I. PRELIMINARY REMARKS AND VERBAL EXPLANATIONS
II. IMPORTANCE OF THE TALMUD
III. THE TRADITIONAL LAW UNTIL THE COMPOSITION OF THE MISHNA
IV. DIVISION AND CONTENTS OF THE MISHNA (AND THE TALMUD)
1. Zera`im, "Seeds"
2. Mo`edh, "Feasts"
3. Nashim, "Women"
4. Neziqin, "Damages"
5. Kodhashim, "Sacred Things"
6. Teharoth, "Clean Things"
V. THE PALESTINIAN TALMUD
VI. THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD
VII. THE NON-CANONICAL LITTLE TREATISES AND THE TOSEPHTA'
1. Treatises after the 4th Cedher
2. Seven Little Treatises
The present writer is, for brevity's sake, under necessity to refer to his Einleitung in den Talmud, 4th edition, Leipzig, 1908. It is quoted here as Introduction.
There are very few books which are mentioned so often and yet are so little known as the Talmud. It is perhaps true that nobody can now be found, who, as did the Capuchin monk Henricus Seynensis, thinks that "Talmud" is the name of a rabbi. Yet a great deal of ignorance on this subject still prevails in many circles. Many are afraid to inform themselves, as this may be too difficult or too tedious; others (the anti-Semites) do not want correct information to be spread on this subject, because this would interfere seriously with their use of the Talmud as a means for their agitation against the Jews.
I. Preliminary Remarks and Verbal Explanations.
(1) Mishnah, "the oral doctrine and the study of it" (from shanah, "to repeat," "to learn," "to teach"), especially
(a) the whole of the oral law which had come into existence up to the end of the 2nd century AD;
(b) the whole of the teaching of one of the rabbis living during the first two centuries AD (tanna', plural tanna'im);
(c) a single tenet;
(d) a collection of such tenets;
(e) above all, the collection made by Rabbi Jehudah (or Judah) ha-Nasi'.
(2) Gemara', "the matter that is leaned" (from gemar, "to accomplish," "to learn"), denotes since the 9th century the collection of the discussions of the Amoraim, i.e. of the rabbis teaching from about 200 to 500 AD.
(3) Talmudh, "the studying" or "the teaching," was in older times used for the discussions of the Amoraim; now it means the Mishna with the discussions thereupon.
(4) Halakhah (from halakh, "to go"):
(a) the life as far as it is ruled by the Law; (b) a statutory precept.
(5) Haggadhah (from higgidh, "to tell"), the non-halakhic exegesis.
II. Importance of the Talmud.
Commonly the Talmud is declared to be the Jewish code of Law. But this is not the case, even for the traditional or "orthodox" Jews. Really the Talmud is the source whence the Jewish Law is to be derived. Whosoever wants to show what the Jewish Law says about a certain case (point, question) has to compare at first the Shulchan `arukh with its commentary, then the other codices (Maimonides, Alphasi, etc.) and the Responsa, and finally the Talmudic discussions; but he is not allowed to give a decisive sentence on the authority of the Talmud alone (see Intro, 116, 117; David Hoffmann, Der Schulchan-Aruch, 2nd edition, Berlin, 1894, 38, 39). On the other hand, no decision is valid if it is against the yield of the Talmudic discussion. The liberal (Reformed) Jews say that the Talmud, though it is interesting and, as a Jewish work of antiquity, ever venerable, has in itself no authority for faith and life.
For both Christians and Jews the Talmud is of value for the following reasons:
(1) on account of the language, Hebrew being used in many parts of the Talmud (especially in Haggadic pieces), Palestinian Aramaic in the Palestinian Talmud, Eastern Aramaic in the Babylonian Talmud (compare "Literature," (7), below). The Talmud also contains words of Babylonian and Persian origin;
(2) for folklore, history, geography, natural and medical science, jurisprudence, archaeology and the understanding of the Old Testament (see "Literature," (6), below, and Introduction, 159-75). For Christians especially the Talmud contains very much which may help the understanding of the New Testament (see "Literature," (12), below).
