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The Inside Scoop on Everything Aleph Beta

What is Aleph Beta?

A Torah media company, but also so much more...

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How Can I Get The Most Out of Aleph Beta?

Great question. We have some tips for you right here.

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I love Rabbi Fohrman's methodology! Can I learn to do that?

Short answer: Yes, you can. Press play for the long answer

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About Aleph Beta

What is Aleph Beta?

Hi, I'm Imu Shalev. I'm the CEO here at Aleph Beta, so, I should know this one right? But it's actually really hard to describe what Aleph Beta is - on the surface, we’re a Torah Media company - we make videos and audios on Biblical Themes - Parsha, Holidays, Prayer and Topics that range from The Meaning of Life to the understanding behind mitzvot. We're really into evidence based presentations of literary analysis of text. And we have these really pretty animated videos that showcase a particular method of interpretation. Hopefully, our videos are spiritually engaging and really, really meaningful as well.

But I think that's really just the surface understanding of what it is that we are. I think, deeper down Aleph Beta is an organization deeply committed to helping people fall in love with Torah. And we really got started based on Rabbi David Fohrman and his almost accidental discovery of a methodology of studying Torah. Rabbi Fohrman is, he would describe himself as a Torah nerd, someone who really is just a careful reader of the text, someone who approaches the text without any preconceived notions, putting aside all the commentaries, or all the things we may have been taught in grade school, and just he approaches the text with childlike wonder, just like reading it for the very first time. And the things you begin to see in Torah text, are truly incredible. Things that we weren't even taught to notice, like, for example, when the Israelites leave Egypt in the story of the splitting of the sea, right, many of us treat that as a nice story. It's really interesting, the cool miracles, that's great. 

But what Rabbi Fohrman sort of notices, and what many other sages have noticed before him that sort of like kept on the down low, is just so many language parallels to the story of creation, right? There's all kinds of words that actually harken back to the creation narrative, right? Like in the beginning of creation, there is a wind that is hovering over the deep, and wouldn't you know that wind shows up in the splitting of the sea? You have upper waters and lower waters that are separated in creation? And what does that look like? It's almost the horizontal version of this, right? Water on the right, water on the left, and dry land emerges, just like it does at creation.

And Rabbi Fohrman shows this in parallel after parallel. And what opens up is an entirely new dimension for how to look at Torah, there's this incredible interconnectedness in the various stories of Torah, that kind of just scream out at you, hey, this book is about more than you thought it was.

And we don't stop there, right? We don't just notice cool intertextual parallels. But we ask ourselves, why, like, why are those parallels there? What are the hidden messages and layers of the Torah? And actually, that's my favorite part of what Aleph Beta is. It's not so much the cool methodology, or the textual algebra. But actually a lot of the meaning that emerges when you slow down and ask yourself, just how are these stories relevant to my life? Why are they meaningful to me? Why do I care that the creation narrative shows up at the story of the splitting of the sea? What am I meant to learn from that?

So for me, I feel very lucky because I've been a student of Rabbi Fohrman’s for so many years. And he has shown me in story after story -- the strange struggles between Cain and Abel, between Jacob and Isaac, between Joseph and his brothers, the weird laws of yibum, the binding of Isaac, the laws of the Sabbath, the laws of the Tabernacle, so many strange stories and laws -- how profound meaning and relevance for your everyday life has emerged. It got me so excited, it makes me feel like I want to pledge my life to helping others who venerate the books of Torah, to show them how they can go beyond mere veneration to truly access so much of the meaning and the depth that is sort of hidden in this timeless, important book.

So yes, Aleph Beta is a media company, we create podcasts and videos that explore Torah text. But I think we're on a mission to help people fall in love, to glimpse the beauty and profundity of the Torah. And that's hard to talk about, because even in what I've just said, I haven't demonstrated anything to you. I've merely talked about it. But the truth is, it's so hard to talk about, but it's so easy to grasp what I mean by simply just watching one of our videos. Go watch the video on the splitting of the sea and creation, go watch the video about Abraham's journey and why he was chosen. Go watch the video on the meaning of the laws of the Tabernacle. I guarantee you, they won't just blow you away, but they will change your life; they will mean something to you. That to me is what Aleph Beta is all about.

Hi, I'm Imu Shalev and I'm the CEO here at Aleph Beta. 

So here's how I think you can get the most out of Aleph Beta. The first thing I'll say is watch or listen to something that matters to you. Take a look at our library and find something relevant to you.  Browse our topic section. We have videos on big ideas on relationships, life events, like mourning or Bar and Bat Mitzvah. But the most important thing is to start and to start with something that matters to you. I think that first video will surprise you. 

