The Talmudic Encylopedia Head Dead At 96

( Rabbi Yehoshua Hutner, the long-time Director of the monumental Talmudic Encyclopedia project, passed away early Monday morning at the age of 96.

Born in Warsaw in 1913, the deceased was the scion of rabbinical families in Europe. Even his grandmother, Hendel Hutner of Bialystok, was known for her Torah knowledge; yeshiva students would often rise for her as they would for their rabbis. The deceased quoted some of her original Torah ideas in his writings.

The Talmudic Encyclopedia project, headquartered in Jerusalem, was the initiative of Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan, son of the famed Netziv (Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin) and brother of Rabbi Chaim Berlin. He developed the concept of summarizing the Talmudic discussions in encyclopedic form, and, together with Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, founded the project.  

Rabbi Hutner, who ran the monumental project for 50 years, succeeded in bringing it financial stability in its early years.

The first volume was published in 1947, followed by an additional volume every two or three years, and the project is now approximately half-completed. Volume 27, covering topics as diverse as the Kol Nidrei prayer, honor of Sabbath and festivals, conquest in war, Cuthites (Samaritans), and more, was published two years ago.

In addition, two volumes of indices have been published, as have special volumes on topics such as the Passover Haggadah, the Land of Israel, electricity in Jewish Law, the Yom Kippur prayers, and more. The entire project appears in CD form as well, and six volumes have been published in English.                   

The renowned Rabbi Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, a leading Rabbinical Court judge in Jerusalem, is the editor-in-chief of the project, and Rabbi Prof. Avraham Steinberg, M.D., author of the five-volume Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics, serves as its Executive Director. Administrator Chaim Falk of Ofra says he hopes that the entire project, running under the auspices of Yad Harav Herzog, will be completed within a generation.


There is a new issue of Kol Hamevaser: The Jewish Thought Magazine of the Yeshiva University Student Body on the topic of Jewish Philosophy. The whole issue is available here: link. Also, those who would like to subscribe to automatically receive a PDF version of new editions of the paper should send an e-mail here.

  • Letter-to-the-Editor by Shalvi Berger
  • Letter-to-the-Editor by Natanya Horowitz
  • My Documentary Hypothesis by Jesse Lempel
  • When Logic Meets Flew: On the Meaningfulness of Theological Assertions by Alex Ozar
  • The Maimonidean Roots of American Literature by Ruthie Just Braffman
  • Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a Global Community by Alex Luxenberg
  • Towards Logic, the Sublime, and the Other by Gilah Kletenik
  • An Interview with Rabbi Eli Baruch Shulman by Ari Lamm and Shaul Seidler-Feller
  • Moses ben Maimon’s Treatise on the Resurrection of the Dead and its Subsequent Insight on the Ideal Worship of God by Ilana Gadish
  • A Burning Fire and a River of Tears: One Day in My Shoes by Anonymous
  • Old Nation, Young Love by Jake Friedman
  • Responding to Social Change by Rabbi Yosef Blau
  • Kol Mevaser or Kol Hamevaser? by The Editorial Board

TALMID WRITES: "Gil – did you see the banned edition of Hamevaser? It had articles that openly promoted arayos. It was a total embarassment to have the torah u’mada seal on that garbage. What will the students think of next? promoting avoda zara perhaps?"

GIL RESPONDS: "Yes, I saw the banned edition of Hamevaser. I wasn’t happy with it."

TALMID WRITES: "there were at least two articles calling for the suspension of halachos of negiah/pre marital sex in light of contemporary societal norms. The issue is still available on the website that Gil linked to (just scroll down)."

JOEL WRITES: I was struck by a line in R’ Blau’s article "Without broad acceptance by respected Rabbis, initiatives will remain on the fringe"

While this is probably true, I think it incomplete because imho there is a symbiotic relationship – within bounds imho respected rabbis will be influenced by the demands of their public (if not to act, at least not to oppose openly)

SS WRITES: He passionately hates YU:

>Ive found that with the majority of boys that Ive dated, they often focus just on learning and not on middos.
>For example, several boys Ive dated have spoken pure lashon harah on the date about different sects of klal yisrael. Often, boys bash YU. Im not AT ALL the YU hashkafah, but even if I dont agree with the hashkafa I would never speak lashon hara, and bash a sect of klal yisrael.
A: Who paskined for you that it is lashon harah to speak against YU? YU goes against the accepted Daas Torah of Gedolei Yisroel and there is no issur at all to speak against them! You simply aren’t adequately familiar with the halachos of lashon harah!!

>To me its pure sinas chinam and bashing yiddin, no matter what their hashkafa, drives the shchina away.
A: TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY WRONG!! Rabbeinu Yona writes very clearly that anyone who isn’t willing to HATE those who go against HaShem, is a bad person!! YOUR hashkafa here is way way off.

DOD WRITES: The banned edition did promote suspension of isur negiah, but did not promote arayos. It brought out the point the problems faced by homosexuals who are Orthodox. Also, I thought they just reissued it without the banned articles.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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