III. The Traditional Law until the Composition of the Mishna.
The Law found in the Torah of Moses was the only written law which the Jews possessed after their return from the Babylonian exile. This law was neither complete nor sufficient for all times. On account of the ever-changing conditions of life new ordinances became necessary. Who made these we do not know. An authority to do this must have existed; but the claim made by many that after the days of Ezra there existed a college of 120 men called the "Great Synagogue" cannot be proved. Entirely untenable also is the claim of the traditionally orthodox Jews, that ever since the days of Moses there had been in existence, side by side with the written Law, also an oral Law, with all necessary explanations and supplements to the written Law.
What was added to the Pentateuchal Torah was for a long time handed down orally, as can be plainly seen from Josephus and Philo. The increase of such material made it necessary to arrange it. An arrangement according to subject-matter can be traced back to the 1st century AD; very old, perhaps even older, is also the formal adjustment of this material to the Pentateuchal Law, the form of Exegesis (Midrash). Compare Introduction, 19-21.
A comprehensive collection of traditional laws was made by Rabbi Aqiba circa 110-35 AD, if not by an earlier scholar. His work formed the basis of that of Rabbi Me'ir, and this again was the basis of the edition of the Mishna by Rabbi Jehudah ha-Nasi'. In this Mishna, the Mishna paragraph excellence, the anonymous portions generally, although not always, reproduce the views of Rabbi Me'ir.
The predecessors Rabbi (as R. Jehudah ha-Nasi', the "prince" or the "saint," is usually called), as far as we know, did not put into written form their collections; indeed it has been denied by many, especially by German and French rabbis of the Middle Ages, that Rabbi put into written form the Mishna which he edited. Probably the fact of the matter is that the traditional Law was not allowed to be used in written form for the purposes of instruction and in decisions on matters of the Law, but that written collections of a private character, collections of notes, to use a modern term, existed already at an early period (see Intro, 10).
IV. Division and Contents of the Mishna (and the Talmud).
The Mishna (as also the Talmud) is divided into six "orders" (cedharim) or chief parts, the names of which indicate their chief contents, namely, Zera`im, Agriculture; Moe`dh, Feasts; Nashim, Women; Neziqin, Civil and Criminal Law; Qodhashim, Sacrifices; Teharoth, Unclean Things and Their Purification.
The "orders" are divided into tracts (maccekheth, plural maccikhtoth), now 63, and these again into chapters (pereq, plural peraqim), and these again into paragraphs (mishnayoth). It is Customary to cite the Mishna according to tract chapter and paragraph, e.g. Sanh. (Sanhedhrin) x.1. The Babylonian Talmud is cited according to tract and page, e.g. (Babylonian Talmud) Shabbath 30b; in citing the Palestinian Talmud the number of the chapter is also usually given, e.g. (Palestinian Talmud) Shabbath vi.8d (in most of the editions of the Palestinian Talmud each page has two columns, the sheet accordingly has four).
1. Zera`im, "Seeds":
(1) Berakhoth, "Benedictions":
"Hear, O Israel" (Deuteronomy 6:4, shema`); the 18 benedictions, grace at meals, and other prayers.
(2) Pe'ah, "Corner" of the field (Leviticus 19:9; Deuteronomy 24:19).
(3) Dema'i, "Doubtful" fruits (grain, etc.) of which it is uncertain whether the duty for the priests and, in the fixed years, the 2nd tithe have been paid.
(4) Kil'ayim, "Heterogeneous," two kinds, forbidden mixtures (Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9).
(5) Shebhi`ith, "Seventh Year," Sabbatical year (Exodus 23:11; Leviticus 25:1); Shemiqqah (Deuteronomy 15:1).
(6) Terumoth, "Heave Offerings" for the priests (Numbers 18:8; Deuteronomy 18:4).
(7) Ma`aseroth or Ma`aser ri'shon, "First Tithe" (Numbers 18:21).
(8) Ma`aser sheni, "Second Tithe" (Deuteronomy 14:22).
(9) Challah, (offering of a part of the) "Dough" (Numbers 15:18).
(10) `Orlah, "Foreskin" of fruit trees during the first three years (Leviticus 19:23).
(11) Bikkurim, "First-Fruits" (Deuteronomy 26:1; Exodus 23:19).
