Multimedia Center/Judaica Library
This is not your ordinary library
First of all, the librarians talk . Not only do they talk, but they want to get to know you. In addition, unlike your average library, it has windows you can see out of. One of them affords a view of a lush green valley. And off in the distance one can glimpse the majestic mountain resting place of the world's most famous Jewish mystic, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, on Mount Meron.
That's not all that makes it different. The Jewish Library and Media Center of Ascent Seminars of Tsfat is a library with an agenda.
"The librarians who are actually rabbis and teachers incognito don't want you to leave with just books in your hand," said former media center director, Rabbi Eli Kaye. "They would rather have you go equipped with some new insights into the world and Heavenly matters. Something you can check out but never have to return."
And most who walk through the doors do come away a little bit different. "A student begins a personal adventure in researching the main texts of Judaism that is both self-initiated and tailored to the person's own interests," says Ascent's executive director, Rabbi Shaul Leiter. "In this way, a student discovers a whole new dimension to Judaism that he never knew existed before."
The library experience has even been known to sway people to change their traveling itineraries and extend their stay at Ascent's overnight facilities.
"We were feasted with an enlightening talk and learning experience in the evening (at one of the classes taught in the library). This morning, to our surprise, we were offered to have our names found and interpreted in the Torah. Though we have just a few days left in Israel, we are extending our stay here. How fortunate for us that we decided to stay here instead of a local hotel!" said the Mayberg couple from New Jersey.
The library accomplishes its goals through various means.
One of them, in addition to personal attention, is the sought after "Ascent Personalized Torah Code Package," a folder containing all of the discoveries, personal and otherwise, the person made while in the library that they can take home with them. Through the use of computer software packages, a student is guided through searches of databases of the Talmud and Midrash to locate sources on any subject of interest to discover the Torah perspective on anything under the sun. You can learn about Jewish festivals and famous Torah figures or you can find out what the Talmud and Midrash have to say about games, exercise, the planet Pluto, snakes or other natural phenomena.
At the heart of the computerized division of the library is a program that searches for the letters of a person's Hebrew name encoded at regular intervals in the Torah. The number of appearances that the letters of a person's name occur at regular intervals in the Five Books of Moses can range from none in some rare cases to more than 300.
"Each place the letters are revealed at regular intervals says something about that person's "Divinely assigned mission," says Rabbi Kaye. "The computer system provides a person with a starting point for a personal odyssey as revealed in the Torah into his past, present and future. The students leave with a sense of themselves that they could not have gained elsewhere."
Printouts of everything are contained in the Media Package, adorned also with a color self-portrait taken by the computer, the person's Hebrew birthdate and name and all of the places in the Torah -- book, chapter, verse and starting word -- where the letters of his or her Hebrew name appeared at regular intervals in the Torah. Some are sent away with a bibliography of all topics they want to pursue. A copy of an article on a contemporary issue as reflected in Torah and Jewish Law is also included, as well as a copy of a song by recording artist Avrohom Fried expressing the Chassidic teaching that everything in a person's life unfolds with G-d's assistance.
The ever-expanding bookshelves are stocked with thousands (!) of books on Jewish festivals, laws and customs, Scripture commentary, bi-lingual Talmudic collections, and volumes on a variety of contemporary topics, as well as magazines, periodicals and collections of fiction and non-fiction stories.
It's quite possible that when exiting this library you won't be leaving with
any books but instead armed with information and knowledge of much greater value.