June 19, 2024
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Website Aids in Torah Memorization: The Students Become the Teachers

Josh Herzberg may not be a rabbi or even a teacher, but with Noah Santacruz, who grew up in Teaneck, he has helped many people memorize sections of the Torah and Gemara more easily. These two Cooper Union college students created the website TorahSummary.com, which contains summaries of the Gemarah, Chumash, and Navi.

On this website, the Gemara is summarized in about a line per amud. The Chumash and Navi are summarized in about one line per perek. In addition, the website also contains what Herzberg calls super short summaries of Chumash, which contain just a few words per perek.

Herzberg and Santacruz met as freshman, when they became roommates, and have been friends since. They are both currently juniors, studying electrical engineering. Although neither of their current career paths includes the rabbanut or teaching Torah professionally, Herzberg said he enjoys teaching Torah both through this website and by giving shiurim. Santacruz added that due to his interest in computer programming, “I see many opportunities for connecting Torah and technology.”

Herzberg conceived of the idea for the website because, he said, “The Gemara and our rabbis all emphasize the importance of chazara (review), and I have been told so many times that I need to review, but, like many people, I found it hard to find the time to review everything.”

“Many people,” he added, “especially those who do Daf Yomi, don’t have the time to review everything. After just a few weeks of Daf Yomi, reviewing everything seems like an impossible task…Finally, I found a good way to review. Using TorahSummary, you can review an entire masechta in a couple of hours or you could review a week’s worth of Daf Yomi in just a few minutes.”

Herzberg also stated that the super-short Chumash summaries make it possible to learn an entire sefer in an hour. He believes everyone, including students as young as 7th grade, “should try to do this to try to have a true grasp of where things are in Chumash, so that, going forward, everything can be clearer.”

Santacruz added, “I believe this [website] can give people the global perspective to make connections between different parts of Torah.”

Herzberg said that he originally began writing outlines and summaries of his learning a number of years ago for his own personal use as an aid to memorization. In the summer of 2013, he had summarized most of the books of the Chumash, as well as sections of the Gemara and Navi. Then he decided to share these summaries “in case someone would be able to benefit from them,” said Herzberg. With this in mind, he approached Santacruz last September to help him summarize sefer Devarim and assist with the web design of TorahSummary.

“I was interested in the project,” said Santacruz, “because we tried it together ourselves for memorizing Chumash and I saw both how quickly I got it and also how much it affected how I viewed Chumash as a whole. Now I feel like I could find any source in Chumash. I hope that others can gain this clarity, not only in Chumash, but in the rest of Tanach and Gemara as well.”

TorahSummary has a Twitter and Facebook account with likes from OUTorah, NCSY, Artscroll, Yeshiva University, YUTorah.org, Aish.com, and Chabad.org.

Herzberg is currently working on creating more summaries of the Gemara, which follow the Daf Yomi cycle. He would also like to create summaries for all the books of Neviim and Ketuvim. Herzberg is open to contribution from others in the form of either new summaries or corrections of summaries that are already posted on the website. These can be submitted to the TorahSummary website, to its Facebook page, or e-mailed to [email protected]

Tova Domnitch, a Bergenfield resident, is a freelance journalist who has also written for The Long Island Jewish World and The South Florida Jewish Journal.

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