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Fixed

At least twice this year, this site showed incorrect Torah/Haftorah information for a particular date

Bram Weiser 2 weeks ago updated 2 days ago 5

Hello,

Today, July 23, 2022, Parshat Pinchas was read.  However, when one visits its page in Hebcal.com (https://www.hebcal.com/sedrot/pinchas), then, presuming a Shul is reading the "Full Kriyah" as our Shul does, one won't learn that the Haftorah isn't I Kings 18:46-19:21, but is, instead, Jeremiah 1:1-2:3 because 17 Tammuz already passed this year.

This incorrect information led to our Shul working with an incorrect Haftorah citation this morning and proved quite embarrassing to experience.  What's worse, it led to Deaf congregants who rely on our Shul's sign-language interpreters to be presented with a Haftorah portion that we didn't actually read because those interpreters were given what your site said should be the portions being read...except not all of them were.

What's worse is that this isn't the first time when this kind of error appeared this year in Hebcal.com.

On April 2nd, Tazria was the Parsha being read.  This is confirmed when one visits https://www.hebcal.com/sedrot/tazria.  However, what's shown there is NOT how the Torah and Haftorah portions were actually broken down on that date...

One COULD have somehow found their way to https://www.hebcal.com/holidays/rosh-chodesh-nisan-2022 and learned of a Maftir from a second Sefer Torah, but even THAT was wrong for that date.

One SHOULD have actually(!) visited https://www.hebcal.com/holidays/shabbat-hachodesh-2022, instead, to learn of the use of a third(!) Sefer Torah.  However, NONE of these pages referred to a need to see what any of the others said, and ALL of them said that what was shown there would be what's read on April 2, 2022 (how can that possibly be?)

So, if a visitor to Hebcal.com saw any one (1) of those incorrect pages, they wouldn't have any way to learn from the site that, indeed, something ELSE was going to be read on that specific date, instead, which means they'd be working with wrong information, and why should that be allowed to happen...or continue?

Hebcal.com needs to be thoroughly vetted so that its information is accurate for EVERY date where information is being provided, and so that EVERY page with information about a date is (a) correct, and/or (b) has a special note, and live link, to a different page if indeed the information that the page shows doesn't apply on a particular date when a particular condition (like having 17 Tammuz already have taken place) is true.

I look forward to learning soon why Hebcal.com allowed this incorrect information to appear on its site...twice so far by my count within the past few months, and maybe more for all I know...and to how and when it will be corrected.

Thank you very much,

Bram Weiser, MS, CT
Coordinator of ASL-interpreted Services & Events

Town & Village Synagogue, New York City

Answer

Answer
Planned

Thanks for your note. First of all, we’d like to apologize for any confusion or trouble. It sounds like there was more than a reasonable amount of embarrassment, and I’m really, very sorry about that. Hebcal is a labor of love for me, and I do it hoping to make things easier and more accessible for congregations and the leyning coordinators who serve them.

I see the problem you ran into, and I have to say, I’d be happy for your help in thinking through how I could better present the information. I’m more of a software guy who likes the data, which is all there, but the design of how to help people find what they want is really challenging, since people come to Hebcal for so many different reasons.

For each Parsha, there is a generic “parsha” page. This page has the typical breakdowns, but doesn’t reflect anything that might be going on liturgically in a given year. People typically navigate to this page when they’re interested in the Torah portion itself, and also when they want to learn which haftarah is *typically* paired with the parsha. This is valuable information that belongs somewhere on the site.

But as you noticed, if you click on the links from the calendar (one you generate or otherwise), you get a different page which lets you see anything more specific going on on that date. You can click on Parshat Tazria in 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025— it will give you the correct Haftarah for any given year. You are absolutely correct that the Rosh Chodesh Nisan page should mention Shabbat HaChodesh when relevant, and I have now fixed that. 


https://www.hebcal.com/holidays/rosh-chodesh-nisan-2022


How to make clear the difference between this general information for a Parsha and date-specific information for a particular year? I’ve tried to make the difference clear by the different headers, and it’s clear to me, but obviously this system failed for your congregation, your needs, and your ASL interpreter.

As an aside, if you are a leyning coordinator, you might find some benefit from downloading the CSV spreadsheets for each Hebrew year. 

https://www.hebcal.com/home/48/download-aliyot-breakdown-of-torah-readings

These spreadsheets aren't a replacement for complete luach in the sense that they don't include slots for prayers like Shacharit and Musaf or special holiday readings like Megilat Ruth and Akdamut on Shavuot. But they do include the regular Torah readings and any special maftir or Haftarah.

At any rate, I appreciate your understanding. I don’t make any money running Hebcal, and I do it hoping to make the most clear and accessible information available, so if you can help me figure out how to better serve people navigating the site, I’ll definitely consider it for the next time I have a big chunk of time to re-design the site (typically every 5-10 years). If appropriate, please convey my apologies to your larger community.

Answer
Planned

Thanks for your note. First of all, we’d like to apologize for any confusion or trouble. It sounds like there was more than a reasonable amount of embarrassment, and I’m really, very sorry about that. Hebcal is a labor of love for me, and I do it hoping to make things easier and more accessible for congregations and the leyning coordinators who serve them.

