Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An index for the Talmud

After 1,500 Years, an Index for the Talmud

Published: December 27, 2011

The Talmud is a considerable body of work: 63 volumes of rabbinical discourse and disputation that form Judaism’s central scripture after the Torah. It has been around for 1,500 years and is studied every day by tens of thousands of Jews. But trying to navigate through its coiling labyrinth can be enormously difficult because the one thing this monumental work lacks is a widely accepted and accessible index.

But now that breach has been filled, or so claims the publisher of HaMafteach, or the Key, a guide to the Talmud, available in English and Hebrew. It was compiled not by a white-bearded sage, but by a courtly, clean-shaven, tennis-playing immigration lawyer from the Bronx.

As the article notes, the Talmud has not gone entirely un-indexed in the twentieth century, but this new index sounds useful and the price is certainly right. I suppose the market for this sort of thing is relatively recent, since traditional Talmud scholars would have had at least much of the corpus memorized anyway.