כ״ט בניסן ה׳תשע״ד (April 29, 2014)
By Yonatan Gordon
Note to Reader: Aside from reminding us to cover our mouths when sneezing, I’m not too fond of the word viral, especially when presented in the same headline as Torah. But since the former is the word marketers use, I decided to also use it instead of naming the article, “When Torah Goes LaBruit (to your health)!
Now that I started an article about marketing with a Note to Reader (probably not the most marketing savvy idea), we can start to delve into the meditation before us.
This topic is something that I’ve deliberated on for about fourteen years now. Having worked most of my professional career marketing Torah, it’s a topic that comes up nearly everyday.
But before I embark on the short version answer to how to market Torah, let’s first understand how the world views this question. Why is this important? Because while Torah doesn’t change, the words and metaphors used by each generation do. The challenge of course is to make the connections between the language of the world and the language of the Torah. This is what we call finding the conceptual source for these worldly ideas within the landscape of Torah.
While there are thousands of examples for this unification between Torah and the natural world. But the reason this topic is to fundamental is because we are not talking about any one of these examples, but the task of unification itself, termed avodat hayichudim in Kabbalah. To add a little more spice to the pot. As was said in a recent article, making unifications is the primary avodah (service) today. So we would assume (as this is usually the case) that such a fundamental concept should have been intuited by some well-known personality (or personalities) in the world.
The word is “contextual”.
Although this word and the definition attributed to it are subject to change, the message is very close to what we are now saying. The fact that journalists, marketers, data analysts, and so forth, are looking to place their story/advertising/statistics within a greater contextual landscape is something most profound. For a culture that prides itself on individual accomplishments, we are beginning to see a shift towards relocating all these individual findings within something bigger.
No longer is Big Data as attractive as being able to navigate through it; what Nate Silver calls finding the “signal” from the “noise”.
No longer is it enough to report the news, but we are beginning to expect that journalists explain the progression of events that led up to the present moment, or at least to explain the data and analytics behind each most recent headline.
No longer is it enough for advertisers to design ads, but now with the rise of Native Advertising, they are looking for ways to provide marketing content that contextually fit within the medium being accessed.
The License to Market Details
There are two authentic approaches to marketing Torah. The first that halachah is intense, so we need to present topics in simple language.
But the most important point of this article is that we should begin emphasizing the reverse approach. When the public expects even the most exciting new headline or product to be placed within its proper context, then this is an indication that people are ready to enter the landscape. Although they don’t yet know that the context they are looking for is the landscape of Torah thought.
There is one caveat however: In order to attract the public to the landscape of the Torah, a place filled with a myriad laws, we need to show the great light coming from the Torah. This is where the inner dimension of the Torah, Kabbalah comes into play.
Behind every halachic ruling (and certainly behind every complete system of halachot), hide myriad dimensions, which the mysteries of the Torah’s hidden wisdom reveal (e.g., see Talmudic Journalism). This inner wisdom reveals G-d’s countenance that is behind the Torah, i.e., the Giver of the Torah Himself. Thus we reveal that halachah is not merely a heavy tome of laws but an expression of life (“eternal life You planted in us”).
Given the above, the role of the Torah marketer then is to show the light of the Torah within its contextual setting. The great attraction is in the new revelations being marketed. But whereas in the world most personalities write books or start companies based on one flash of insight, the truly devoted Torah marketer can come up with new insights ceaselessly.
For instance, when a physicist looked over our book Lectures on Torah and Modern Physics, he noticed at least a dozen messages planted within the text of topics that science has yet to uncover. But because the writing is based on Kabbalah, the inner dimension of the Torah, we already know them to be true (whether science has discovered them yet or not).
A Context for the Light
What the world is beginning to realize is that light alone is not cutting it. Hasidism calls the formula for the redemption “lights of chaos in vessels of order”. Whereas the world has plenty of chaos, what’s lacking are the rectified vessels. Thus when some powerful and profound new light is shown, then the natural result is to search out the context, the halachah, to contain these immense secrets.
When does Torah go viral? When the landscape of Torah spreads from the four walls of the yeshiva to bring context even to the most minute of current events. This is called making unifications, and this is the task of today.
For more, please read Halachah and Kabbalah.
Yonatan Gordon has spent most of his past 13 professional years in the world of Jewish publishing. He was the Marketing Manager at Kehot Publication Society (publishing arm of Chabad) for the better part of six years. He is founder of the website CommunityofReaders.org.