Talmud Beginner's Q & A

I am a beginning Talmud student from a non-Orthodox background. I started studying it in my late fifties. A little after I started learning, I began typing up scattered notes. This turned into a question and answer format.

There are advantages and disadvantages to having a beginner write a beginners guide. Since I am not an expert I am comfortable talking about really simple issues. On the other hand, since I am not an expert the answers may be more prone to mistakes.

I found (and “lifted it” as we say in the plagiarism world) most of this material on the internet: primarily the Jewish Encyclopedia and Wikipedia. So, you can find the same material yourselves. Please read up and verify for yourselves.

Because the material itself can get dry, I have thrown in the occasional sardonic comment. I trust that most people can distinguish these comments from the actual instructional material.


  1. 1. What does the Talmud (תלמוד) mean?
    1. Talmud means "instruction, learning"
  2. 2. How is the Talmud constructed?
    1. The Talmud consists of two documents, the second a commentary on the first:
      1. The Mishnah (המשנה)
      2. The Gemara (הגמרא)

  3. 3. How many Talmudim (תלמודים), that is Talmuds, are there?
    1. Two.
    2. The earlier one is the Jerusalem Talmud, called “The Yerushalmi” (הירושלמי), composed in Israel (but not in Jerusalem). This is sometimes called the Palestinian Talmud (I think as the result of a UN resolution).
    3. The later one is the Babylonian Talmud, called “The Bavli” (הבבלי), was composed in the Babylonian Galut (גלות), or exile.
  4. 4. So if there are two Talmuds how do they differ?
    1. Only the Gemara part is different. The Mishnah is common to both the Yerushalmi and Bavli Talmuds (except for a few small differences).
    2. The Yerushalmi Talmud covers the first 39 Tractates of the 73 found in the Mishnah. The Bavli covers 36 and a half, but not all the same as those covered by the Yerushalmi.
    3. The Yerushalmi Talmud covers more of the ones that are particular to life in Israel, or to be more exact, how life had been in Temple times.
    4. The Yerushalmi Talmud has few Stamaic (סתמי) sections (sections not attributed to a named Rabbi). The presence of these sections in the Bavli Talmud is considered a stylistic development achieved in the period right before its redaction, which was after the Yerushalmi was redacted.
    5. The Yerushalmi Gemara was written in Western Aramaic (ארמית) while the Bavli Talmud was written in Eastern Aramaic.
    6. The Yerushalmi Talmud quotes mostly Palestinian Amoraim (אמוראים) (the Rabbis of the Gemara period quoted in the Talmud) while the Bavli Talmud quotes mostly Babylonian Amoraim. The Bavli Talmud does quote some Palestinian Amoraim.
    7. The Bavli is a more polished and finished document. The Jerusalem Talmud was redacted around the late fourth century CE, while the Bavli was redacted a century or more later.
  5. 5. We seem to be exclusively studying the Babylonian Talmud? Don’t the Israeli Amoraim count for something?
    1. As stated, the Babylonian Talmud seems more completed, more refined, and at a higher literary level.
    2. Furthermore, the community in Babylon strengthened as a religious center while the community in Israel weakened.
    3. As a result of these factors, over time, the Babylonian Talmud has been accepted as the authoritative Talmud.
    4. The Jerusalem Talmud is mostly studied by scholars researching the development of the Talmud.
  1. 6. If the Mishnah and Gemara are independent documents, what is their relationship?
    1. The Gemara is a commentary on the Mishnah and so the starting point for each section of the Gemara is a section of Mishnah.
    2. The progenitor of the written Mishnah was the oral law or oral Mishnah. Therefore the style of the Mishnah was conducive to rote memorization. The Gemara, being a commentary on the written Mishnah was not designed to be memorized. So while the Mishnah is a very terse, compressed, dry, statement of legal practice, the Gemara is free-ranging, expansive, dialectical, sometimes in a stream of conscious style and having a well-developed literary form. It incorporates Agadah -(אגדה) storytelling and homiletic sections.
    3. The Gemara extensively quotes from the Mishnah within its text (as well as from other Tanaitic literature).
    4. To be clear, we have the Mishnah as a separate, independent document (book) from the Talmud. On the other hand large sections of the Mishnah (as was said above not all of the Mishnah was the subject of Gemara commentary) are quoted within the Talmud. In the Talmud the quoted Mishnah is broken up into small pieces with Gemara commentary following each piece.
  2. 7. Shas (ש״ס) is the name (acronym) of an Israeli Sephardic political party. But, how is the term ש״ס related to the Talmud?
    1. The Talmud's highest level partition is six "orders". ש״ס, is also the Hebrew acronym for ששה סדרים (Shisha Sedarim) which means six Orders.
    2. This also appears above the closest column to the binding on a Talmud page where the cross-references are listed.
    3. The Israeli political party is “The Union of Sephardim who are Guardians of the Torah” – a mouthful even in Hebrew. It was shortened to Shas - “Sephardic Guardians”
  3. 8. What are the two most popular editions of the Babylonian Talmud?
    1. Steinsaltz edition published by Koren
      1. Complete Hebrew version. English partly done.
      2. Electronic version available (pdf).
      3. Rashi commentary and Tosafot have added punctuation.
      4. Not literal translation.
      5. Not in Vilna layout.
      6. From the blog of Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel of Chula Vista, California:

        In many ways, R. Adin Steinsaltz deserves credit for starting the Talmudic revolution; he began making a Hebrew translation of the Talmud in 1965 and completed the project in 2010. This is no small feat. One could arguably say that R. Steinsaltz is like a modern day Rashi—a comparison that makes much of the Haredi world (who also happen to be the producers of the ArtScroll Talmud) bristle with disdain. Random House published a number of volumes between 1989 and 1999, but the project met with little success.
        The new Koren Edition of the Steinsaltz Talmud made several improvements in the design of the Talmudic text and added color pictures to illustrate the various creatures the Talmudists commented upon in their legal discussions. Steinsaltz did something very bold: he altered the text in order to make it a little less cumbersome for a growing and interested Israeli populace. ArtScroll considered Steinsaltz’s innovation heretical. Many Haredi friends of mine used to say, “Who does Steinsaltz think he is to change the Vilna Talmud?”[2] The fact that Steinsaltz is a Chabadnik may account for part of the animus the Litvisher yeshivas feel toward him. In addition, Steinsaltz added partial punctuation for the Tosafot, which made it eminently more readable. Talmudic purists generally look upon these types of innovations as crutches.
        Less than a decade ago, Steinsaltz gave in and finally made a Vilna version of his Talmud—one that would appeal to other young yeshiva students of the Haredi yeshivas

