The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Bibliometric and informatic analysis of the responsa of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

Prof. Elimelech (Melech) Westreich

Bibliometric and informatic analysis of the responsa of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

[Supported by ISF grant No. 922/16]

Prof. Elimelech Westreich and Dr. Efraim Margalit

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef created an extensive body of responsa literature and halakhic jurisprudence. The highlight of his work is the series "Yabia Omer" (YO) which contains over a thousand responsa pertaining to all areas of the Shulchan Aruch, mentioning numerous sources and comprising tens of thousands of bibliographic references.

In this study, we tested the use of computational linguistics tools and analytical informatics methods to research a portion of the YO series that deals with legal matters. As part of the research, we downloaded the textual content, performed a morphological analysis of the texts using NITE natural language processing tools, and extracted the time characteristics. We also established a research database that contained 5-grams (sequences of five words) with all their morphological characteristics.

We examined the informatic aspect of several responsa, the number of words per responsum, and the distribution of words per responsum by year. We also examined R. Yosef’s judicial and rabbinical positions over time from Cairo to Jerusalem.

The bibliometric aspect of the study consisted of building a database of sources containing references to sages and books, through an iterative process. We also examined the influence of sages and approaches to ruling on R. Yosef`s legal method and views.

We paid attention to other components as well. In the linguistic part, we mapped the idiomatic phrases that R. Yosef used (for example, “you shall not fear any man,” “restore the crown to its former glory”) and the time periods when he used them. Based on the morphological analysis, we also determine whether there are expressions of emotion in the rulings, i.e., in cases of personal difficulties.

Finally, we intend to describe the computational linguistics processes and challenges that arose during the study.