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Talmud n : the collection of ancient rabbinic writings on Jewish law and tradition (the Mishna and the Gemara) that constitute the basis of religious authority in Orthodox Judaism

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  1. A collection of Jewish writings related to the practical application of Judaic law and tradition (may refer to either the Babylonian Talmud or the shorter Jerusalem Talmud).


collection of Jewish writings

Extensive Definition

The Talmud (Hebrew: ) is a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs, and history. It is a central text of Rabbinic Judaism, second only to the Hebrew Bible in importance.
The Talmud has two components: the Mishnah (c. 200 CE), the first written compendium of Judaism's Oral Law; and the Gemara (c. 500 CE), a discussion of the Mishnah and related Tannaitic writings that often ventures onto other subjects and expounds broadly on the Tanakh.
The terms Talmud and Gemara are often used interchangeably. The Gemara is the basis for all codes of rabbinic law and is much quoted in other rabbinic literature. The whole Talmud is also traditionally referred to as Shas (), a Hebrew abbreviation of , the "six orders" of the Mishnah.


Oral law

Originally, Jewish scholarship was oral. Rabbis expounded and debated the law (that is, the Hebrew Bible) and discussed the Tanakh without the benefit of written works (other than the Biblical books themselves), though some may have made private notes (), for example of court decisions. This situation changed drastically, however, mainly as the result of the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth in the year 70 C.E. and the consequent upheaval of Jewish social and legal norms. As the Rabbis were required to face a new reality—mainly Judaism without a Temple (to serve as the center of teaching and study) and Judea without autonomy—there was a flurry of legal discourse and the old system of oral scholarship could not be maintained. It is during this period that Rabbinic discourse began to be recorded in writing. The earliest recorded oral law may have been of the midrashic form, in which halakhic discussion is structured as exegetical commentary on the Pentateuch. But an alternative form, organized by subject matter instead of by biblical verse, became dominant about the year 200 C.E., when Rabbi Judah haNasi redacted the Mishnah ().
The Oral Law was far from monolithic, but varied among various schools. The most famous two were the School of Shammai and the School of Hillel. In general, all opinions, even the non-normative ones, were recorded in the Talmud.


The Mishnah is a compilation of legal opinions and debates. Statements in the Mishnah are typically terse, recording brief opinions of the rabbis debating a subject; or recording only an unattributed ruling, apparently representing a consensus view. The rabbis recorded in the Mishnah are known as Tannaim. Since it sequences its laws by subject matter instead of by biblical context, the Mishnah discusses individual subjects more thoroughly than the Midrash, and it includes a much broader selection of halakhic subjects than the Midrash. The Mishna's topical organization thus became the framework of the Talmud as a whole. But not every tractate in the Mishnah has a corresponding Gemara. Also, the order of the tractates in the Talmud differs in some cases from that in the Mishnah (see the discussion on each order).
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In addition to the Mishnah, other tannaitic works were recorded at about the same time or shortly thereafter. The Gemara frequently refers to these tannaitic statements in order to compare them to those contained in the Mishnah and to support or refute the propositions of Amoraim. All such non-Mishnaic tannaitic sources are termed baraitot (lit. outside material, "Works external to the Mishnah"; sing. ). The baraitot cited in the Gemara are often quotations from the Tosefta (a tannaitic compendium of halakha parallel to the Mishnah) and the Halakhic Midrashim (specifically Mekhilta, Sifra and Sifre). Some baraitot, however, are known only through traditions cited in the Gemara, and are not part of any other collection.