    2. Schottenstein edition published by ArtScroll
      1. Complete Hebrew & English versions
      2. Embraced by Haredi world
      3. Original in traditional Vilna layout
      4. From the blog of Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel of Chula Vista, California: The Schottenstein Edition of the Babylonian Talmud by ArtScroll (hence referred to as the “ArtScroll Talmud”) is much more of a Lithuanian rabbinical product—one which captures the rich intellectual environment of a forgotten era. Anyone who wants to delve into intricate halachic details of a Talmudic text will never tire studying the ArtScroll Talmud, which replicates most of the great debates of the Rishonim (medieval) and Achronim (modern rabbinical) scholars. Unlike the Steinsaltz edition, the ArtScroll edition is not terribly interested in the historicity on how the Talmud originated. Unlike R. Steinsaltz’s herculean stamina in producing his translation and commentary, ArtScroll uses a committee of several rabbinical scholars. In this sense, R. Steinsaltz is more like Rashi and Maimonides—both of whom did not employ a committee in producing their works. ArtScroll preserves the Vilna Talmudic text’s classical style. However, it is important to note that they too—like Steinsaltz—added a Modern Hebrew translation on the opposite side of the page (in the Hebrew editions). They did the same with their English translation as well. Each Hebrew page is contrasting a page of English translation—one Hebrew folio takes approximately six to eight pages of English to translate. This layout can be a tad bit tedious—certainly much more tedious than the Steinsaltz edition, or for that matter—the Vilna edition itself.

  4. 9. What is the hierarchical structure of the Talmud?
    1. The largest grouping is an “Order” or (סדר) (Seder, plural Sedarim). The orders are referred to by a descriptive name - a Hebrew word.
    2. Within each order are “Tractates” or (מסכות) (Masechet, plural Masachot). The Masechot are referred to by a descriptive name – a Hebrew or Aramaic word or phrase. Some longer Tractates are split into two books in the printed version. These books are referred to as 1 or 2. For example “יומא א” and “יומא ב are Yoma 1 and Yoma 2.
    3. Within the Tractates are Chapters (פרקים) (Perek, plural Perakim). These are typically referred to by the first word(s) in the Mishna Chapter, and by sequential number: 1, 2 … (or א, ב ... (. Each chapter typically contains several pairs of Mishnah and its associated Gemara and may range from a single page up to tens of pages.
    4. Orders, Tractates and Chapters in the Talmud derive from and refer to the same Orders, Tractates and Chapters in the Mishnah. In each of the two Talmuds there are some sections of the Mishnah with no associated Gemara. These sections of the Mishnah are part of the same system of Orders, Tractates and Chapters as the Mishnah sections for which Gemara exists.
    5. In the Mishnah, within each Chapter, sections of the Mishnah are referred to by sequential number: “Mishnah 1”, “Mishnah 2”… In our day, when referring to Mishna sections in the Talmud, we use the Talmud page number, rather than the Mishnah number.
    6. Page numbers reference pages and are sequential and continuous through each book. When one Masechet (Tractate) is split into two books the second book’s page numbers continue from those of the first.

  5. 10. How long is the Vilna edition of the Babylonian Talmud?
    1. 2,684 folios (דפים) - Dapim
    2. 5,368 pages (עמודים) - Amudim
    3. 1,833,967 Words (מילים) -Milim
  6. 11. The Interweb is full of ratings list: best 100 movies made, best classic rock songs, best poems, etc. Are there best section lists?
    1. You bet. There are numerous lists of most important Sugyot (סוגיות) - issues or questions, most provocative Sugyot, etc.

  7. 12. Does the Talmud include a legal code? Is it in part a law book?
    1. The Talmud is not a code of Jewish law, but is a fundamental authoritative reference for Jewish legal codes.
    2. The Talmud contains many discussions of law and legal issues but does not always resolve them clearly.
  8. 13. How is the name of the Talmud self-referenced within the Talmud itself?
    1. The word Talmud תלמוד appears frequently in the Talmud but it mostly refers to the Torah, not the Talmud.
  9. 14. How is the Talmud like an html (hypertext markup language) web page?
    1. Much of the Talmud has the same structure as a web page. Web pages contain hyperlinks to other web pages. The discussion in the Talmud is frequently interrupted by a conversation on another topic that may be directly or very indirectly related, before reverting back to the original topic at hand. In this way you could think of the Talmud as “conceptually hyperlinked”


