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August 1, 2015 / 16 Av, 5775
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Haredi Censorship of Torah

Certain books are excised from the subscription, in order to reinforce an imaginary history where nothing was inconsistent with Haredi Judaism.
Otzar HaHochma

The best database of seforim (books written about Torah topics are called seforim even though the word just means books, it has connotations of holiness and importance) is Otzar HaHochma. The Otzar has every sefer you could possibly need. They have 47,350 books in the their database. Each of them is searchable so you can really find anything that’s been written about anything.

Searching is free but reading and printing cost money. Full, unlimited access costs a lot of money. (If you’d like to sponsor a subscription for me, I’ll graciously accept.)

There are several tiers of Otzar subscriptions. Here is the current pricelist:

The Complete Otzar HaHochma – 47,350 books Cost: $1,890

Thousands of books covering all topics in Torah, Judaism, Mishnah and commentary, Babylonian Talmud and commentary, Jerusalem Talmud and commentary, Responsa, Shulchan Aruch and commentary, Torah files, Tanach and commentary, Chazal, Kabbalah, Jewish philosophy and ethics, Hassidism, Drushim, Jewish holidays, Jewish history, prayers and hymns and many others.

Bnei Torah Edition – 45,150 books Cost: $1,685

Identical to the complete Otzar HaHochma but contains 1,200 fewer books. Certain books whose world outlook did not correspond to that of the Haredi sector have been removed.

Otzar Gemara Ve’Halacha – 30,700 books Cost: $1,400

Thousands of books covering topics such as Mishnah and commentary, Babylonian Talmud and commentary, Jerusalem Talmud and commentary, Reponsa, Shulchan Aruch and commentary, halacha u’minhag, Torah files.

Otzar Torah U’Machshava – 26,400 books Cost: $1,250

Thousands of books covering such topics as Tanach and commentary, Chazal, Kabbalah, philosophy and ethics, Hassidism, Drushim, Jewish holidays, Jewish history, prayers and hymns and various others as well.

The Library Edition – 47,350 books Cost: $1,170 This version includes all 41,500 books in the Complete Otzar edition, as well as all program options other than the free search option.

To add 880 books of Mosad Harav Kook (670 books in Bnei Torah Edition) Cost: $320

880 books (670 in bnei Torah edition) from the important publisher – basic works in all Torah fields in precise and
uptodate editions: Chidushei HaRitva, Rashba, Ran, Tosafot HaRosh, Mefarshei Hamikra Harishonim series, Torat Chaim series, Torah Umegilot, Tshuvot HaGeonim, Rishonim and Acharonim, Daat Mikra on Nach series, hagut and mussar, piyut and tefila, research and bibliography, history, Hebrew Linguistics and much more.

To add 405 books of Machon Yerushalayim Publications Cost: $230

This unique package from a leading publisher of Jewish religious publications includes hundreds of books by rishonim and acharonim, such as Shulchan Arukh Hashalem,Otzar Mefarshei Hatalmud, Sidrat Tshuvot Harishonim, Minchat Chinuch Hashalem, Noda Beyehuda Responsa, Sidrot Gedolei Ashkenaz, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, and Ohr Hamizrach.

To add 420 Books of Ahavat Shalom Publishers Cost: $170

420 books of the Ahavat Shalom Publishers, including books published for the first time from manuscripts as well as fundamental books.

To add 4,200 books of Kehot Publication Society (Chabad) Cost: $ 90

An extensive collection of Chabad publications, including ancient and rare books, as well as all basic Chasidic sources, Torah files, history books, and albums. The collection has been made possible through the generous
assistance of Kehat Publishing.

Network license: $210 for each station.

Notice anything interesting?

The full database includes 47,350 books. But one can get a 45,150 book version as well. (Otzar thinks this is 1200 fewer books. It’s actually 2200). This version is called the “Bnei Torah” edition. The words bnei Torah are used to imply one is a yeshiva student or Haredi. It’s unfortunate that one cannot be considered a modern ben Torah, but such is the foible of language. So if you are a ben Torah you don’t want access to 2,200 of the books on the Otzar database. These books are deemed inappropriate for Haredim because they are inconsistent with Haredi perspectives.

This is incredible. All the books in the Otzar are frum texts. They are all legitimate seforim from reputable Torah scholars. Yet, a small segment of these books is not consistent with Haredi thinking. Well, of course not! Not everything in Judaism has always been Haredi. That much is obvious to any Torah scholar. But in order to reinforce an imaginary history where nothing was inconsistent with Haredi Judaism, these books are excised from the subscription. It’s really amazing. These are not anti-orthodox books. That’s for sure. These are just books that “do not correspond to the Haredi sector.” Turns out, it’s forbidden to read books that might inform you that your way of life is not the only way of life that is legitimate within orthodox Judaism. Pretty sad.

As for me, I want a list of these 2200 books. I also want to know who the censor is and what the criteria are for removal from the Bnei Torah list. I also want to learn those 2200 seforim, pronto.

Visit Fink or Swim.

About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.

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