“Aleph Beta helps me learn things I never realized before, even after life-long readings of the same stories. Rabbi Fohrman’s analysis is creative, intellectually satisfying, and it uncovers the profound wisdom and moral messages of the Torah.”
Adam Lieber, Aleph Beta Premium Member
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Let us introduce ourselves
Our Lead Scholar
Rabbi David Fohrman is the founder and lead scholar at Aleph Beta. Over the last two decades, he’s pioneered a way of reading Biblical text that feels both rigorous and revelatory. Through Aleph Beta, he’s given expression to that, developing what is now a vast library of content, spanning all types of media: animated videos, podcasts and books. He’s also embarked on an effort to train a team of Torah scholars adept at the close-reading methodology he’s pioneered – and their work can be found at Aleph Beta, too.
Prior to his founding of Aleph Beta, Rabbi Fohrman served as a senior editor and writer for the ArtScroll Talmud Project. He also taught Biblical themes as adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University, where he had earlier received a Master’s degree in Western intellectual history. Rabbi Fohrman received his rabbinical and Talmudic training at the Ner Israel Rabbinical College, but some of his earliest and most profound exposure to Biblical text analysis came from his encounters with Rabbi Yosef Leibowitz, in his childhood years in Northern California.
Learn the methods
Take it apart
Rabbi Fohrman’s insights into the parshah hold fascination both for the newcomer to Chumash study and for one well versed in Torah texts and classical commentaries…He is a close reader of the Biblical text in a way that only someone who is deeply in love with that text can be.
The Jewish Voice
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Who are the scholars of the content?
Rabbi Fohrman is Aleph Beta's founder and lead scholar, and is the creator of most of the content you see on the site. Rabbi Fohrman has also trained a team of scholars in his close reading techniques. Aleph Beta Labs was introduced to create a space for these scholars to bring their unique perspectives and experiences to the interpretation of the text. You can read more about Aleph Beta Labs and the scholars you'll encounter across the site here.
What type of media will I find at Aleph Beta?
Aleph Beta is unique in bringing a modern medium to an ancient text. You'll land on beautiful animated videos that you'll hopefully find engaging, and also accessible. A lot of Aleph Beta's close reading methodology includes seeing patterns, parallels, unique structures, and wordplay in the text. The animation helps you visualize these insights and brings the text to life.
There are hundreds of 10 minute videos for those looking to fit Torah learning into their busy lives, as well as hundreds of animated video series and deep dive courses for those craving a deeper understanding that spans larger portions of the text.
You'll also find highly produced Torah podcasts on our site, as well as recorded lectures and presentations from Rabbi Fohrman.
I’m a good person, why do I need to study the Torah?
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.
What’s with the cartoons...are your videos for children?
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.
How much does Aleph Beta cost?
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