Israel – Learning Gemara as a boy, Benny Goldstein wished he could see the characters come alive, arguing with each other while trying to prove their point. Now a father of three young boys, the thirty three year old Goldstein, who lives in Israel in the city of Modiin, has finally made his dream come true with the introduction of Animated Talmud, also known as Gemara Chai.
Goldstein, who started studying safrus at the age of twelve, became a sofer at a very young age and got his semicha at age eighteen. He learned computer graphics for the sole purpose of writing a computer program that would give children a rich, full color, introduction to the world of Gemara in a clear, easy and enjoyable manner.
While Goldstein’s original plan was to animate selected perakim in Gemara that younger children might be learning in school starting with Eilu Metzios, numerous educators told him that before delving into the intricacies of the Talmud, children needed to first understand the basics. Volume One of Animated Talmud, “Introduction to the Talmud”, contains fifteen short lessons with over one hundred minutes of animation, describing how Mishnayos and Gemara came to be written down, the history of the Talmud, basic Gemara terminology, how pages are laid out in a Gemara and how they were first printed, among many other fascinating lessons.
Five years in the making, animatedtalmud.com is a virtual learning experience, designed to capture the attention of today’s children, who are constantly inundated with color and excitement, by using a media they are already attracted to. Animated Talmud required the skills of a team of artists, animators, full scripts and a narrator, resulting in a beautiful website which has impressed numerous rabbanim, day schools and has been lauded by Rabbi Berel Wein, the Orthodox Union and Torah Umesorah. Funded exclusively by donations, Animated Talmud is completely free because, in Goldstein’s words, “it was a labor of love, not something to be making money on.”
While many have endorsed this project, there are some who are concerned that using this tool may detract from the difficult yet rewarding process that is part and parcel of learning Gemara. Goldstein insists that his program is not a substitute for delving into the intricacies of the Talmud but is simply a means to help students understand the original concept. In an interview with VIN News, Goldstein explained, “When Rashi first wrote his commentary, people were against it, because it simplified Chumash. Same thing when Artscroll and animated mishnayos were first introduced. A kid looks at Gemara and it is black and white. Children in this generation need something that can compete with the color and excitement of what is out there.”