My colleagues and I periodically engage in the perennial debate over whether modern information technology is a boon for, or bane of, genuine Torah scholarship.
On one recent occasion, when my friend M.S. and I leaped to our laptops to hunt down some piece of information relevant to a question that had arisen, our friend Y.S. looked at us reproachfully and averred: “R. Akiva Eger did not utilize a Google search bar …”.
Actually, I responded, while I could not comment regarding R. Akiva Eger, there is at least one prominent אחרון whose renowned prodigious erudition was indeed the product (at least to some extent) of a pre-technological, mystical version of a “Google search bar”, according to a tradition recorded by חיד”א:
ושמעתי מרב אחד שהרב ש”ך היה יודע שם המציאה דהיינו שם קדוש לכוין בו ולמצוא הבקיאות שרוצה תיכף ומיד1
- שם הגדולים, מערכת ספרים אות ש’ #135. [To be honest, I did not remember the exact quote, and I had to look it up on my laptop – but only because I did not have a physical copy of the שם הגדולים accessible.]