The "Oral Law" of the Jewish faith. The Talmud supplements the written law and history of the Jews, to be taught in person by a teacher to a student. Now you can buy hardcopy of the Talmud. It acts as detailed analysis of terms and conditions of the written law (Torah).

The Talmud typically refers to the Babylonian Talmud, a section of the Oral Law. This is a set of books that Jewish scholars wrote between 200CE and 500CE, and was finalized over the 150 years that followed. The Talmud is approximately 5000 pages long. Typically, the study of Talmud is a pursuit that takes an entire lifetime of study. Learning one page of the Talmud can take anywhere from ten minutes (if you are very skilled at reading and understanding Aramaic, do not read any commentary, and are learning an easy page) to the weeks or months of time that some rabbis spend delving into all of the commentaries, concepts, laws and responses of a single page.

The "Talmud Bavli," as it is called, was written as a extension of the teachings found in the Mishna. These teachings are in the form of arguments between different Rabbis as to the meaning of the Mishna that the Talmud is currently discussing. Originally, all of this information was transmitted with only the help of the text of the Tanakh, but as people began to have trouble remembering details, and some were even lost or disputed, it was codified, first into the Mishna, then into the Gemara as well.

The Babylonian Talmud is called that for several reasons. The first among them is that it was written in Babylon in contemporary Aramaic and not in Hebrew, as many people would assume. This is also in contrast to the dialect that was used in the Talmud Yerushalmi, which was a more hebraicized and terse form of Aramaic.

There are 63 tractates in the Talmud, including those without any Gemara to supplement the Mishna. Those that have Gemara written on them, and their subjects, are as follows:

  • Berachot, blessings
  • Shabbos, Sabbath
  • Eruvin, property divisions on Sabbath
  • Pesachim, Passover
  • Shekalim, the counting of people
  • Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year
  • Yoma, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement
  • Sukkah, the laws of the Festival of Booths
  • Betzah, the laws of eggs lain on Sabbath
  • Taanis, fasting and fast days
  • Megillah, the laws of Purim, a holiday, and the reading of Esther, which takes place on that day
  • Moed Kattan, the laws of certain periods of time that are not fully considered holidays
  • Chagigah, the laws of the festivals
  • Yevamos, laws concerning Levite marriage
  • Kesubos, marriage contracts
  • Nedarim, vows
  • Nazir, the vow of the Nazarite
  • Sotah, laws concerning adultery
  • Gittin, laws of divorce
  • Kiddushin, laws of marriage
  • Bava Kamma, laws on property and damages
  • Bava Metzia, more laws on property and damages
  • Bava Basra, you guessed it, even MORE laws about property and damages
  • Sanhedrin, the laws of Courts
  • Makkos, the laws of corporal and capital punishment
  • Shavuos, the laws of the holiday of Shavuot
  • Avodah Zarah, laws concerning idol worship. (It's a Bad Thing!)
  • Horiot
  • Aidiot
  • Zevachim, animal sacrifices in the Temple
  • Menuchot, meal offerings in the Temple
  • Chulin, the laws of slaughtering animals to be kosher
  • Bachurot, laws of first born animals (see Leviticus 27:26-27)
  • Eruchin, valuations (see Leviticus 27:1-25)
  • Temurah, a specific commandment not to switch an animal dedicated to the temple with another
  • Kerithioth, laws concerning excommunication
  • Me'ila, the laws of circumcision
  • Niddah, the laws of menstrual purity

A typical section of the Talmud would start with a Mishnaic statement, and then would be expounded upon by several different rabbis. Where the Rabbis disagreed, the Talmud would first try to resolve the dispute, and failing that, continue. Sometimes the arguments get very involved, with a number of different interpretations of the Mishnaic text, and a number of different cases that need to be dealt with. Each case is resolved according to the opinion of each rabbi, and if a rabbi's explanation is found to be lacking, it is noted. Eventually each set of cases is resolved, and there is a final verdict of the Talmud. Once this final verdict is reached, commentators on the Talmud often discuss it, and derive the actual laws from it.

The Talmud Yerushalmi, or, in English, the Jerusalem Talmud, is also called the Palestinian Talmud, a name given to it by church scholars because it was actually composed outside of Jerusalem. It is essentially very similar to the Babylonian Talmud, and references many of the same Mishnaic texts (though not as many, and some that are different.) It is considered less esteemed, though in some ways that is due to misperception, as it is typically only studied by advanced scholars due to it's difficulty, and the fact that it focuses more on issues that currently do not pertain to Jewish law, such as animal sacrifices and laws of the Holy Temple. It is also written in a slightly different type of Aramaic.


Sources:
Several years of Talmud classes in High School and Yeshiva
For more information, check out:
http://www.aish.com/literacy/jewishhistory/Crash_Course_in_Jewish_History_Part_39_-_Talmud.asp
http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/TalmudMap/Gemara.html
http://www.come-and-hear.com/editor/whatis.html
http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Talmud_History.htm

Tal"mud (?), n. [Chald. talm&umac;d instruction, doctrine, fr. lamad to learn, limmad to teach.]

The body of the Jewish civil and canonical law not comprised in the Pentateuch.

The Talmud consists of two parts, the Mishna, or text, and the Gemara, or commentary. Sometimes, however, the name Talmud is restricted, especially by Jewish writers, to the Gemara. There are two Talmuds, the Palestinian, commonly, but incorrectly, called the Talmud of Jerusalem, and the Babylonian Talmud. They contain the same Mishna, but different Gemaras. The Babylonian Talmud is about three times as large as the other, and is more highly esteemed by the Jews.

 

© Webster 1913.

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