In this week’s reading, our Patriarch Yaakov blesses his children. He is also the first to adopt a child, as it were: “Ephraim and Menashe, like Reuven and Shimon will be mine” [48:5] — Yoseph’s two eldest children were then counted as Tribes of Israel. Extending the concept of a non-literal child, the rabbis taught that if one has a set teacher who transmits most of a person’s Torah knowledge, that teacher is like a father.
This week is also a very important birthday for Project Genesis: it was 18 years ago this week that we sent our first class via e-mail, thus becoming one of the first pioneers in the brand-new field of Outreach on the Internet. Like many who have founded companies or organizations, I could extend the “child” concept still further and call Torah.org “my baby,” but the truth is that Project Genesis exists due to the efforts of all the other people who have been involved in the past and who are today. You would understand me to mean people like Rabbi Mordechai Dixler, our program director, who today is responsible for bringing in most of our new content and shepherding the ongoing growth of JewishAnswers.com and TorahMedia.com — and you would be right — but I mean many others as well, including yourself.
I wasn’t the one who suggested that Project Genesis start connecting people with Jewish learning over the Internet, instead of live programs. Yet another few people suggested that “Torah.org” be our domain name. Without the teachers who do all the writing and speaking, we would have no content. Without the programmers and designers who set up the servers and mailing lists, and created our websites, we would have no way to deliver it to you. And without the readers who learn, grow, and support us… what would it all be for, and how could we keep it going?
18 is of course a very “Jewish” number, the numerical value of “Chai,” life. In the US and most countries, it is the age of adulthood. I remember that very early on, in a magazine that, ironically, is no longer published, I read an article that said that most small businesses don’t last five years — and that while a somewhat higher percentage of those still in business after five years make it through their first decade, that is also the minority. I had hopes, of course, to make it through our first decade.
Please join us in celebrating all that has been done, and, if you can, support us so that we can finish our second decade with a redesigned and more accessible website, with more content (of all kinds) for everyone to learn from. It’s wonderful to be able to share all that we have, with all of you.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org