After 75 Years, the Completion of the “Talmudic Encyclopedia” Might Be in Sight

June 27 2022

At the end of last year, the Israeli president hosted a celebration in his home to mark the publication of the 48th volume of the Talmudic Encyclopedia—75 years after the first went to press. The most recent volume covers entries beginning with mem, which is the thirteenth of the Hebrew alphabet’s 22 letters. Nonetheless, Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, who became the work’s chief editor in 2006, hopes to complete the project in two years’ time. Alan Rosenbaum writes:

Initiated by Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan (1880-1949), the Talmudic Encyclopedia was developed with the goal of summarizing the major halakhic subjects discussed in the Talmud and post-talmudic rabbinic literature from the geonic period [7th–10th centuries] to the present day. . . . Bar-Ilan was the son of Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, known as the Netziv, who headed the Volozhin yeshiva from 1854 until its closure in 1892. Bar-Ilan studied at the University of Berlin and later became a leader in the Mizrachi [religious Zionist] movement. He came to the United States in 1913 and moved to Israel in 1923.

In 1942, when Bar-Ilan learned about the Holocaust, he was concerned not only for the well-being of the Jewish people but for the preservation of the Torah. “Since the center of Torah study was in Europe,” says Steinberg, “he was afraid that the Torah would become lost. He felt that the rabbis in Israel who were still safe should do something to preserve the Torah.” Bar-Ilan suggested the creation of a reference work that would contain an alphabetical listing of the main topics in Jewish law, with brief articles summarizing the background and sources of each entry.

“The language of the encyclopedia is Hebrew,” says Steinberg, “but it is not biblical Hebrew, nor is it mishnaic Hebrew, nor is it modern Hebrew. It is a type of Hebrew that encompasses all of these, but in a unique style.”

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Judaism, Talmud

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform