Monday, February 08, 2016

Talmudic synopses on demand

Enter Shamma Friedman. For decades, Friedman has been at the forefront of both talmudic philology qua philology (think dusty book filled offices, but also trips to pastoral European monasteries which are home to ancient Talmudic manuscripts) and digital research in the humanities. Since the eighties, Friedman has headed the Saul Lieberman Institute of Talmudic Research of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Friedman and his staff have poured thousands of hours into transcribing almost every single partial and complete manuscript of the Bavli. After years of being available on CD-ROM, the institute’s databank of Talmudic manuscripts went online in 2011 and has become one of the most relied upon tools for scholars of the Bavli. Now, in what will surely be remembered as a watershed moment in the history of talmudic philology, the institute has developed software that can automatically create synopsi. Using the software, synopses of a chapter of the Talmud can be created within the span of just a few minutes, and the day on which scholars will have synopses to the entire Bavli at their fingertips does not seem too far off.
Cross-file under Technology Watch.