Hamafteach: The First Ever Index On Talmud Bavli



Anyone who has ever studied Gemara with any regularity – from novice to veteran – is surely aware that it is simply not comparable to any other intellectual pursuit anywhere in the world.

The faithful and expansive transmission of Torah Shebaal peh, from Sinai to all the following generations of the Jewish people, is housed within 63 distinct masechtos. It contains thousands of pages, no vowels, and no punctuation to speak of.

When it comes to content, how and where does one begin to even describe the content of Shas? It encompasses virtually any and every subject under the sun: countless sugyos in halacha and aggadeta, commercial advice, philosophical inquiries, maasim and mesholim, sayings, mussar, humor, medicinal cures, historical insights, and so much more, and it is all related in the form of a dynamic shakla vetarya between hundreds of chachomim, in conversations that stretch over a 400-year time span.

And what makes it even more daunting is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, for most students of Gemara to discern any internal sequential order, though it is certainly there. In other words, topics, issues, content and concerns tend to shift gears, immediately, often and rapidly. Plus, there is no table of contents. How can there be, when subjects tend to change that rapidly on any given page?

And there is no index.

That is, until now.

With the appearance of a truly groundbreaking and innovative new sefer titled HaMafteach, written and organized by Daniel Retter, the entire Talmud Bavli now has a comprehensive, convenient, easy-to-use index. Any talmid can now look up a musag, a halacha, the name of a Tanna, an Amora or personality from Tanach, and find precisely where it is discussed – anywhere in Shas. As the title indicates, this truly is “a key” that leads immediately to the precise location, or locations, of any topic discussed in any masechta. Moreover, the HaMafteach is available in two independent, alphabetized volumes: an all-Hebrew edition (Alef-Tov) and an all-English edition (A-Z).

For purposes of this article and by way of example, the reviewer randomly flipped through numerous pages. Stopping at the letter “Yud” in the index and scanning down the page, I came upon the name of Yisro. There you’ll find five sub-entries, each describing a different topic relating to Yisro, followed by all the precise locations in Shas, listed sequentially, from earlier to later masechta.

Moving on to the letter “Mem,” you might come upon the entry of muktzah. Under that major heading, you will conveniently find numerous categorical sub-headings, and, under each sub-heading, all the pertinent, related entries and all their precise locations. It amounts to two complete pages in all: a convenient and comprehensive examination of where muktzah appears throughout Shas.

From Alef to Tov, the HaMafteach contains approximately 6,600 major subject entries, 27,000 minor sub-entries, 42,000 Talmudic reference sources, and 2,800 transliterated or dual-referenced glossary entries.

It’s a remarkable resource for anyone who learns Gemara to have at his fingertips, and it’s an outstanding achievement in terms of how it enables any rebbi or talmid, rov or maggid shiur, easy access to any topic and location, in what is rightfully referred to as the Yam Hatalmud.

The author, Daniel Retter, delivers a Daf Yomi shiur in Riverdale, New York. He is also a New York-based attorney by profession, and it took him over seven years to complete this pioneering project. The effort involved was surely considerable, and the accomplishment and opportunity, for all who turn to this invaluable resource, is surely immeasurable.

In addition to the two volumes mentioned above – all-Hebrew and all-English editions – the HaMafteach also offers two other stand-alone volumes: a Hebrew edition as well as an English edition organized by individual masechtos. Each of the four volumes appears in large-print, handsomely-bound editions that will certainly become a welcome addition to any and every Jewish library, at home, in shul, in yeshiva, in kollel, and in any bais medrash.

{Shmiel Gellman-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Theres a “kunkreedaysa” that does that for verses in tanach, most Ravs have it.

    Thertes also the CHumas Totrah Temima that gives the places in Shas pertaining to that verse in the torah.

    Alteh Bucher

  2. Theres a “kunkreedaysa” that does that for verses in tanach, most Ravs have it.

    There is also the Chumash Torah Temima that gives the places in Shas pertaining to that verse in the torah.

    Alteh Bucher

  3. #1 Spoken like someone who doesn’t learn anymore! I guess you’re just jealous you didn’t think of it first!

    It’s a remarkable resource for anyone who learns Gemara to have at his fingertips, and it’s an outstanding achievement in terms of how it enables any rebbi or talmid, rov or maggid shiur, easy access to any topic and location, in what is rightfully referred to as the Yam Hatalmud.

    How wonderful to have a resource that can assist in finding subjects and Ishei HaTalmud.

  4. Dear #10 anyone who really learns a)knows that there are all sorts of ways to locate something in shas. b)himself may have an idea where things are c)if he is zoche to be around REAL Talmedei chachamim – as I am in EY , knows many people who know shas cold. These gimmicks are all very nice and (some) useful,but at the end of the day there is NO substitute for sitting down and learning shas yourself-THAT is my main point do you disagree??

  5. Haskamos are from all the “Biggies” – Rav Shteinman, Rav Kanievsky, Rav Kaminetzky, many Rebbes, Rav Willig, Rav Dovid Cohen, Rav Amar, Rav Lau etc etc

  6. #10, with all due respect, how could you possibly be against something that makes learning easier? Not all of us can memorize Shas. Yes, I can go to the Rosh kollel who has it memorized if I need to, but for a simple reference question, why would I not use this? Do you ever perhaps look in the Shulchan Aruch or Mishneh Torah or Mishnah Berura. By your strange sevorah, we should ignore these source and only poskin straight from the Gemara. Good luck on that one! BTW, this index was written and developed by a Rav who also has a thriving law practice. He learns “on the side” and just happened to come up with this little work. Torah U’Madah at its best, my friend.

  7. the reason english has more entries than hebrew is that english has a transliterated guide. thus if you want to know where, for example, yiush shelo midaas is, you look under yiush, which then refers you to despair. and soncino is not an index to shas- only an index to soncino’s own translation

  8. I recently purchased the excellent sefer HaMafteach, which is an index to Talmud Bavli and it was written on the first page that any means of reproducing the information in this sefer is assur and illegal- this will be strictly enforced by a Beis Din and Secular Court. I wanted to know if I could perhaps take a photo of a page temporarily for strictly personal use when I cannot bring the entire sefer with me (I have both written and audio versions of shas on my phone). If not, I began to wonder where the line would be drawn. Could I write down each daf I need and then take a photo of the paper I wrote on even though this is essentially the same thing as taking a photo of the sefer itself? Can I record myself while reading parts of the sefer and later listen to it? What if after learning I remembered where each page was for a given topic and 3 days later gave a shiur when someone was writing down what I had said regarding the page for each daf or if I wrote it down from memory? This sefer differs from others as it is an organized listing of facts where one (sometimes two or three) page(s) of the sefer is entirely independent from the preceding and subsequent pages apposed to a normal book where one page flows into another.

    I contacted the author Daniel Retter and this was his reply:

    “Hi, I just purchased the HaMafteach and it is truly an incredible sefer. I would like to once in a wile temporarily scan a page so I can look stuff up on the road for personal use (i have access to shas over the internet on my phone). Is this permitted?

    Thank you.

    -Josh ”

    dear josh:

    “shavua tov/ gut voch ( i am i europe so shabbos is out).

    thank you for your kind words about the HaMafteach.

    As for your request, i am sorry but you are NOT permitted to make a copy of even a single page. the copyright laws and hasogas gevul psak will be strictly enforced. By your asking i see you are a very honest person but i am sorry but alas i am afraid the answer is “no”.

    all the very best.

    daniel retter”

    My responce:

    Thank you I hope you had a good shabbos as well. Would you permit someone to write down the daf i require on a separate piece of paper, then take a photo of the paper I wrote it down on- even though this will be essentially be the same thing as taking a picture of the safer directly? What if I said the page verbally and recorded myself while saying it? What if I memorize it and tell it over to a chavrusa who happens to have been recording me etc.