  1. 1. What is the nah?
    1. If you can count to two in Hebrew or you have said the Sh’ma (שמע) you know the word “Mishnah”. From the Hebrew root שנה: to do something a second time (שני), to repeat, to repeat what one was taught, to learn by repeating. In the Sh’ma we say: ושננתם לבניך - You shall drill your children …
    2. In its most narrow sense the Mishnah refers to the version of the Oral Law redacted by Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi (רבי יהודה הנשיא) around 217CE.
    3. In a wider sense the Mishnah is the Oral Law (תורה שבעל פה) as understood by the scholars in Israel from the year 0 to 220CE. Israel was under Roman Empire occupation and called Judea. The scholars, called Tannaim (תנאים), nominally continued five generations starting with Rabbi Yohannan ben Zakai before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and ending with Rav (Rabbi Yehudah haNasi). About 120 Tannaim have been identified. At any given time there were complimentary and competing versions of the law at different academies in Israel, headed by different scholars.
    4. In a specific sense Mishnah can mean all the teachings of a particular Rabbi or the teaching of a particular Rabbi on one issue as in, "The Mishnah of R. Eleazar ben Azariah says that ...” The expressions "mishnah rishonah" = "the earlier view," and "mishnah aaronah" =”the later view”, refer to sequential points in a debate.
    5. In the Talmud, the official Mishnah is introduced as "Our Mishnah". מתניתין=מתני" (matneeteen) in Aramaic, משנתנו (mishnahtanu) in Hebrew.
    6. The rabbis who contributed to the Mishnah as well as other literature from that time are called תנאים (Tannaim). Many Hebrew words have an Aramaic analogue which is achieved by taking the ש in Hebrew and replacing it with a ת in Aramaic. The Aramaic root תנא = Tanah is like the Hebrew root Shana שנה, as in משנה Mishnah.
    7. In Modern Hebrew, a similar word spelled identically – Mishne (משנה) – means deputy or sub. The adjective Mishnee means secondary (משני).
  1. 2. If the nah is "Oral Law" why do we have it in writing?
    1. For most of its development the Mishnah was primarily transmitted orally. As stated, for much of its development the Oral Law was not one body.
    2. The Mishnah as redacted by Rabbi Yehudah was assumed to be recorded after Rabbi Yehudah's death but there is no consensus or evidence exactly when it occurred. Portions of the Mishnah may have been written down earlier.
  1. 3. What are the six orders of the nah?
    1. The acronym is: זמן נקט=Z'MaN NaKaT
      1. סדר זרעים Zera'im ("Seeds"), dealing with prayer and blessings, tithes and agricultural laws (11 tractates)
      2. סדר מועד Mo'ed ("Festival"), pertaining to the laws of the Sabbath and the Festivals (12 tractates)
      3. סדר נשים Nashim ("Women"), concerning marriage and divorce, some forms of oaths and the laws of the Nazirite (7 tractates)
      4. סדר נזיקין Nezikin ("Damages"), dealing with civil and criminal law, the functioning of the courts and oaths (10 tractates)
      5. סדר קדשים Kodashim ("Holy things"), regarding sacrificial rites, the Temple, and the dietary laws (11 tractates)
      6. סדר טהרות Tohorot ("Purities"), pertaining to the laws of purity and impurity, including the impurity of the dead, the laws of food purity and bodily purity (12 tractates).
    2. In each order (with the exception of Zeraim), tractates are arranged from biggest (in number of chapters) to smallest.
    3. There are a total of 63 מסכתות (tractates), 523 פרקים (chapters)
  1. 4. Who was Yehudah HaNasi, the redactor of the nah?
    1. Judah the Prince (Hebrew: יהודה הנשיא, Yehudah HaNasi) or Judah I, also known as Rebbi or Rabbenu HaQadosh (Hebrew: רבנו הקדוש, "our Master, the holy one").
    2. Judah the Prince was born in 135CE and died 72 years later in 217CE.
  2. 5. This is a little off topic but, I have heard about the many kings of Israel. The only prince I have heard of was the one in the animated movie about Moshe. Who was Rabbi Yehudah’s royal father and what was he a prince of?
    1. The English word “Prince” here has the old meaning of nobleman and local ruler, not the meaning of descendent of a King. Rabbi Yehudah had the title Prince by merit of his being head of the Great Sanhedrin. At that time, the leader of the Great Sanhedrin was the principal representative of the Jews in Judea to the local Roman rulers.
    2. In Exodus 8, it says that upon completion of the Tabernacle the tribal Princes – Nasiim (נשיאים) brought sacrifices. These were the political and military heads of the tribe.
    3. In Modern Hebrew Nasi (נשיא) means president of a country, state, or organization. A royal prince or a local ruler is called a Nasiach (נסיך). For example, the story named “The Little Prince” ( הנסיך הקטן)
  3. 6. What is naic Hebrew?
    1. Quoting form Wikipedia:
      Mishnaic Hebrew is found primarily from the 1st to the 4th centuries of the Christian Era, corresponding to the Roman period after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Also called Tanaitic Hebrew or Early Rabbinic Hebrew, the dialect is represented by the bulk of the Mishnah (
      משנה, published around 200) and the Tosefta within the Talmud, and by some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, notably the Copper Scroll, and the Bar Kokhba Letters. Dead Sea Scrolls Archaeologist Yigal Yadin mentions that 3 Bar Kokhba documents he and his team found at Nahal Hever are written in Mishnaic Hebrew. But Yadin mentions that it was Bar Kokhba who revived Hebrew language and made Hebrew the official language of the state during Bar Kokhba revolt. Yigal Yadin also noticed the shift from Aramaic to Hebrew during the time of Bar Kokhba revolt—in his book Bar Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Last Jewish Revolt Against Imperial Rome, Yadin notes, "It is interesting that the earlier documents are written in Aramaic while the later ones are in Hebrew. Possibly the change was made by a special decree of Bar-Kokhba who wanted to restore Hebrew as the official language of the state" (page 181). In Book "A Roadmap to the Heavens: An Anthropological Study of Hegemony among Priests, Sages, and Laymen (Judaism and Jewish Life)" by Sigalit Ben-Zion (Page 155), Yadin remarked: "it seems that this change came as a result of the order that was given by Bar Kokhba, who wanted to revive the Hebrew language and make it the official language of the state."
    1. This first collection of the Mishnah and its separation from the Midrash were intended, on the one hand, to reduce the traditional Halahah to a shorter form, and, on the other, to fix the disputed halahot. The isolation of the Halakah from the Midrash not only resulted in a shorter and more definite form, but also removed many differences then existing.
  1. 7. Why are the Rabbis of the naic time referred to as Tannaim?
    1. It may be that originally Tannaim referred to human recorders – people who had very good memories and could memorize and verbally recall sections of the law. These people were the reference library.
    2. At some point the name shifted to refer to the Rabbis who created the law and other literature of the time.
  1. 8. Who were the key Tannaim?
    1. Generation of the destruction (1st generation of Tannaim)
      1. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel
      2. Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai
      3. Rabbi Yehuda ben Baba
    1. Between the destruction of the Temple and Bar Kokhba's revolt (2nd generation)
      1. Rabbi Joshua ben Hannania
      2. Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurcanus
      3. Rabban Gamaliel of Yavne
      4. Rabbi Eleazar ben Arach
    1. Generation of Bar Kokhba's revolt (3rd generation of Tannaim)
      1. Rabbi Akiba
      2. Rabbi Tarfon
      3. Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha
      4. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah
      5. Rabbi Yose HaGelili
      6. Elisha ben Abuyah (the "Other" or apostate)
    1. After the revolt
      1. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel of Yavne
      2. Rabbi Meir
      3. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who, according to traditional lore, wrote the Zohar
      4. Rabbi Yose ben Halafta
      5. Rabbi Yehuda ben Ilai
      6. Rabbi Nehemiah
    1. Compilers of the Mishnah (5th generation of Tannaim)
      1. Rabbi Yose
      2. Rabbi Yishmael
      3. Rabbi Shimon
      4. Rabbi Nathan
      5. Rabbi Hiyya
      6. Rabbi Judah HaNasi (known simply as Rabbi or Rebbi); compiled the Mishnah
  1. 9. I’ve also heard the Tannaim called the Chazal (חז״ל). What’s the difference?
    1. Chazal stands for "akhameinu Zikhronam Liv'rakha"
      (חכמינו זכרונם לבברכה) our “Our Sages of Blessed Memory”. This term generally refers to Rabbis that lived over an 800 year period, starting about 200 years before the Tannaim, then including the Tannaim, and then continuing 400 more years through the period of the Amoraim and Savoraim (who constructed the Talmud).


  1. 1. What does Gemara גמרא mean?
    1. Gemara, an Aramaic word, means to complete to supplement, to settle and to teach.

  2. 2. Who were the אמוראים )Amoraim( and what did they have to say?
    1. Amoraim is Aramaic for those who say. Jewish scholars after Yehudah HaNasi, which is after the close of the Mishnaic era, are referred to as Amoraim. There are nominally eight generations of Amoraim from about the year 230 – 500 CE.
    2. The written record of their thought is the Gemara.
    3. The Talmud refers to Amoraim as teacher’s assistants who would repeat and amplify in both volume and detail a teacher’s oratory.
  3. 3. How is the Gemara constructed?
    1. The Gemara is presented as a single document but has several identifiable layers:
      1. Memra – older sections. Collections of statements attributed to a specific Amorah. The word Memra has the same root as the word Amorah. The root means “to say”. The Memrot are about 85% in Hebrew and 15% in Aramaic. To add to the confusion, the word Memra has an entirely separate meaning of divine power or divine power through speech, or divinity. This is similar to Logos and was carried over into Christian theology. If you search the internet for Memra most of the return references are Memra as Logos.
      2. The Gemara itself quotes from Mishnaic sources – the Tannaim – that were not included in the Mishnah itself. These are called Baraitot (ברייתא, ברייתות) in Aramaic, meaning external. While the name itself, Baraitot, is Aramaic, the content of Baraitot are written in Mishnaic Hebrew.
      3. Shakla & Tarya
      4. The Stamim layer. The Stamim were the last of the Amoraim – the last editors of the Talmud in the 6th to 8th century CE. They are called Stamim because they presented themselves anonymously, unlike the earlier Amoraim.
  4. 4. Are Shakla and Tarya two Borsht belt comedians?
    1. Shakla & Tarya (שקלא וטריא ) in Aramaic means the debate, discourse, and negotiation on a given topic in the Gemara. It was adopted into Modern Hebrew as a synonym for negotiation.

  5. 5. I know where the meat is in the Talmud, but where’s the Sugyot (plural of Sugya)?
    1. A סוגיה is a section of the Talmud that consists of a discussion on a topic. It may also include side discussions of other issues. That is the discussion may start on topic A, jump off to topic B and then return and conclude the discussion of topic A.
    2. The Sugya usually starts with a section of Mishnah. Its end may be indicated by a section of Mishnah because that following Mishnah is the start of the following Sugya.
    3. Unlike a chapter or verse, it is not necessarily marked off or punctuated in any identifiable way.
    4. Fundamentally a Sugya is identified by the logical coherence and completeness of its content.
  1. 6. With great effort, I learned a little Hebrew. Why the @#!! is the Gemara written in another language that I don't know – Aramaic?
    1. What is amazing is that in the main Jewish canon, only a small portion of Scripture, the Gemara, and a few prayers were handed down to us in Aramaic.
    2. In the Tanach, besides contained instances of short length, only the Books of Daniel & Ezra contain sections in Aramaic.
    3. Other important literature in Aramaic are the Aggadic Midrashim and the Zohar and the Targum (which is not per se a foundational document).
    4. Aramaic, also called Syriac, is very close to Hebrew. It came to Israel from the Arameans, also called Syrians from the area of modern day Syria. This is the place where Abraham and Rebecca came from.
    5. Of course, Aramaic should be in the Jewish cultural DNA, if not the genetic DNA, from Biblical times since, as Deuteronomy 26 tells us, “My father was a wandering Aramean…” (ארמי אובד אבי)
    6. From sometime around the return from Assyrian exile (538 BCE) Aramaic became the vernacular of the Jews in Israel. It was possibly the result of the political dominance of Assyria and Babylonia as well as the influence of the returning exiles. Hebrew was reserved for religious purposes.
    7. Aramaic remained the vernacular of Jews in Israel until Arabic took over in the ninth century CE.
    8. Aramaic is written with Hebrew letters - but this implies the wrong causality. Ancient Hebrew was written in a Phoenician like script. As a result of the dominance of Aramaic, Hebrew writing converted to the Aramaic script - similar to Modern Hebrew lettering. The consonants in Aramaic and Hebrew were essentially identical. The Modern Hebrew Alphabet is called “square” or “block” script.
  2. 7. In modern Hebrew “Stam” ( (סתםis an adverb that means “just because” or “for no reason”. As in, I asked my older brother, “Why did you grab my cellphone? He responded, “Stam”.
    Why are so many statements in the Talmud called Stam?
    1. Stam, or the adjective Stami, means an unattributed statement. The authors of this statement are sometimes called Stamim. In Heb-glish the statements are called Stamaitic.
    2. These statements are assumed to either be an anonymous collective opinion contemporaneous with the earlier periods of Talmudic development or the opinion of the editors in the later periods, who were rarely named.

  3. 8. So we understand the Talmud references the Mishnah that it is commenting on, and other Tanaitic literature. What else does the Talmud reference?
    1. It cross-references other places in both the Mishnah & Gemara.
    2. It references Biblical verses, sometimes by quoting the first few words only. The reader is expected to recognize the verse.
  1. 9. The Gemara quotes from several different kind of Tanaitic literature? What are they and how do we recognize these quotations?
    1. As stated above the Gemara quotes and references the Mishnah – both the Mishnah portion being commented out as well as other pieces of Mishnah.
    2. Inclusions from Tanaitic literature besides the Mishnah are called Baraitot, meaning things external.
      1. The Gemara references both the legal Midrash and the Aggadic Midrash.
      2. The Gemara references Tosefta which are collections of Mishnaic like material in an expanded form.
      3. The Gemara references teachings attributed to specific Tannaim (Rabbis of the Mishnaic era)
      4. The Gemara references anonymous teachings attributed to the Tannaim.
  1. 10. Wouldn’t it be great if the teacher in our Talmud class would announce, “And hee…eerr…rr’s the next Baraita!” Not likely to happen. In lieu of that how do I recognize the Baraitot:
    1. The language switches from Aramaic to Hebrew.
    2. The quote is introduced with some form of the word “they taught or he taught or it was taught, etc. They taught in Aramaic is “Tanu” (תנו), which, again, is like the Hebrew “Shanu” (שנו). Who does the subject pronoun “they” refer to? The Tannaim. HaTannaim tanu. As you remember, the Tannaim are the Mishnaic era Rabbis, which, bingo, are the source of Baraitot.
    3. Some of the alternative forms used are: (sometimes preceded by prefixes such as : ד, ה, וה):
      1. תנו רבנן (ת"ר), תנו עלה Tanu Rabbanan, Tanu Alah
      2. תנא ר' פלוני ,תנא, תנאה Tana Rabi Paloni (so-and-so), Tana, Tanah
      3. תני ,תניא, תניתוה Tani, Tani,
      4. תא שמע (Ta Shma – sometimes refers to a Baraita, sometimes to a different reference)