But if you're not sure exactly what matters to you, here are some of my top recommendations. If you're short on time, you only want to spend 10 or 20 minutes, watch our weekly parsha videos. Those things will give you a solid footing in our methodology. It's sort of like a buffet, you'll get a lot of different tastes for the different things that we do. If you have a little more time and you're interested in some deeper study, I'd recommend some of our holiday videos. I personally love all of our Shavuot material. So I'd watch our course on the Ten Commandments, on the book of Ruth, which I think is breathtaking, which will also answer why Abraham was chosen and sort of the core of what it means to be Jewish.

Then I'd hop over to Tisha b'Av and watch one of our most popular courses ever on the story of Rachel's tears, which will give you a really solid taste of our methodology and will hopefully be incredibly meaningful to you as well.

And once you've seen a few of our holiday videos and some of our parsha videos, I strongly recommend our audio series Brief History of the World. A Brief History of the World, and then subsequent audio series Abraham's Journey 1 and 2 take you through pretty much every story from the beginning of Genesis, about 20 chapters in, culminating in the life of Abraham. It is a breathtaking feast, and one of Rabbi Fohrman's earliest pieces, sort of detailing the beginnings of his methodology, but also simultaneously giving you an incredible foundation in Torah. These are the stories of our creation, God's agenda in creating the world, where everything goes wrong for God, and the story of Noah and how he chooses to start over. And the mission and the destiny of the people of Israel in the founding of our nation, with the patriarch Abraham, it's truly breathtaking, majestic. And once you're done with that, if you're not addicted, we won't be offended. Your money back, guaranteed.

I'll also add as a little caveat, that the best way to get the most out of Aleph Beta is by being an active learner. The whole point of Aleph Beta is to get you to closely read the Torah's text. That's why we spend so much time on animated videos. So we emphasize the text in those videos. 

But also, we don't want you to trust us in any of the claims we make. Right? Feel free to pause, use the musical interludes, grapple with the questions that Rabbi Fohrman asks. Look for the answers yourself in the text. I promise you, the whole journey will mean a lot more if you're willing to do some of the legwork on your own, and it will be a lot more fun.

If you don't want to do it by yourself, grab a buddy. Watch it with them. I promise it will be an extremely engaging experience. And if we are the audio of choice while you're driving, or chopping onions, please don't look at the screen. Please watch the road or your fingers and promise us that you'll make separate time to open the Chumash, open the text -- maybe on shabbos -- and read things inside because again you'll be blown away by what you yourself can see in the text.

Not at all! Aleph Beta’s courses are intended for anyone interested in learning Torah, at any age! Sure, the animation may help get your kids hooked, but the content in our courses is multi-layered and meaningful for viewers at any level of understanding or prior knowledge. If you are after some great family viewing, we highly recommend our shorter parsha videos. And if you’re looking for more in-depth, adult education, then the Premium library is the place to look. So why the animation? Well, for starters, sometimes it helps to have a visual aid. Seeing an incredible, intricate pattern unfold in the text for yourself is far more meaningful and impactful than just hearing about it. This video on the hidden structure of the Ten Commandments is a perfect example of that. Animation also brings the ideas and stories in our videos to life. Torah learning should be a fully engaging and immersive experience, at least, that’s what we strive for here. Just watch this video on the meaning of morning prayers, and tell us if the stunning sunsets don’t make Rabbi Fohrman’s message that much more real for you.

I'll say something controversial, which is that you don't. 

The word torah means guidance, it means instruction. Right, it comes from the same word as moreh, a teacher, hore'ah, to guide.

And the truth is, I really believe that all the Torah does is it points to truths that we all kind of already know. Right, there are spiritual principles upon which this world is founded, and every human has the ability to intuit those for themselves. And what I'm saying isn't my own thoughts, these are thoughts that Kabbalists and some of the rishonim hold as well. There are those that believe that the Torah’s laws could be intuited. And by the way, if you pay attention to the story of the Torah itself, for 2500 years of human history, according to the Torah, there was no Torah. The Torah begins with one command: for man to enjoy the fruits of the garden, and to stay away from one tree, right? That's pretty much it, there's no Sabbath, there's no laws of kosher, there are no holidays. So on some level, I think we all can, deep down, appreciate and intuit spiritual and moral values.

So why study this book? I think humans can forget. And I think we can distract ourselves. And I think that we can fuzz up our otherwise, really good, moral and spiritual detectors. And the Torah is a guidebook, it points us back towards that homing beacon, which I think is wonderful, right? Whenever someone teaches you Torah, and it doesn't resonate, there's a problem. Right? And that's sort of what we strive for here at Aleph Beta is we try to teach Torah in a way that resonates. We try to use evidence, we try to make sure that our arguments sort of harmonize with things you kind of deep down already know are true.

Torah is the book that God wrote, when you study it, you deepen your relationship with the Creator. And you deepen your relationship with the ideas and the truths and the values that you may be aware of deep down. You know, one of our most famous pieces is a piece on a bitter struggle between Rachel and Leah. And if I had to boil down that piece, and the value that you know, we all kind of believe is really important is you have to have empathy, right? It's really important. You have to have empathy, you gotta care. You know, never judge someone until you walk a mile in their shoes.

