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Jewish Studies

Jewish Studies

Hebrew Searching: Tips and Tricks

I want to improve my Hebrew!

Explore a virtual Hebrew-English dictionary, invest in a copy of your own, or come visit us at the library-most Touro library locations will have one. In the print version, the Hebrew to English side will be arranged in alphabetical order by shoresh, or root, of the word, and will have variations listed under it. On the English to Hebrew side, there are also variations listed, but be careful-some may not mean what you are looking for. Ask a librarian or your professors for assistance. You may want to reach out to your classmates-some are fluent in Hebrew!

Spelling

Consult your dictionary! Additionally, some databases, such as the Bar Ilan University Responsa, have wildcard searching. This allows you to substitute a symbol for a letter to get all possible variations of a word. This comes in handy when you are unsure of spelling or would like to widen your search.

How do I type in Hebrew?

Alt-shift is your friend! Load the Hebrew language pack (on your home computer*) by going to Control Panel, then selecting "Clock, Language, Region" and add the Hebrew langauge display, which will be under Region and Language (click on Install or Uninstall display languages and select Hebrew). Then, whenever you need Hebrew, press alt-shift and then alt-shift again to get back to English.

*all computers in the Touro Library at Midtown have Hebrew already installed. 

How to type in Hebrew online

What if my computer does not have a Hebrew font?

Oh no! I forgot where Aleph is on the keyboard! 

Have no fear! Branah.com has a virtual Hebrew keyboard that will help you remember where the letters are, or enable you to type in Hebrew on any computer. Just copy and paste!

Bar Ilan

Bar Ilan contains the entirety of standard Jewish books from the Bible and the Talmud and their various commentaries to modern Rabbinic writings and responsa.

The best way to learn to use this powerful database is to read the search guide, located under the Help option on the menu bar.There are many tips and tricks in the guide that will show you how best to search, particularly if you are unsure of spelling or exact wording. The default language on the database home page is English, making it easier for English speakers to navigate, but your searches must be in Hebrew. There is a virtual Hebrew keyboard provided if you do not have Hebrew language support on your computer.

One key issue to keep in mind is to distinguish between the “search” option and the “browse” option. The default setting is “search” which does not allow you to look at the section without doing an actual search. Therefore, if you want to look at a specific section without searching, make sure to use “browse” option while navigating. Using the "browse" option will open up a table of contents in tree form, allowing you to click on a section to focus your search on. Otherwise, you would be searching the whole database, which would result in a long list of hits, many of which will not be relevant.

Though there is no translation option within the database, it is easy to copy and paste a section into Google Translate. 

Otzar ha'Hochma

Oztar ha'Hochma has a wide variety of seforim, including rare and obscure works. The books are scanned from the original work, and browsing requires some patience and perseverance. The software is OCR enabled meaning you can search for specific words or phrases in all titles.  If you are unfamiliar with Hebrew, switch to the English version by clicking on the word "English" at the top of the page. This will make the search page a bit easier to navigate.

The multiple search boxes may seem confusing at first, but upon switching to the English version you will see that the top box is for keyword searching. Clicking on exact wording and adding prefixes will make your search more precise. The list of results on the bottom right of the page defaults to Otzar's entire collection, displayed in alphabetical order in Hebrew. The two search boxes directly above the list allow you to search for a title (it says "search a book") or an author. Be sure of your spelling! If you are not, check the Advanced Search Guide for further tips.

To see the digital copy of the work, either click on the link in the results list or on the preview page to the left. This will lead to a pdf reader which will allow you to print.  The search box above the reader lets you search within the work, and provides you with a Hebrew virtual keyboard.

Cotar

Cotar is a collection of modern responsa from Israeli journals on various halachic and religious issues published by the Bar Ilan Responsa Project. You can look for articles on issues such as "electricity on shabbat" and other current halachic issues. Be advised that Cotar only searches in Hebrew and will only pull up Hebrew articles. See the Help link on the menu bar at the top of the page for a search guide. There are many different search options available, as there are in Bar Ilan, which will come in handy when you want to either broaden or narrow your focus.

Cotar also allows you to browse by topic. Click the Topic Index on the menu bar for a branching list of topics. Clicking on the plus sign presents a list of subtopics. Upon clicking any of those, a hyperlink will appear in the window to the left. Clicking the hyperlink brings you to the install page for Cotar's SafeView plug-in. You can only view Cotar's resources if you have installed the plug-in.

Hebrew Books and Hebrew Manuscripts

HebrewBooks.org has thousands of seforim uploaded in their original form. Free for all to use and relatively easy to navigate. The home page is in both Hebrew and English, and provides a virtual Hebrew keyboard. You can search within the text of the sefarim, or by author or title in three different search boxes. Again, be careful with spelling. 

Results are displayed in column form for easy perusal. First the title, then the author, last name first, followed by place of publication and finally date. The search engine ranks each result by relevance, generating a percentage in the last column. You can view the books online in HTML format (click view), or pdf format (click on the hyperlinked title), or download a pdf copy. You can search within the sefer when you view it online by clicking on the link on top of the viewer.

Because of its scope, ease of searching, and unrestricted access to full text, Hebrewbooks.org is one of the best resources for research of all-Hebrew materials.

Its sister site, HebrewManuscripts.org, has older, more obscure material scanned and uploaded but not searchable except by the command to find on the page. It has the entire JTS manuscript collection as well as the HUC collection. You can download pdf files of the manuscripts. Be aware that these manuscripts are not easy to work with. They are not in good condition, particularly after being scanned, and the writing is often difficult to read.

Additionally, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Press has published a free electronic Hebrew book called The Medieval Hebrew Manuscripts: Introduction for the Student. This book serves as a guide for students and is designed to escort them step by step in the discovery of the world of medieval Hebrew manuscripts while imparting a broad knowledge of paleography. The book contains a detailed analysis of 30 Hebrew manuscripts written in different styles. Clicking on the link below leads you to the table of contents. Each chapter has a separate link.

Rambi

Rambi is the largest index of academic Jewish articles available and is free for anyone to search. Pay close attention to what you're searching for as the options are a bit technical and not user-friendly. For the broadest possible search, select "keywords anywhere".  If you are unfamiliar with Hebrew, there is an option to switch the search page to English at the top left of the page. Rambi indexes articles in multiple languages, so your searches in whatever language you choose will pull results in multiple languages.

Advanced searches are another great option if you're getting too many results. See the help guide linked below for tips.

User beware, none of these articles are available full-text directly from the database. Rambi is an index ONLY.  To get full-text of an article found in a Rambi search, go to the E-journals tab and type the name of the journal. Then go to the year, number, and volume and click the title of the article.  If we do not have access to the journal via Ejournals, you can request it by filling out  Inter-Library Loan request form (make sure to follow up with us to ensure that your request was processed succesfully).

Halacha Brura

Halacha Brura is set up as a virtual library and only allows you to browse by categories. It is a compilation of online resources culled from many different places, such as Hebrewbooks.org and Sefarim-Online. The home page provides a guide in Hebrew on how to use this virtual library. Each topic is followed by a list of results, which has a symbol in front of it. This symbol tells you how to retrieve the item or if it is available full-text. A guide to the symbols appears on the home page. Halacha Brura is one of the only databases that is arranged solely by topic. It also has many unusual topics, such as geography, kitve eis, biography and bibliography.

You can use the find on page (control-F) function to search each category's list.

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