In the three centuries following the redaction of the Mishnah, rabbis throughout Israel and Babylonia analyzed, debated and discussed that work. These discussions form the Gemara (). Gemara means “completion” (from the Hebrew gamar : "to complete") or "learning"( from the Aramaic: "to study"). The Gemara mainly focuses on elucidating and elaborating the opinions of the Tannaim. The rabbis of the Gemara are known as (sing. ).
Much of the Gemara consists of legal analysis. The starting point for the analysis is usually a legal statement found in a Mishnah. The statement is then analyzed and compared with other statements in a dialectical exchange between two (frequently anonymous and sometimes metaphorical) disputants, termed the (questioner) and (answerer). Another important function of Gemara is to identify the correct Biblical basis for a given law presented in the Mishnah and the logical process connecting one with the other: this activity was known as talmud long before the existence of the "Talmud" as a text.
These exchanges form the "building-blocks" of the Gemara; the name for a passage of gemara is a (; plural ). A will typically comprise a detailed proof-based elaboration of a Mishnaic statement.
In a given , scriptural, Tannaic and Amoraic statements are brought to support the various opinions. In so doing, the Gemara will bring semantic disagreements between Tannaim and Amoraim (often ascribing a view to an earlier authority as to how he may have answered a question), and compare the Mishnaic views with passages from the Baraita. Rarely are debates formally closed; in many instances, the final word determines the practical law, although there are many exceptions to this principle.

Halakha and Aggadah

The Talmud contains a vast amount of material and touches on a great many subjects. Traditionally Talmudic statements can be classified into two broad categories, Halakhic and Aggadic statements. Halakhic statements are those which directly relate to questions of Jewish law and practice (Halakha). Aggadic statements are those which are not legally related, but rather are exegetical, homiletical, ethical or historical in nature. See Aggadah for further discussion.

Bavli and Yerushalmi

The process of "Gemara" proceeded in the two major centers of Jewish scholarship, the Land of Israel and Babylonia. Correspondingly, two bodies of analysis developed, and two works of Talmud were created. The older compilation is called the Jerusalem Talmud or the Talmud Yerushalmi. It was compiled sometime during the fourth century in Israel. The Babylonian Talmud was compiled about the year 500 C.E., although it continued to be edited later. The word "Talmud", when used without qualification, usually refers to the Babylonian Talmud.

Talmud Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud)

The Jerusalem Talmud, also known as the Palestinian Talmud, was one of the two compilations of Jewish religious teachings and commentary that was transmitted orally for centuries prior to its compilation by Jewish scholars in Palestine. It is a compilation of teachings of the schools of Tiberias, Sepphoris and Caesarea. It is written largely in a western Aramaic dialect that differs from its Babylonian counterpart.
This Talmud is a synopsis of the analysis of the Mishnah that was developed over the course of nearly 200 years by the Academies in Israel (principally those of Tiberias and Caesaria.) Because of their location, the sages of these Academies devoted considerable attention to analysis of the agricultural laws of the Land of Israel. Traditionally, this Talmud was thought to have been redacted in about the year 350 C.E. by Rav Muna and Rav Yossi in the Land of Israel. It is traditionally known as the Talmud Yerushalmi ("Jerusalem Talmud"), but the name is a misnomer, as it was not prepared in Jerusalem. It has more accurately been called the The Talmud of the Land of Israel. It has also often been referred to as the Palestinian Talmud, especially in sources that predate the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
Its final redaction probably belongs to the end of the fourth century, but the individual scholars who brought it to its present form cannot be fixed with assurance. By this time Christianity had become the state religion of the Roman Empire and Jerusalem the holy city of Christendom. In 325 CE Constantine, the first Christian emperor, said “let us have nothing in common with this odious people”. This policy made a Jew an outcast and pauper. The compilers of the Jerusalem Talmud consequently lacked the time to produce a work of the quality they had intended. The text is evidently incomplete and is not easy to follow. Any further work on the Jerusalem Talmud probably came to an abrupt end in 425 C.E., when Theodosius II suppressed the Patriarchate and put an end to the practice of formal scholarly ordination.
Despite this, the Jerusalem Talmud remains an indispensable source of knowledge of the development of the Jewish Law in the Holy Land. It was also an important resource in the study of the Babylonian Talmud by the Kairouan school of Hananel ben Hushiel and Nissim Gaon, with the result that opinions ultimately based on the Jerusalem Talmud found their way into both the Tosafot and the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides.
There are traditions that hold that in the Messianic Age the Jerusalem Talmud will have priority over the Babylonian. This may be interpreted as meaning that, following the restoration of the Sanhedrin and the line of ordained scholars, the work will be completed and "out of Zion shall go the Law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem".

Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud)

The Talmud Bavli was transmitted orally for centuries prior to its compilation by Jewish scholars in Babylon about the 5th century AD.