2. Mo`edh, "Feasts":
(1) Shabbath (Exodus 20:10; 23:12; Deuteronomy 5:14).
(2) `Erubhin, "Mixtures," i.e. ideal combination of localities with the purpose of facilitating the observance of the Sabbatical laws.
(3) Pesachim, "Passover" (Exodus 12; Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 28:16; Deuteronomy 16:1); Numbers 9, the Second Passover (Numbers 9:10).
(4) Sheqalim, "Shekels" for the Temple (compare Nehemiah 10:33; Exodus 30:12).
(5) Yoma', "The Day" of Atonement (Leviticus 16).
(6) Cukkah, "Booth," Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34; Numbers 29:12; Deuteronomy 16:13).
(7) Betsah, "Egg" (first word of the treatise) or Yom Tobh, "Feast," on the difference between the Sabbath and festivals (compare Exodus 12:10).
(8) Ro'sh ha-shanah, "New Year," first day of the month Tishri (Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1).
(9) Ta`anith, "Fasting."
(10) Meghillah, "The Roll" of Esther, Purim (Esther 9:28).
(11) Mo`edh qatan, "Minor Feast," or Mashqin, "They irrigate" (first word of the treatise), the days between the first day and the last day of the feast of Passover, and likewise of Tabernacles.
(12) Chaghighah, "Feast Offering," statutes relating to the three feasts of pilgrimage (Passover, Weeks, Tabernacles); compare Deuteronomy 16:16 f.
3. Nashim, "Women":
(1) Yebhamoth, "Sisters-in-Law" (perhaps better, Yebhamuth, Levirate marriage; Deuteronomy 25:5; compare Ruth 4:5; Matthew 22:24).
(2) Kethubhoth, "Marriage Deeds."
(3) Nedharim, "Vows," and their annulment (Numbers 30).
(4) Nazir, "Nazirite" (Numbers 6).
(5) Gittin, "Letters of Divorce" (Deuteronomy 24:1; compare Matthew 5:31).
(6) Cotah, "The Suspected Woman" (Numbers 5:11).
(7) Qiddushin, "Betrothals."
4. Nezikin, "Damages":
(1) (2) and (3) Babha' qamma', Babha' metsi`a', Babha' bathra', "The First Gate," "The Second Gate," "The Last Gate," were in ancient times only one treatise called Neziqin:
(a) Damages and injuries and the responsibility; (b) and (c) right of possession.
(4) and (5) Sanhedhrin, "Court of Justice," and Makkoth "Stripes" (Deuteronomy 25:1; compare 1Corinthians 11:24). In ancient times only one treatise; criminal law and criminal proceedings.
(6) Shebhu`oth, "Oaths" (Leviticus 5:1).
(7) `Edhuyoth, "Attestations" of later teachers as to the opinions of former authorities.
(8) `Abhodhah zarah, "Idolatry," commerce and intercourse with idolaters.
(9) 'Abhoth, (sayings of the) "Fathers"; sayings of the Tanna'im.
(10) Horayoth, (erroneous) "Decisions," and the sin offering to be brought in such a case (Leviticus 4:13).
5. Qodhashim, "Sacred Things":
(1) Zebhahim, "Sacrifices" (Le 1).
(2) Menachoth, "Meal Offerings" (Leviticus 2:5,11; 6:7; Numbers 5:15, etc.).
(3) Chullin, "Common Things," things non-sacred; slaughtering of animals and birds for ordinary use.
(4) Bekhoroth, "The Firstborn" (Exodus 13:2,12; Leviticus 27:26,32; Numbers 8:6, etc.).
(5) `Arakhin, "Estimates," "Valuations" of persons and things dedicated to God (Leviticus 27:2).
(6) Temurah, "Substitution" of a common (non-sacred) thing for a sacred one (compare Leviticus 27:10,33).
(7) Kerithoth, "Excisions," the punishment of being cut off from Israel (Genesis 17:14; Exodus 12:15, etc.).
(8) Me`ilah, "Unfaithfulness," as to sacred things, embezzlement (Numbers 5:6; Leviticus 5:15).
(9) Tamidh, "The Daily Morning and Evening Sacrifice" (Ex 29:38; Nu 38:3).
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What is the Talmud? Biblical Meaning & Definition