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

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter