Source Sheets Document Format

Russel Neiss edited this page Aug 17, 2018 · 18 revisions

Sefaria Source Sheets are stored in a simple, home-grown JSON format which includes some limited uses of HTML. For any source sheet you can access on Sefaria, you can see the JSON which underlies it by adding /api/ to the root of its URL path, e.g.


Source sheets include a number of top level fields setting the title, publication status and overall viewing options. The bulk of the sheet is stored in an array of sources objects which may be one of 4 types (Source, Outside Text, Media, Comment). Each source may further have option individual display options.

Any textual content which a user may edit supports a subset of HTML tags which include: a, b, i, u, em, strong, small, p, br, div, span and img.

At a minimum sheets must contain a title a status and sheet level options

Top Level Fields

  • title - HTML of the sheet title. HTML is allowed to format the sheet header, but in UI contexts on the site the title is shown stripped of HTML.
  • status - either unlisted or public, whether or not the sheet is listed among public sheets for all Sefaria users.
  • options - object with fields describing general options for how the sheet is viewed. While a user is viewing a sheet, they can change the value of each of their fields to (temporarily) adjust how they see the sheet. The options fields are:
    • numbered - boolean whether to show a source number before each source.
    • boxed - boolean whether to display a box around each source.
    • bsd - whether to show בס"ד at the top of the sheet.
    • language - what language the content of the sheet should appear in, either english, hebrew or bilingual.
    • layout - for bilingual sheets, how languages should lay out, either stacked (Hebrew on top of English) or sideBySide.
    • langLayout - for side by side bilingual sheets, which language should appear on which side, either heLeft (Hebrew on the left) or heRight (Hebrew on the right).
    • divineNames - what (if any) substitution scheme to use for the four letter name of G-d. Either noSub (no substitution), yy (substitute יי), ykvk (substitute יקוק) or h (substitute ה').
    • collaboration - determines who is allowed to edit or add to the sheet. Adding means being able to add new sources to a sheet, but not edit existing sources. Options are: none (only the owner can edit), anyone-can-add, anyone-can-edit, group-can-add, group-can-edit.
  • id - a unique integer ID. To create a new sheet, post a document without an id. The server will assign an id and return it the response. To edit an existing sheet, include its id field.
  • tags - an array of strings each representing a tag which applies to the sheet.
  • group - a string naming the Sefaria group to which a sheet belongs. Only members of a given group may set this field to that group name.
  • attribution - [optional] HTML that stands in place of the authorship line of the sheet. Without this field, sheets include the line "Source Sheet by X" where X is the name and a link to the profile of the sheet owner.
  • promptedToPublish- an ISO timestamp representing the date when a user was prompted to publish the sheet. For sheets created external to Sefaria, setting this field to any time in the past will prevent future prompts on non-public sheets.


The top level sources field is an array of objects representing different kinds of items on the sheet. The type of each source is determined by its fields and the determines how the data is rendered. The options for source objects are:


Determined by the presence of ref field. A source that comes from inside the Sefaria Library. By virtue being a part of the Sefaria library the source automatically gets features like being able to automatically look up and add connections, links out to the text in Sefaria and the ability to reset the text of the source to what exists in the Sefaria database.

  • ref - a string reference (a.k.a citation) that defines the segment or ranges of segments in the text. See Text References for more. To determine if a ref is understood by Sefaria you can issue a query to the Texts API, if the ref is not understood it will generate an error.
  • heRef - a string, the Hebrew translation of ref, shown above the Hebrew text.
  • text - an object consisting of two fields, en and he which contain the HTML of the source text itself in English and Hebrew respectively. If this field is missing, the client will fill in text from the Sefaria Library when the sheet loads.
  • title - [optional] a string that is shown as a custom title above the source.

Outside Text

Determined by the presence of either outsideText or outsideBiText field. This type supports including sources as free HTML which do not appear in the Sefaria library. It may be either a single language or have a bilingual content to mirrors a source. Single language outside texts can be used to insert any need free form HTML into a sheet.

  • outsideText - HTML of the text for a single language case.
  • outsideBiText - an object consisting of the fields en and he which contain HTML of the English and Hebrew of the text respectively.


Determined by the presence of the field comment. Comments are free HTML like single language outside texts, but are rendered in the interface with a comment icon and may in the future link to more social features.

  • comment - HTML of the comment text.


Determined by the presence of the field media. This type may be either an embedded image, MP3 or YouTube video.

  • media - the URL of the media resource. How the media is rendered is determined by the URL's extension/domain:
    • Image: if the URL ends with .jpg, .jpeg, .gif or .png it is rendered in an <img> tag.
    • MP3: if the URL ends with .mp3 or is hosted on, it is rendered in an <audio> tag.
    • Video: if the URL is to a YouTube video, it is rendered as an <iframe> to YouTube.

Source Level Options

Each source object may optionally include an options field with a object storing source level objects which override the default display of the source. These options are:

  • sourceLanguage - what language to display the source content, either hebrew, english or bilingual.
  • sourceLayout - for bilingual sources, whether the layout should be stacked or sideBySide.
  • sourceLangLayout - for side by side bilingual sources, on which side the Hebrew text should display. Either heLeft for Hebrew on the left, of heRight for Hebrew on the right.
  • indented - sets an indentation level for a source. Three levels of indentation are supported with the three values indented-1, indented-2 and indented-3.

Fields Set only by the Server

A number of fields are set only internal to Sefaria's database and cannot be set except in the process of saving a sheet within Sefaria. These include:

  • _id - a unique Mongo ID.
  • owner - user ID of the sheet's owner.
  • views - integer number of times the sheet has been viewed.
  • likes - array of integer user IDs of users who like this sheet.
  • dateCreated - ISO timestamp when the document was first created.
  • dateModified - ISO timestamp when the document last changed
  • lastModified - ISO timestamp of the previous modification time, used to check if a sheet has been updated since the client last received its data.
  • nextNode - integer used to track the next node ID to assign to a new source. Node IDs are used only for real time collaborative editing.
  • [on a source] node - integer ID of the source used in real time collaborative editing.

Example Script

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
Post sheets to Sefaria using an API Key.
import sys
import json
import urllib
import urllib2

sheets = [
   {"title": "Source Sheet 1 Title" ...},
   {"title": "Source Sheet 2 Title" ...},

for sheet in sheets:

   sheet_json = {}
   sheet_json["status"] = "public"
   sheet_json["title"] = sheet["title"]
   sheet_json["sources"] = []
   sheet_json["options"] = {"numbered": 0,"assignable": 0,"layout": "sideBySide","boxed": 0,"language": "bilingual","divineNames": "noSub","collaboration": "none", "highlightMode": 0, "bsd": 0,"langLayout": "heRight"}

   sheet_content = json.dumps(sheet_json)

   values = {'json': sheet_content, 'apikey': 'API_KEY'}
   post = urllib.urlencode(values)  

   req = urllib2.Request("", post)  

     response = urllib2.urlopen(req)
     print "Sheet posted."
   except urllib2.HTTPError as e:
     error_message =
     print error_message

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