web analytics
March 7, 2015 / 16 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


HaMafteach: A User-Friendly Index Of The Talmud: An Interview With Author Daniel Retter

Fuchs-021012-HaMafteach

An index of the Talmud with more than 6,000 topical and 27,000 subtopical entries is a major undertaking and its publication a seminal event in Jewish scholarship. Attorney Daniel Retter, who painstakingly compiled the index, titled HaMafteach (“the key”) and published by Feldheim, says his work, which has the endorsement of many prominent rabbanim, fills what had been a longstanding void by making the location of the different topics discussed in the Talmud easily accessible.

Retter, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press who gives a Daf Yomi shiur every morning at the Young Israel of Riverdale, recently spoke with us about his book.

The Jewish Press: When and where were you born and raised?

Retter: I was born in 1945 in London in a bomb shelter. At that time bombs were still falling. I came to America when I was five years old. I attended Chasan Sofer yeshiva on the Lower East Side of New York and then continued to Rav Binyomin Paler’s yeshiva and remained there until after I got married and finished law school.

Describe what HaMaf-teach is about and what it is designed to do.

The book is an index of the entire Shas. There are main entries and sub entries arranged in alphabetical order. The book was designed to be user friendly so that one can find the Gemara he is looking for quickly and efficiently. I realized we would have to make the index in English and Hebrew editions. We are also working on a mafteach of tractates and masechtos. This would incorporate all of the sugyos and memros of that particular masechta or tractate. I think it is a useful work. My personal feeling is that every personal library that has a Shas should have an index for it.

Why did you feel a book of this kind was needed?

The book was created to fill several gaps. One example is the difficulty of finding a sugya [topic] or a memra [saying]. The source of all learning is the Gemara. After one has learned the Gemara on a particular topic one can move on to the Rishonim and Achronim. However, there is no methodical way to find that original Gemara.

Talmidim generally have to ask their rebbeim where the Gemara is. But sometimes a talmid might not want to bother his rebbe with a simple location question, and a rebbe is not always available to answer a question at a moment’s notice. And even a rebbe occasionally has to search for a particular Gemara.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, admires HaMafteach as author Daniel Retter looks on.

The book will also be very helpful to those who, whether frum from birth or baalei teshuvah, never received a formal yeshiva education. They love learning – and with the explosion in popularity of the Daf Yomi, many of them are now learning regularly. Some of these people communicated to me their frustration in not being able to recall the correct locations of Gemaras they had previously learned.

Basically, the reason for the index is there was none until now. Necessity is the mother of all invention.

There has never been a mafteach on Shas?

To the best of my knowledge, there has not. There have been encyclopedias of Shas, but an index is much different. An encyclopedia has many volumes. Our generation expects quick results and a one-volume index is the solution. An index is not a teacher – it’s a locater. There are no editorial comments. We made it as simple as possible to find the location of the Gemara you are looking for. Simply, it is a tool to find the mikoros instead of wasting time looking for them. In fact Rav Mordechai Willig mentioned in his haskama that looking for mikoros is not included in yige’as haTorah, and it is bitul Torah.

Did you have the encouragement of rabbanim?

I had been working on this project for some time and very few people knew about it. I am fortunate to have a smart wife who advised me not to work on the book until I received the approval of rabbanim. She reasoned that if I were to wait until the book was completed to look for haskamos, perhaps someone would find something wrong with it. By that time I had good samples to show and I took them to gedolim. They not only encouraged me but they said the faster the better. It is for this reason that my haskamos are about five years old. And when I brought them finished copies they were very pleased.

Do you feel that there is a still a need for a paper book like this, given all of the technology available today?

Yes, for several reasons. Search engines are literal word searches; they cannot search for a sugya or even the meaning of a word. This sefer is like a talmid chacham because it contains different words the Gemara uses to refer to topics. For example, the Gemara refers to a pidyon haben as “shua ben.” A search engine would not retrieve that Gemara since it is not the same literal word. Generally people expect relevant results, and that is not always available on a word search engine. Once one finds one relevant Gemara he can locate other relevant sources via the mesoras hashas; however, you need to locate that first relevant Gemara. Additionally, search engines cannot be used on Shabbos and most yeshivas do not allow for the use of computers in the beis medrash.

About the Author: For questions or comments, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “HaMafteach: A User-Friendly Index Of The Talmud: An Interview With Author Daniel Retter”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the United States, calling for rejection of a bad nuclear deal with Iran, on March 03, 2015.
Post-Bibi Bipartisanship May Result in Congressional Ability to Review Iran Deal
Latest Indepth Stories
Ron Prosor

Values at the very heart of the UN are threatened by extremist ideologies targeting our way of life

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Anti-Semitism today focuses on Israel and the quest to delegitimize it.

Ballots for elections "made in Samaria."

Any Jew who ties his fate to Israel should be able to vote in Israel’s elections-even before aliyah

A young Moshe Meir Weiss introduces his mother, Mrs. Agnes Weiss Goldman, to Rav Moshe in 1979.

There were no airs about him. Rav Moshe was affectionately known as the Gaon of Normalcy.

Israel’s full sovereignty over a united Jerusalem is the only path for true peace in the region.

Just like Moses and Aaron, Mordechai decides to ruin the party…

The president has made clear – I can’t state this more firmly – the policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.

Obama has an apparent inability to understand Islam in particular and Mid-East culture in general

Pesach is a Torah-based holiday whose fundamental observances are rooted in Torah law; Purim is a rabbinic holiday whose laws and customs are grounded in the rabbinic tradition.

In honor of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s successful speech before Congress.

Mr. Spock conveys a message with painfully stark relevance to our world today, especially in the context of PM Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.

Obama created the “partisan politics” by asking Dem. party members to avoid Bibi and his address

Enough is enough. The Jewish community has a big tent, but the NIF should have no place in it.

I vote for the right and get left-wing policy. Every. Frigging. Time.

More Articles from Rabbi Raphael Fuchs
Taste-of-Lomdus-logo

The Chasam Sofer answers that one of only prohibited from wearing a garment that contains shatnez if he does so while wearing the garment for pleasure purposes.

Taste-of-Lomdus-logo

The Aruch Laner asks: How can Rashi say that the third Beis Hamikdash will descend as fire from heaven when every Jew prays several times a day for the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash?

The Ohr Hachayim rules that one may not manipulate the system; rather he must state his opinion as he see the ruling in the case; not as he would like the outcome of the verdict to become.

He suggests that the general admonition only dictates that a father may not actively enable his son to perform an aveirah.

Rather than submit to this fate and suffer torture and humiliation, Shaul decided to fall on his sword.

And if a person can take steps to perform the mitzvah, he should do so (even if he won’t be held accountable for not performing it due to circumstances beyond his control).

The Brisker Rav suggests that the barad, in fact, only fell on people, animals, and vegetation.

Why is it necessary to perform an aveirah punishable by lashes in order to be deemed a legal rashah and be pasul l’eidus m’d’Oraisa?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/hamafteach-a-user-friendly-index-of-the-talmud-an-interview-with-author-daniel-retter/2012/02/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: