It’s slowly happening. We are entering into the high-tech age where the computer will become a powerful tool for Torah study, where the student will actually be able to have access to the entire Torah at the click of a button, where people will be able to expend their energies on understanding what they learn rather than on mechanics and looking for sources. We’re not talking about something far-fetched or only possible in the distant future, we’re talking about right now!
Moshe is sitting at his desk (or perhaps in the Bais Medrash) with his powerful sleek new (MMX Pentium II) laptop computer which speeds along at 300 MHz with 32MG of RAM and a 9 GB hard drive. (Quite slow compared with what we’ll be seeing in just a few years, according to Intel and IBM’s recent announcement. The program will run on any computer that has Windows 95). He inserts his Shas “CD-daf ” (a joint product of Mechon L’tul and Torah Communications Network) which instantly takes him to the Meshechta and Daf of his choice. The tzuras hadaf glows brightly on the screen. It allows him to click on any portion of it and listen to a clear lucid explanation given by a master magid shiur of Dial-a-Daf fame. When he clicks on a posuk, the Ein Mishpat or even a Gemora mentioned in middle of Rashi or Tosafos, he immediately sees the complete text on screen. No more wasting precious time trying to locate the Rambam, Shulchan Aruch, etc. It’s right there before your eyes even before you have a chance to blink. You can even access the Sefer Chavrusa for a Hebrew explanation on the Daf. Clicking on a posuk brings up the entire perek in Nach where it’s found, so that you can check the source firsthand. It even allows you to type in your own notes on the side of the Daf, and you can easily print it all out.
This, by the way, is only the first version; future versions will be far more sophisticated. They will be hyperlinked with all the Rishonim and Achronim on the Daf. What a phenomenal savings of time, space and money, hundreds of seforim all in the space of a small CD disk no larger than the size of your palm! A library of seforim that cost tens of thousands of dollars will be within reach of anyone with a computer.
Just imagine this scenario:
Yossi, an eighth grader, sits down to do his Chumash homework. He inserts his Chumash CD -ROM into his computer and accesses the Sedra. When he needs a translation, in Chumash or Rashi, he simply clicks on the word. The screen gives him various choices such as Targum Unkelos, Targum Yonoson, Rashi, Even Ezra, Ramban, etc. He now makes his selection and the translation appears right on the screen. At any time, he can click the voice icon and a rebbi will explain the posuk to him. When he finishes the perek, he clicks on the self-test icon and up pops a word list which he must match to the proper translation. As soon as he finishes, he presses the check icon and the computer gives him his mark and flashes his mistakes on screen for him to correct. Yossi reviews them and makes the proper corrections.
He can always press the help icon, should he need it. He now presses the comprehension icon and a list of ten multiple choice comprehension questions appear on screen. When he is finished, the computer marks his paper and he can then click the explain icon to help him understand the ones he got wrong.
Yossi goes to his homework on the Halochos pertaining to the Four Minim. Each halacha allows him to bring up a beautiful full color picture illustrating the Halacha. For extra credit, his rebbi has assigned a question that needs some research. Yossi accesses a well-known Web site which contains thousands of Shalos U’tshuvos and searches for the sources that deal with the question at hand, and prints them out on his new Epson printer. He never would have been able to answer this question without his powerful search tools. Not only did he get his homework done, but he enjoyed it as well. In his spare time Yossi loves to teach himself Mishnayos. He’s already taught himself the entire seder Zeroyim thanks to his Mishnah CD- ROM.
Yossi’s older brother, Sruly, does the same for his Gemora homework. His Gemora CD contains some excellent diagrams and charts that help explain it to him. Whenever he is not sure of the P’shat, he clicks on the screen and listens to the audio portion. He now goes to his rebbi’s Web site to get the day’s homework questions. (Note: his Web browser has a special filter that allows him to go only to sites that are free of all trash). When he is finished, he E-mails his completed homework to his rebbi’s home site. By now the rebbi’s computer has automatically graded the papers, and he will go over them with the class first thing in the morning. On Thursdays, Sruly usually downloads some of the beautiful Divrei Torah available on many Torah Web sites.
The boys’ mother checks the Yeshivah Web site (or E-Mail) to see if there are any important notes for her. This is where the yeshivah posts such important information as changes in bus service, P.T.A. , Melava Malka, or other functions. What a tremendous savings in postage and paper! No more having to search through a child’s briefcase to find those treasured notes he forgot to give you. Parents can also easily check what their child’s homework assignment is by going to their rebbi’s or teacher’s home page. Gone are the days when kids can fabricate their teachers’ instructions.
We’re not far from the day when laptop computers will be in every classroom as well as in every Bais Medrash. Anyone will have instant access to every sefer that has ever been printed. The world’s largest Jewish library at everyone’s fingertips! Powerful search programs will help find what you are looking for. No more time wasted finding a sefer or trying to figure out the translation of difficult words. The time can now be better spent on delving into the Gemora, deeper and deeper, understanding the reasoning and perhaps even answering the apparent contradictions.
There’s no question that computers are the wave of the future and their use is limited only by the ingenuity of the rebbi or programmer. Used properly, they can help make leaming more meaningful. enjoyable, and interesting, and, most importantly, more productive.
Certainly man must strive to use all of creation in the service of Hashem. What better way, than to use the tremendous power of the computer for Torah study. Perhaps it will still take some time before its full potential is realized, but let’s just remember…………………
Kol hanikra bi’shmi ve’lichvodi bera’tiv, yetsartiv af asitiv.