Talmud

central text of Rabbinic Judaism

The Talmud (Hebrew: תלמוד) is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism. It is considered to be an authoritative record of rabbinic discussions on Jewish law, Jewish ethics, customs, legends and stories, tracing back to the traditions of the Pharisees.

A complete set of the Babylonian Talmud.
A page from the Rosh Hashanah tractate. The center column contains the Talmud text: first the Mishnah, and then the Gemara, which is marked with the abbreviation גמ׳ (gimel-mem). Surrounding it is the commentary (Rashi on the right, Tosafot on the left), with notes and cross references in the margins. The commentary is written in Rashi script.
An early manuscript, with commentary by Rashi, written in Rashi script. The commentary is at the bottom of the right column, continuing into the left column.
A modern Talmud, the Koren Talmud Bavli, with illustrations, translations into English, and a commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Modern commentaries are not uncontroversial: leading members of the Jewish community have campaigned for a book ban of Steinsaltz' works, deeming his writing style to be too secular.
Yeshiva pupils studying the Talmud.
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Quotes from the TalmudEdit

GodEdit

Wikipedia page: God in Judaism.
 
"The Divine Presence rests upon an individual neither from an atmosphere of sadness, nor from an atmosphere of laziness, nor from an atmosphere of laughter, nor from an atmosphere of frivolity, nor from an atmosphere of idle conversation, nor from an atmosphere of idle chatter, but rather from an atmosphere imbued with the joy of a mitzva." (Shabbat 30b:5)
  • The Divine Presence rests upon an individual neither from an atmosphere of sadness, nor from an atmosphere of laziness, nor from an atmosphere of laughter, nor from an atmosphere of frivolity, nor from an atmosphere of idle conversation, nor from an atmosphere of idle chatter, but rather from an atmosphere imbued with the joy of a mitzva.

Saving a lifeEdit

  • For anybody who destroys a single life it is counted as if he destroyed an entire world, and for anybody who preserves a single life it is counted as if he preserved an entire world.
    • Jerusalem Talmud Sanhedrin 4:9:1
    • Variants:
      • With regard to anyone who destroys one soul from the Jewish people, i.e., kills one Jew, the verse ascribes him blame as if he destroyed an entire world, as Adam was one person, from whom the population of an entire world came forth. And conversely, anyone who sustains one soul from the Jewish people, the verse ascribes him credit as if he sustained an entire world.
      • With regard to anyone who destroys one soul from the Jewish people, i.e., kills one Jew, the verse ascribes him blame as if he destroyed an entire world, as Adam was one person, from whom the population of an entire world came forth. And conversely, anyone who sustains one soul from the Jewish people, the verse ascribes him credit as if he sustained an entire world.
      • Whoever destroys a single life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life is considered by Scripture to have saved the whole world.
      • That is why We ordained for the Children of Israel that whoever takes a life—unless as a punishment for murder or mischief in the land—it will be as if they killed all of humanity; and whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity.
      • Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

The Golden RuleEdit

 
"That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation." (Shabbat 31a:6)
  • That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.

Majority ruleEdit

  • Rabbi Eliezer then said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, Heaven will prove it. A Divine Voice emerged from Heaven and said: Why are you differing with Rabbi Eliezer, as the halakha is in accordance with his opinion in every place that he expresses an opinion? Rabbi Yehoshua stood on his feet and said: It is written: "It is not in heaven" (Deuteronomy 30:12). The Gemara asks: What is the relevance of the phrase "It is not in heaven" in this context? Rabbi Yirmeya says: Since the Torah was already given at Mount Sinai, we do not regard a Divine Voice, as You already wrote at Mount Sinai, in the Torah: "After a majority to incline" (Exodus 23:2). Since the majority of Rabbis disagreed with Rabbi Eliezer's opinion, the halakha is not ruled in accordance with his opinion. The Gemara relates: Years after, Rabbi Natan encountered Elijah the prophet and said to him: What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do at that time, when Rabbi Yehoshua issued his declaration? Elijah said to him: The Holy One, Blessed be He, smiled and said: My children have triumphed over Me; My children have triumphed over Me.

ObservanceEdit

  • My son, be careful to fulfill the words of the Sages [soferim] even more than the words of the Torah. For the words of the Torah include positive and negative commandments, and even with regard to the negative commandments, the violation of many of them is punishable only by lashes. Whereas with respect to the words of the Sages, anyone who transgresses the words of the Sages is liable to receive the death penalty, as it is stated: "And whoever breaches through a hedge, a snake shall bite him" (Ecclesiastes 10:8), taking hedges to refer metaphorically to decrees.

SinEdit

  • If a person sees that his evil inclination is gaining control over him and he cannot overcome it, then he should go to a place where he is not known. He should wear black, and he should wrap his head in black, as if he were a mourner. Perhaps these changes will influence him, so that he not sin. Even if these actions do not help, he should at least do as his heart desires in private and not desecrate the name of Heaven in public.