  2. 11. The Gemara describes in great detail Temple law and practice and the laws regarding the priests. They seem to hold the Temple in great reverence. We also prey for the Temple to be reinstated three times a day in the Amidah prayer. The Temple Institute (מכון המקדש ) (WWW.TEMPLEINSTITUTE.ORG) is working towards creating a Third Temple in the near future. What is the Gemara’s attitude toward the lost Temple and its rituals?
    1. What’s below is obviously editorial opinion!
    2. On the face of it the Gemara preserves the memory, history and detailed description of the processes so that another working Temple could be rebuilt.
    3. On the other hand, knowing that there was no Temple, the Rabbis created an alternative Judaism that was intact and self-sufficient without the Temple practice.
    4. It seems obvious that if the Temple were to exist today the Temple service would be in conflict to the system that the Rabbis set-up. The Temple may sound to Jews today like a giant slaughterhouse. We think the main problem with a modern Temple is that today both Jews and most other people in the world do not praise God by animal sacrifice. But this is not the main problem. Temple service is problematic even if they were sacrificing celery. For the people of the time the Temple was one of the main spiritual mechanisms to connect to God. The Kohanim were intermediaries between the people and God, having a special kind of holiness. People came to the Temple and to Jerusalem to worship because God was located there. Judaism today, as in Talmudic times, is practiced without those kind of intermediaries and without different degrees of holiness in the public. We relate to God locally where we live, in group prayer, study and at family and group rituals and celebrations. Of course, the Jewish population today could not show up to the Temple for the pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot).
    5. Another issue is that the priests were not just Temple functionaries. They had a social status and function in the community, they had political power and influence, they were a factor in the economy and controlled economic assets. In historical times, the priests were sometimes in conflict with the Rabbis. Priests were not interested in the Rabbis development of ex-Temple religious practice. A model of some aspects of what Jewish priests might be today are priests in the Catholic Church.
    6. The conclusion here is that if the Temple were built tomorrow it could only be run as a symbolic exercise. Judaism, both modern and in Talmudic times, has filled the hole left by the absent Temple with alternate practices and theology that are not so easy to undo.

Tanaitic Literature

  1. 1. Tosefta sounds like a fancy Italian dessert but it’s actually a Jewish legal book. Who created it and when?
    1. There is no agreement who authored the Tosfeta and when it was recorded.
    2. Tradition says that the authors were Rabbis Hiyya and Hoshaya, but this is considered after the fact attribution.
  2. 2. How are the Mishnah, the Tosefta & Baraitot related?
    1. The משנה as we have it is largely what Rav redacted. He excluded other versions of the law - some supported and concurred with what was included, some were complimentary in the sense that they didn't support or contradict, and some were in opposition to what he included.
    2. Baraitot ברייתא, ברייתות - meaning external in Aramaic are Tannaitic material not found in Rav's official Mishnah, but quoted or referred to in the Gemara. The Gemara quotes numerous Baraitot. They have a lesser authority than the Mishnah itself but more authority than the later Rabbis’ (the Amoraim) statements in the Gemara.
    3. Baraitot come from a number of sources:
      1. Tosefta - תוספתא meaning addendum. They are like Mishnayot in a more verbose form with added explanation - a somewhat independent collection of Mishnayot from “The Mishnah”, that is Rabbi Yehuda’s Mishnah. The exact development of the Tosefta is unknown. Quotations and excerpts from the תוספתא are included in the Gemara and because of the context of their being included in the Gemara these excerpts are considered Baraitot.
      2. Midrash (מדרש). Excerpts from the Halachic and Aggadic Midrashim are quoted in the Gemara.
      3. Other Baraitot may not be found in either of the above two named sources. Or, they may be similar to text in the above sources but have evolved.
        1. Some of this Tannaitic material is attributed in the Gemara to a specific Rabbis.
        2. A lot of it is quoted without attribution.
    4. The Gemara is mostly written in Aramaic. More specifically in Eastern Syriac. Baraitot, while part of the Gemara, are written in Mishnaic Hebrew.
  3. 3. What other important Jewish texts were developed at the time of the Mishnah?
    1. Tosfeta –a Mishnah like document. In structure somewhere in between the Mishnah & Talmud. Contains statements of law ordered in a similar way to the Mishnah but much more verbose like a proto Gemara. Statements of law sometimes agree and sometimes disagree with Mishnah and Baraitot.
    2. Midrash Halacha – written in both the Tanaitic and Amoraic periods.
    3. Baraitot Source– While the word Baraitot refers to quotations from the Tannaim in the Talmud that are not in the Mishnah, it seems clear that they must have come from source(s) – other Mishnayot – developed by the Tannaim
  4. 4. In my synagogue, the Rabbi would sometimes comment, "There is a Midrash that says ....". He would then tell a fanciful story about a Biblical figure. Is the Midrash a collection of fanciful stories about Biblical figures?
    1. מדרש from the root "to seek", "to study", "to inquire", or "to investigate" refers to the exegesis (or hermeneutics or text interpretation)of the Bible, in particular to extract moral, ethical and legal precepts.
    2. מדרש are a collection of works by different authors some called מדרש הלכה (Halachic Midrash) - relating to law, and some called מדרש אגדה (Aggadic Midrash) - ethical, homiletical.
    3. The earlier Midrashim were composed in the Tanaitic period, before or contemporaneous with the development of the Mishnah.
    4. The last four books of the Torah (excluding בראשית) have associated legal Midrashim.
    5. The Midrash, unlike the Mishnah, is a direct commentary on the Torah. They follow the Torah verse by verse.

  5. 5. So why is my Rabbis sermon called a D’rash ?
    1. While your Rabbi may be talking about the last elections they are supposed to be teaching Torah. D’rash here means something expounded from the Torah or other Jewish text.
    2. Modern Hebrew has another meaning for the root דרש – which is to demand. So if your Israeli boss tells you that he or she has a few דרשות (Drashot meaning demands) for you today it is unlikely you will be handed pages containing Torah commentary.
  6. 6. How is the Mishnah different than the Halachic Midrashim?
    1. While most discussions in the Mishnah concern the correct way to carry out laws recorded in the Torah, it usually presents its conclusions without explicitly linking them to any scriptural passage, though scriptural quotations do occur. For this reason it is arranged in order of topics rather than in the form of a Biblical commentary. (In a very few cases, there is no scriptural source at all and the law is described as Halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai, law to Moses from Sinai.) The Midrash halakha, by contrast, while presenting similar laws, does so in the form of a Biblical commentary and explicitly links its conclusions to details in the Biblical text. These Midrashim often predate the Mishnah.
  1. 7. What is the connection between the Tosafot (תוספות) and the Tosefta (תוספתא). Is Tosafot just the plural of the Tosefta?
    1. The Tosefta and the Tosafot have nothing at all to do with each other.
    2. The Tosefta are Supplementary Mishnaic Material
    3. The Tosafot are Supplements to Rashi’s Talmud commentary
    4. But you are right in thinking they sound the same. Tosefta, in Aramaic, and Tosafot, in Hebrew both mean Supplement(s).
    5. They both come from the root that means “to add”, like the name of that government commodities trader erstwhile slave, Yosef.

Jewish Law

  1. 1. Judaism has lots of categories for laws. What do the terms Written Torah, Biblical Law, Oral Law, the Law of Moses from Sinai, Rabbinic Law, and Mishnaic Law signify
    1. תורה שבכתב (Written Torah). The 24 book Jewish Biblical Canon including the Five Books of Moses, The Prophets and the Writings. Also called המקרא (The Mikrah) and ה"תנך (The Tanach). Tanach is an acronym for תורה (Torah), נביאים (Prophets), and כתובים (Writings)
    2. מקראית הלכה )Biblical Law) - The 613 commandments in the Torah (Five Books of Moses). Also laws that may not be explicitly stated in the Torah but are considered obvious corollaries to those stated in the Torah.
    3. תורה שבעל פה (Oral Law). In a strict sense all the scribal interpretations of Torah Law. In a broader sense all Rabbinic Law including: the Gemara, the Mishnah, Halachic Midrashim, and the Tosefta. Orthodox Judaism believes that Oral law is in some way divinely communicated. Some of it was considered to communicated from one generation to the next, beginning with Moshe. As far as new laws that clearly did not originate from Moshe, I personally get the impression that they are considered by Orthodoxy as divine laws of nature. In a similar way that Newton discovered the law of gravity but gravity was always present, the Sages discovered the Oral Laws by means of faith, logic and knowledge of existing laws.
    4. הלכה למשה מסיני (Law of Moses from Sinai) in a literal sense is the law that by tradition was transmitted from God to Moses on Mt. Sinai and then transmitted orally down through the generations. The Rabbis also used it prosaically to indicated older laws whose origins were unknown or newer laws that were considered obvious and accepted without question.
    5. דאורייתא (De-'oraita) is Aramaic for "of the Torah". It refers to Biblical Law.
    6. דרבנן (De-rabanan) is Aramaic for "of the Rabbis". It refers to Rabbinic Law.
  1. 2. Who are the "Karaite Jews"?
    1. A key belief of יהדות קראית Karaite Judaism is the rejection of Rabbinic Law and "Oral Law". They only follow Biblical law. However, it’s a slippery slope. They still “interpret” Biblical law. The name is similar to the Hebrew word for Bible: מקרא. The Karaite sect developed in the 8th century and at its peak included more than a third of Jews. There are Karaite centers today in Israel and in Los Angeles.
  2. 3. Who else didn’t cotton to Rabbinic law?
    1. Tzadokim צדוקים originally referred to a priestly clan. In the late Second Temple Period the term referred to a group of high status culturally elite priests. In English we call them the Sadducees. The Saduccees resisted the development of Oral Law, and that opposition was one of the several bones of contention between them and the Pharisees, the latter being more associated with scribes and teachers. This group of cultural elite came to an inglorious end. As President Donald Trump commented, “They are so sad, you see…”
    2. Early Reform Judaism, in its attempt to contract the body of Jewish Law, emphasized Biblical Law over Rabbinic Law.
  1. 4. What is the legal structure of the Mishnah?
    1. Most of the Mishnah is related without attribution סתם(stam). This usually indicates that many sages taught so, or that Yehudah HaNasi (often called simply "Rabbi") ruled so. The halakhic ruling usually follows that view. Sometimes, however, it appears to be the opinion of a single sage, and the view of the sages collectively (Hebrew: חכמים, hachamim) is given separately.
  1. 5. You mentioned the different kinds of Jewish Law. But what is the overall theory or principle of Jewish Law?
    1. The first thing to say about the theory of Jewish Law, as well as the theory of any legal system, is that it is less important than you might think. Many books have been written on the theory of Jewish law. I haven’t read any of them, have you? Most people including those who accept Jewish Law entirely, those who reject it entirely, and those who follow it to a degree, have not made their choices based on an understanding of the theory of Jewish Law. In Deuteronomy 5:23 the Children of Israel famously say to Moshe when God is about to relate the ten commandments:
      “You approach God our Lord, and listen to all He says. You can transmit to us whatever God our Lord tells you, and when we hear it, we will do it.”

(כג) קְרַב אַתָּה וּשְׁמָע אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר יֹאמַר יְיה אֱלֹהֵינוּ וְאַתְּ תְּדַבֵּר אֵלֵינוּ אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ אֵלֶיךָ וְשָׁמַעְנוּ וְעָשִׂינוּ.

We are not so different today from when we were touring the Sinai Peninsula. This is also true in the case of American civil law. People in America choose to follow the law or break the law, but most do not concern themselves with legal theory.
Who thinks about legal theory? Those that do fall into two groups: on the one hand there are legal scholars and on the other there are those who want to change the law – redirect the ship. An example of the latter in American law is the people who want to extend or limit the power of the federal government to have legal control over certain areas of social or economic life. Or people who want to extend or limit gun ownership rights based on the constitution. In Jewish law we find groups that want to reform the law to concur with modern social norms, such as extending the rights and powers of women.

