Source: Ner LeElef (NLE)
BetaMidrash is a free Android app using open-source online Jewish texts crowdsourced from Sefaria – an incredible platform in its own right which I plan to feature in a future post. BetaMidrash combines an attractive interface complete with Hebrew texts and translations, embedded commentaries when available, a powerful search engine, and downloaded texts so that the app continues to work even with a minimal data connection. What I did not realize when I first started using BetaMidrash after it was launched in April 2015–and quickly fell in love with it–was that this app was created by two electrical engineering students at Cooper Union.
The first thing one notices when opening BetaMidrash is its vast library with all of the basic texts like the Bible, Talmud, and Halachic codes together with many other classics that are rarely found in anything but the most advanced (and expensive) databases like Bar Ilan Responsa and Otzar Hachachma. This app has works like Shaarei Teshuva, Chovot Halevavot, and Meshech Chachma, just to name a few. These works are provided by Sefaria but while Sefaria requires a constant data connection and is designed for more careful research, BetaMidrash is optimized to quickly find text and learn on-the-go using one’s mobile device.
It is a pleasure to learn on BetaMidrash. I use it on a consistent basis to review the weekly Torah portion. It contains the text in Hebrew with vowels, together with its translation, and embedded on each verse are classical commentaries. They include the commonly used ones like Targum Onkelus and Rashi and some that I rarely have found in a digital format like Daat Zekenim m’Baalei ha’Tosafot, the commentary of the Baalei HaTosafot on the Torah which is one of my favorites. The interface is so user-friendly that in many cases I prefer learning Parsha on my smartphone to learning from a Mikraot Gedolot.
Everything in BetaMidrash is searchable and while it does not have the Boolean search engine that one gets in something like the Bar Ilan Responsa, the search feature can be quite useful. It even lets you search in both Hebrew and English, something that I have not seen on any other Torah app.
Read more at Ner LeElef.