Update: Halakhah.Com has published in 4 volumes "The Dialog Bible" by Reuven Brauner

For many a modern student, the layout of a standard Hebrew Tanach (comprising the Pentateuch or Torah, the Prophets and the Writings) may present an obstacle and challenge in comprehending the meaning of Scriptures. This is because our printed Tanachs more or less conform to the layout of our ancient scrolls as per the Massorah or Tradition, which albeit its own honorable logic, nevertheless, does not significantly take into regard the attribute of readability. So, the reality is that for many people, it is, in fact, hard to “read” a Tanach and understand what is going on in the Biblical story.

To make things even more demanding, classical Hebrew knows of no use of bold or italic letters, explanation points, semi-colons or question marks, all standard typographical devices familiar to and helpful for the modern reader. Only vowel points, traditional cantillation notes (the Trope) and full-stop punctuation marks at the end of verses, passages and chapters are employed as aids in understanding. There is also nothing in the printed text which identifies the beginning or end of a dialogue as would quotation marks.

To assist students, I created The Dialogue Bible (Tanach L’Talmidim) with an innovative way of presenting the text which visually emphasizes all quotes, regardless of speaker or length of the quote.

The theory of this new layout is that separation of the dialogue portion of the text from the remainder of the narrative by both highlighting in shading and indention from the margins of the page will greatly facilitate improved text comprehension, and in a speedier, easier and user-friendly way.

As an additional device, everywhere there is an open break in the text, a Pesucha shown as a פ in printed texts, a blank line has been inserted afterward for an enhanced visual effect. This comes in addition to the conventional breaks between chapters, the Sidras and, of course, the breaks between each of the various twenty-four books of the Tanach.

One difficult issue which I dealt with is the quote within quote, where the speaker himself is quoting someone else, such as when a Prophet is quoting God, and sometimes even a quote within quote within quote. This is particularly an issue in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah. To surmount this problem, I applied the rule that only the first-level quote would be broken out with our special indentations and highlighting, while all second- and third-level inner quotes would simply be marked with before-and-after dashes indicating them to be internal quotations.

Since it is sometimes difficult to know with accuracy if dialogue in the Tanach is a verbatim quote or a paraphrase, all quotes have been treated as being the actual words of the speaker as, for instance, when a prophet is delivering a message from God.

Also, the break between the dialogue and the narrative is not always apparent. Here, the general principle used was to simply follow the plain meaning of the text, as best as possible.

“Who said what to whom?” may be the most common question asked by teachers of the Tanach, and forms the basis for many a Bible Contest and school examination. It is also the ubiquitous practice for rabbis and teachers to quote verses and passages from Tanach in their sermons and lectures. Surely, use of The Dialogue Bible will greatly enhance the educator’s ability to arrange his lectures and lessons, as well be extremely beneficial to the students in preparation of their studies and for tests.

I hope that this work with its unique presentation will ignite a new excitement and enthusiasm for learning the Tanach and help bring its eternal stories to life for students young and old. The student should now have an increased comprehension of the interaction and conversations between the protagonists in the story.

It is my hope that this concept will receive a positive reception and found to be a useful tool in the study of Scriptures, the Holy Torah.

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