Administrivia: Torah-Forum and Bais-Medrash

Project Genesis (genesis@torah.org)
Fri, 11 Apr 1997 09:42:53 -0400

As we have watched Torah-Forum continuing to grow at an impressive rate,
we've also noticed two problems, both of which have caused the editing
process to continue to drag. One is, as you know, that the volume threatens
to become overwhelming - the backlog never seems to decrease. The second,
however, touches the core purpose of Project Genesis as an outreach
organization.

The charter for Torah-Forum says the following:

Torah-Forum encourages and invites the participation of those from all
shades and flavors of Jewish life. Torah-Forum will discuss the issues in
a straightforward, friendly fashion that can appeal to all those with an
interest in traditional approaches, regardless of their own affiliations.
It will also provide a place in cyberspace where the curious seeker can
slake his or her thirst for information by interacting with those who have
devoted years to serious Torah study. We would like nothing more than to
become an address through which any Jew can be put in contact with experts
in traditional Jewish thought, while offering scholars an "on-line Bais
Medrash" - a house of study where they will feel comfortable contributing
actively to ongoing discussions.

As the "on-line Bais Medrash" variety submissions have increased in volume,
I worry that Torah-Forum has become proportionally more intimidating to
those with lesser background, from _all_ shades of Jewish life. One of the
most difficult editing tasks has been dealing with submissions such as the
following (this is the entire text of an actual submission):

>During the Yamim Ha-Noraim we conclude the eleventh blessing of the Shmoneh
>Esreh "ha-melech ha-mishpat". I always thought that according to the
>grammatical rule for smichut, it should read "melech ha-mishpat". Does
>anybody know the grammatical justification for "ha-melech ha-mishpat"?

If you understand that, wonderful! It's proof positive that you have (at a
bare minimum) a Jewish day-school education - and a good one at that. But
if you _didn't_ understand that, wonderful! Because Project Genesis was
created to serve _your_ needs...

I think you see the problem. Without not only translations, but extensive
explanations of the context of the terms used above, the _average_ reader
of those words (according to initial results from our new database
registration) has literally no clue what that paragraph means. Hebrew,
Aramaic, Yiddish - it's all Greek... But in recent months, the average
_contributor_ to Torah-Forum has been one who is fluent with the necessary
concepts and Hebrew word usage.

To solve it, effective immediately, we have created a new mailing list
called Bais-Medrash-digest, part of our new advanced section. As a
Torah-Forum subscriber, you are automatically part of the Bais-Medrash list
as well, but you should certainly feel free to unsubscribe from the latter
(just send mail to majordomo@torah.org with the following message:
"unsubscribe Bais-Medrash-digest").

If you subscribe to Bais-Medrash, however, you should certainly remain
subscribed to Torah-Forum. Please let me explain:

Bais-Medrash will have truly minimal moderation. If a post isn't readable,
intelligible or polite, it will be returned, but otherwise most any post
will be accepted without editing. Bais-Medrash will be a place for open
discussion among people who _claim_ to know what they are talking about,
and the reader will be expected to have some amount of background. So
again, if you don't, drop bais-medrash - at least, for the time being!

Torah-Forum will retain the same rules it always had, including
conscientious editing to be certain that sources are quoted for statements
of fact, and to ensure that all terms are translated and explained in a way
that beginners can understand.

We encourage those who post advanced material to submit it to
Bais-Medrash@torah.org, and we do hope that the writers will assist us in
the task of dividing material - by submitting any given post to the
appropriate list (quick guideline: did you translate _every_ Hebrew term,
and explain _every_ Jewish concept?). Nonetheless, we expect to "transfer"
posts from Torah-Forum to Bais-Medrash on a regular basis, at our
discretion. In those cases where a post addresses a subject under
discussion on Torah-Forum, we may or may not address a summary post to the
Torah-Forum readership when discussion on Bais-Medrash eventually comes to
an end.

Expect to see more about this, in the administrivia announcement which
opens Bais-Medrash-digest!

Yours,

Yaakov Menken
Director, Project Genesis