I work with some of the editors “behind the scenes” of the new ArtScroll Talmud App. I have seen them labor for a long time on every detail of helping put this App together. I was finally given a brief tour today of the App and it is simply amazing. The written Talmud may be the most linked, non-digital book ever written. Small footnotes and symbols throughout the text and the commentaries direct the learner to an endless wealth of source text, commentaries, legal opinions and much more. So the fact that a digital version of the Talmud exists is not surprising at all. And this is not the first one. But watching this Talmud app in action is really extraordinary. There are so many links to important material as well as translations to English when needed. It seems to have the user in mind. I hope it will only help those who want to further their Jewish learning.
In the wake of the conversation here last week about the challenges facing Jewish publishing, seeing this App shows there is a lot of creativity out there and a willingness (and ability) to use technology in the service of the Torah and Jewish learning. I know many feel that this weakens the learner, takes away the motivation to learn Aramaic and really struggle with the text. There is a lot of truth to that. At the same time, it is hard (impossible?) to avoid technology and the desire to be where people “are at”. It will be interesting to see how this develops and how much a part (and in which ways) of Jewish life this sort of digital learning format will become.