    1. A last, somewhat oblique, point of reference about the small intersection of legal theory and everyday practice would be physical natural law. Most humans, animals and plants have learned how to function under the pull of Earth’s gravity but very few of them study Newton’s or Einstein’s equations. We can learn how to function within the framework of the law without knowing the theory behind it.

In spite of the arguments above, because law is so important in the Talmud, not to mention in Judaism, we have to jump into the legal theory swimming pool.

  1. 6. So I think I understand that Torah law takes precedence over Mishnaic era law (The Mishnah, Tosefta and other Baraitot), and that Mishnaic era law takes precedence over Amoraic era law (Babylonian Gemara). Is this correct?
    1. Yes, of course. But not always. Actually, “It’s complicated.”
    2. There are two relevant proof texts. The first, in Devarim Chap. 13, says:
      כָּל-הַדָּבָר, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם--אֹתוֹ תִשְׁמְרוּ, לַעֲשׂוֹת: לֹא-תֹסֵף עָלָיו, וְלֹא תִגְרַע מִמֶּנּוּ. “All this word which I command you, that shall ye observe to do; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”
      The second, consisting of four verses in Chap. 17, says:
      “If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, even matters of controversy within thy gates; then shalt thou arise, and get thee up unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose.”
      ” And thou shall come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days; and thou shalt inquire; and they shall declare unto thee the sentence of judgment.”
      “And thou shalt do according to the tenor of the sentence, which they shall declare unto thee from that place which the LORD shall choose; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they shall teach thee.”
      “According to the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do; thou shalt not turn aside from the sentence which they shall declare unto thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.”
      The first says not to change the law and the second says describes how the law should be interpreted. This is very similar to the US constitution without the amendment process and the US Supreme court.
    3. There are two approaches to interpretation of a fundamental document like the Torah or a civil constitution. The first, called strict constructionism, mandates deviating as little as possible from the original intent, as Devarim Chap 13 instructs. The second, known as judicial activism, allows judges to alter the law, that is to legislate, to account for their understanding of changing societal needs and norms, new technology, new social and economic relationships and institutions, etc. The Sadducees and the Karaites took the first approach while the Rabbis took the second.
    4. The Rabbis both created new law, changed existing Torah and Rabbinic law, and abrogated some of those laws. This involved both positive and negative commandments form the Torah as well as longstanding practices understood to be under the purview of Oral Law.
    5. A large number of new laws fall into the category of “making a fence” which means adding laws to limit behavior that could lead to not following one of the Torah laws. For example, the Torah says,
      “You shall not boil a kid (immature male goat) in its mother’s milk.”
      There is no detailed written record of the extension of this precept into today’s Kashrut standard. One could imagine this as the following sequence of prohibitions:
      1. Don’t boil an immature goat of either sex in its mother’s milk.
      2. Don’t boil any immature goat in milk from any lactating goat.
      3. Don’t boil any goat meat, immature or adult, with any goat milk.
      4. Don’t eat any goat meat with any goat milk, whether boiled or otherwise cooked together or not and regardless of the temperature of the milk and meat.
      5. Don’t eat any goat with a goat milk product like cheese, butter or yoghurt.
      6. Don’t eat any other domesticated mammal with any milk or milk product from the same species.
      7. Don’t eat any mammalian meat with milk from any mammalian species, the same or not.
      8. Don’t eat a bird with milk from a mammal.
      9. Don’t consume milk products before or after meat without allowing for a separation time: six hours separation from a meat meal to a milk meal and one to six hours from a milk meal to a meat meal depending on the foods.
      10. Don’t use dishes, cookware or utensils for a milk meal that have been used for a meat meal, and vice-versa.
      11. By custom, some don’t eat fish and milk together.

Some speculate that the original verse in Exodus 34 was not speaking about human food consumption and was subsequently misconstrued.

In the end, though, this is the study of history. If one accepts the validity of the process of enactment of Jewish law and the weight of millennium of practice the development process is not a determining factor for observing the current law or practice.

    1. In some cases the Rabbis acknowledged that they were changing the law. This means they stated what they were changing and the reason for the change. But in many cases, perhaps most, changes were presented as a corrected interpretation or new discovery of original intent – a pattern that continues to this day. A famous example of this is the lex talonis laws in VaYikrah Chap 24: “If anyone maims his fellow, as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The injury he inflicted on another shall be inflicted on him.” In the Talmud, Masechet Bava Kama, Chap 8, the Amoraim discussed the clear contradiction between the Torah text, which says the injured party can similarly injure his assailant, and the Mishnah text, which specifies only monetary compensation. The Talmud Sugya contains a lengthy argument which revolves around the assumption that the Torah simply did not mean what it plainly said.

Talmud Layout – Vilna Edition

  1. 1. What is the difference between the A (א) side of the page and the B (ב)?
    1. The basic page number follows the folio system where two pages have the same number but are differentiated by being “A” or “B”. In this system, the number refers to a “Leaf” (דף=Daf) the A or B, designates a "Page” (עמוד=Amud).
    2. Page 1 is the cover sheet so the first content page is page 2A. Thus, the page order in one book is: 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B …
    3. To understand the page numbering picture an open book. The page on the right, where the binding is on the left and the page edge is on the right, is called “verso”. The page on the left, called “recto”, is the page where the binding is on the right and the page edge is on the left. Does this sound backwards? It is. The nomenclature was first used for languages that are read left-to-right, like English. For the case of left-to-right languages the page names are flipped; the verso page is on the left and the recto page is on the right. The system is set-up that for both left-to-right and right-to-left languages you normally read the verso page first and then the recto.
    4. In the Talmud, these two sides together constitute a leaf and have the same leaf number. The recto is the “A” page and the verso is the “B” page.
    5. Traditionally, the leaf number is printed on the upper left corner (page edge side) of the A pages. So on the upper left of the first recto page (A page) would be a “ב - that is page 2 -(with nothing indicating A or B). At the top of the next recto page would be a “ג”, and so on.
    6. In modern editions, the sequential Arabic page number is printed on the upper right corner (page edge side) of the verso pages. So on the upper right corner of the first verso page is printed a “4”. Numbers 1 and 2 refer to the cover pages and are skipped. The odd Arabic page numbers correspond to the recto pages and are not printed. So the second verso page has a “6” on it, and so on.
    1. A variation of the system is to substitute a period for the “A” or “א” and substitute a colon for the “B” or “ב” that determine the verso or recto. The page numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 would then be ב. ב: ג. ג: ד. ד:










