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The Encyclopedia Talmudit (Hebrew: אנציקלופדיה תלמודית entsiyklopediah talmudiyt) is a Hebrew language encyclopedia that aims to summarize the halakhic topics of the Talmud in alphabetical order. It began in 1942 and is still an active project as of 2016[update], with 36 volumes (plus several index volumes) published so far. Over half of the project is complete, and it is hoped to finish it in the following decade with the publishing of thirty more volumes. An English translation, the Encyclopedia Talmudica began to be published in 1969. It is published by the Torah literature publishing group Yad HaRav Herzog[he], named for Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, in Jerusalem.
Formation of the encyclopedia
The project began on the initiative of Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan (Berlin) (1880–1949), the son of the Netziv. Bar-Ilan organized a group of notable editors. The purpose was to summarize all the Talmudic discussions and all the opinions of Rishonim and Acharonim in encyclopedia articles in alphabetical order.
The first edition of the first volume was published in 1947. This volume included 219 articles in an organized format of summaries. The same volume was reprinted three more times: in 1947, 1951, and 1955. After Bar-Ilan died in 1949, it was republished in a newly revised and expanded edition.
Major Torah scholars, both Hasidim and Mitnagdim, supported the project. Supporters included Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, Rabbi Yochanan Sofer, and others.
The administrator of the encyclopedia from its founding was Rabbi Yehoshua Hutner[he] (1910–2009), who succeeded in securing the initiative with stable financial backing, thanks to his connections with leaders of the Mizrachi movement.
The first editor-in-chief was Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin (1886–1978). The first editors were Rabbi Benjamin Rabinovitz-Teomim, Rabbi Shimon Stralitz, Rabbi Yonah Martzebach and Rabbi Alter Hilevitz.
In later years tens of Torah scholars joined the editorial board, among them Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, the author of Tzitz Eliezer; Rabbi Isaac Epstein, the judge in the Tel Aviv Beit Din; Rabbi Yehuda Gershoni; Rabbi Shmuel Kroyzer; Rabbi Refael Shmulevitz, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir yeshiva (Jerusalem); Rabbi Azriel Levi, the chief editor of the Oz VeHadar version of the Talmud; and others.
Rabbi Zevin's style was to abbreviate and summarize wherever possible. In the first two volumes he followed an extremely brief format under the influence of Rabbi Bar-Ilan, but in later volumes published after Rabbi Bar-Ilan died the volumes are more encompassing, and include not only the essence of the article but also many of its details and branched topics.
Rabbi Zevin established the listing of primary and secondary articles and the system of halakhic analysis of the encyclopedia. He edited the volumes that were published during his lifetime, and prepared other volumes until the end of letter Heth (ח).
The articles are organized in the following order: definition, sources, reasons and derivations, and various opinions. The first article was Aleph (א) and the last to date has been Kitvei ha-Qodesh (כ). The extent of development in the articles has expanded over time.
There are two volumes of indexes, including an index of topics and of citations from the Babylonian Talmud.