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Sefaria.org has emerged as a very convenient and popular place to find hundreds of important Torah texts in Hebrew and English.

Many people rely upon the site for study and for the generation of educational materials. Do the texts and translations that Sefaria presents conform to Orthodox pedagogical standards?

Sefaria often relies on the New Jewish Publication Society of America Tanakh (hereon JPS) for its translations. This translation emerged from the collaborative efforts of an interdenominational team of Jewish scholars and rabbis. At times the translation departs from the literal translation and analyzes the Torah like a work of literature. In so doing, it often gives the reader a very different understanding of the verse.

Here's an example:

Genesis 7:1 – The JPS translation that Sefaria presents has “go to the Ark” - however, בא means “come”.

Another example:

Genesis 37:8 - על חלמתיו ועל דבריו is rendered as one idea - “for his talk about his dreams” - but traditional commentaries present 2 reasons. That they hate him more for (a) his dreams, and (b) for talking about them. This subtlety is vital to understanding their motive for selling him and for understanding his development over the next couple of Torah portions as a person. Most other translations do this better.

Any translation is an interpretation. But some translations take more literary license, contrary to the Orthodox approach wherein every word of the Torah has the potential to be instructive. That the slightest details of the biblical text have a meaning that ought not be glossed over for the purpose of literary flow.

Moreover the classic commentaries only make sense if you know what the text literally (rather than literarily) says. Accordingly, pairing the JPS translation, which is more literary in tact, with Rashi or other traditional commentators adds confusion. Particularly given that the translation of the biblical text they use for the Rashi is different and often doesn't match the JPS translation at all.

As a second but related question, given that the site's creators are non-Orthodox, do Orthodox rabbis permit Orthodox students and educators to utilize the site?

Are there any Orthodox sources that discuss these issues? Are there any rabbis that have issued rulings against the use of Sefaria?

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  • Is a library a reliable resource for Torah? Well, it depends which books and translations you open ...
    – mbloch
    Feb 9, 2022 at 15:09
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    "the founders and maintainers of the site are not Orthodox" - this is factually incorrect, some of them are, some of them aren't. I know this for a fact as I know many. And if a picture is worth many words, see sefaria.org/team
    – mbloch
    Feb 9, 2022 at 15:32
  • the parts of this that aren't still ranty are probably duplicates of judaism.stackexchange.com/q/84290/759
    – Double AA
    Feb 9, 2022 at 16:04
  • My suspicion is that any Rabbi who might be very concerned about Sefaria would probably be of the opinion that unnecessary internet use is prohibited, so not all that likely to see specific rulings against Sefaria. Feb 9, 2022 at 23:38
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    I personally use Sefaria, even though I do not consider it strictly Orthodox. The JPS website clearly says that its translation is based partly on non-Jewish sources. so when I use Sefaria for an answer here, I usually use another translation. In a really crazy example, their translation of Josephus has a note from the editor saying the Jews deserved their problems for killing Jesus. When I pointed this out, I got an email saying they would make changes. Nothing happened. So why do I use it? It's too useful. However, I would not recommend it for everyone, and they really should make changes.
    – N.T.
    Feb 10, 2022 at 19:13

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