Noahide lawsEdit

 
"The descendants of Noah, i.e., all of humanity, were commanded to observe seven mitzvot." (Sanhedrin 56a:24)
  • The descendants of Noah, i.e., all of humanity, were commanded to observe seven mitzvot: The mitzva of establishing courts of judgment; and the prohibition against blessing, i.e., cursing, the name of God; and the prohibition of idol worship; and the prohibition against forbidden sexual relations; and the prohibition of bloodshed; and the prohibition of robbery; and the prohibition against eating a limb from a living animal.

GentilesEdit

Main page: Gentiles in the Talmud.
 
"Gentiles are not called adam." (Keritot 6b:20)
  • As it is written: "And you My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are people [adam]" (Ezekiel 34:31), from which it is derived that you, the Jewish people, are called adam, but gentiles are not called adam.
    • Keritot 6b:20
    • Variant: "'And you, My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are man' (Ezekiel 34:31), which teaches that you, i.e., the Jewish people, are called 'man', but gentiles are not called 'man'."
    • Beyond its use as the name of the first man, adam (Hebrew: אָדָם‎) is also used as a pronoun, individually as "a human" and in a collective sense as "mankind".
  • Kill the best of the gentiles in time of war; crush the brain of the best of serpents. The most worthy of women indulges in witchcraft. Happy is he who does the will of the Omnipresent.
    • Soferim 15:10
    • Variant: "Kill the best of the heathens in time of war." Some sources substitute the term בנים (benim, "boys") for the term גויים (goyim, "gentiles"), which is then translated as "heathens" rather than "gentiles". The original text uses the term goyim, which is a derogatory term for gentiles.

JesusEdit

Main page: Jesus in the Talmud.
 
"The one who had relations with [Jesus'] mother and fathered him was named Pandeira." (Shabbat 104b:5)
  • It was taught in a baraita that Rabbi Eliezer said to the Rabbis: Didn't the infamous ben Stada take magic spells out of Egypt in a scratch on his flesh? They said to him: He was a fool, and you cannot cite proof from a fool. That is not the way that most people write. Incidentally, the Gemara asks: Why did they call him ben Stada, when he was the son of Pandeira? Rav Ḥisda said: His mother's husband, who acted as his father, was named Stada, but the one who had relations with his mother and fathered him was named Pandeira. The Gemara asks: Wasn't his mother's husband Pappos ben Yehuda? Rather, his mother was named Stada and he was named ben Stada after her. The Gemara asks: But wasn't his mother Miriam, who braided women's hair? The Gemara explains: That is not a contradiction. Rather, Stada was merely a nickname, as they say in Pumbedita: This one strayed [setat da] from her husband.
    • Shabbat 104b:5
    • This cryptic passage is believed to refer to Jesus of Nazareth, who is called "ben Stada" (son of Stada).[2] The passage argues that he was an illegitimate child because his mother engaged in adultery with a different man named Pandeira (sometimes spelled Pantera), who, according to Celsus, was a Roman soldier. The phrase "braided woman's hair" is also suggestive of indecent behavior. Moreover, the passage claims that Jesus learned black magic in Egypt.

KingEdit

  • One may decline the request of a lesser person, but one may not decline the request of a great person.

GovernmentEdit

  • Even if all the seas would be ink, and the reeds that grow near swamps would be quills, and the heavens would be parchment upon which the words would be written, and all the people would be scribes; all of these are insufficient to write the unquantifiable space of governmental authority, i.e., all the considerations with which a government must concern itself and deal.

LawEdit

  • A legal decision depends not on the teacher's age, but on the force of his argument.

MoneyEdit

  • Let every man divide his money into three parts, and invest a third in land, a third in business, and a third let him keep by him in reserve.

MiscellaneousEdit

  • A man should endeavor to be as pliant as a reed, and never unyielding like the cedar.
  • If your friend calls you a donkey, prepare a saddle for your back.

Quotes about the TalmudEdit

Rabbinic literatureEdit

FictionEdit

  • Abe Petrovsky: Michael, may I tell you a story?
    Mike McDermott: Please.
    Abe Petrovsky: For generations, men in my family have been rabbis. In Israel; before that, in Europe. It was to be my calling. I was quite a prodigy, the pride of my yeshiva. The elders said I had a 40-year-old's understanding of the Midrash by the time I was 12. But by the time I was 13, I knew I could never be a rabbi.
    Mike McDermott: Why not?
    Abe Petrovsky: Because for all I understood of the Talmud, I never saw God there.
    Mike McDermott: You couldn't lie to yourself.
    Abe Petrovsky: I tried. I tried like crazy. I mean, people were counting on me. … My parents were destroyed, devastated by my decision. My father sent me away to New York to live with distant cousins. …
    Mike McDermott: And did your parents get over it?
    Abe Petrovsky: No. I always hoped that I would find some way to change their minds, but they were inconsolable. My father never spoke to me again.

