How the Rabbis Invented Web2.0 Before Their Time


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A whirlwind tour of Jewish history focusing on the development of Judaism’s information technology and how many of those advances mirror what we today call Web 2.0.

This presentation was given by Ellen Frankel at the BibleTech 2009 Conference on March 27-28 in Seattle, WA.

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How the Rabbis Invented Web2.0 Before Their Time

  1. 1. How the Rabbis Invented Web 2.0 Before Its Time Dr. Ellen Frankel BibleTech 2009 Seattle, March 27, 2009
  2. 2. History of Jewish Journeys & Jewish Books Before the Common Era 1800 BCE Abraham and Sarah leave Ur (Babylonia) and settle in Canaan Israelites leave Egypt and journey to Canaan 1400 BCE David establishes Jerusalem as capital; Solomon builds Temple 1000 BCE Assyria conquers Northern Kingdom of Israel, exiles population 722 BCE Babylonia conquers Judah, destroys Temple, exiles leaders 586 BCE 536 BCE Persia conquers Babylonia, Jews return to Israel, rebuild Temple 2nd C. BCE Maccabees drive out Syrian Greeks, establish Hasmonean dynasty Hebrew Bible translated into Greek Septuagint
  3. 3. History of Jewish Journeys & Jewish Books Common Era Begins 70 Rome destroys Second Temple, exiles Jews Rabbis canonize Bible, compose Mishnah in Israel 1st-2nd Century Rabbis in Israel and Babylonia compose Talmud, Midrash 3rd-6th Century 6th-10th Century Masoretes vocalize Bible; transfer text from scrolls to codex 11th-14th Century European rabbis write commentaries on Bible, Talmud; create codes 13th Century Moses de Leon composes Zohar in Spain; Maimonides organizes Jewish law and philosophy Spain and Portugal expel the Jews; 1492-1497 New Jewish centers established in Italy, northern Africa, Israel 1516 First ghetto established in Venice; Jews persecuted throughout Europe 16th C-WW II Rabbinic academies flourish in Eastern Europe; Talmud printed
  4. 4. History of Jewish Journeys & Jewish Books Modern Era Begins 18th Century Hasidic movement begins in Eastern Europe 19th Century Napoleon emancipates Jews, grants citizenship; Modern forces divide community into secularists, Reformers, Orthodox Persecution forces millions of Jews to flee 1880’s Eastern Europe for America Jewish writers, scientists, scholars rise to prominence in 20th Century Europe and America Hitler murders 2/3 of European Jewry, 1938-1945 destroys 1,000 years of Yiddish and rabbinic culture 1948 United Nations partitions Palestine; the modern state of Israel is created 21st Century Israel becomes high tech incubator; Jewish entrepreneurs create Google, Facebook,, and Craigslist
  5. 5. Sample page from the Babylonian Talmud
  6. 6. Sample page from the Mikra’ot Gedolot
  7. 7. PaRDeS Process of Interpretation Peshat: literal; plain sense of the text Remez: allegorical; historical parallels Derash: homiletic; lessons for living Sod: mystical; coded language
  8. 8. Sample of Masoretic Text
  9. 9. Features of rabbinic texts compared with Web 2.0 Web 2.0 Rabbinic System • Schools of rabbinic masters • Social networking • Cross-generational • User-generated content conversations • Formatting standards • Standardization of page format • Coded language • Extensive abbreviations • Visual hierarchy • Primacy given to center, left parts of page and Usability • Proof-texts • Citation • Teachings passed orally for • Viral transmission centuries • Social learning/IMing • Hevruta, study pairs
  10. 10. Big Players of the Internet •Sergey Brin, Google: Co-founded the world's most successful search engine •Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook: Founder •Terry Semmel at Yahoo, Jeff Skoll at e-Bay and Barry Diller at IAC: Served as Number 1 or 2 person in three of the world's four most valuable Internet companies according to a May 2004 Fortune study •Jeff Pulver, established internet protocol communications with Pulver Order, adopted by FCC •Joshua Schachter, Founded most successful aggregator site for tags •Yossi Vardi, ICQ: Israeli VC guru who brought instant messaging to the masses •Craig Newmark, Craig’s List: Founded largest online free classified ad site •Larry Sanger, Wikipedia: Co-founded most successful online collaborative encyclopedia
  11. 11. What exactly is the Tagged Tanakh? This is a chair This is a tagged chair chair chair furniture ergonomic Ikea arm_chair manufactured office_chair seat
  12. 12. Now imagine how you could tag this: Related Midrash father Etymology_of_Jews veil Gen 38:15 brother modesty When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot; tribe for she had covered her face sexual innuendo Southern_Kingdom Shared_customs_Islam
  13. 13. Tools and resources to connect people and ideas to the Bible
  14. 14. Learn more about the Tagged Tanakh and other JPS products and services at: