Next Tuesday night and Wednesday (3-4 June 2014) we celebrate the festival of Shavuos, also known as Chag Matan Torateinu – the day the Torah was transmitted to us on Mount Sinai. On the eve of Shavuos the tradition is to study Torah all night till morning prayers.
From the time of Moshe Rabeinu till today there have been major changes in how we learn Torah. Till the redaction of the Mishnah (see link for Jewish History Timeline) nearly everything except for the 24 books of the Tanakh, was transmitted orally from father to son and from teacher to pupil. Gradually with the compilation of the Talmud and commentaries, the Shulchan Aruch and Responsa literature, Torah texts were transcribed, published and disseminated throughout the world.
Advances in electronic media in the 20th century, in the music industry, databases and the Internet brought with them unprecedented opportunities for Torah study. We have Torah texts and lectures on CD’s and DOK’s (disk-on-key), online databases and countless Torah websites. I don’t think that the modern Rabbi has more knowledge in his head than his ancient predecessors, but he (along with any other Jew) has advanced retrieval, storage and search capabilities to get access to more Torah then can be learned in many lifetimes. One can read texts, listen and watch 1000’s of hours of audio & video classes and receive daily SMS’s on Torah topic.
In my humble opinion, there is nearly no valid excuse for not studying Torah in some format or other. Whether you’re an advanced Rabbinical scholar or a newbie, there’s a way to study. At home, at work, on the bus, on a transatlantic cruise or on a plane. With an Android app, a CD a DOK or a piece of software, you can get in a few minutes or hours of Torah study every weekday. So far the only time one can’t do electronic Torah study in on Shabbos or the Festivals….so that’s when you need to print out a text or buy a real book…
In the spirit of Shavuos here are some methods for Torah Study on the Go wherever you are. There are many others but this is a modest selection of resources I’ve either used myself or checked out.
YU Torah Online Tens of thousands of English mp3 lectures from Yeshiva University Rabbi’s on anything Jewish you might want to study for online listening or free downloading. AWESOME. For Shavuos alone they have hundreds of selections including a 48 page PDF for printing out and studying on the night of Shavuos called Shavuot-to-Go. They have from beginners level to the most advanced.
Torah Downloads also has thousands of excellent lectures for free.
Bar Ilan Responsa The most well known database of Hebrew Jewish classical texts with advanced search capabilities. What I like about the latest version is that it comes as a tiny disk-on-key for installation to your laptop. It’s not cheap but for more advanced scholars it is an invaluable resource.
Hebrewbooks.org Contains over 50,000 free Hebrew Jewish texts in PDF format for study or printing out.
Chabad has a big selection of audio and video classes. Naturally there are many with a Lubavitcher leaning, but countless others are general Torah. One of my favorite lecturers is Rabbi Mendel Kaplan from Thornhill, Ontario with over 300 classes.
TES Jewish Software Online store for Jewish software.
Torah.org also has a nice collection of classes.
KolHalashon has a big selection online + they also have live classes.
All this is for laptops and tablets, mp3 and video players. I have less experience with apps for smartphones, though a quick look at Google Play for Android or iTunes for iPhone will get you what you need. Just put the word “Torah” or “Shiur” into the search window and you’re ready to go.
So whether you are waiting in the airport lounge in Kenya, sitting on a bus in Paris or driving your rental car in Honolulu, Torah Study on the Go is possible.
Chag Sameach and enjoy learning Torah !!