How referred to




Title Page









2A| ב. | ב ע"א | ב'א דף ב עמוד א |





2B| ב: | ב ע"ב | ב'ב דף ב עמוד ב |





3A| ג. | ג ע"א | ג'א דף ג עמוד א |





3B| ג: | ג ע"ב | ג'ב דף ג עמוד ב |





4A| ד. | ד ע"א | ד'א דף ד עמוד א |





4B| ד: | ד ע"ב | ד'ב דף ד עמוד ב |

    1. As far as content, the recto and verso pages have the same structure and type of content, but the content layout is mirror image. Whatever is either on the binding or page edge side on the recto pages is also on the same binding or page edge side of the verso pages.
    2. One book is usually one Tractate but a few Tractates are split into two books. For multi-volume Tractates the page numbers continue from one volume to the next. So, if Volume 1 ends on 99B, Volume 2 will start on 100A.
  1. 2. How many columns are their typically in the Talmud
    1. There are five columns.
    2. The Talmud text itself, consisting of the Mishnah and Gemara is in the center column.
    3. The column one inward towards the page binding from the center is Rashi’s commentary. Each section of this commentary references a word or phrase from the Talmud. These words or phrases are used as headings for the commentary and appear in boldface type.
    4. The column one outward is from the Tosafot. These are commentary by Rashi’s descendants, both intellectual descendants and descendants by relationship.
    5. The two outer most columns – touching the page edge margin and the bound edge margin are cross references both to other places in the Talmud and to legal works outside the Talmud and excerpts from other commentators. These columns are usually examined with the aid of an electron microscope.
    6. Besides other commentaries, the Msoret HaShas references appear in the innermost column and the Ein Mispat and Nar Mitvah appear in the outermost column.
  1. 3. What is the traditional layout of the Talmud?
    1. From Wikipedia, " The Vilna Edition of the Talmud, printed in Vilna (now Vilnius), Lithuania, is by far the most common printed edition of the Talmud still in use today as the basic text for Torah study in yeshivas and by all scholars of Judaism. It was typeset by the Widow Romm and Brothers of Vilna. This edition comprises 37 volumes and contains the entire Babylonian Talmud. This edition was first printed in the 1870s and 1880s, but it continues to be reproduced photomechanically all around the world.

  2. 4. How do you find a particular page reference in the Talmud?
    1. The first type of reference is to the tractate (מסכת) and chapter (פרק). For example, “Berachot, Chap 1” or “ברכות, פרק א
    2. The second part of the reference is to the Daf and page, as detailed above.
  3. 5. Some modern versions of the Talmud are punctuated (i.e. Steinsaltz). The original versions of the Talmud were, like our Torah today, unpunctuated. What were they thinking when they omitted periods, commas and other punctuation from the original Talmud?
    1. Most languages in the Middle East in ancient times were unpunctuated or lightly punctuated. Punctuation is a relatively modern invention.
    2. The scrolls of the Tanach that we read from are still unpunctuated.
    3. At one point the Talmud had four punctuation marks consisting of one dot (similar to a period), two dots (similar to a colon), three dots (similar to a colon next to a period), and four dots (similar to a pair of colons).
    4. Today in punctuated Talmud text, one can find the familiar, commas, periods, question marks, colons, exclamation marks and quotation marks.
    5. Section marks indicate Mishnah or Baraitot quotations.

  4. 6. What are the other funny marks attached to the Talmud text? I see parentheses, square brackets, asterisks, hollow circles, superscripted letters, superscripted Rashi script letters in parentheses and some phrases in Rashi script.
    1. Text in parenthesis is doubtful text – and editorial deletion is proposed. Text in square brackets is an editorial addition/emendation.
    2. The other marks are all some kind of reference to commentary.


  1. 1. Why did Rashi decide to invent a script, known as “Rashi Script”, for his Talmud commentary?
    1. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi), the great medieval French Bible and Talmud commentator, did not use or invent Rashi script.
    2. Rashi script is a form of Sephardic cursive writing that was employed as a printed font for Rashi’s commentary in printed editions of the Bible and Talmud. The script originated in Second Temple times.
    3. The purpose of printing Rashi’s commentaries and other commentaries in a distinct script is so they can be set on the book page adjacent to the original text (that is the Bible or Talmud text) but not be conflated with it.
  2. 2. What's a good method to learn to read Rashi script?
    1. Use a word processor, like Microsoft Word.
    2. Download a Rashi script font. I used “Mekorot-Rashi”
    3. Make a table showing the Hebrew alphabet and the equivalent Rashi script letters.
    4. Take a Hebrew text that you are familiar with, such as a song, a prayer, a Biblical passage, etc. Find it on the internet with your favorite search engine and copy it into a Word document. Change the Hebrew font to Rashi script and print it out. Now you have a practice text.
    5. I can email my version of the practice table if you contact me.
  3. 3. Well if the reference to Shas in the Talmud doesn’t refer to the Mizrachi political party, I assume Mesoret HaShas (מסורת הש"ס) doesn’t refer to the party flag and other accoutrements. So what is Mesoret Ha Shas?
    1. It is a cross-reference within the Babylonian Talmud, originated in Italy by a Spanish Rabbi, Joshua Boaz Mevorakh.
    2. There are two notation systems.
      1. In one an asterisk is placed in the Gemara text and the matching note is found by moving your finger horizontally towards the binding.
      2. A more compressed system uses numbered footnotes (א, ב, ...)

Class Study

  1. 1. In class or not, what blessing do you use to sanctify study?
    1. “… Who has commanded us to be involved with Torah”
      וציוונו לעסוק בדברי תורה)

  2. 2. How do you end after study with teachers?
    1. The class says the “Rabbis Kaddish” (קדיש דרבנן)

  3. 3. What do you do when you finish studying a Tractate of the Talmud?
    1. There is generally a Siyum (סיום) ceremony / party. Similar to how we cycle the Torah reading on Simchat Torah, a little bit of the Tractate that is being finished is read, as well as a little bit of the next tractate up for study.
    2. At the end of the Tractate being finished there is the Hadran Alecha (הדרן עלך) - We will return to you prayer.
    3. You recite the Kaddish which, strangely, is also recited at funerals.
    4. The Rabbi gives a discourse on what was learned, called a Hadran speech.