BBC – Religions – Judaism: The Talmud

Posted By on June 15, 2020

The TalmudPage of the Talmud

The Talmud is the comprehensive written version of the Jewish oral law and the subsequent commentaries on it. It originates from the 2nd century CE. The word Talmud is derived from the Hebrew verb 'to teach', which can also be expressed as the verb 'to learn'.

The Talmud is the source from which the code of Jewish Halakhah (law) is derived. It is made up of the Mishnah and the Gemara. The Mishnah is the original written version of the oral law and the Gemara is the record of the rabbinic discussions following this writing down. It includes their differences of view.

The Talmud can also be known by the name Shas. This is a Hebrew abbreviation for the expression Shishah Sedarim or the six orders of the Mishnah.

Between the 2nd and 5th centuries CE these rabbinic discussions about the Mishnah were recorded in Jerusalem and later in Babylon (now Al Hillah in Iraq). This record was complete by the 5th Century CE. When the Talmud is mentioned without further clarification it is usually understood to refer to the Babylonian version which is regarded as having most authority.

The rabbi most closely associated with the compilation of the Mishnah is Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi (approx. 135-219 CE). During his lifetime there were various rebellions against Roman rule in Palestine. This resulted in huge loss of life and the destruction of many of the Yeshivot (institutions for the study of the Torah) in the country. This may have led him to be concerned that the traditional telling of the law from rabbi to student was compromised and may have been part of his motivation for undertaking the task of writing it down.

In addition to the Talmud there have been important commentaries written about it. The most notable of these are by Rabbi Shelomo Yitzchaki from Northern France and by Rabbi Moses Maimonedes from Cordoba in Spain. They lived in the 11th and 12th centuries respectively. Both of these men have come to be known to Jews by acronyms based on their names. These are respectively Rashi and Rambam.

Rambam compiled the Mishneh Torah which is a further distillation of the code of Jewish Law and has come to be regarded by some as a primary source in its own right.

It is also worth mentioning another codifying work from the middle ages. This is the Shulcan Aruch (laid table) by Joseph Caro which is widely referenced by Jews.

Some Orthodox Jews make it part of their practise to study a page of the Talmud every single day. This is known as Daf Yomi which is the Hebrew expression for page of the day. The tradition began after the first international congress of the Agudath Yisrael World Movement in August, 1923. It was put forward as a means of bringing Jewish people together. It was suggested by Rav Meir Shapiro who was the rav of Lublin in Poland.

It is now possible to study the Talmud online.

The Mishnah (original oral law written down) is divided into six parts which are called Sedarim, the Hebrew word for order(s).

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BBC - Religions - Judaism: The Talmud

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