    Halacha: I asked a rabbi about making a personal copy temporarily of a couple pages and you can hear it for yourself from Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz online here begining at 45 min into the shiur. He brings from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Tztitz Eliezer (Eliezer Waldenburg) who says it is mutar lechatchila to make a photo copy of a couple pages of the sefer (such as if you have to go to a chasna and cannot bring in the entire sefer) because it is pashut minhag haolam that even though it says in the copyright in the beginning of the book that not even one page can be copied, one is perfectly permitted to IGNORE this aspect of the copyright providing it is for personal use as the publisher and author know at the time of printing that they will not be able to enforce people against making one photocopy. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach goes onto say it is a mitzvah to make photo copies as mareh mekomos of a couple pages when giving a shiur to students though that is a more delicate issue.

    Secular law: (taken from copyright.gov and wikepedia.org):

    Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991),[1] commonly called Feist v. Rural, is an important United States Supreme Court case establishing that information alone without a minimum of original creativity cannot be protected by copyright. In the case appealed, Feist had copied information from Rural’stelephone listings to include in its own, after Rural had refused to license the information. Rural sued for copyright infringement. The Court ruled that information contained in Rural’s phone directory was not copyrightable and that therefore no infringement existed. Assessment Technologies also held that it is a fair use of a copyrighted work to reverse engineer that work in order to gain access to uncopyrightable facts. Assessment Technologies also created new law, stating that it is a copyright misuse and an abuse of process if one attempts to use a contract or license agreement based on one’s copyright to protect uncopyrightable facts.

    The ruling has major implications for any project that serves as a collection of knowledge. Information (that is, facts, discoveries, etc.), from any source, is fair game, but cannot contain any of the “expressive” content added by the source author. That includes not only the author’s own comments, but also his choice of which facts to cover, his choice of which links to make among the bits of information, his order of presentation (unless it is something obvious like an alphabetical list), any evaluations he may have made about the quality of various pieces of information, or anything else that might be considered “original creative work” of the author rather than mere facts.
    For example, a recipe is a process, and not copyrightable, but the words used to describe it are; see idea-expression divide and Publications International v Meredith Corp. (1996).[2]
    Therefore, you can rewrite a recipe in your own words and publish it without infringing copyrights. But, if you rewrote every recipe from a particular cookbook, you might still be found to have infringed the author’s copyright in the choice of recipes and their “coordination” and “presentation”, even if you used different words; however, the West decisions below suggest that this is unlikely unless there is some significant creativity carried over from the original presentation.
    Another case covering this area is Assessment Technologies v. Wiredata (2003),[7] in which the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a copyright holder in a compilation of public domain data cannot use that copyright to prevent others from using the underlying public domain data, but may only restrict the specific format of the compilation, if that format is itself sufficiently creative.
    In the late 1990s, Congress attempted to pass laws which would protect collections of data,[8] but these measures failed.[9] By contrast, the European Union has asui generis (specific to that type of work) intellectual property protection for collections of data.

    Fair Use
    One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the copyright law (title 17, U. S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of “fair use.” The doctrine of fair use has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years and has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.

    Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.

    The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
    The nature of the copyrighted work
    The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
    The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
    The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

    The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”

    Copyright protects the particular way authors have expressed themselves. It does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in a work.

    I concluded with the following and have not yet heard back from him:

    Therefor, I believe it is both within my halachic and secular-legal right to make a temporary copy of one or two pages of this sefer- strictly for personal use. Never the less I will not do so without your permission (take a scan of it that is) though I would like to return it if you feel so strongly about this and I believe I am entitled to a full refund being from the sources provided above that at the time of purchase the copyright statement in the beginning is not taken literally as to forbade one page for personal use.

    Thank you again, I am very much looking forward to your reply and appreciate your time.


  9. #19: I am currently still conversing with the author to gain more clarity on this issue. Will update when I receive more information.