I see the problem you ran into, and I have to say, I’d be happy for your help in thinking through how I could better present the information. I’m more of a software guy who likes the data, which is all there, but the design of how to help people find what they want is really challenging, since people come to Hebcal for so many different reasons.

For each Parsha, there is a generic “parsha” page. This page has the typical breakdowns, but doesn’t reflect anything that might be going on liturgically in a given year. People typically navigate to this page when they’re interested in the Torah portion itself, and also when they want to learn which haftarah is *typically* paired with the parsha. This is valuable information that belongs somewhere on the site.

But as you noticed, if you click on the links from the calendar (one you generate or otherwise), you get a different page which lets you see anything more specific going on on that date. You can click on Parshat Tazria in 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025— it will give you the correct Haftarah for any given year. You are absolutely correct that the Rosh Chodesh Nisan page should mention Shabbat HaChodesh when relevant, and I have now fixed that. 


https://www.hebcal.com/holidays/rosh-chodesh-nisan-2022


How to make clear the difference between this general information for a Parsha and date-specific information for a particular year? I’ve tried to make the difference clear by the different headers, and it’s clear to me, but obviously this system failed for your congregation, your needs, and your ASL interpreter.

As an aside, if you are a leyning coordinator, you might find some benefit from downloading the CSV spreadsheets for each Hebrew year. 

https://www.hebcal.com/home/48/download-aliyot-breakdown-of-torah-readings

These spreadsheets aren't a replacement for complete luach in the sense that they don't include slots for prayers like Shacharit and Musaf or special holiday readings like Megilat Ruth and Akdamut on Shavuot. But they do include the regular Torah readings and any special maftir or Haftarah.

At any rate, I appreciate your understanding. I don’t make any money running Hebcal, and I do it hoping to make the most clear and accessible information available, so if you can help me figure out how to better serve people navigating the site, I’ll definitely consider it for the next time I have a big chunk of time to re-design the site (typically every 5-10 years). If appropriate, please convey my apologies to your larger community.

Dear Michael,

Hello again, and thank you for your very thoughtful response.  I appreciate it very much.

To be honest, I don't believe that a full overhaul would necessarily be needed in order to try to address this issue.

For instance, maybe some additional "wayfinding" text and links can be programmed in so as to minimize the kind of confusion that we experienced.  Take Parshat Pinchas...why did the Triennial citations have a mention about 17 Tammuz but the Full Kriyah didn't?  As my Shul reads the Full Kriyah, I had no reason to look anywhere other than that column to see what we needed to know, so why didn't it have the 17 Tammuz advisory that the Triennial columns had?

Next, while you spoke of visiting the site with the date most prominent in your mind, I visit it with the Parsha most prominent in my mind.  If I didn't already know what it was for a given Shabbat, I'd visit www.hebcal.com/sedrot and, with some trial-and-error, determine that Parshat So-And-So is the one we'd need.  This would be confirmed by seeing our relevant date among those on the Parsha's page, thus learning that the information I'm seeing would be what we'd do.

At least, that's the plan...

Maybe the site's programming needs to be tightened up so that only truly-relevant dates appear "without comment" (such as that 17 Tammuz note, or a mention about, say, a Rosh Chodesh happening on that date in that year).  Those other dates that need "special readings" might also appear on the Parsha's page, but with headings like the 17 Tammuz notation (programming would be needed for the Web Page to identify the applicable dates) or one that mentioned the presence of special Rosh Chodesh readings (such as with Tazria's two {2}{!} other possible permutations), and they'd either include links on the relevant dates to the appropriate pages at Hebcal, OR would actually show what the citations would be on those dates.

Yes, this would be a notable revision to the site's programming, but it would serve its visitors much better than how things currently work because it'd make the needed information more easily accessible and not leave the well-intentioned visitors unnecessarily in the dark about what readings would really need to take place on that date.

I hope that these descriptions are clear, and offer at least some ideas about how to improve the way that the site gets the needed information to those who seek it.  However, if you have any questions for me about this, please let me know and I'll gladly try my best to answer them.

Thanks again,

Bram Weiser, MS, CT

Coordinator of ASL-interpreted Services & Events

Town & Village Synagogue, New York City

Hi, again, Michael,

I just took a quick look at Hebcal's Tazria and Pinchas pages and it seems like you already implemented something like what I suggested here because, for instance, you now have "live" text of relevant years when a Haftorah, say, is different than the "typical" one.  Thank you for doing that!

As you saw when you added these links, maybe it obviates the need for a major overhaul in order to solve this problem, but, yes, some time would be needed to ensure that each such situation in the cycle is addressed with correct links for a given year's particular situation added to the Parsha's page.

In case that step hasn't happened yet, best wishes in attempting it. :-)

Thanks again,

Bram Weiser, MS, CT

Coordinator of ASL-interpreted Services & Events

Town & Village Synagogue, New York City

Fixed

Thanks for noticing. We hope the modest change is enough to avoid another situation like the one that occurred at your shul a couple of weeks ago.

Shabbat shalom!

You're welcome, Michael, and thank you for implementing it.  Here's hoping... :-)

Much appreciated, and Shabbat Shalom to you as well,

Bram Weiser, MS, CT

Coordinator of ASL-interpreted Services & Events

Town & Village Synagogue, New York City