Bringing the Torah to the blockchain


The going fee lately for Noah’s Ark is $3,700. 

No, that’s not the price of the bodily ark Noah used to avoid wasting Earth’s animals when God flooded the planet. Nor would that cash get you a guide concerning the famed boat or a portray depicting the Flood. 

That sum of money — equal to the current value of 1 coin of the cryptocurrency Ethereum — would get you a non-fungible token (NFT) of the Torah portion Noach, the part of the Torah the place the basic biblical story seems. The client would get a bit of digital paintings that represents the themes of the parsha. The cryptocurrency they used to make the acquisition would go towards funding the writing of an precise Sefer Torah. 

The parsha NFTs are a part of NFTorah, a brand new venture that’s utilizing cryptocurrency and digital property to fund the writing of 18 Torah scrolls. 

“We wish to try to give a deeper, lasting, everlasting worth to the know-how itself, that it may be used for one thing really transcendent,” stated Mordechai Lightstone, a Chabad-trained rabbi who co-founded NFTorah and likewise runs Tech Tribe, a corporation for Jews who work in tech. “I would like tech individuals to see that what they’re doing is one thing that has worth to their Jewish selves as nicely.”

The shopping for and promoting of NFTs exploded earlier this yr, notably after the $69 million sale of an NFT from the digital artist Beeple went viral in March 2021. “The concept is that shortage creates worth,” NPR explained on the time. NFTs are bought with cryptocurrencies equivalent to Ethereum and Bitcoin, which noticed their worth skyrocket in the course of the pandemic. 

NFTs are distinctive digital property, and the switch of NFTs is recorded on the blockchain, that means that there’s a digital ledger of all purchases of the property. This usually permits for an artist to receives a commission each time their work is bought, and it additionally permits individuals to see who the unique purchaser was. 

So the unique purchaser of, say, the Parshat Noach NFT might then switch possession to her son for his bar mitzvah, and that switch will probably be recorded within the blockchain. The venture is nonprofit, and the NFT purchases (that are actually donations) will probably be tax-deductible. 

The parsha NFTs are available on OpenSea, a large online NFT market. Proper now, solely the primary eight Torah parts can be found for buy, however the aim is to finally make all 54 out there as NFTs, and to promote them over the course of the yr that it takes a sofer, or scribe, to put in writing a whole Torah scroll. A pair have already been bought. 

“The impetus of the venture was to deliver the advantages of blockchain know-how to the very actual and tangible… performing [of] this glorious mitzvah of making a Sefer Torah,” stated Jonathan Caras, the Israeli-based chief know-how officer of crypto hedge fund Lionschain Capital and a co-founder of NFTorah. 

The concept to fund the writing of a Torah by promoting NFTs has its roots in a long-running follow first promoted by Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Lightstone defined. 

“Within the ‘80s, the Lubavitcher Rebbe launched a marketing campaign that each Jewish man, lady and little one ought to get a letter in a Torah, that means they might pay a small sum of money — actually speaking a few greenback, no matter it’s — to pay in direction of the writing of a whole scroll,” stated Lightstone. “That complete scroll will probably be written as if each letter is crucial to the Torah. If it’s lacking one letter, the Torah’s no good. So by the truth that you paid for that one letter, in essence, your letter is the letter that made the Torah scroll.”

The scribe who will probably be writing the Torahs funded by NFTorah will probably be paid in Bitcoin, probably the primary time a sofer — a extremely expert career that requires years of apprenticeship — will probably be paid in cryptocurrency. A brand new Torah prices between $70,000 and $150,000, in keeping with Caras.

“We like to consider it as the primary NFT that touches the digital, bodily and religious ranges of issues,” stated Lightstone.

However NFTorah goes past merely touting the potential religious advantages of NFTs and blockchain. The venture’s mission is rooted within the notion that the Torah is definitely a type of the know-how itself.

“Judaism is the unique blockchain,” Caras argued. “It’s expressed by handing down the Torah from one technology to the opposite.” 

“The Jewish individuals have stored the Holy Torah as an unbroken chain for over 3,000 years,” NFTorah’s website says.

The goal demographic is made up of members of the Jewish neighborhood who determine as non secular or conventional and who already personal Ethereum, and who wish to present that blockchain know-how can have a Jewish utility. They need to have the ability to present that “it’s only a click on away so as to have the ability to assist out an excellent trigger and an enormous mitzvah,” Caras defined.

NFTs haven’t but been extensively adopted, even when they’ve gotten a flurry of press protection in latest months and a few massive investments from artwork collectors and rich tech entrepreneurs. However Lightstone argues that it’s, really, very Jewish to be engaged on the chopping fringe of a brand new know-how.

“Expertise isn’t simply there as one thing to face distinct from, not to mention in opposition to Judaism, however moderately there exists on this planet the flexibility to make use of know-how’s progressive energy to promulgate Judaism much more,” he stated. 

He pointed to the printing press for example: “There was an enormous variety of Jewish books printed at the moment as a result of Jews noticed this as a tremendous means to have the ability to get what they cared for on the market.” 

Ultimately, NFTorah hopes to promote 18 NFTs for every parsha, to fund 18 Torahs. The primary, which will probably be accomplished someday subsequent yr, will go to Arugot Farms, a settlement within the West Financial institution with an natural farm and a retreat heart. The second will go to Tech Tribe, Lightstone’s Brooklyn-based group for Jews in tech, and the third will probably go to a Jewish neighborhood in Austin, Texas — a metropolis with a rising startup and tech ecosystem. 

The aim is to “create one thing that can excite the area people,” Lightstone stated. “Through the use of this technological manner of approaching it, I feel it speaks to techies and will get them excited.”

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