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SBL e-journal

Zev Farber

(

2024

)

.

Dovid Steinberg’s Ultra-Orthodox Agenda

.

TheTorah.com

.

https://thetorah.com/article/dovid-steinbergs-ultra-orthodox-agenda

APA e-journal

Zev Farber

,

,

,

"

Dovid Steinberg’s Ultra-Orthodox Agenda

"

TheTorah.com

(

2024

)

.

https://thetorah.com/article/dovid-steinbergs-ultra-orthodox-agenda

Edit article

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Dovid Steinberg’s Ultra-Orthodox Agenda

TheTorah.com engages the Documentary and Supplementary Hypotheses, source, redaction, and textual criticism, and even offers moral critiques of Torah laws and narratives, but what is Steinberg really trying to accomplish?

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Dovid Steinberg’s Ultra-Orthodox Agenda

Caught on camera: Director and Co-founder of TheTorah.com. His real name is Dovid Steinberg but he goes under the modern-sounding “David.”

The first time David Steinberg emailed me in January of 2013, asking me to join the staff of Project TABS, I was suspicious.[1] Until recently, he had been an Aish HaTorah outreach professional, and I told him I only do academic scholarship. But he promised me that, despite his background as a Gateshead and Mir yeshiva bachur, TheTorah.com would be a haven for Bible scholars who do critical study of the Torah, and with that assurance, I accepted the job.

Over the years, however, working closely with David on a daily basis, I’ve observed signs that make me question whether this is really his mission. I've come to the tentative conclusion[2] that Steinberg is still Chareidi, and that TheTorah.com is a stealth Ultra-Orthodox enterprise. Here are my thirteen reasons for thinking this… Steinberg’s 13 middos if you will:

  1. Authorship—God is unfathomable. If God had written the Torah, we could never really understand it or keep it. For Steinberg, positing that the Torah is a book composed by humans,[3] as TheTorah.com does, paradoxically means we have to keep it.
  2. Truth Signaling—Fundamentalists always insist they are “just following the evidence” and then they just quote the Bible.[4] Well, look at how the TheTorah.com pieces are presented: introductions about evidence, supported by Bible quotes in the original Hebrew, and footnotes… to its own articles!
  3. Biblical Inerrancy—By publishing articles highlighting some errors and contradictions in the Bible,[5] Steinberg wishes readers to infer that the rest of the Bible is inerrant!
  4. God—Notice how many articles on TheTorah.com talk about God and YHWH.[6] Who else talks about God nowadays?
  5. Torah Lishma—TheTorah.com gets into nitty gritty details of texts that have zero practical application to everyday life. Is this not the sine qua non of Torah lishma, “Torah study for its own sake,” fundamentalism? [7]
  6. “It’s Free”—Offering all their content for “free” under the guise of wanting people to have access to knowledge; it’s a classic outreach professional move. He really just wants to spread “the good news” of Torah.
  7. Anti-Modern—For an enterprise that calls itself academic and scientific, the site is filled with pre-modern material: ancient Near Eastern texts, endless Bible quotes, Dead Sea Scrolls, and medieval rabbinic interpretation. How is any of this modern?
  8. Grooming—TheTorah.com is surreptitiously bringing people to Ultra Orthodoxy, step by step along a clear trajectory: Science and academia → academic Bible → Bible study →fundamentalism.
  9. Bait and Switch—TheTorah.com draws you in with art, alluring images, and exciting teasers, and then hits you with endless minutia and details.
  10. Kollel Life—Who else would be involved in the incessant, low-pay pursuit of delving into Torah? That’s why TheTorah.com has a low-key companion site “TheGemara.com,” paving the way for full-time yeshiva learning for interested readers. And he has plans for “TheHalachah.com” next. (He bought the URL!)
  11. Pluralistic Cover—Steinberg includes scholars from all denominations, men and women, Jews and non-Jews, on the site to give the “feeling” of diversity. But this is to distract readers from uncovering his goal of publishing Orthodox rabbis and sheitel-wearing women.[8]
  12. Hierarchy — Highlighting academic titles like Doctor and Professor and the books they’ve published to create a class of Bible scholar gedolim,[9] and get people to submit to their authority.
  13. Messiah Complex—Steinberg has lofty visions of trying to bring “change” to society, to people and their thinking.[10]

So while I can’t tell you to stop reading TheTorah.com—I still work here you know—you’ve been warned.

Published

March 15, 2024

|

Last Updated

April 15, 2024

Footnotes

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Dr. Rabbi Zev Farber is the Senior Editor of TheTorah.com, and a Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute's Kogod Center. He holds a Ph.D. from Emory University in Jewish Religious Cultures and Hebrew Bible, an M.A. from Hebrew University in Jewish History (biblical period), as well as ordination (yoreh yoreh) and advanced ordination (yadin yadin) from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) Rabbinical School. He is the author of Images of Joshua in the Bible and their Reception (De Gruyter 2016) and editor (with Jacob L. Wright) of Archaeology and History of Eighth Century Judah (SBL 2018).