Assembling a Reader Community

By Yonatan Gordon

The book publishing world is undergoing a great transition today. What once was an industry fueled by agents and distributors is now shifting focus to the direct connection between author and reader.  In the Torah, this “direct” approach can be compared to the inner “camp” that encircled around the Tabernacle in the desert. While the twelve tribes—the entirety of the Jewish people—encamped this holy site, it was the “inner circle” of students that merited to receive more direct instruction. They were privy to hear the deepest secrets from their teacher Moses.

Using this metaphor, while the communal ingathering may seem great, the assembly is built up from the closest students who will faithfully carry the teachings to the next generation. In this account, it was Joshua who most exemplified this task. He never left the tent of Torah, as so he merited being passed the mantle of leadership from Moses.

To preside over a community or fan base also means to present teachings appropriate to everyone. Each of the twelve tribes of Israel according to the Book of Formation represents a sense of the soul, a unique interface on which to interact with reality.  While conveying teachings that are universally true and relevant, a Jewish leader will inspire each member of the tribe individually as well.

A Different Kind of Tablet

Each authentic Jewish leader is a living tablet (as it were) serving to convey the teachings of God.  Like Moses before him, these good and upright teachers deliver universal lessons while allowing each teaching to be colored by the students (like the colored magnetic coverings of an iPad).  Though their audience may be in the thousands, each student will feel as if the leader is speaking directly to them.

The centrality of Moses as the conduit for an infinite storehouse of Divine knowledge (the Torah) is perhaps why there is such interest in handheld tablets and other computing devices today.  In a world in search of authentic leadership, tablet consumers are seeking to connect to something beyond the usual scope of things. The term “tablet” can be understand as an allusion to the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments. The original tablets were made out of “sapphire” (סַפִּיר) a word in Hebrew etymologically related to “book” (סֵפֶר). Hence, much the like the imagery that is often used for a sapphire, tablets are essentially rarified, brilliant or precious books.

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