General FAQ

rachelbuckman edited this page Jan 18, 2017 · 23 revisions

What’s with the name?

Something old, something new—just like what we’re developing. Sefaria comes from the Hebrew word Sefer (a scroll or book), playing off of the Hebrew word Sifria (library), while at the same time evoking something new. We hope Sefaria will allow more people around the world to explore the world of Jewish texts.

How does Sefaria make money?

Sefaria is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, supported by donations from individuals and foundations. We’re not trying to make money, we’re trying to increase access to the Jewish textual tradition.

Are you trying to put book publishers out of business?

No. Because of our people’s quirky weekend and holiday reading habits, there will always be a place for printed books in the Jewish tradition. Our goal is to increase the total number of people who are interested in Jewish texts. That’s something we think publishers will be happy to see happen. We have also helped some book publishers get their existing books online in an accessible format.

It seems like Sefaria is missing a lot of texts. When will it be complete?

Sefaria is an ambitious project and will take many years to complete. Our scope is huge, but it isn’t infinite. What we’re thinking of as the core Jewish canon comprises around 1,000 texts. How long it will take us to get through these texts depends on many factors including: (1) how many volunteers rise to the challenge and decide to contribute, (2) how many people or institutions with existing texts and translations decide that Sefaria is a project they want to participate in, and (3) how quickly we can digitize existing works. It’s currently too early to know for sure how these factors will play out over the coming years.

Why can’t I find what I’m looking for when I use the search function?

We look for words exactly as you type them. In Hebrew, words often appear in combined form (beginning with ב, מ, ה, ו, כ) or with added or missing letters (ו or י). Searching for a number of different possible spellings can often help to find the result that you are looking for. You can also limit your search to a particular category or to a particular book using the filters. We're always working on improving our search; if you have particular feedback about what works or what doesn't, please let us know.

Will modern commentaries be included in Sefaria?

Yes, although they may be presented differently than traditional, canonical commentaries. We want to offer access to as many points of view as possible, but we don’t want to impose points of view on anyone. Our first focus is in making the core texts of our tradition available. When we get to including modern and contemporary texts we may only display them once a reader has expressly asked to see them. Additionally, modern and contemporary texts that are under copyright will not be included without permission of the author or copyright holder.

Can just anyone come in and edit a text in Sefaria?

In order to preserve textual reliability we lock original texts to editing . (If you do spot an error, our Content team will be happy to investigate it further). Sefaria users may contribute a translation, and modify existing Community translations. Unlike Wikipedia, Sefaria requires contributors to create an account and sign in before editing a translation. Once an edit is made, it’s visible to the entire community on our Recent Activity page and recorded publicly on the user’s profile. Members of our community watch changes, and may undo any edits that aren’t productive. If any user were to continually make inappropriate or abusive edits, we would ban their account and undo their edits per our Terms of Use. We will soon be implementing a formal review process to make sure that all contributions to Sefaria have been actively vetted by a team of reviewers.

Can I trust that texts and translations on Sefaria are accurate?

Sefaria is transparent about sources used to digitize our original texts. For community texts, you can see who was involved in copying, editing or translating - as well as user history and activity.

What if two people can’t agree on how to translate a text?

Let them disagree! Sefaria is built to support multiple translations of each text and to make it easy for anyone to move between, or compare, different ways of translating. The translation we show you by default may be determined by its popularity, how favorably it’s been reviewed or (eventually) according to what fits with the personal preferences you’ve indicated to Sefaria.

Will Sefaria host translations in languages besides English?

We've begun to add translations in languages other than English, but we're just at the beginning of the process. We have a classic Judeo-Arabic translation of Torah, and parts of a French and a Finnish Torah translation. In the future, we hope to expand strongly into other languages. If you know of public domain texts in languages other than English, please do bring them to our attention.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have an iOS app and an Android app. Both apps are free to download.
Our iOS app is available on Apple's App Store for iPhone and iPad.
The Android app is available on GooglePlay.

I love the apps. How can I change the font size on the display?

While reading a book, you can either use two fingers to zoom in or you can tap the Aא icon in the upper right hand corner which opens the text settings. At the bottom are the font size control buttons.

Can I print your texts or reuse them on my website?

Nearly all of our texts can be reused freely! Clicking on the name of the text will take you to the table of contents. There, you can find a list of each version of that text and its license. Many licenses are completely free (public domain, CC0). Some can be freely used for any purpose, but require attribution (CC-BY). A few can be used only for noncommercial purposes (CC-BY-NC). If you scroll down to the bottom of the same page, you will see a tool to download the data for each version as Text, CSV, or JSON.

I reported a bug. When will it be fixed?

Thank for you letting us know about the bug you encountered using Sefaria. We are doing our best to fix the issue so that you don’t experience this in the future. Please let us know if you continue to have a problem or encounter something new by emailing

Has anyone actually made any interesting applications using Sefaria's data or API?

Yes! Take a look at our list of projects powered by Sefaria.

Still have questions? Post them to our forum for discussion or send us an email.