But me just saying that value is so empty compared with the experience of actually watching that course of reading those passages, of seeing the bitterness of Rachel, and Leah, and naming child after child over their perceived vindication by God, over the struggles against their sister, of replaying the wedding night according to each sister, where Lavan, their father, switches them at the altar, so to speak, and the tremendous pain and anguish they need to live with. And Jacob’s part in all of this. And the tremendous heroism and deep, deep empathy that they display in choosing to rewrite their own story.

It's sort of like the question of why study literature, if you can just get the punch line or the CliffsNotes. Right? Literature is a narrative, it's a story. It deepens your relationship with the characters, deepens your relationship with the ideas, it helps you sort of spiritually digest it. It's a gateway to richer and deeper meaning.


Aleph Beta is a subscription service with exclusive and unique Torah content. Our subscribers pay for access to our growing Torah content library so they can learn without interruption or distraction. The Aleph Beta website will always be an online oasis of meaningful and inspiring Torah content created for our members - never for advertisers.

Hi, I’m Imu Shalev and I’m the CEO here at Aleph Beta. So many people watch our videos and have this mixed reaction of: I want to do that! And: I could never do that! What Rabbi Fohrman is doing is advanced, he’s an incredible scholar and close reader. But he didn’t get that way by studying some fancy method or by having any special powers. He developed his close reading skills by, shocker, close reading. And that, that simple thing, is something that I think all of us can do. We can all read the Torah, just read it plainly, and notice things for ourselves.

Right, everybody can read the story of the tower builders, and recognize that that story is a story about people who are interested in the aggrandizement of their own name. Right, the Bible tells you that. In the very next chapter, you meet Abraham, and the first thing that he does, is he calls out in the name of God. Right, so you can see the Bible is trying to tell you, there's a connection between the story of the tower builders and Abraham, and you can think about what that might be. Why does Abraham come right after the tower builders, he's somehow the antidote to the problem of the tower. And everybody who knows Hebrew can read the end of chapter two of the Bible. And notice that the snake and notice that Adam and Eve are arum, they're naked. And the very next verse, verse one of chapter three, describes the snake as arom, as cunning, right? And so you can speculate on why the Bible uses this word, arum, and arom, nakedness and cunningness, one right after the other. Right, what is the relationship between the innocence of Adam and Eve and the cleverness of the snake? 

If there's one thing that I've learned from Rabbi Fohrman, it’s that the Bible itself sort of calls out to you -- it sort of like grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you and says, read me and read me closely. Rabbi Fohrman is really really, really good at reading it very, very closely. And the Bible is an incredible book and has so many, so many, layers. But you don't need to read it at the microscopic level. A magnifying glass or your own eyeballs will do just fine, as long as you're willing to read it. I promise you tremendous meaning will emerge if you are willing to read it as is. Clearing your mind, and your memories of past commentators and daring to read the plain text and seeing what it is that you notice. It's sort of like if you expect the text to act as a guidebook, it will act as a guidebook. I don't know if that makes sense. But that's been my experience. 

And I think that's, that's sort of what Rabbi Fohrman has tried to teach me to do, and I think what he thinks is Aleph Beta at its best, is sort of getting out of the way of the text, right? Trusting the text itself, to shock you, to seduce you to, to mean something to you. So I actually think that I would be most satisfied by getting our users to a place not where they've watched the most videos or listened to the most recordings, but maybe even to the point where they put it down. Where they don't watch videos and listen to the recordings, but they're willing to open up the text itself and read it slowly and carefully. That's when I know we've achieved our mission. When we've sort of restored the faith of the people in the text of the Torah, as a book that will guide you, a book that will surprise you, a book that will delight you, that will mean something to you. Right, maybe you can come back to Aleph Beta every once in a while. Make sure you don't cancel your subscription. Right. But make sure you come back to us every once in a while for some pro tips, or a way of deepening your learning, but the learning needs to be your learning. Right? It would be really sad for us if people were only passively engaged by watching or listening to our videos and audios.

I guess, what I’m trying to say is, we’re all very flattered if you watch a video and walk away thinking, oh, I want to learn how to learn like that. But what we’d really like, and the real reason we’re doing what we’re doing, is because we want you to walk away inspired to figure out what it means to learn Torah for yourself, to learn Torah not like Rabbi Fohrman, but like you.

We have a blog post about that! Check it out here.

We have a blog post about this one, too! Click here to read it.

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Premium subscription gives you instantaneous streaming and unlimited access to over 1,000 videos and audios! No more pesky 30 minutes a month; watch as long as you like! Premium members are invited to join live online webinars throughout the year with Rabbi Fohrman. You’ll also have access to printable transcripts, and Parsha guides for offline learning. All materials are also available on our mobile Android and Apple apps! Plus, you’ll get the benefit of supporting a great non-profit. All our memberships are tax-deductible in the US!

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