A challenge haunts the Jewish community. Torah learning is a supreme value for us. We devote many scores of hours teaching ourselves and our children Torah, in schools and in other settings. Yet the Torah we learn and expose our kids to often seems dry. We yearn for relevance–but it seems hard to come by. Torah seems to deal with esoteric topics; oxen goring calves, but what does that have to do with me? Stories about our forefathers are nice, and yes, we can preach about the meaning of these stories, but do these preachings have the ring of truth, or are they just a “nice vort”? If we raise our voices enough, we can intimidate our listeners into not arguing. But are they inspired? Are they convinced of the beauty of what they are learning?
Aleph Beta Academy is attempting a solution to the problem of relevance and meaning. It is seeking to change the way its viewers and listeners feel about Torah-learning, through a bold experiment, a marriage, as it were, of bold new content and elegant, beautiful presentation. In answer to the question “Why do we learn?” Aleph Beta answers: to grow; to be nourished, deeply, in our relationships with the Alâ€‘mighty and with our fellow humans. Behind its effort is a conviction that Torah learning is not just an intellectual exercise that Gâ€‘d wants us to engage in. Rather, we are meant to walk away, every time, with a new understanding of our relationships with Gâ€‘d, our peers, our family, and ourselves.
Aleph Beta videos feature outstanding educators–Rabbi David Fohrman of the Young Israel of Woodmere; Rabbi Hayyim Angel of Yeshiva University; and others–and are bringing their material to life in a whole new way, through short video segments that are designed to be interactive, to create the sense that the listener is joining the presenter in a journey of discovery. In a nutshell, Aleph Beta, in its videos, seeks to focus on what we might call understanding, not just knowledge. Knowledge is the facts–the bare-bones data of Torah. You can memorize the facts, but the facts become transformative, become stunning, when you piece them together so that they form a broader whole. When that happens, you achieve understanding. And understanding, in this sense, can feel both liberating and breathtaking.
Aleph Beta videos ask the questions that you never thought you were allowed to ask. Why would an All-Powerful Gâ€‘d need to rest after creating a Universe? How could laws–the most objective tool imaginable–be used to define teshuvah, the most personal and subjective experience imaginable? When it comes to answers, Aleph Beta’s scholars don’t pontificate or sermonize; rather, they provide text-based guidance until paths to answers gradually reveal themselves.
What might be most special about Aleph Beta is that the company believes that the medium in which Torah is presented is nearly as critical as the message itself. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a well-crafted video presentation worth?
Aleph Beta’s video presentations don’t just entertain; they illustrate. They bring concepts to life. Music, images, interactive charts, and animations make abstract concepts tangible for the modern student. Take a moment to preview Aleph Beta’s latest course and see for yourself what we are talking about. Go to alephbeta.org and give it a whirl. You won’t be sorry. v