MiscellaneousEdit

  • Once upon a time, under pressure of censorship, printers would inscribe in the flyleaves of volumes of the Talmud: "Whatever may be written herein about gentiles does not refer to the gentiles of today, but to gentiles of times past." Today, the flyleaves of our books bear a similar inscription, albeit an invisible one: "Whatever may be written herein about Jews does not refer to the Jews of today, but to Jews who lived in other times." So we are able to sit down and study Torah, Talmud, books of ethics, or books of faith without considering their relevance to our lives. Whatever is written there does not apply to us or to our generation, but only to other people, other times. We must expunge from those invisible prologues the notion that the words are written about someone else, about others, about anyone but us. Whether the book is a volume of Torah, a tractate of the Talmud, or a tract of faith, the opposite must be inscribed: "Whatever is written herein refers only to me; is written for me and obligates me. First and foremost, the content is addressed to me."
  • Jews don't read the Bible literally. We read it through the lens of generations of interpretations and acknowledge the evolution of human understanding of God. The Talmudic image of God is vastly different from the image of God presented in the Bible.
  • Our rabbinic texts, all in the Bavli, emphasize that Jesus, the new Balaam, does not have a portion in the world to come: his fate is that he must be punished in hell forever, with no chance of redemption—and the same is true for his followers: they better give up any hope of earning eternal life in his succession, as his apostles promise.
  • Quoting the Talmud is almost always more trouble than it's worth. The Talmud is long, complex, and explicitly contradictory, and an honest citation requires a significant amount of context to establish whether the opinion cited is meaningful or relevant to modern Judaism. Legitimate critics of Judaism will typically be able to find citations in a more straightforward source, such as one of the Jewish law codes, Rabbinical responsa, or modern Jewish publications. Critics who rely solely on the Talmud for critical citations often explain their lack of other sources by accusing Judaism of hiding secret, shocking beliefs, whereas in fact Talmudic opinions that are not cited in later literature simply aren't important to later Jewish tradition – just like obscure laws can be discarded if they are never cited in relevant common law sources.
    • RationalWiki: Talmud
    • The full RationalWiki article expounds on this point, but acknowledges that the argument may seem evasive or dismissive to someone who regards it as an instance of the "Courtier's reply" fallacy, which is a kind of appeal to authority. Moreover, it doesn't explain why the Talmud, which some hold to be divinely inspired, contains so many indefensible passages in the first place. How does one distinguish the legitimate parts from the rest? On what basis is truth established? The subject of Talmudical hermeneutics concerns itself with this problem.

      For example, it may be pointed out that if an erudite scholar like Maimonides is justified in dismissing the Talmudic doctrines on child marriage on the basis of better knowledge, then perhaps other passages may be dismissed on similar grounds. Some Jews question the credibility of the Talmudic teachings about Jesus of Nazareth, or whether they refer to Jesus at all. Others, like the Jews for Jesus movement, go even further and attempt to synthesize Jewish heritage and Christian faith. The point is that since it is all a matter of interpretation, a wide range of views are possible. This pluralism forms the basis of Reform Judaism.

  • Maimonides, the great Jewish theologian and historian, who at one time was almost deified by his countrymen and afterward treated as a heretic, remarks that the more absurd and void of sense the Talmud seems, the more sublime is the secret meaning. This learned man has successfully demonstrated that the Chaldean Magic, the science of Moses and other learned thaumaturgists was wholly based on an extensive knowledge of the various and now forgotten branches of natural science. Thoroughly acquainted with all the resources of the vegetable, animal, and mineral kingdoms, experts in occult chemistry and physics, psychologists as well as physiologists, why wonder that the graduates or adepts instructed in the mysterious sanctuaries of the temples, could perform wonders, which even in our days of enlightenment would appear supernatural? It is an insult to human nature to brand magic and the occult science with the name of imposture. To believe that for so many thousands of years, one-half of mankind practiced deception and fraud on the other half, is equivalent to saying that the human race was composed only of knaves and incurable idiots. Where is the country in which magic was not practised? At what age was it wholly forgotten?
    • H. P. Blavatsky in Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology (1877), p. 19

ReferencesEdit

  1. "Therefore, Adam [from whom all humanity descended] was created singly, to teach us that whoever destroys a single life in Israel is considered by Scripture to have destroyed the whole world and whoever saves a single life in Israel is considered by Scripture to have saved the whole world." "The Origins of the Precept 'Whoever Saves a Life Saves the World'", Philologos, Mosaic Magazine. Oct 21, 2016.
  2. "Since neither source mentions, however, the name 'Jesus' but instead resorts to the enigmatic names 'Ben Stada' and 'Ben Pandera/Pantera' respectively, their relationship to Jesus is hotly disputed. I will analyze the Bavli text in detail and demonstrate that it indeed refers to the Jesus of the New Testament and is not just a remote and corrupt echo of the New Testament story; rather, it presents—with few words and in the typically discursive style of the Bavli—a highly ambitious and devastating counternarrative to the infant story of the New Testament." Peter Schäfer: Jesus in the Talmud, p. 15. Princeton University Press, 2007.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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