If you’ve ever studied Talmud from the traditional Vilna Shas layout, you’ve probably noticed or taken advantage of the Masoret haShas in the margins. Originally compiled by Joshua Boaz ben Simon Baruch in the sixteenth century, Masoret haShas are notes and cross references on the side of the page, directing readers to related passages found elsewhere in the Talmud. It was an immense work that religious scholars have added to over the centuries. The William Davidson Talmud has our own take on Masoret haShas, finding and building over 50,000 textual links. And while the standard Masoret haShas connects different Talmudic texts, ours takes advantage of Sefaria’s library to create something new: connections between the Talmud and other texts as well, including nine major Midrashic works.
Sefaria is all about making the texts of the Jewish tradition accessible to everybody. So far we’ve been accomplishing this by making texts and translations available on our website, in our mobile apps, and as data that people can download in a variety of formats. But could a blind or visually impaired person access these resources? Unfortunately, until recently, most of us on the Sefaria team hadn’t spent enough time thinking about this question.
We add new texts and commentaries to the Sefaria library several times a week. To make it easier to find out what’s new, we updated the notifications feed to include alerts when updates are made to the library. This feed also alerts you when someone “likes” your source sheet or when someone you follow posts a new source sheet.
Sefaria is constantly working to maximize connections between texts. While some connections have been manually placed, we try to automate the process as much as possible, for efficiency’s sake. In doing this, we have had the privilege of working in partnership with computer scientists Moshe Koppel and Avi Shmidman at Dicta, a research institute which is exploring uses of computational methods to analyze Hebrew texts. We have a good thing going – we provide the texts, they share the results of their research with us, and Sefaria users benefit as we incorporate the findings into our web interface and textual connections. One of the results of this partnership is the Dibur Hamatchil matching script.
From source sheets to contributors to words in our library, we’ve grown so much over the past year. And there are a lot more of you too! Take a look below to see what we’ve accomplished together and check out our metrics page to track our growth yourself.