  • Maimonides Introduction to the Mishneh Torah (English translation)
  • Maimonides Introduction to the Commentary on the Mishnah (Hebrew Fulltext), transl. Zvi Lampel (Judaica Press, 1998). ISBN 1-880582-28-7
  • Adin Steinsaltz The Essential Talmud: Thirtieth Anniversary Edition (Basic Books, 2006). ISBN 0-465-08273-4. Read more here. See also here.
  • Adin Steinsaltz The Talmud: A Reference Guide (Random House, 1996). ISBN 0-679-77367-3
  • Zvi Hirsch Chajes "Mevo Hatalmud", transl. Jacob Shachter: The Students' Guide Through The Talmud (Yashar Books, 2005). ISBN 1-933143-05-3
  • Shmuel Hanagid Introduction to the Talmud, in Aryeh Carmell Aiding Talmud Study (Philipp Feldheim, 1986). ISBN 0-87306-428-3
  • Nathan T. Lopes Cardozo The Infinite Chain : Torah, Masorah, and Man (Philipp Feldheim, 1989). ISBN 0-944070-15-9
  • D. Landesman A Practical Guide to Torah Learning (Jason Aronson, 1995). ISBN 1-56821-320-4
  • Aaron Parry The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Talmud (Alpha Books, 2004). ISBN 1-59257-202-2
  • R. Travers Herford Christianity in Talmud and Midrash (Ktav Pub Inc, 1975). ISBN 0-87068-483-3
  • Carmell, Aryeh, Aiding Talmud Study: Feldheim, 5th ed. 1986 ISBN-10: 0873064283, ISBN-13: 978-0873064286

Talmudic logic and methodology

Modern scholarly works

  • Y. N. Epstein, Mevo-ot le-Sifrut haTalmudim
  • Hanoch Albeck, Mavo la-talmudim
  • Louis Jacobs, "How Much of the Babylonian Talmud is Pseudepigraphic?" Journal of Jewish Studies 28, No. 1 (1977), pp. 46-59
  • Saul Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1950)
  • Jacob Neusner, Sources and Traditions: Types of Compositions in the Talmud of Babylonia (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1992).
  • David Weiss Halivni, Mekorot u-Mesorot: Eruvin-Pesahim (Jerusalem: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1982)
  • Yaakov Elman, "Order, Sequence, and Selection: The Mishnah’s Anthological Choices,” in David Stern, ed. The Anthology in Jewish Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) 53-80
  • Strack, Herman L. and Stemberger, Gunter, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash, tr. Markus Bockmuehl: repr. 1992, hardback ISBN-10: 0567095096, ISBN-13: 978-0567095091, paperback ISBN-10: 0800625242, ISBN-13: 978-0800625245
  • Moses Mielziner, Introduction to the Talmud: repr. 1997, hardback ISBN-10: 0819701564, ISBN-13: 978-0819701565, paperback ISBN-10: 0819700150, ISBN-13: 978-0819700155

Historical study

  • Shalom Carmy (Ed.) Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah: Contributions and Limitations Jason Aronson, Inc.
  • Richard Kalmin Sages, Stories, Authors and Editors in Rabbinic Babylonia Brown Judaic Studies
  • David C. Kraemer, On the Reliability of Attributions in the Babylonian Talmud, Hebrew Union College Annual 60 (1989), pp. 175-90
  • Lee Levine, Ma'amad ha-Hakhamim be-Erez Yisrael (Jerusalem: Yad Yizhak Ben-Zvi, 1985), (=The Rabbinic Class of Roman Palestine in Late Antiquity)
  • Saul Lieberman Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1950)
  • John W. McGinley " 'The Written' as the Vocation of Conceiving Jewishly". ISBN 0-595-40488-X
  • David Bigman, Finding A Home for Critical Talmud Study

External links


Full text resources

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Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Gemara, Masorah, Mishnah, Spiritus Mundi, Sunna, ancient wisdom, archetypal myth, archetypal pattern, common law, custom, folk motif, folklore, folktale, immemorial usage, legend, lore, myth, mythology, racial memory, tradition, traditionalism, traditionality
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