Software Review: A rabbi in your disk drive

The Davka Corporation produced this disk that holds more than 1,200 divrei Torah.

torah computer program 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
torah computer program 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Torah Notebook, a CD-ROM in English and Hebrew by Davka software in Chicago (, represented in Israel by Dekel Software (; tel. 02-9912718) for PC with Windows 2000 and up, for ages 10 through adults, $39.95 current sale price. Rating: ***** Preparing for Shabbat and the holidays involves not only cooking the chicken soup and the cholent; it also requires preparing words of wisdom from the Torah portion, Haftara or other sources for discussing at the festive meals with family and guests. Many families have a tradition that not only the head of the family presents these mini-sermons, but everyone (including young children) at the table. But how does one prepare? The Davka Corporation in Chicago, which specializes in Jewish software, has produced this lifesaver disk that holds more than 1,200 divrei Torah that anyone who reads Hebrew and English can use, either as raw material or as a ready-made product. Some are as short as a sentence or a paragraph, while others are the length of one or two printed pages. Most of the texts are in English, with some Hebrew added, thus Davka regards Diaspora Jews and English-speaking Israelis as its main audience. It could easily be adapted for observant Hebrew-speaking Israelis as well. They are presented in either Israeli Sephardi or haredi Ashkenazi pronunciation and taken from both classical and modern sources from folk sayings and tales to the midrash, Talmud, Hassidism and even Yemenite and Yiddish sayings. There are more than 100 sources from Abarbanel to the Zohar and many hundreds of subjects from Aaron the Priest to zealotry. The powerful database also categorizes the occasions for which the divrei Torah are suited: Shabbat, festivals, Yom Kippur, bar or bat mitzva, wedding, circumcision, pidyon haben and the Pessah Seder. Another welcome feature is that you can write your own divrei Torah or expand existing ones, composing them in English or Hebrew (there are Hebrew letter stickers for attaching to your keyboard and a virtual keyboard on the disk). All the mini-sermons can be retrieved in a second. A clever locking feature lets you "lock in" the original text provided in the disk so that you don't accidentally erase it and an unlocking option to change an item permanently using the program's powerful Hebrew/English text editing capabilities. The disk, which is almost like having a rabbi at your disposal, also boasts the Hebrew and English texts of the full Bible and the Hebrew text of the the Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot).