What is The Talmud?


If the Bible is the cornerstone of Judaism, then the Talmud is the central pillar, soaring up from the foundations and supporting the entire spiritual and intellectual edifice. In many ways, the Talmud is the most important book in Jewish culture, the backbone of creativity and of national life. No other work has had a comparable influence on the theory and practice of Jewish life, shaping spiritual content and serving as a guide to conduct.

Formally, the Talmud is a 2,711-page summary of oral law organized in 37 Tractates, or massekhtot. But in fact, the Talmud is much more than that: it is the repository of thousands of years of Jewish wisdom. It is an amalgam of law, legend, and philosophy, a blend of unique logic and shrewd pragmatism, of history and science, anecdotes and humor. The Talmud considers no subject to be too strange, too remote, or too bizarre to be studied.

What is the Talmud?
Contents of the Talmud
The Talmud's Importance for the Jewish People

Background on Talmud

The Mishna
The Spiritual Foundations of the Talmud
The Principles of Talmud Study
The Structure of the Talmud

Guidelines for Talmudic Study

For many generations the Talmud provided both the form and the substance of Jewish study. Children and adults, pupils in school, and students in yeshiva devoted their time to the study of the Talmud, and the greatest Rabbinical scholars invested most of their spiritual energy in deepening their knowledge of it. There is obviously no comparison between the level of a beginner in Talmudic study and that of a scholar already well versed in the subject. What is surprising, however, is the ability of students of the most varied levels of understanding and knowledge to study the Talmud endlessly, and with ever-increasing enthusiasm.

There is no single method for studying the Talmud. Throughout the centuries, wherever Jews lived, they developed many systems of study and various styles of commentary. Thoroughness of study also varied widely. In principle it is possible to study the Talmud again and again, constantly finding new insights, but one must distinguish between primary study of the material, necessary for mastering the subject, and all other levels of study, whose purpose is to gain deeper insight and understanding.

From Passive to Active Learning
Problems for the Beginner
How to Study Talmud
Daf Yomi - Daily Page
The Koren Talmud Bavli