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Natalie Salah Page 1 30/11/2010

a) Explain the use and purpose of the Talmud

b) Consider why many Jews today spend more time studying the Talmud than
the Tenakh.
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It contains long stories designed to help people understand rules and regulations of Jewish religious
life in all his manifestations. Agadah. It also has some reflections on how laws could be applied to
new problems, Halakhah.

“The health of the body depends upon the teeth.”

They contain important rules and ideas for the Jewish community.

“If someone says you have the ears of an ass, pay no attention; but if two people tell you, get
yourself a saddle” 

Oral Torah formed by thinking over how to apply the principles.

The completion of Judah’s Mishnah was crucial to the identification of the Babylonian Talmud, which was
completed towards the end of the 4th Century. The Jewish community was well established and Jews
participated in every walk of life. An expansion of the civil law was then caused by a rapid growth of its

Johanna Ben Nappaha was opened his own academy at Tiberis, where to become a scholar one was required
to memorise the Mishnah. Johanna was greatly respected as an authoritive scholar of genuine piety. His
liberal perspective was vital for the foundations of the Talmud. Simeon Ben Lakish was a creative and
skilled debater containing independence of mind which was additionally expressed in his studies. For
instance he pronounced the Book of Job to be poetic fiction not a historical account.

Rab laid the foundation for the Babylonian Talmud, after migrating to Israel to be at the heart of Jewish
learning and becoming a disciple of Judah ha – Nasi. Later he functioned as an amouraim, expounding his
master’s lectures but after noting secular areas were rising he went to Surah (a place where the Torah
knowledge was a rarity)

“He found an abandoned field and hedged around it”

He spoke enthusiastically causing the people to become strict observers of Judaism. Rabs authority
particularly regarding ritual and commitment was acknowledged around the world.

Samuel often contrasted viewpoint with Rab and wasn’t intimidated by him as he was logical and more
versatile, an anatomist. In the Talmud all matters concerning rituals are linked with Rab and all decisions
regarding property matters with Samuel. He laid the principle in Jewish law and made important
contributions to the liturgy and aiding many in becoming amouriams.

At Pumbeditha the careful interpretation and scrutinization of Halakhic passages was fulfilled. At Mohoza
a vast amount of the Talmud was recorded with decisions from debates usually siding Raba. As an orphan
Abye was immensely loved at the Academy due to his honest and charitable attributes. Despite living in
extreme poverty he refused to accept payments for his official activities. He explained that study of the
Torah should not be a means of support as it is an important factor in means moral education. (In 1390 CE
this rule had to change due to the economy.)
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Rabba had sharp intellect expressing thought and conduct as being united therefore demanding utter
sincerity and conviction from his disciples. Nahman worked preservation and arrangement with a
transmitter and arranger, which crucial for redaction. Rabbi Ashi however was believed to be the real
editor of the Babylonian Talmud and as a president he put fresh life into the school. Learning and
affluence were his best qualities which enabled the anomalies in the text caused by faulty tradition to be
eliminated by the whole process being repeated. This was finally finished with the mark of Rabbina’s

The cultural traits inculcated by the Talmud, moreover, defined the shape of the civilizations of the
Jewish people in many different lands.
It includes moral and ethical teachings regarding love of our neighbour, respect for law and order and
the conviction that the good life consists in studying the Torah. The wide variety of types of
materials, each serves its own purpose.

Mishnah stands out because it is called part of the Torah revealed by God. It is a corpus of sayings
divided into six principle sections, containing their own theological verification:
> Zeraim (agricultural laws)
> Moed (Festival laws)
> Nashim (Laws of marriage)
> Nezikin (Buying and selling laws)
> Kodashim (Sacrifice Laws)
> Tohorot (Purification Laws)

Mishnah is part of the Torah revealed to Moses and hence must be understood as a major document in
the history of the religion. Together with its commentaries and appended material (Gemara) it
constitutes the true beginning of Judaism.

One seeks God through the worship affected in a particular kind of learning of a distinctive literature,

Talmud is about doing the best we can to uncover God’s purpose in this world and find our role in it.

The purpose of the Talmud is not just to arrive at the conclusion. Each circumstance is different and
understanding the parameters themselves is based on ones personal approach and interpretation. The
purpose is the process of reaching the conclusion by examining all sides of the story. Some regard each
situation as a play which they direct, “what is the setting?”, “who are the player?” This gives us insight
into how to apple the principles from the Torah, and ultimately make the Halakhah a living, breathing

The main purpose of the Talmud is not to decide law but to decide what the truth is; it contains much
material that enables practical application.

The Babylonian Talmud is a collection of sayings and teachings of the Amoraim scholars which are
responsible for that Gemara, which was clarified by the Mishnah.
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The Talmud is a compendium of some of the main discussion concerning a Jewish world view. Although
it is used as the key source material for establishing Halakhah, it is also much more than that. The
Talmud, through its breadth and depth of material, links the key text of the Torah to the world.

