'Talmud, Index Of'

By Tracy, Marc | Tablet Magazine, December 28, 2011 | Go to article overview

'Talmud, Index Of'


Tracy, Marc, Tablet Magazine


Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the first-ever index to the great, intricate body of Jewish law, the Talmudwhose existence and provenance was reported yesterday by Joseph Berger in the New York Timesisn't who made it. Yes, it's remarkable that HaMafteach ("the Key"), the 30,000-plus entry index to the 63-volume Talmud (yours in Hebrew or English for less than $30!) is the handiwork not of an esteemed committee of rabbis who worked on it for decades, full-time, but of one Daniel Retter, an immigration attorney from the Bronx. What's absolutely incredible is that nobody has ever done it before. The Talmud was definitively compiled in 540, and give or take movable type, word processing, and a few other innovations, the same technology Retter used to create his defiantly non-hyperlinked tome has been available to generations of sages. (And on the other hand you can read the Talmud on your iPad.) Yet this is the only one of its kind.

This new advancewhich has received the blessing even of eminent rabbisseems to me a function of the Jews' current status as well as of the status of humanity's collective consciousness. "The Talmud was written in exile, and it was the thread that kept Jews together," Retter says in the article. "It was a book that was to be transmitted orally from father to son. …

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