book to see where it’s referenced, and click on a book or a book link to dig deeper in, and see the detail.

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Besides Torah, the big connectors look to be Isaiah and Psalms, Brachot and Sanhedrin. The last chapter of Sanhedrin in particular is hugely reference heavy. Heavy link concentration usually indicates an aggadic (less legal, more philosophical) passage. Once you’re looking at detail, click on an individual link to see the text itself.

There are lots of insights to be mined here, and it suggests a whole world of further visualizations.  This whole project is built on top of the Sefaria API, and it’s all open source and open information. Go ahead and follow your own thread of interest…

http://www.sefaria.org/explore

(Hat tip to Liz Shayne, who got us started thinking about visualizing this info.)

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