If a seeking Jew wanted to find out how to observe Judaism, were seeking to acknowledge the how’s of
Judaism, as if it were merely a collection os some ritual one would not study the Talmud. If they did
they would be confused but animated by the collection of debates and discussion, and of partially
organised statements of law without clear conclusions. The purpose of the Talmud was never to define
Judaism in a ritualistic sense. However is one wanted to truly learn the depth of Judaism he will
research the Talmud. It contains the life force of the Jewish people, the power which has kept us
strong and vital throughout the ages. It explains what is really required to be a Jew.

The Talmud is the central pillar of Jewish culture. Most Jewish philosophy draws its inspiration from it
in some way. It is impossible to approach Biblical scholarship without the knowledge of the Talmud.
Jewish culture was created by scholars who were deeply influenced by the Talmud and other literature
which reflects a close connection with the text.

No Jewish community could survive for long without the ability to study the Talmud. In periods of
oppression Talmudic scholarship was out lowed because it was understood that the text was the
principle means of sustaining Jewish identity. The Talmud requires active participation; an emotional
and intellectual involvement, this high level of involvement means that lessons learnt become more
deeply ingrained. This is true to the extent that the text shapes individual Jewish consciousness.

The text is understood as an active pursuit of God, valuable because it reveals God to man more fully,
but valuable also because study is of the highest importance in its own right.

Throughout the centuries in a rapidly changing world the Talmud has contributed a stabilizing factor.
It has been a safeguard of Jewish identity, a means of strengthening the bond between god and man,
and finally the ultimate expression of authentic Jewish life.

c) The Torah brings wisdom and understanding which is far superior to the laws of other nations.
d) After the Tenakh the Talmud is the single most influential document in the history of Judaism. It
is viewed as part of the Revelation of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai, has from the time of its
redaction been treated as the authoritative interpretation of Scripture and as a corpus of
revealed Law in its own right.

The Talmud thus defined for the Jews the way in which the good life would be conducted. The Talmud
constitutes the principle, formative element in the life of the Jewish people. Rabbis often interpret the
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central symbol of Judaism as the Torah; the most important activity is the study of the Torah. The
principle authority is the learned man.

Talmud stands in the very centre of a massive reformation of Judaism, past, present and future.

The Torah as a physical object, a scroll, contains these five books, at the very centre of the divine

Talmud literally means “study” and embodies labours, opinions and teachings of the ancient Jewish scholars
in expounding and developing the religious and civil laws of the Torah during a period of 8 centuries.

The torah consists of the oral and written law. The written law was transmitted orally from Moses for
about 1300years, without the oral law it is impossible to understand and fully appreciate the written law,
therefore it enable the practical application of the written law..

If the Torah is the foundation of Jewish life, then the Talmud is the central pillar of Jewish study and

The Talmud it the storehouse for information connected with the life, customs, beliefs, and superstitions
of the Jews. It deals with issues as diverse as medicine, astronomy, commerce, magic, zoology, etc. As
Marcus Jastrow remarks;

“The subjects of this literature are as unlimited as are the interests of the human mind.”

The Talmud itself stresses that it is important to learn Jewish thought for its own sake, and this is
brought out by the place of Talmud in Jewish life. For hundreds of years, the Talmud has been the main
source of material for Jewish learning. At age 16, many Jews start learning the Talmud and continue this
study for the rest of their lives. In Jewish places of learning throughout the world, the Babylonian Talmud
is the most authoratative, it was completed later and so it address issues raise in Judaism. It has a
sharper and deeper intellectual approach; therefore the Jerusalem text is neglected. It is because study
of the Talmud is not seen as merely a mean to some end that minority opinions and entire arguments are
recorded in the Talmud.

There is a custom to learn a page of Talmud. The Halakhah is developed by using the Talmud as the
starting text. Decision on what to do in various situations is made by first examining the Talmud.

There are various different interpretations regarding the depth to which the Talmud should be studied.
For example the Karaites have a negative attitude, therefore rejecting the Talmud saying it contains
grossly anthropomorphic and other inferior conceptions of God. Reformers no longer see the Talmud as
the source of authority for Jewish practise.
“The Talmud was right in its day and I am right in mine.”

However in contrast in the Rabbinic camp the Talmud was the main subject of study, the supreme religious
duty to study the Torah being expressed by scholars.
Talmud is used as the final court of appeal in Jewish law.
It is studied extensively by scholars for the light it throws on the customs, dress, architecture, language,
philosophy, religion and ethics of the Hellenistic world.
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Torah is the word of God. It is unchanging and unchangeable, the inspired texts place Tenakh at the cntre
of Jewish teaching. Different relationship of status dependant upon various divisions in judiasm.
Talmud is a practical guide to living, enabling on to develop and understand culture.