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Halakhic Periodicals


The first Jewish periodical to appear was the *Peri Eẓ-Ḥayyim which first appeared in 1691. This journal consisted primarily of responsa to halakhic queries sent from all parts of the Dutch empire of its day; 13 volumes were published during the 116 years of its existence, until 1807.

Halakhic periodical literature continued to develop through the years. Noteworthy is the Shomer Ẓiyyon ha-Ne'eman, which appeared in Germany during the years 1846–56, under the guidance of Rabbi Jacob Ettlinger, containing, inter alia, responsa. The turn of the 20th century saw the growth of rabbinic halakhic periodicals in Eastern Europe, and eventually in America; e.g., Ha-Pardes which was originally founded in Poland in 1913, still appears in New York. Among the European periodicals, Tel Talpiot (Vac, Hungary), appeared from 1812–1938, and Yagdil Torah (Slutsk, Belorussia, 1908–28) are especially worthy of mention.

After World War ii the center of halakhic activity naturally shifted to Israel, with the United States taking second place. Sinai, which was founded even before the war (Jerusalem, 1937– ) includes contemporary and historical responsa.

The establishment of the State of Israel has generated an intensification of activity in applying halakhah to all facets of modern life – its technology, society and economy have all been the subject of halakhic research. It gave rise to Ha-Torah ve-ha-Medinah, published by the Rabbinical Association of Ha-Po'el Ha-Mizrachi (1949–62), which dealt with such topics as security, medical ethics, legislation, law applying to the Land of Israel and Family Law. Thus, among topics discussed in vol. 1 are: the right to grant clemency to those sentenced by the courts of Israel, the authority of the president and the institutions of elected government, and the legal status of spoils of war. Vol. 4 (1952) included articles on the rights of women according to the halakhah, and women's service in the armed forces; vols. 5–6, security measures in the State on the Sabbath and Festivals; vols. 7–8, the powers of municipal authorities according to the halakhah; vols. 11–13 (1960–62), the religious duty of aliyah, the prohibition against leaving Israel, and the liability of rabbis to taxation. Or ha-Mizraḥ (1959– ), issued by the Ha-Po'el Ha-Mizrachi of the United States, is essentially a Diaspora equivalent of Ha-Torah ve-ha-Medinah.

Unlike the above two works, which appear under the aegis of a public body, No'am (1959– ), "A platform for the clarification of halakhic problems," is a venture of the Torah Shelemah Institute of Jerusalem, and its scope is much wider. Among the practical problems dealt with are the use of the birth control pill (11:167), heart transplants (13:1), the transplanting of kidneys and artificial kidneys (14:308), artificial insemination (10:314), and even whether the laws of the Torah are applicable to a Jew on the moon (13:196). Among the other contemporary Israeli journals containing responsa, noteworthy are Assia, published in Jerusalem by the Dr. F. Schlesinger Institute for Medical Halakhic Research at Shaare Zedek Hospital (1969– ), which acts as a forum for modern medical ethical problems; Ha-Ma'yan, published in Jerusalem by the Y. Breuer Institute (1952– ); Kol Torah (Jerusalem, 1930– ); Torah She-be-al Peh, published in Jerusalem by Mosad Ha-Rav Kook, consisting of the proceedings of the annual Oral Law Conferences devoted to various fields of current interest (1958– ); Moriah, published in Jerusalem (1969– ), and Shma'atin (1964– ), a forum for dealing with problems in religious education. Devoted to Jewish Law (Mishpat Ivri) are Diné Israel (1969– ), an annual published by the Faculty of Law of Tel Aviv University, and Shenaton ha-Mishpat ha-Ivri (1974– ), published by the Institute for Research in Jewish Law at the Hebrew University Law School.

In America, Ha-Darom (1957– ), published in New York by the Rabbinical Council of America, discusses a broad spectrum of modern halakhic questions. The English language Tradition (1958– ), also published in New York by the rca, includes a section, a "Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature" as well as halakhic articles and essays. Talpiot (1943–63), which was published in New York by Yeshiva University, is also worthy of mention.

[Menahem Slae]

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