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Daily Israel Report

Rabbi Hutner, Talmudic Encyclopedia Head, 96

Rabbi Yehoshua Hutner, long-time Director of the monumental Talmudic Encyclopedia project, passed away early Monday morning at the age of 96.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 4/20/2009, 10:14 AM

Rabbi Yehoshua Hutner, the long-time Director of the monumental Talmudic Encyclopedia project, passed away early Monday morning at the age of 98. Though physically disabled, he was lucid and aware, and contributed words of Torah at the recent Passover seder with his grandchildren.

Born in Warsaw in 1910, 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.

It was announced that the deceased will be buried in the Sanhedria cemetery in Jerusalem at 4 PM Monday. He is survived by his daughter Dr. Avigayil Yinon, a psychologist in Bar Ilan University, co-founder of the Meimad movement, and mother of three.

The Talmudic Encyclopedia
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 28, covering topics as diverse as the Kol Nidrei prayer and the k'zayit measure of food, was published four months 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.

Hundreds of top Torah scholars have taken part in the encyclopedia over the years, but none played as important a role as Rabbi Zevin (pictured to the right of Rabbi Hutner). Rabbi Hutner wrote that Rabbi Zevin personally reviewed and largely rewrote every entry in the first 12 volumes.

Family Relations
Rabbi Hutner’s sister Chava Leah was the wife of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, son of the renowned saintly Rabbi A.I. Kook. 

The deceased was a second cousin of the late Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner - but not through the Hutner side. Rabbi Yitzchak's paternal grandmother was a sister of Rabbi Yehoshua's maternal grandfather, Rabbi Yehuda Segal of Warsaw.  Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner authored the Pachad Yitzchak works and the song Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, and headed Yeshivat Rabbi Chaim Berlin in New York.